It’s taken a few tries to get here, but it looks like Samsung has cracked the code to a great pair of truly wireless earbuds. The $199 Samsung Galaxy Buds combines the compact, comfortable design of past earbuds with true active noise cancellation for a pair of earbuds that can stand against the likes of Apple and Bose. Samsung didn’t stop there, making the earbuds some of the most durable and sustainable in the line. And with the app, you get a host of useful functionality like adjustable Ambient Sound mode. With the Samsung Galaxy Buds, the company might have just conquered its white whale.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro pricing and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are currently available for $199 or £146.47. The earbuds are available in three striking colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver and Phantom Violet.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro design
It looks like Samsung got the message about the Galaxy Buds Live and their polarizing legume-like design. For the Buds Pro, Samsung had a meeting of the minds and combined the overall shape of Buds Live with the comfortable in-ear fit of the Galaxy Buds Plus. The end result is an earbud that looks like a more worldly version of the original Galaxy Buds.
The earcap is made of a glossy plastic that’s prone to picking up fingerprints. The portion of the bud that sits in your ear canal is made of matte black plastic. I’m reviewing the Phantom Black version of the Buds Pro which doesn't seem to have the slight pearlescence I loved about the Buds Plus. I’m curious to know if the same goes for the Phantom Silver and Violet palettes.
For such relatively small earbuds (0.2 ounces, 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches) the Buds Pro have a lot going on under the hood. For instance, you’ll find a small speaker grille toward the bottom of the earcap, guarding the windshield chamber and the high SNR (signal to noise ratio) mic which is designed to pick up the wearer’s voice more clearly.
It comes in handy when you're taking a call or interacting with the digital assistant. A second outer mic sits at the top demarcated by a small ovular divot. If you could pop its tiny housing off, you’d find the Voice Pickup Unit or accelerometer here as well.
The actual speaker resides in the top and bottom of the matte portion of the bud, before you get to the earhole. Examining the back of the earbud- you’ll discover a silver colored air vent at the top, the metal power connectors to charge the bud, and a proximity sensor to detect when the device is in your ear and to play and pause accordingly. And as you get to the eartip, there’s a mesh screen protecting the inner mic.
The charging case is a bit more simple in its layout. The 1.6-ounce, 2 x 2 x 1.1-inch case is made of black matte plastic. Samsung and AKG signage is stamped on the top of a semi-glossy black type. The case’s edges are rounded with a USB Type-C port in the back for charging, Opening the case reveals the impressions where the buds reside and a small status light.
The Galaxy Buds Pro are on a par with the Buds Live (0.2 ounces,1.1 x 0.6 x 0.6 inches) and the AirPods Pro (0.2 ounces, 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches) when it comes to size. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are massive at 0.3 ounces, 1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches. The Buds Live’s 2 x 2 x 1.1-inch case is a little lighter at 1.5 ounces while the AirPods Pro’s case is heavier and bigger at 1.6 ounces, 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches. The QC Earbuds’ case is the largest at 2.7 ounces, 3.5 x 2 x 1.3 inches.
The Galaxy Buds Pro ship with three pairs of eartips (S, M, L) and a USB Type-C cable.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro durability and sustainability
Samsung is calling the Buds Pro its most water-resistant yet with an IPX7 rating. That means the Buds Pro can be submerged in 1 meter of freshwater for 30 minutes and can take splashes from any angle. The AirPods Pro and Buds Live have only ratings of IPX4 and 2, respectively.
The Buds Pro aren’t just durable, they’re also sustainable. The earbuds are made from Post-Consumer Materials (PCM) while the case is made of 20% of the material. PCM cuts down on CO2 emissions while the buds are being made, which is good for the fight against climate change.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro comfort
I’ve yet to run across a pair of uncomfortable Galaxy Buds. I wore the Buds Pro with the medium eartips for 5 hours in pure comfort. I would have kept them in longer, but I needed to take a nap. The small eartips felt even better in my teeny-tiny ears. The seal was pretty secure, allowing me to jump on my Bowflex Total for 30 mins. While the sweat was flying, the buds stayed in place.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro setup
Prepare for a seamless, quick pairing experience whether you’re on an Android, iPhone, Mac or PC. Pairing the Buds Pro to my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is similar to the instantaneous pairing between the AirPods Pro and an iDevice –– or at least it will be soon. As of review time, the pairing functionality between the Galaxy Wearable app and the buds isn’t operational.
