The Galaxy brand really requires no introduction at this point but Samsung's new Galaxy Buds Pro, shipped to Android Headlines for review just ahead of their launch, couldn't be more deserving of a closer look. That's not just because they launched alongside a ton of noteworthy and award-worthy products, either. Which could potentially cause them to get lost in all the news and hype.
The company set out with its newest earbuds to offer a listening device that truly completes its Galaxy ecosystem. And it has accomplished that task and then some. These AKG-tuned earbuds set a new standard that matches its flagship smartphones on features and perks. Especially if you happen to own Galaxy-branded smartphones and tablets.
Not only does the audio sound incredible for the price with any smartphone. Pairing with a Galaxy smartphone improved audio via 360 Audio with Dolby Head Tracking, a custom EQ, and other features when paired with a Galaxy phone. So let's dig into what makes these earbuds one of the best options, whether you own a Galaxy phone or not.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro hardware is better, more comfortable than ever
In terms of hardware, at least for the charging case, this Samsung wearable doesn't make any huge leaps and bounds forward. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The case is tiny, making it easy to take with me wherever I went during my review of Galaxy Buds Pro. It also feels solidly built, without any creak or groan in the case while opening the lid. I didn't hear any unexpected noises when I put the earbud charging case under pressure either.
The earbuds themselves are a different matter. The design seen in the original Samsung Galaxy Buds is iterated forward. Small changes to the size and shape of the buds ensure that they are more comfortable than ever. In fact, it was almost easy for me to forget they're being worn
Of course, the company includes three different tip sizes too. So even if the pre-installed tips don't fit, it's easy enough to swap those out. And the fact that the bud itself rests on the outside of the ear while the tip sits inside means that they'll be comfortable for the vast majority of users regardless of differences in ear size. That's despite that they appeared larger than expected on my first examination.
Aesthetically and in terms of design, these are both the best looking Galaxy Buds to date and some of the most sustainable. Samsung built the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, at least for 20-percent of the materials, from Post-Consumer Materials. That effectively means 20-percent of the materials used to build them are recycled. But you'd never guess that from how they look.
Samsung sent out the Phantom Black variant for our review of the Galaxy Buds Pro and they look really good. Just like the company's newest flagship smartphones. They're also available in a Phantom Violet and Phantom Silver variation. The exterior of the buds is a shiny, high-gloss that still manages to avoid fingerprints for the most part. The anterior segment is a semi-glossy-tinted matte black, as is the carry case. That color combination provides a sense of sophistication and style not often seen in earbuds.
And, of course, I'd be remiss not to point out that the earbuds themselves are the most water-resistant ever made by Samsung. In fact, they feature a level of water-resistance more akin to a high-end smartphone at IPX7, than to previous earbuds or most competitors' earbuds. While I still wouldn't wear these in the shower, they're definitely approaching that point.
Battery life is as advertised and that's definitely a great aspect of these buds
The battery life for any electronic is subjective. As a result, companies most often claim a maximum battery life but don't give too many details about the conditions surrounding their figures. And Samsung is no different here. The company says that users can expect up to 5 hours of constant playback with all of the extra features turned on. Or, around 8 hours of listening without.
That's a lofty claim for any earbud to make, with most falling just short of the 6-hour mark with no extra features turned on. But those figures, at least for my review of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, were fairly accurate.
Now, there are plenty of factors that contribute to a great or not-so-great battery life. I ran my tests with the volume always set somewhere between 70-percent and maximum. That's going to be overkill with these buds, even for those who have a hard time hearing normally. These buds are loud. Distance from the source device to earbuds was also kept at a more than reasonable 15- to 20-feet. And all features were kept active, as a matter of course.
Despite those factors, I saw a battery life averaging at around 5-hours and 15-minutes.
I also noted that I was able to obtain just under 3 full charges from the charging case. So the total playback time was right around 19 hours.
Samsung accurately describes the charging times here too. It took just over two hours to charge the buds and case altogether. That's after both earbuds and case were drained completely. A 5-minute charge was enough to get back an hour of listening. And the buds themselves took just short of an-hour-and-a-half to charge up completely.
How's the audio from these $200 buds?
Setting aside comfort and battery life, audio quality is the single most important characteristic of any earbuds. Let alone any earbuds costing around the $200 mark. Of course, these buds do come with some caveats too. But those are mostly down to software with Galaxy Buds Pro, as we'll discover in the next segment of this review. Or, more succinctly, those are down to features that aren't available when not linked to a Galaxy-branded.
Looking past those extras, these buds provided exactly the quality you'd expect from AKG-tuned earbuds. Albeit, definitely better than previous Galaxy Buds. Samsung engineered these earbuds with two separate drivers, just for starters. From the 11mm woofer, designed for lower frequencies, these buds present powerful balanced bass tones and lower-mids. Where appropriate, those hit hard but regardless, the quality is such that the tones are clear.
