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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Review

A New Flagship is Born

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

True wireless earbuds have gone pro — at least according to the name. Across the industry, companies are upping their game to deliver advanced features like active noise canceling, fast charging, and hi-res audio. Not to be left out, today we’re looking at the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Retailing for $199, are they worth a buy?

Specifications

  • Current Price: $199 (Amazon, Samsung)
  • Chipset: BCM 43015
  • OS: RTOS
  • Speaker: 2 way (11mm Woofer & 6.5mm Tweeter)
  • Mic
    • Main Mic (High SNR), Sub Mic, Inner Mic
    • *Dual mic array for superior beaming performance
    • *Mic mesh and chamber for minimizing wind noise
  • Connectivity
    • Bluetooth : 5.0
    • BT Profile : HFP, A2DP, AVRCP
  • Codec : Scalable (Samsung proprietary), AAC, SBC
  • Battery
    • Play time: 5h / TTL 18h (ANC ON) 8h / TTL 28h (ANC OFF): *Bixby voice wake-up OFF
    • Talk time: 4h / TTL 14.5h (ANC ON) 5h / TTL 17.5h (ANC OFF)
  • Quick charging
    • 30min play / 3min charging (Wired, Wireless, D2D)
    • 60min play / 5min charging (Wired, Wireless, D2D)
    • 85min play / 10min charging (Wired, Wireless)
    • *ANC off condition
    • *In case of wireless charging, Galaxy Buds Pro should be put on the center of the charger in ordinary temperature
    • *Charging time is based on that battery power in earbuds is less than 30% when start charging
    • *Based on internal testing. Audio playback time tested by pairing a pre-production Galaxy Buds Pro to a recently released Galaxy smartphone. Actual battery life and charging time may vary by usage conditions, number of times charged and many other factors.
    • *Play time may vary based on settings.
  • Controls: Touch (Tap, Touch and Hold)
  • Sensor: Accelerometer, Gyro, Proximity, Hall, Touch, VPU
  • IP Rating: IPX7
  • Compatibility: Android (Devices running Android 7.0 or higher, with over 1.5GB of RAM)
  • Convenience: Auto Switch, Bixby voice wake-up, Voice Detect
  • In the Box:
    • Earbuds
    • Charging Case
    • Eartips
    • Charging Cable
    • Quick Start Guide

Overview and First Impressions

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro have a lot going for them. They’re small, lightweight, and stylish. They don’t stick out of your ears very much, so are fairly discrete. What you can see is polished to a mirror finish in either black, lavender, or white. The surface is only broken by the grilles for the external microphones. The unit uses touch controls instead of physical buttons, so there’s no need to worry about pressing along the edge of the bud and unfitting them or pressing the nozzle into your ear as with a face button. The same was true of the Galaxy Buds Live, but unlike Samsung’s last set of buds, these drop the “bean” shape and instead hew closer to with nozzles directed at your ear canal. That also means they use tips to provide a better seal and improved active noise cancellation.

The case is very similar to the one that shipped with the Galaxy Buds Live and that’s a very good thing. Samsung has crafted one of the most pocketable cases on the market. It’s small, thin, and lightweight. It’s able to fully recharge the buds 2-3 times. The buds themselves are rated for 5 hours of battery life with ANC on and 8 hours with that feature disabled, so depending on your listening, you could easily go several days between recharges. In practice, I found battery life to be closer to 4.5 hours, which falls in the middle of ANC earbuds today. 

The Galaxy Buds Pro are some of the most feature-rich earbuds I’ve found, easily competing with my prior daily driver the Jabra Elite 85t. In addition to active noise cancellation, they also support ambient sound passthrough, a latency-shortening Game Mode, dual microphones for canceling out environmental noise for improved call quality, fast charging, IPX7 waterproofing, smart voice detection, and for Galaxy smartphone users, 360 audio, Bixby voice control, and seamless integration with the device within seconds of taking them out of the case for the first time. The Buds Pro also sport improved audio quality with a dual driver arrangement tuned by AKG.

There’s a lot to like here, but let’s start with the Active Noise Cancellation, which I find to be the most interesting feature. The last earbuds to include this feature were the Galaxy Buds Live but since they rested in the ear instead of sealing it off, the ANC wasn’t great. The Buds Pro solve this with short nozzles and silicone ear tips and it’s a major upgrade. The ANC is, to my ear, on par with the Jabra Elite 85t. In my testing, I struggled to find a tip that would adequately seal and secure my right ear, however, so when I swapped tips, this was much improved. Take the time to find the right fit, reader: it pays dividends. I also like that the earbuds are vented to alleviate the “cabin pressure” effect that can sometimes occur with ANC on.

I was also very impressed at how quick and easy it was to get up and running with these buds. I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and within seconds of taking them out of the case, my phone detected them and asked me if I wanted to pair them. The app downloaded a quick update, I accepted some Ts and Cs, and was off to the races. 

The Galaxy Wearable app is where you’ll control the more advanced features of the Galaxy Buds Pro, like voice detection. With this setting enabled, the buds will disable ANC and activate ambient sound when they detect your voice. I was skeptical of this after using a similar feature on my Sony XM4s, but it works well. You can set how long the microphones stay active after you stop speaking or tap to return to ANC, which is great for quick conversations. It wouldn’t activate even when my wife spoke right next to my ear or for coughs, but did turn on when I hummed, so it’s not perfect yet.

