Laptop Mag Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are the company’s smallest ever, but don’t skimp on the audio performance or smart features.
Powerful ANC and ambient modes
Great audio performance
Not as water resistant as competitors
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Small, but mighty. Samsung continues to tinker with the Galaxy Buds line, pushing toward the ever-elusive perfect set of earbuds. This time, the company has gotten dangerously close. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are the smallest earbuds the company has created to date. And while a reduction in size typically means something’s left on the chopping block, with these truly wireless earbuds, Samsung didn’t leave much out.
Not only are the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 incredibly small, but they’re colorful, comfortable and pretty powerful to boot. The active noise cancelling rivals some of the heavyweights in the market and Ambient mode lets the outside world in at your comfort level. Plus, for something so small, the buds deliver some impressive lows. Throw in a $149 price tag and you’ve got a pair of wireless earbuds that will have other brands clutching their pearls. Read on to learn why the Galaxy Buds 2 earned a seat onto our best wireless earbuds page.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 pricing and availability
Who says flagship earbuds have to cost nearly $300? Apparently, not Samsung which is coming out the gate swinging, pricing the Galaxy Buds 2 at a reasonable $149. It’s not as affordable as, say, the $99 Google Pixel Buds A-Series. But they’re definitely less expensive than the Apple AirPods Pro (currently on sale for $189) or the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, which both cost $279.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are available for pre-order starting today with an August 27 release date.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 design
In terms of design, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 sit somewhere between the Galaxy Buds Pro and the Galaxy Buds Live, those affectionately referred to as the beans. As with most Galaxy earbuds, the Galaxy Buds 2 rock a high-gloss plastic finish. My review units are colored lavender. The pretty pastel makes the buds resemble some ultra-shiny Cadbury mini-eggs. If lavender doesn’t do it for you, the earbuds are also available in white, graphite and olive.
A pair of tiny ports along the front face reveal the location of the two beamforming microphones. Along the back of each bud, you’ll see a large black oval sensor, another mic port, the gold power connectors, and either a white L or R to let you know which bud goes where. A silicone eartip sits at the end of the bud, providing a comfy fit for listeners while protecting the speaker.
The charging case is a little more demure, made of a glossy white with Samsung stamped in large light-grey letters across the top. But if you take a closer look along the case’s llp, you’ll see a slight hint of color. I popped open the lid and basked in a matte lavender plastic interior. The buds sit in a deep recess along the top of the bottom of the case. A small status light sits in between the buds so you know if the buds are charging or in pairing mode. Back to the exterior, there’s another status light and a USB-C port in the back for charging purposes.
The earbuds have a IPX2 durability which means they can resist water that hits them from an angle of 15 degrees. That’s a downgrade from the Pro’s IPX7 rating which lets the buds be submerged in 1 meter of freshwater for 30 minutes and withstand splashes from any angle. It’s also lower than the Apple AirPods Pro, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Sony WF-1000xM4 earbuds, which all have a IPX4 rating.
At 0.17 ounces, 0.7 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches, the Galaxy Buds 2 are lighter and smaller than the competition. The Google Pixel Buds Series-A weigh 0.18 ounces and measure 0.8 x 1.2 x 0.7 inches while the AirPods Pro (0.19 ounces, 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches) and Bose QC Earbuds (3 ounces, 1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches) are even heavier and larger. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro (0.2 ounces,1.1 x 0.6 x 0.6 inches), the Galaxy Buds 2 are 15% smaller and 20% lighter.
The Galaxy Buds 2’s charging case is also on the small side at 1.5 ounces, 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.1 inches. Compare that to the Series-A (1.9 ounces, 2.5 x 1.9 x 1 inches), AirPods Pro (0.2 ounces, 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches) and QC Earbuds (1.6 ounces, 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches) and you’ll notice a significant size difference.
The Galaxy Buds 2 ship with two additional pairs of silicone eartips and a USB-C cable.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 comfort
Samsung wasn’t kidding when it said the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 were the smallest in the line. These buds are teeny-tiny and as someone who has what one of my writers calls “dolphin ears,” I couldn’t be happier about it. The buds settled nicely into my tiny ear canals. The medium eartips created a secure seal that muffled out a significant amount of noise, which helped with the active noise cancelling (more on that later).