That meant that I had to connect the buds the old-fashioned way, through the Bluetooth menu. But once the functionality is launched, all you’ll have to do if you have a Samsung phone is pop open the lid on the Buds which will trigger a pop-up notification on the phone asking if you want to pair. Hit the button and the buds and the app will do their thing in a speedy fashion.
If you need to pair the buds to another device, place the buds in your ears, press and hold each bud for 3 seconds to initiate pairing mode.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro controls
I want more touch control functionality, and I want it now! Out of the box, the Galaxy Buds Pro offer the basic tap controls you’d expect. One tap for play or pause, two to skip a track or go forward, three to skip backward. The default action for a long press on either bud is to switch between ANC modes. This can be adjusted in the app to either launch Spotify, the digital assistant or volume down on the left earbud and volume up on the right.
I wish Samsung would consider giving listeners swipe commands for volume. When I’m walking or navigating the subway, the less I have to physically interact with my smartphone, the better.
Nevertheless, I appreciate how sensitive the tap controls on the Buds Pro are. It means that I don’t have to push the buds further in my ear just to switch tracks.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro app
Any wireless earbuds worth their salt these days has a companion app to unlock their full potential. It’s the same thing for the Galax Buds Pro. On a Samsung or Android device, the free app is Galaxy Wearables, and on iDevices, it’s Samsung Galaxy Buds. The app allows you to augment the buds in several interesting ways.
The most important thing you can do with the app is to adjust the noise controls between ANC on, Off and Ambient Sound. You can also switch the ANC level between high and low. The Voice Detect feature automatically switches the earbuds to Ambient Sound when your voice is detected; you can set how much time passes after you finish speaking before it switches back to ANC.
Speaking of Ambient Sound, when it’s enabled, you can toggle between four levels. So if you want to hear every bit of your neighbor’s conversation without looking like your eavesdropping, this is the feature for you.
As I mentioned earlier, you can change the long press controls for each earbuds. And if touch controls just aren’t your thing, you can disable it with Block Touches. Another feature allows the buds to read notifications for alarms, emails, incoming calls and messages. You can also adjust the sound balance between your left and right ears and access Bixby.
Similar to the Buds Live, the Buds Pro also has a Gaming mode, which cuts down on audio latency when gaming. The app also provides a Find My Earbuds feature in the likely case you misplace a bud. Samsung claims the feature will work regardless of whether your buds are disconnected to Bluetooth or online. The app also offers a tips and user manual in case you need some pointers.
Samsung also added an equalizer with six presets (Normal, Bass Boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear and Treble Boost. Of the six choices available, I prefer Dynamic as it provides the most robust sound.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro active noise cancellation
I guess the Buds Live were an ANC practice run. Samsung finally gave the people what they wanted –– real active noise cancellation. When I popped the Buds Pro in and set the ANC to High, I heard near silence, which is more than I could say for the Buds Live. The Buds Pro blocked out my LG television with the volume set to 10, which is better than the Live (6), but short of the AirPods Pro (13) and the Bose QC Earbuds (15).
When I took my daily walk, I could hear conversations taking place on the street around me with the ANC enabled and no music playing. They were muted, but if I concentrated, I could make out the words. The conversations faded away, however, once I started playing music at 60% volume. Now, that doesn’t mean every aspect of the outside world was blocked out as I could still hear the train overhead as I walked to the fish market. But it’s on a par with other buds on the market.
Switching to Ambient Sound, I got the best of both worlds as I could hear ongoing traffic as I jammed to Estelle’s “Better.”