The woofer here is paired with a 6.5mm tweeter for the higher tones. And those frequencies, as might be expected, ring through with crystal clarity and balance as well. So these earbuds dispense with the problems that are usually present where bass or highs get muddled or lost. And the balance from left to right is great too. In fact, an update released during my review period makes it possible to adjust left- and right-ear balance in the app. And that should prove useful for those whose ears make the balance seem off.
Now, that does leave questions about mid-tones. But Galaxy Buds Pro doesn't drown out or suppress those either. At least not to any extent that most users would notice. As a result, the audio feels balanced from top to bottom. For the price, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro works well across all mediums, from podcasts to music across all the genres I tested. The audio just felt as though it sounded as intended. They simply offer a more immersive and wider experience than many competitors.
On calls, there were one or two issues when in loud environments. Namely, the people that I called reported that I was quiet, especially in noisy environments. In windier circumstances, although these earbuds did exceptionally well on my end thanks to Samsung's Wind Shield technology, they had an even harder time hearing me.
For clarity, I could still hear just fine on my end for music or calls. And the buds didn't completely drown me out either. Conversely, the individuals that I called couldn't hear the noise going on around me either. But, under review, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro didn't do quite as well as I'd hoped they would in terms of volume in calls from my end.
The one feature I didn't get the chance to test, likely owing to the fact that it's only available along with the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, is 360 Audio. The feature, officially 360 Audio with Dolby Head Tracking, keeps the listener centered in scenes generated by the buds. In effect, it helps stabilize the 360-degree audio experience.
The software makes all the difference with Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro proved under review, on its own and regardless of the phone or source device, to be a brilliant pair of earbuds. But this test period also revealed that the best way to use them is with a Samsung phone. Specifically, a Galaxy-branded smartphone. Those devices represent the only way to access the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app and the only way to access special features.
Those special features cover the gamut. From allowing easy — and automatic from tablet to phone, on incoming calls — device switching to equalizer features. The app also allows you to turn on notification reading, to adjust how the interactive touch controls work, or to turn them off entirely. And all of those not only works as intended. These features are not typically found anywhere else.
One of the best special features, setting aside the EQ and others, is automatic Noise Control switching.
Under review, the feature effectively allows ANC to automatically switch over to Ambient Sound mode. The former is self-explanatory. The latter boosts ambient environmental noise and sound significantly. In effect, allowing me to hear what's going on in my surrounding environment. And that's particularly useful with regard to conversations. Once activated, the earbuds automatically detect when you're talking and switch to Ambient Sound mode.
Of course, I also found some issues in the Ambient Sound mode. Namely, the switching sometimes didn't work as intended, switching on coughs and sneezes instead of talking. That didn't happen often enough to cause any real annoyance. Oddly, it simultaneously felt as though it only switched over when I was talking at what felt like a higher-than-usual volume. With that said, nobody I spoke with while using the feature felt as though I was speaking too loudly. So that may have just been me.
Last but certainly not least, Samsung worked to ensure Galaxy Buds Pro works with SmartThings Find. So it's relatively easy, with a secondary app installed, to locate buds regardless of where they are. The feature works regardless of whether they're offline, disconnected from Bluetooth, or not.
When it comes to signal strength and connectivity, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro shined under review. Of course, most users won't ever go further than 20-feet from their source device while listening to music or a podcast. Or when watching a movie. But, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, going twice that distance with walls between didn't present any issues at all for me during my test of these buds either.
Of course, I connected to these buds via a Galaxy-branded phone and the Galaxy Wearable app. And the experience may be different without that app. But, given that Bluetooth 5.0 maxes out at a range of 200-feet to 800-feet, I don't foresee any problems on that front for any user.
Certainly worth the money and better still if you own a Samsung phone or tablet
All told, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is a great product all on its own. It offers great noise-cancellation features and audio. And it does brilliantly in calls, with the only caveat being how noise-dampening appears to impacts calls in noisy environments. But Samsung also designed them to work best with Galaxy phones. And that's the biggest drawback I noted during my review of Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
With that said, they do still sound great without the extra features. And they're still going to be worth the money. Samsung did a great job ensuring that audio quality and a comfortable design was front and center for these buds. But where they'll really stand out as a better value and a perfect pairing option, is with Samsung Galaxy flagships and mid-rangers.
Paired with a Galaxy-branded smartphone and ecosystem, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro almost feels too affordable. Especially since you won't find the extra features for custom EQ, SmartThings Find, and automatic device switching almost anywhere else. Stacking in automatic speech recognition and Ambient Sound mode switching only makes that better. As do custom touch and touch-blocking features. One of the most annoying things about truly wireless earbuds is accidental touches, but that's no longer a problem here.
All things considered, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is an audio device that stands at a five-star rating all on its own. Paired with a Galaxy phone or devices, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro should easily be the top choice.