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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
What we like
What we don't like
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 look unassuming. Their rounded shape is inviting and playful, but these true wireless earbuds take sound quality and noise canceling seriously. A couple of years after their release, these earbuds are a bargain for Android users. Find out more in our Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review: What you need to know
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: $149 / £139 / €149
The Galaxy Buds 2 were first made available on August 27, 2021. At the time, this only confused an existing lineup of Galaxy Buds full of Pros, Lives, and Pluses, but since their release, Samsung has pared its Galaxy Buds line and unveiled the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. Now the Galaxy Buds 2 are distinguished from the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as a more affordable but similarly capable option.
The Galaxy Buds 2 are different from the currently available Galaxy Buds Live and Buds 2 Pro. Only the Buds Live embody a kidney bean shape. Meanwhile, the Buds 2 Pro share the same shape as the Buds 2 but with a matte finish instead of a glossy one. Like the Galaxy Buds Live, the Buds 2 have an IPX2 rating to resist minimal water exposure. As with all Galaxy Buds, you get built-in “Hey, Bixby” voice assistance when paired with a Samsung phone.
Active noise canceling is better with the Galaxy Buds 2 than even the original Galaxy Buds Pro. This leapfrogging performance made the Galaxy Buds 2 stand out because its ANC competed with other flagship earbuds at the time despite ostensibly being the “entry” model in Samsung’s buds family. You get five hours of standalone battery life with ANC and an extra 15 hours from the case. Like older Galaxy Buds, the Buds 2 sound great, as we’ll see in this review.
They'll work with any Android phone, but for the best audio quality and lowest latency, it's best to use the Galaxy Buds 2 with a Samsung phone.
Following their predecessors, the Galaxy Buds 2 require a Samsung smartphone for unbridled feature access. This pairing unlocks Samsung 360 Audio for advanced surround sound from compatible streaming services like Disney Plus or Amazon Music (though notably not Spotify). Samsung added 360 Audio to the Buds 2 a year after their debut. This was a significant update but don’t expect head tracking capabilities: the Buds 2 lack the proper sensors. Our Galaxy Buds 2 are pre-production units, so I could not test this feature.
Likewise, only Samsung phone owners can stream over the Samsung Seamless Codec (SSC) for 16bit/44.1kHz audio that scales from 88-512kbps for stable connectivity. Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Buds have an impressive feature set when connected to a matching smartphone, but Android phones with the Galaxy Wearable app get a feature-packed experience too. There’s no equivalent app for iOS, so if you have an iPhone we don’t recommend these buds.
There are a few colorways to choose from with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: Graphite, Lavender, Olive, Phantom Black, and White. These earbuds cost $149, but you can often find them for around $100.
What I like about the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are brimming with high-tech features, most notably, active noise canceling. Upon their release, Samsung’s ANC knocked our socks off. These buds blocked out more noise than the Galaxy Buds Pro and AirPods Pro (1st generation), which were flagships at the time. Even today, the Buds 2 ANC performance surpasses most similarly priced earbuds. After accruing tens of hours with the Galaxy Buds 2, I can share that the ANC makes a difference. With ANC on, my dishwasher’s tumble and whoosh noises became quieter, as did my neighbor’s barking dog. While this is good, I only ask that you temper expectations because the Galaxy Buds 2 ANC does not outperform current flagships.
AKG tuned the sound, so the buds’ 11mm driver and 6.3mm tweeter pump out enough bass without getting out of hand. I loved listening to Samia’s song Pool with these earbuds. Whether reproducing Samia’s vocals or the steady bass line that enters halfway through the song, the Galaxy Buds 2 sounded great. Likewise, more energetic music by Bob Vylan, Amyl and the Sniffers, and Peggy Gou benefited from Samsung’s modest bass bump. Trained ears may even distinguish that the Galaxy Buds 2 sound a little better than the Buds 2 Pro.
When watching movies and videos over the Samsung Seamless Codec, all content was lag free. As a character spoke, the earbuds relayed audio at exactly the right time. Gamers will appreciate SSC combined with the Galaxy Wearable’s Game mode. Playing PUBG Mobile, I could tell a marked difference in audio timing with Game mode on and off. This combination drained the battery faster, but the tradeoff made me more engrossed in the game.
Android phones can use Game mode for lag-free video playback or gaming.
If you need to recharge the earbuds and case after an hours-long gaming session, do so with Wireless PowerShare. Placing the Galaxy Buds case on top of a Galaxy device with Wireless PowerShare reverse charging support initiates a recharge. The combined battery life of the case and earbuds is 18 hours, so I only recharged the case a few times during this Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review period. With ANC on, I squeezed about five hours out of the Galaxy Buds 2. Five hours is an average battery figure for wireless earbuds, and the Buds 2 actually outlasted the Buds 2 Pro by 13 minutes in our official testing.
I found the Galaxy Buds 2 to fit well. Aided by their minimal weight, I never removed them to alleviate pain points, only to air my ears out. That said, the fit did loosen when I wiggled my ears. I readjusted the fit to get a proper seal again when this happened. Shaking my head or walking around never caused the buds to loosen.
Forgetful listeners can use Samsung Find, so long as they have the Galaxy Wearable and SmartThings app installed on a Samsung phone. Together, you get fleshed-out location tracking that will route you to the last known location of the Buds 2. Alternatively, you can ring one or both of the earbuds so they emit a sound. This feature came in handy as sometimes I couldn’t remember where I left the buds in my room or the kitchen. If you never want to leave your buds behind, your phone can notify you when you’re leaving a location without the buds.