I wore the buds for four hours while I watched wrestling, wrote this review and played some Hades. The buds were pretty comfortable as I never felt an ounce of pressure. Now, there were a few times that the glossy finish was a detriment to the buds staying in place. They never actually slid out of my ears, but the right earbud occasionally repositioned itself as if it was making a break for freedom.
After a couple of escape attempts, it was time to cue up the fit test, built into the Galaxy Wearables app. When launched, a gentle tone is played for about 5 seconds before the test concludes with a picture of the buds changing color. White meant a good fit while orange was bad. Ironically, even though the right bud had the most notable slippage, the app notified me that the left was not a good fit. To remedy this, you can either readjust the buds or switch eartips. In my case, a quick twist set things right.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 setup
If not for the large prompt that popped on my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, I would have missed the Galaxy Buds 2 pairing to my smartphone. I simply opened the lid on the buds and Boom!, paired. If you need to pair the earbuds to another device, you’ll have to place them back in the case and press and hold the earbuds until the status light starts flashing red and green, signaling pairing mode. From there, it’s as simple as following your chosen device’s pairing process and you’re ready to listen.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 controls
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are sure to make you tap your feet, but if you want to control the earbuds, you’ll have to tap your fingers. A single tap on either bud will play or pause the track, while a double-tap skips forward and three taps skips backward. Pressing on the buds allows you to toggle between active noise cancelling and the ambient noise modes.
If you’re planning on taking any phone calls, it’s one tap to answer, two to end.
Thankfully, the taps needed to operate the earbuds are more of light touches, meaning the buds aren’t being pressed uncomfortably into your ear canal.
If I had one quibble, it’s that I actually have to touch my phone to adjust the volume. Fans of Bixby need only say “Hey Bixby” to summon Samsung’s digital assistant.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 app
Once again, the free Samsung Wearables app is the means to unlock your earbuds’ full potential. It’s here where you can enable/disable touch controls, gaming mode, seamless earbud connection and Bixby voice wake-up. This is also where you can switch between noise cancelling modes, run the fit test, adjust the sound balance between the left and right buds or only use the ANC in one bud. You can also access a tutorial in case you need a quick rundown.
The Wearables app has an equalizer with six presets (Normal, Bass boos, Soft, Dynamic, Clear and Treble boost). There’s also a Find My Earbuds feature in case one of the buds goes AWOL. And when it’s time for a firmware update, Earbuds software update is there to make sure everything is current.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 active noise cancelling
Samsung’s ready to play with the big boys when it comes to noise cancelling. It’s powerful, muting my LG television with the volume set to 13, matching the AirPods Pro and coming within earshot of the Bose QC Earbuds (15). Plus, they’re quiet with no white noise insinuating its way into everything.
In order to test the ANC, I took them on a walk to my local fish market. The ANC did a great job of blocking out the typical din of New York City –– a rather loud argument was reduced to murmurings and honking car horns were barely noticeable. Some things, like a subway train passing overhead or Con-Edison doing construction on the street, couldn’t be so neatly muffled, but the noise was significantly quieter than without the earbuds. And when I turned on some music at a moderate volume, the world completely faded away.
But, there are those times when you need to let some of the outside world in. For those moments, the Galaxy Buds 2 have an Ambient Sound mode with three distinct levels (low, medium and high). What I noticed off that bat is that with the ANC turned off, the tight seal created by the eartips did a pretty good job of keeping noise out. It was only when I enabled Ambient mode that anything could enter the soundstage.
Low is just a small step up from having the ANC off, while medium allowed a lot more street traffic into the mix. High was the closest I got to hearing the world like I didn’t have anything in my ears.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 audio performance
To ensure the Galaxy Buds 2 can compete with the other big names in the industry, Samsung crammed a dynamic two-way speaker consisting of a tweeter and a woofer. That way, you can expect crisp highs and deep lows. To put this to the test, I whipped open Tidal and listened to Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby” on Master quality with the equalizer set to Normal. The bass was palpable, but wasn’t overwhelming. In fact, I clearly heard the background singer in the back singing whoo, in concert with the brassy trumpets and the artist’s soulful sing-songy delivery.
