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As recently divulged, Samsung has launched their most premium set of earbuds to date. Their Galaxy Buds Pro are a high-end true wireless pair of earbuds with a hefty price-tag that have been afforded some of the latest features to rival Apple’s top end of the line. Priced for $200, these buds get a comfortable fit, effective active noise cancellation, and good, punchy sound quality. The new speech detection mode is a welcome feature that raises the outside decibels whilst lowering your music volume levels the moment you begin to speak. The idea is by no means new but the convenience is undeniable. You can interact with the world around you without lifting a finger.

But as Chris Welch has pointed out in his review for theverge they bring us one step closer to a closed-off Samsung-only world of products. Much like Apple makes its devices exclusively compatible with one another, some of the best features of these new premium babies from Samsung are Samsung-only benefits.

The company is singing the praises of new 3D audio tech and automatic device switching but these only function with Samsung branded devices. The newer tech they boast is unfortunately operating system dependant. Still, for the most part, people tend to stick to one brand when they shop. Team Apple customers seem to be more than happy to shop within the brand’s ecosystem pairing AirPods Pro to their iPhone. What works for one company is bound to work for another. So you can hardly blame Samsung for the decision. Fortunately their Galaxy Buds Pro still have plenty to offer aside from their exclusive features to keep everyone happy.

Pros

  • Superior sound quality
  • Voice detect feature 
  • IPX7 certification making them ideal for workouts
  • Huge microphone upgrades

Cons

  • Battery life isn’t all that impressive with ANC active
  • Some features are Samsung-only
  • Touch controls are overly sensitive
  • Software support is no longer available for other OS eg: iPhones

Samsung $199.99

Best Buy $199.99

Amazon $199.99

In terms of design, the Galaxy Buds Pro is a mixture of the Galaxy Buds Plus and the open-air Galaxy Buds Live. They feature a familiar in-ear design with silicone tips but without the wingtips of the Buds Plus model. The lack of wingtips is undoubtedly going to please a few Samsung shoppers. Many found them uncomfortable to wear for long periods anyway. The premium earbuds now have a smaller profile that means they protrude less and the outer casing has a mixed gloss/matte finish. You’ll probably notice the new mic is covered by a mesh to give it wind-shielding. This helps keep voice calls clearer for the listener. You get your typical silicone ear tips in 3 different sizes to find the right fit. Granted they are shorter because of the new low-profile design. There have been whispers that Samsung may consider a foam alternative in the future, but for now, there is no sign for that. As to Samsung, this revamped shell also “reduces the contact area between your ear and the bud, improving comfort and minimizing any clogged-up feeling.”

The design tweaks such as the air vent and reduced contact area have clearly made a difference. Plenty of people are already commenting on the new comfort levels of the fit. The seal provides better stability in the ear without jutting out too much. Chris said he liked how they twisted into place without making his ears feel plugged up. His only real gripe was that the touch controls are too easy to activate accidentally. He agitated the touch-sensitive controls more than once whilst trying to adjust the earbuds. Tap gestures are a modern convenience that makes life easier but it appears they can have their drawbacks too. If this is a persistent issue the touch controls can be deactivated at your preference.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds come with an IPX7 rating
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds come with an IPX7 rating. Image credit: techradar.com

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds come with an IPX7 rating that means they are protected against particle damage including water and sweat. They are fine if you get caught in the rain and can even survive submersion, and let’s face it accidents happen. As for today, that’s the highest rating among any of Samsung’s earbuds and beats out the AirPods Pro, Jabra Elite 85t, and Bose Sport Earbuds, which are all IPX4. That means you have the go-ahead to wear them throughout even the most physically demanding of workouts. Sweating just isn’t going to be an issue.

The charging case is virtually the same as the Buds Live case. The accessories are actually interchangeable. Like the older model, the new ones charge via USB-C or Qi wireless charging. However, these new premium beats and their new-fangled cutting edge features are a little more demanding of the battery. That is to say, they don’t come close to the 11 hours that the Galaxy Buds Plus can dish out continuously, which is a bit of a shame. Instead, the running time is a little more average. Samsung promises up to five hours of playback with ANC enabled (or eight with it off). If you use them non-continuously you are looking at 18 hours tops with your ANC running and around 28 without it activated. This is largely due to their smaller battery capacity. They harbor a smaller 61mAh for each bud. When you compare this to the 85mAh of the Buds Plus and take into account the new ANC capabilities it is easy to see where the juice is going. Still, the upper estimates on battery life are on par with competitive premium models.

Smasung Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung promises up to five hours of playback with ANC enabled. Image credit: androidauthority.com

The buds can function as a pair or independently from one another and you can play audio in mono for voice calls if you want to. Each ear-bud harbors a 2-way speaker array that consists of an 11-millimeter woofer and 6.5mm tweeter to take care of upper and lower frequencies. The dimension put them in the middle of the Buds Plus and Buds live models. Because of their new open, vented design, Samsung had to put all their efforts into optimizing the bass. Generally speaking, the Buds Pro are truly enjoyable to listen to, with a good bass thump, crisp treble, and a pleasant soundstage/imaging.

Because of their smaller size and the fact that they sit within the ear canal the finer details in music played through earbuds can be less discernable. Sometimes it is as if the sound emanates from the middle of your head. With a headphone, there is a little space for the sound to reverberate around in before it hits your eardrums. However, Samsung has done a pretty great job with this set, the dynamics are present and the frequency distinction is refined. You can hear multiple layers and the sound has a space of its own. Chris Welch recommends Sturgill Simpson’s “Oh Sarah” and Troye Sivan’s “Easy” (with Kacey Musgraves and Mark Ronson as good examples to hear what these bad boys can do.

If you are a Bass head then you may be a fan of the “bass boost” EQ setting. With it activated some of the tweeter action falls apart. You might find the higher frequencies give off a little extra sibilance. But, each to their own. In terms of fidelity to tracks, they are not quite as Hi-Fi as Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 set but given that Samsungs Buds Pro earbuds have been priced around $100 cheaper you really can’t complain. Again we reiterate that these have the best sound from any set of Samsung earbuds yet. If you are a real audiophile, then in all likeliness you are going to have a much pricier pair or prefer your home-audio speakers anyway. As a set of everyday earbuds, the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds are impressive and most will be more than happy with them.

The active noise cancellation on the Galaxy Buds Pro is much better than the When the Galaxy Buds Live hit the markets the ANC capabilities were a little disappointing, they were barely able to contend with surrounding noises and if you were in particularly loud environments there was hardly any difference at all. The Galaxy Buds Pro, seem to fair much better, Samsung boasts that they can filter up to “99 percent at 118.43Hz”. This sounds impressive but means relatively little to the average person. If we are honest and put it simply, The ANC is much more noticeable, when you don’t want outside disturbance they do a good job. They aren’t quite as effective as some of the high-end models on the QuietComfort series from Bose and are also outperformed by Sony’s WF-1000XM3 and Apple’s AirPods Pro. That said, they are adequate and muffle out most of your surroundings. There are available options between high and low levels of noise cancellation in case you’re sensitive to the effect.

Whilst we are on the subject of Bose and Apple competition, the new transparency/ambient mode that the Galaxy Buds Pro model provides is also a little lackluster. The others seem to achieve a far more natural-sounding end result than Samsung has. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a big step up, sound is definitely improved it just seems a little sterile in direct comparison. 

However, the newly integrated voice detect feature gives both a run for their money. By utilizing a dedicated mic and accelerometer as a voice pickup unit they can detect jaw movement. This then allows them to automatically lower your audio levels. At the same time, it deactivates your ANC, switching the earbuds to ambient mode to make you aware of your surroundings. It works very effectively and is one of the Galaxy Buds Pro’s best features. You may remember Sony’s 1000XM4 headphones worked in a similar way but the tech hasn’t been employed in many earbud options successfully. The convenience speaks for itself but if you are someone who loves to sing along to your playlists then you will want to disable it!

The controls basically work the same way as other Samsung buds. You only need a single tap to pause/play, double to skip to the next song, triple to go back, and a customizable long-press that can be used for such things as volume, voice assistants, or ambient mode.

The built-in three-mic system improves voice calls, it is bolstered by and beamforming tech to help isolate your voice from the crowd and as we mentioned the mesh-covering windshield, helps to keep lines clear for communication as well. So clarity is much better than ever before. They also still operate using Samsung’shands-free “Hey Bixby” functions for added convenience.

Galaxy Buds PRO V’s AirPods PRO

If your an Apple fan then you will undoubtedly be yawning your way through some of these Samsung features. Many of them are undoubtedly influenced by the AirPods Pro model that Apple released. As direct competition is it is unsurprising that Samsung has tried to provide the same capabilities. 

Most notably is  Samsungs 3D 360 audio; The company’s rendition of Apple’s immersive spatial audio. This lets users get a surround sound experience out of a tiny set of earbuds when they listen with Dolby surround.

As to Samsung, 360 audio uses Dolby head tracking technology, which “enables you to stay at the center of the scene when you’re watching a movie or TV show.” The concept is similar to Apple’s methodology. They rely on, accelerometers and gyroscope sensors to anchor the sound to your device and track your head movement.

To use the new surround sound elements of the Galaxy Buds Pro you will need Galaxy OneUI 3.1 which at present is only available on the new Galaxy S21 lineup but the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra may be due the update soon.

Another AirPod feature that Samsung has tried to compete with is automatic switching. Their Buds Pro will automatically switch between your Galaxy smartphone and tablet just like your Apple earbuds jump between your iPhone, iPad, or Mac without manual intervention.  Granted, Samsungs attempt completely neglects laptops altogether which seems silly, like it is just a temporary solution. But, sooner or later these products will likely make the leap to multipoint Bluetooth pairing like Jabra offers, rendering automatic switching obsolete anyway. 

Galaxy Bud Pro vs Airpods Pro
Galaxy Bud Pro vs Airpods Pro. Image credit: phonearena.com

While these newer capabilities are appreciated, as we said they will rely on you buying into a Samsung ecosystem. Without the right hardware, the 3D audio is useless to you as is the auto-switching feature. There will be many out there who aren’t too fussed or are already avid Samsung supporters but it is worth pointing out.

Because of their decision to narrow the compatibility window with their latest releases the iOS support will also suffer. Samsung Buds Plus and Buds Live have good maintenance but the existing iOS app won’t cater to the new Buds Pro, so you can’t mismatch them with an iPhone and make use of voice detect features, etc. You can still pair them and use noise-canceling and ambient modes — much like the way AirPods Pro function on Android.

Most of Samsungs decisions can’t be faulted given the fierce competition they are bombarded with. Wto put it bluntly, while there are better ANC models around Galaxy Buds Pro have superb sound a comfy low-profile design and the company seems to have found a real balance. All this while competing directly with AirPod Pro capabilities. The only real sacrifice is in the battery-life area. 

All in all, these Buds Pro actually feel great in your ears and they sound better than any Samsung earbuds currently available on the market. What is more, they have convenient tricks to complement their decent noise cancellation. With Galaxy S21, you should be more than satisfied.

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