Controlling the earbuds is easy if you’ve used a touch earbud before and quick to learn if not. The Buds Pro use a combination of single, double, or triple taps to play/pause, answer/end calls, and skip tracks. They also offer touch and hold functionality that can be customized to control volume, cycle sound modes, call your digital assistant, or even launch Spotify. Unfortunately, having the ability to control volume with the earbuds requires you to give up the ability to quickly swap between ambient sound and ANC, which is something I hope Samsung changes in a firmware update. 

The Galaxy Buds Pro also support 360 Audio to provide an immersive listening experience, but you’ll need a Galaxy S21 to use it. This feature utilizes its internal gyro sensor and Dolby Head Tracking to create an audio scape that surrounds you. On paper, it sounds a bit like Waves Nx head tracking which I tried on the Audeze Mobius headset. Without the ability to test for myself, I can’t say for sure, but I will update this review should the feature make its way to my device.

Fit and Comfort

When it comes to fit and comfort, I found that Samsung did a mostly good job here. Compared to the Buds Live, the Buds Pro feel much more secure. Rather than just rest on the outer ear like the Lives, they have short nozzles which insert into the ear canal. I like this design much more and even find it to be an improvement over the Elite 85t. Their smaller size allowed me to get them ever so much more into my ears and stayed in place well throughout the day.

As I’ve mentioned in past reviews, my ears are slightly different leading me to use a medium tip in the right and a small tip in the left.  Unfortunately, though I could get a good seal for sound, none of the included tips were large enough to make my right ear feel as secure as my left, so I turned to aftermarket tips. Even though the Buds Pro use an oval-shaped nozzle, I was able to use normal silicone tips with a little stretching. The biggest improvement came when I read this Reddit thread and invested in foam tips. Not only did they fit perfectly, but they also improved the bass, noise cancellation, and were overall much more comfortable. Plus, they fit the case, which isn’t always a given with true wireless earbuds. 

With the stock tips, the fit and comfort were good, better than my Jabras, but with those in place, I was able to wear the Galaxy Buds Plus for their entire battery life in comfort. 

Sound and Daily Use Impressions

Let’s get right down to it: these earbuds sound great. So good that I went out the same day and bought a second pair to replace my Jabras. The Galaxy Buds Pro uses a dual driver arrangement with a big 11mm Woofer for the bass and a 6.5mm Tweeter for the mids and highs. Side by side with the 85ts and the Buds Live, the improvement was immediately noticeable. 

The Galaxy Buds Pro have a big, powerful sound. The bass is some of the best I’ve heard on a true wireless earphone. It’s big and slams, which is a lot of fun for rock, hip-hop, and gaming, but is also tight with a lot of clarity and texture. The Jabras had a tendency to have the bass well into the mids which made it sound wide but less detailed. The Buds Pro are excellent if you like a punchy sound that doesn’t force you to sacrifice detail higher in the register.

The buds also excel in the mids, especially in the realm of female vocalists and acoustic guitars. Both come right to the front of the mix but don’t even sound sharp, even in shouty songs like Hearts on Fire by ILLENIUM, Dabin, and Lights. Male vocals are a bit softer but are still tuned to cut through, so if you’re planning on using these for movies or competitive games where you’ll be using chat or listening for in-game callouts, they will work well. 

Like most earbuds, the soundstage is rather small and “in your head,” but do feel more spacious than my Jabras. Still, if soundstage is a must-have feature, you would be better suited looking toward a pair of over-ear headphones. Their stereo imaging is very good, however, so picking out the position of instruments and audio cues in movies and games is reliably consistent. The buds are also well-enhanced by Dolby Atmos, so I would recommend enabling that wherever possible. 

Throughout my two weeks testing the Buds Pro, I’ve found them to be excellent but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Touch controls are still an area Samsung could improve. I repeatedly hit the button by accident just activating the buds, which is especially frustrating when it wouldn’t just pause but skip the track or YouTube video entirely. Conversely, there are times when I’ll try to pause them and press too close to the edge and they won’t respond at all. I’ve found this gets better over time, but short or blocking touches inside the app, readjusting almost always causes an unintentional tap

Returning to the positives, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the IPX7 waterproof rating. Have no fear if you drop an earbud in the pool since these can be submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. This is absolutely exceptional for earbuds with active noise cancellation. The AirPods Pro and Elite 85t, in contrast, are only IPX4 rated, which is splash safe only. 

Final Thoughts

Even with those touch issues, the Galaxy Buds Pro have won me over. I’ve been a daily Jabra user since 2019 (well, when not doing reviews like this one) and the combination of excellent sound, ANC, and comfort have finally caused me to switch. At $199, these are priced in flagship territory for consumer TWS earbuds and earn their place, especially if you also own a Galaxy smartphone. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.
8.5Great
Pros
  • Excellent sound quality, with powerful, deep bass
  • Good ANC, just find the right tips
  • Seamless integration with Galaxy devices
  • Solid battery life
  • Sit nearly flush in the ear
Cons
  • Fit can still be an issue for some
  • Accidental touches are an issue


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight