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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
What we like
What we don't like
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Samsung adds to its litany of true wireless earbuds with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, a pair of active noise-cancelling (ANC) earphones that share plenty of DNA with the successful Galaxy Buds Pro line. The Buds 2 were the first of Samsung’s earphones to include an ear tip fit test and use Bluetooth 5.2. Arguably the best thing about the Buds 2 is the $149.99 price, but Samsung’s more robust flagship earbuds often go on sale for just $20 more, making the Buds 2 a hard sell.
Let’s disentangle the confusing list of Samsung Galaxy Buds to see how the Buds 2 compare to their siblings. Are these earphones worth it, or do they end up lost as the middle child between the Buds Pro and Buds Plus?
Update, November 2022: This Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review was updated to address the discontinuation of the Galaxy Buds Plus and Buds Pro, the launch of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, add the results of the microphone poll, and more.
What’s it like to use the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
The Galaxy Buds 2 retain a similar design to the original Galaxy Buds Pro (check later in the review for more on the Buds 2 Pro), with a rounded earbud shape free of silicone wing tips. Each earbud weighs just five grams. Still, stabilizing wing tips would have been a nice option for athletes who want to take advantage of the IPX2 water resistance. Why Samsung refuses to return to the better fit of the Buds Plus’ design is a mystery as the Buds Plus remain the most comfortable earphones around.
Headphone buying guide: A beginner’s guide to all things headphones
As with previous Galaxy Buds, the Buds 2 are crammed with high-tech sensors, among which is a proximity sensor for automatic ear detection. When you remove both earbuds, music playback pauses. In order to resume playback, you must tap either earbud; music doesn’t resume automatically when you re-insert the ‘buds. The touch controls are effective and intuitive but the touchpads often register accidental contact, a pervasive problem that plagues older Samsung earphones too. It didn’t take long for this to become a nuisance: I often adjusted the earbuds as they came loose from my ear canals, which sent media playback into a frenzy of song skips and pauses.
Is the charging case well built?
The boxy charging case looks nearly identical to that of the Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live. Whether you go with the Graphite, White, Olive, or Lavender color variant, the case exterior is white with the interior matching the earbuds. The case looks great, though I wish Samsung had swapped the glossy finish for something a bit grippier. But hey, if you fumble the case, it won’t pop open and eject the earphones. I test dropped the case from hip height (one meter) and the lid stayed shut.
A USB-C input rests on the back of the case with two battery indicator lights that decorate it, one on the outside and one on the inside. The exterior light indicates the case’s remaining battery, while the interior light corresponds to the earbuds’ remaining battery life.
Should you download the Galaxy Wearable app?
Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app has plenty of features for the Galaxy Buds 2, but only if you pair them to an Android phone. That’s right, Samsung continues to pull pages from Apple’s playbook: there’s no iOS app support for the Galaxy Buds 2. You can still connect the Buds 2 to an iPhone, the same way you can connect AirPods to Android phones, but you don’t get any software features or access to updates.
The Samsung Galaxy Wearable app has plenty of features, but only if you pair the Buds 2 to an Android phone.
You can use the Galaxy Wearable app to toggle noise-cancelling on or off, and to enable or disable ambient sound mode which amplifies background noise through the headset to keep you aware of your surroundings. You can choose between three degrees of ambient sound intensity, and its effect is quite natural relative to other earbuds’ ambient listening modes.
If you dig around a bit, you’ll find Labs where you can enable “gaming mode” to reduce audio-visual latency. Gaming mode isn’t limited to mobile gaming; it happens to be a nice feature for watching any kind of video too. A selection of EQ presets (normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear, treble boost) are available in the app, though you can’t create a custom EQ. Bixby fans can access the virtual assistant with just their voice. You’re not wed to Bixby and can disable it if you’d prefer to tap-and-hold for Google Assistant instead.
While the Buds 2 lack Bluetooth multipoint, you can use its seamless earbud connection (fast switching). With this, you can toggle between previously paired mobile devices by tapping on the Galaxy Buds 2 from the desired phone’s Bluetooth menu. This process is much faster than manually disconnecting from the current device before connecting to the designated one. Fast switching works across operating systems. I could easily switch back and forth between an iPhone and Samsung phone.