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro audio
Despite their small housing, Samsung managed to fit an 11mm woofer and a 6.5mm tweeter into the Galaxy Buds Pro. The buds definitely have a more defined sound profile compared to the Buds Live. The buds have moments of accuracy but aren’t as loud or present as the competition. With the volume set to 50% on my Note 20 Ultra, both the AirPods Pro and the Bose were louder than the Buds Pro.
I started my tests with Jasmine Sullivan and Ari Lennox duet “On It” from the former’s latest album Heaux Tales with the Galaxy Buds Pro equalizer set to Normal. While it was so easy to get lost in the harmonizing vocals as they melded into a sultry, demands for physical satisfaction, there was still enough of a soundstage where I clearly heard the bass and acoustic guitars as well as the cymbals and snare drums.
There was a clear difference when I listened to the same song on the AirPods Pro. The instrumentals were more forward, but there was some diffusion on the bass that intruded on the acoustic guitar and made it lose some of that twang. The Bose gave the best performance of the three, delivering warmth and balance, particularly on the delicate piano notes in the background.
The Buds Pro had a better outing on Taurean Meacham Aka J. Gatsby’s “Camp Lo.” The beat built up gradually starting with the gentle shake of a pair of maracas only to be joined by a playful flute and a guitar. And when the bass kicked in and the rapper started dropping his extra smooth bars, I still heard every part of the instrumental, even the trumpet. The lows were still a bit aggressive on the AirPods Pro, but it was a bit more controlled than on my first test track. But once again, the Bose delivered a more balanced performance that was dynamic and full.
The Galaxy Buds Pro were at their most impressive when I listened to Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me.” As the country singer sang about her experiences being Black in America, I could hear every breath and crisp enunciation. The piano was strong and warm and the guitar strums were very precise. The handclaps and what sounded like a cabasa were nice and clean.
I had a really hard time differentiating between the Buds Pro and the Bose; it was that close. The AirPods Pro also had their best showing, but the low-end was a little bleary. At least it didn’t bleed into other components of the track.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro battery life and Bluetooth
Samsung has the Galaxy Buds Pro rated for 5 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation enabled. I made it through 4 hours and 48 minutes of my workday before I got the low battery notification. With ANC disabled, the estimated battery life jumps to 8 hours.
With the charging case, the Buds Pro can last up to 18 hours with ANC on or 28 hours with it off. When it’s time to recharge, the earbuds can get an hour of battery life from 5 minutes of charging.
The Buds Pro use Bluetooth 5.0 which allows you to connect to multiple devices. It has a theoretical range of 800 feet. I was able to navigate throughout my house, including the backyard and second floor while leaving my smartphone on the dining room table. The music only started cutting out when I left my apartment building to stand outside and get some air.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro call quality
Thanks to its trio of microphones and strategically placed windshield, you can expect loud, clear audio when making calls on the Galaxy Buds Pro. I used the earbuds to check in on my brother and my mom. Both said they couldn’t tell that I was calling via earbuds and could hear me pretty clearly. However, my brother did report hearing some small crackling when I was walking outside; it wasn’t distracting, but he thought he’d point it out. He also heard a cop car speeding by but said it was rather faint.
These are the active noise cancelling earbuds Samsung aficionados have been waiting for. With the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, the company kept the small, comfortable size and made the buds seriously water-resistant. The trio of mics assist in isolating unwanted noise while accentuating your voice. And the ANC is powerful enough to actually put a damper on the outside world when necessary. Plus, the app offers a host of features including adjustable ANC and Ambient Sound along with an in-depth system to find lost earbuds. And they actually sound good.
At $199, the Buds Pro are $50 cheaper than the $249 AirPods Pro and $81 less than the $279 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. However, if you want the best ANC buds on market, you’ll want to go with the Bose, although you might do so at the risk of comfort. And if you’re staunchly an Apple person, the AirPods Pro are the obvious choice. But for fans of Samsung devices who are looking for a fast-pairing, nice-sounding truly wireless earbuds with some strong ANC, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are the way to go.