While you can’t access Samsung Find without a Samsung phone, you can explore features in the Android-friendly Galaxy Wearable app. I found the aforementioned Game mode and touch control toggles most useful, but there’s also an ear tip fit test. I also used the app to customize the tap-and-hold command, so it adjusted the volume rather than switch between ANC and ambient aware mode. You can also change the sound with six EQ presets (Normal, Bass boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear, and Treble boost).
Perhaps most important is that you’ll need the Wearable app to access firmware updates for the Galaxy Buds 2. Like Google and Apple, Samsung typically rolls out one or two important features to its earbuds throughout their lifecycles. Knowing this, you’ll want to get the app so you don’t miss out on additional features.
What I don’t like about the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Although Samsung’s earbuds look great and fit comfortably, the Galaxy Buds 2 are slippery. I’ve fumbled the buds onto the ground more times than I care to admit. The upshot of this is that the earbuds are pretty scratch resistant. Be sure to stay away from water when dropping the earbuds: the IPX2 rating won’t protect them from a drop into a puddle.
Not everyone needs to tweak the sound, but I missed the option to create a custom EQ in the app. At full retail price, these cost $149, which is not just chump change. For that much money, we’d like companies to give consumers more control over how their earbuds sound. It would be nice for Samsung to go the way of Google, Bose, and Sony and add a custom EQ to its app.
The Galaxy Buds 2 microphone array relays all background noise during phone calls.
In a similar vein, support for the aptX Bluetooth codec would have made the Galaxy Buds 2 an even stronger contender for Android phones. You don’t need to understand the ins and outs of Bluetooth audio codecs to see the benefits of aptX on Android. AAC was the best codec my Google Pixel 6 and the Galaxy Buds 2 shared. Streaming over AAC produced a half-second lag when watching videos. While this mainly affects frequent video streamers, it was something I couldn’t unsee.
Then we have the microphone quality, which did not sound great when taking calls outside or from my local grocer. The microphones picked up surrounding noise and relayed that to my conversation partners. When it was particularly windy, I switched back to speaking with my phone.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Non-standardized):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 specs
|Galaxy Buds 2|
Earbud: 21.1. x 20.9 x 17mm
Case: 50.2 x 50 x 27.8mm
Bluetooth connectivity and codecs
Samsung Scalable Codec (Samsung devices running Android 7.0+)
Earbuds, ANC on: 5 hours
Voice Pickup Unit
Samsung 360 Audio
Active noise cancelation
Original price (USD)
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
That said, I’m not sold on the absence of a custom EQ. I believe that if you’re paying upwards of $100 for earbuds, you should be able to customize the sound. Further, the addition of Samsung 360 Audio is neat, but if the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s 360 Audio performance is any indication, this is not a selling feature of the Buds 2, and it won’t work unless you have a Samsung phone anyway. For the Samsung Galaxy Buds 3, we’d warmly welcome less sensitive touch panels and a custom EQ in the Wearable app. That said, you can always disable the touch controls on the Buds 2 if it becomes an issue and download a third-party EQ app if the default tuning isn’t satisfactory.
Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 balance a reasonable price with great sound, good ANC, and a useful app.
At the end of the day, are the Galaxy Buds 2 worth buying? Yes, the Galaxy Buds 2 are standout earphones for Android users (especially Samsung Galaxy owners) that often go on promotion for $100. At that price, you’re looking at alternatives like the Jabra Elite 4 ($79 at Amazon) and the Google Pixel Buds A-Series ($94 at Amazon). The Jabra Elite 4 have ANC, but it’s not as good as the Galaxy Buds 2. Jabra’s earbuds have aptX for lag-free video streaming on any Android device. The Google Pixel Buds A-Series aren’t too shabby and work with “Hey, Google” on most Android phones. You don’t get ANC, but you do get a more secure fit with wing tips. Even still, Samsung’s earbuds are a cut above both alternatives due to their superior sound and ANC.
You could also compare the Galaxy Buds 2 to the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($179 at Amazon) and Google Pixel Buds Pro ($199 at Amazon). Samsung’s flagship earbuds aren’t the bargain that the Buds 2 are (as you can tell from the picture above with both sets of buds), but they have a more advanced feature set. Similarly, the Google Pixel Buds Pro often go on promotion for around $150 and have very good ANC. You get a custom EQ through the Google Pixel Buds app, too.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review: FAQ
If you’re on a budget, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 will give you many of the same features as the Buds 2 Pro at a fraction of the cost. The benefit of buying the Buds 2 Pro over the Buds 2 are 360 Audio recording capabilities on compatible Samsung devices, greater durability, and better noise canceling. Otherwise, these products are very similar.
The Galaxy Buds 2 are not waterproof. The IPX2 rating protects the earbuds from splashes at a 15-degree angle or less. You can exercise with the Buds 2 — just be aware of how much you sweat. Particularly sweaty listeners may need to towel the buds off now and again.
To pair the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 to any device, follow these steps:
- Put the earbuds in the case and shut the lid. Wait a few seconds and open the case.
- Hold both earbuds’ touch panels for a few seconds until the LED starts flashing red and green.
- Follow this path on your phone or tablet: Settings > Connections > Bluetooth > Add Device. This path may be slightly different depending on your device.
- Tap the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2.
The default Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 touch controls are as follows:
- One tap: Pause or resume a track.
- Double tap: Play next track.
- Triple tap: Play previous track.
- Touch and hold: Switch noise controls (applies to left and right earbuds).
You can customize the touch-and-hold function to access your phone’s smart assistant, adjust the volume, or initiate Spotify.