The only way to access firmware and software updates is by downloading the Galaxy Wearable app. We recommend doing so with the Galaxy Buds 2 as Samsung is fastidious about updating its products, and is known to introduce new features to older earbud modes, extending the life of your purchase. For example, version R177XXU0AVC8 of the Galaxy Buds 2 firmware added support 360 Audio, almost a year after the earbuds’ release.
You can also use the Buds Controller on a Galaxy Watch to quickly control the Buds 2 from your smartwatch. From the watch face, you can toggle between ANC and ambient sound modes with a single tap. You can also use it to enable or disable the earbuds’ touch controls. Buds Controller works with the Galaxy Buds 2, Galaxy Buds Pro, Galaxy Buds Live, and Galaxy Buds Plus.
Is the Galaxy Buds 2 noise-cancelling any good?
According to SoundGuys’ test results, the Galaxy Buds 2 ANC makes 100Hz frequencies sound one-quarter as loud as they’d sound without the earphones in at all. Comparatively speaking, the Galaxy Buds 2 noise-cancelling is actually a little bit better than that of the now-discontinued Galaxy Buds Pro. The ANC more effectively hushed the predictable rumble of my microwave more than the clicks and clacks of my mechanical keyboard. Bear in mind, in order to experience optimal ANC performance, you need to get a good fit with the provided ear tips.
While most people will feel at home with one of the three provided ear tip sizes, not everyone will. Since Samsung doesn’t include wing tips with the Buds 2, you may not maintain a secure fit for very long (an issue I had during testing). If you can’t get the ear tips to create a strong seal at the entrance of your ear canals, ANC won’t really work. A physical barrier is required to passively block out high-frequency sounds, hence why the ear tip fit test is so important. Once that requirement is met, then the noise cancellation can focus its effect on predictable, low-frequency sounds.
You might like: The best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds
How do the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 sound?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 have a standard consumer-friendly frequency response that mimics that of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus and Pro. Bass and treble notes are amplified, which brings out that beloved “oomph” from kick drums without masking detail from high notes like cymbal hits and vocal harmonies. Samsung doesn’t go overboard with the Galaxy Buds 2 tuning, and these earbuds should make nearly all genres of music sound pleasant.
Every now and then, you may notice minor auditory masking as I did in the song Melatonin by Zac Greer. The background guitar strums are difficult to hear during the chorus since the Buds 2 relay the lower-pitched electric guitar strikes with more amplification.
You can choose from a selection of EQ presets within the Galaxy Wearable app if you don’t like the default sound. While you can’t create a custom EQ from Samsung’s app, most smartphones include an integrated multi-band equalizer. If you’re itching for even more customization, you may want to consider a third-party EQ app.
Do the earbuds stay connected?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 remained connected to my Samsung Galaxy S10e or iPhone 12 Mini anywhere within my 60-square-meter apartment, even with layers of drywall separating the source from the Buds 2. Connection stability was also consistent as the Buds 2 underscored my walks with rock ballads.
You get access to the latest Bluetooth 5.2 firmware and get three Bluetooth codecs to choose from: SBC, AAC, and Samsung Scalable Codec for consistently high-quality audio to iPhones and Samsung devices. While true that all Android handsets support the AAC, its performance is volatile on Android depending on the hardware.
How long does the Buds 2 battery last?
According to Samsung, the Galaxy Buds 2 last five hours with noise-cancelling enabled, and SoundGuys’ tests yielded slightly better results than this at five hours and nine minutes. You get an additional 15 hours of ANC listening from the charging case. When you place the earbuds in the case for just five minutes, you get 60 minutes of playtime.
Samsung gives you a few options for charging the case. You can take the wired route with the included USB-C cable or place it atop a Qi wireless charging mat. You can even charge the case and earbuds by placing them on top of a Samsung Galaxy device, so long as it supports Wireless PowerShare.
Can you use the Galaxy Buds 2 for phone calls?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 have a triple-microphone array with unimpressive results. In the demo below, my voice comes through as “hollow” or even “muffled,” a consequence of the proximity effect. While this is disappointing, microphone quality is easily improved with a firmware update. Sure, the initial results aren’t stellar, but this shouldn’t be the sole reason you turn away from the Buds 2. Listen for yourself, with new standardized microphone samples from our sister site:
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone sample (Ideal):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone sample (Street):
How does the microphone sound to you?
As of November 2022, 70% of readers rated the microphone in the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 between “Okay” and “Good,” which is about average for true wireless earbuds.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review: The verdict
While the Galaxy Buds 2 aren’t a breakout pair of earbuds, they perform well and it’s exciting to see effective noise-cancelling earphones that fall below the $150 price point. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 cost $149.99, but these days you can often snag them for less.
What’s the difference between the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro?
Let’s get the universal similarities out of the way when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Buds 2 Pro: each model supports SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable, or Seamless, Codec. All of Samsung’s true wireless earbuds also feature touch controls and a USB-C charging case with fast and wireless charging along with Wireless PowerShare compatibility. IP ratings range from IPX2 to IPX7, and all but the Galaxy Buds Live include ear tips for a sealed fit.
Now for the differences
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are a big upgrade
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($104.99 at Amazon) build upon the foundation laid by the Galaxy Buds 2 and offer many improvements. Most notably, they have vastly improved ANC. We have a full breakdown of the two if you want to learn more.
Furthermore, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro can actually survive brief immersion, too. And the touch controls have been tweaked to help prevent false taps from registering commands when you’re just trying to adjust the earbuds. Sweat shouldn’t do this, either. Plus, the grippier matte surface on the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is a bit easier to grasp.
The only real drawback to the Buds 2 Pro is their price. At around $229, they fall into the price range of other flagship earbuds.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live brought a new, open-type fit with ANC
The Galaxy Buds Live ($99.83 at Amazon) are the infamous beans that directly target the Apple AirPods. This is the only open-type fit earphone to date from Samsung and, if the company is smart, the last too. The Buds Live are unique because they have noise-cancelling even though they don’t seal to the ear canal. It’s impressive that it works at all, but if you’re going to pay this much for noise-cancelling earbuds, you might as well buck up for the Buds 2.
You get five hours and 15 minutes of playtime from the Buds Live with ANC on, and these earphones changed the shape of the Galaxy Buds charging cases from a pill shape to a jewelry box.
What should you get instead of the Galaxy Buds 2?
Beyond the confusing line of Samsung Galaxy Buds, you have an abundance of options. Android smartphone owners who want a smart pair of earbuds should look at the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen) ($69.99). These earphones feature very good active noise-cancelling that gives the more expensive Galaxy Buds Pro a real run for their money. Another option are the Google Pixel Buds A Series ($93.02 at Amazon). While these don’t have ANC, they do integrate seamlessly to your Android device, with voice-activated Google Assistant built in and a find device feature in the Pixel Buds app.
If you want the noise cancelling and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity of the Galaxy Buds 2 but with aptX support, the Jabra Elite 4 Active ($119.99) have got you covered. It’s also really durable, with IP57 dust and water resistance. It doesn’t support AAC though, so iPhone users will be more interested in the Jabra Elite 7 Active ($179.99).
iPhone owners interested in the Galaxy Buds 2 should instead get the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) ($249). Yes, Apple’s earphones cost a bit more, but you get great active noise-cancelling, a better IPX4 rating, and seamless integration with other Apple devices under the same Apple ID account. When you use the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with an iOS device, you also get access to Apple Spatial Audio for a more immersive music and video experience.
If you don’t want to feel beholden to any OS, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro ($179.95) have active noise-cancelling, and an IP68 dust and water resistance rating, making them durable and great for working out. Another option is the Nothing Ear 1 ($99), which also have noise-cancelling, an IPX4 water resistance rating, Qi charging, and fast charging. They also have really handy automatic ear detection.
Frequently asked questions about the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
No, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 have an IPX2 rating, meaning they can only withstand incidental contact with moisture.
No, both the Galaxy Buds Plus and the first-generation Galaxy Buds Pro have been discontinued.
The Galaxy Buds 2 will connect to an iPhone as a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, but that’s a bout it. You can’t use the Samsung Wearable app on iOS and you’ll miss out on many of the Galaxy Buds 2’s features when they’re connected to an iPhone.