Listening to the same song on the AirPods, the bass was more restrained which let the high-hat breathe a bit more. However, that restraint on the bass also meant that the trumpet didn’t sound as powerful on the AirPods. Still, Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow’s vocals were nice and crisp. Another thing I noticed is that the AirPods Pro are quieter than the Galaxy Buds 2. To match the volume, I turned the Galaxy Buds 2 down rather than potentially damage my hearing by turning the AirPods up.
Next, I switched over to the boom-bap of Nas’ “Nobody.” The bass was warm, the piano keys tinkled along the track accompanied by a clean snare. But while the trumpet sounded great, the keyboard was a bit bloated and became distracting especially when the background vocal came in. The problem persisted on the AirPods Pro, although the keyboard wasn’t as forward, which allowed me to hear the rest of the song a bit clearer. My other complaint was the piano as it didn’t sound as bright on the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
For my last track, I chose Louder Than Quiet’s Post-Hardcore cover of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.” The Galaxy Buds did great with the bracing electric guitars and the guttural screams that coincided with a soulful vocal. The drums were very crisp, especially the cymbals. On the AirPods Pro, it felt like I was listening to the band in a room away from the action. However, the vocals and instruments were crystal clear.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 battery life and Bluetooth
Samsung has the Galaxy Buds 2 rated for five hours with ANC enabled and 7.5 hours with the feature disabled. Both instances have an estimated 3.5 hours of talk time. Combined with the charging case and its additional charges, that total runtime turns into 20 and 29 hours, respectively. The five hour battery life puts it on a par with the Galaxy Buds Pro and the A-Series. The AirPods Pro are rated 4.5 hours while the QC Buds can last an estimated six hours. However, nothing’s touching the WF-1000xM4’s eight hours.
During my testing, I squeezed 4 hours and 52 minutes out of the Galaxy Buds 2 with the ANC enabled. This was a mix of listening to Spotify and Tidal, watching Adventure Time: Distant Lands Obsidian, and a few episodes of Demon Slayer and making a few calls. Without ANC enabled, I nearly made it through an entire work day at 7 hours and 38 minutes. When it’s finally time to recharge the earbuds, the charging case can give the buds one hour of playtime with a 5-minute charge. And similar to the Pro buds, the Galaxy Buds 2 also supports Qi wireless charging.
The Galaxy Buds 2 relies on Bluetooth 5.2 to provide a stable, high-quality connection for audio streaming. I moved through the top and bottom floors of my duplex as well as into my backyard without experiencing any stutter while leaving my phone on top of the refrigerator. It was only when I left my apartment to grab my ramen delivery that the music started to cut out.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 call quality
Throughout all my test calls with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, I heard nothing but good things -- literally and figuratively. During my first call to a friend, the earbuds let me enjoy the lower registers in his voice as we discussed our thoughts on the new The Suicide Squad movie. He didn’t realize I was walking outside until an ambulance passed by; until then, he didn’t hear any wind resistance.
When I joined the daily morning meeting with the Laptop Mag staff, everyone reported that they heard me loud and clear. It was the same on my end, despite being on a 12-person Google Meet call. For my final call, I spoke to my mom, who reported a little bit of static, but heard me clearly nonetheless. On my end, the warmth in her voice and excitement came through loud and clear as she described taking my niece to Sesame Place for her birthday.
Ding, ding, ding! We have an emphatic winner on our hands. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 serve up impressive active noise cancelling and great audio performance in the smallest pair of buds the company has created to date. And if that wasn’t enough, they’re colorful, stylish and seriously comfortable. Plus, thanks to the Galaxy Wearables app, there is a host of features for you to customize.
And while it’s hard to fault something that costs only $149, I do wish the Galaxy Buds 2 had a bit more water resistance, at least enough to match its predecessor. Plus, it’d be nice if Samsung found a way to add volume adjustment to the touch controls so you can leave your phone in whatever pocket you’ve stashed it in. If you’re looking for the ultimate in truly wireless earbud ANC, you’ll want the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and if audio quality is your thing, you’ll want the Sony WF-1000XM4 (both of which cost $279). And if you want something tailored to the Apple experience, you’ll need the AirPods Pro. But if you want something colorful, powerful, comfortable and affordable, you’d be hard-pressed to find better a better pair of earbuds than the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2.
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.