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Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
What we like
What we don't like
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
Skeptical eyes roll at iterative tech updates, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus make marked improvements over Samsung’s original true wireless earbuds and make it easier to justify the costlier price tag. Physically, the Buds Plus are identical to the first-generation version, but there’s more than meets the eye: Spotify integration is a lovely feature for any die-hard music fan and the extended battery life is great for commuters. But should you still buy the Galaxy Buds Plus in 2022? Find out in this Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review.
Update, April 2022: This Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review was updated to include more information on Wireless PowerShare and other Qi battery share-compatible devices, and include the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, Sennheiser CX True Wireless, and Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless as alternatives.
Who should buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus?
If you own any Samsung flagship phone since the Galaxy S10, you’re the target demographic for these whimsical earbuds as Wireless PowerShare is available with compatible Samsung smartphones. Pixel 5, 6, or 6 Plus users can also use battery share to charge these buds. Spotify integration is also included, but its availability is limited to Android devices; iPhone users will still have to open the app for music playback. However, iPhone users do get some perks like AAC support for high-quality, lag-free playback. Although direct Spotify access is a unique feature, it’s now supported by the Galaxy Buds Pro and the original Galaxy Buds, too (after a software update).
What are the Galaxy Buds Plus like?
Anyone who’s used the original Galaxy Buds will feel at home with the Plus model. The design doesn’t deviate from the first-gen earphones, save for the carrying case that now has a glossy finish, rubberized “L R” indicator, and slightly larger earbud cutouts. All else remains the same, including the all-plastic construction and IPX2 water-resistant rating. This may read as boring to some, but it just means Samsung focused more on functional, rather than aesthetic, upgrades — something I appreciate.
Identical touch panels adorn the outside of the earbuds and their functions may be remapped in the Galaxy Wearable app. This is an application you’ll actually want to download as it lets you assign either panel to direct Spotify access. By tapping and holding the assigned panel, you’re introduced to a random recommended playlist or radio based on the service’s algorithms. It’s a unique feature that I dearly miss after returning to standard ‘buds. Sure, I can enter the actual Spotify app but the Galaxy Buds Plus streamline this process.
Learn more: A beginner’s guide to buying headphones
Other functions are afforded by the application, like ambient sound mode. You’re given three intensity levels to choose from; I like the low or medium settings and found the highest level too loud. You can also choose between six equalizer presets; dynamic is selected by default, which slightly amplifies low-end and upper-midrange frequencies to accommodate consumer audio preferences. There’s also a “Labs” tab within the app for experimental features such as Game Mode, which further reduces audio-visual latency.
Some of the best true wireless battery life around
During SoundGuys’ testing, a standalone playtime of 11 hours, 44 minutes was recorded, which outperforms the beefy Beats Powerbeats Pro. Quick charging is supported, too: tossing the Buds Plus into the case for just three minutes provides an hour of listening.
Depletion is uneven, however, as the right earbud’s battery cell drained 24 minutes prior to the left. This shouldn’t pose much of an issue since most of us place the earbuds into the charging case when inactive, thereby ensuring consistently topped-up battery life. Although doing so is convenient, it also contributes to true wireless earbuds’ short life cycles. The constant charge cycling takes a toll on the small battery cells, wearing them down much faster than those found in traditional Bluetooth headphones.
The pill-shaped charging case provides just one full battery cycle. It may not seem like much, but you get almost a full day’s worth of listening before having to use the included USB-C cable. You can also charge it via Wireless PowerShare atop a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone such as the S22, or any other Samsung flagship since the S10. Alternatively, the case is Qi-certified, so any Qi wireless charging mat or phone with Battery Share will do as well. It takes less than two hours to fully charge the case, depending on the speed of your power source.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus connection strength is consistent
Those with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone running Android 7.1.1 or later who also have the SmartThings app installed will see a pop-up window asking if you want to pair the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus to your device. Anyone using a different source device will have to go the old-fashioned route of pairing the ‘buds by removing them from the case and selecting the Galaxy Buds Plus from the source’s Bluetooth menu.
Samsung’s earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and afford the standard 10-meter wireless tether. There’s no aptX support. Instead, we get the same high-quality Bluetooth codecs as before: AAC and the scalable Samsung codec. The latter operates similarly to aptX Adaptive by constantly optimizing connection strength and audio quality. It only works with Samsung devices, so other Android users (e.g., those with LG smartphones) are left streaming via the unstable AAC codec or default SBC codec. It’s disappointing but expected.
The Galaxy Buds Plus are the perfect AirPods alternative for Android users.
As of an update released in early 2020, users benefit from automatic Ambient Sound mode, direct access to Spotify, and Microsoft Swift for quick switching between Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices. This update makes the Samsung Galaxy Buds very enticing, as direct Spotify access was initially thought to be relegated to the Buds Plus. Surely there are still reasons to upgrade, namely for the improved microphone quality and battery life.
The Samsung Galaxy Wearable app is available for free through the Google Play Store and is titled the Samsung Galaxy Buds app in the Apple App Store. The iOS app doesn’t support all of the Galaxy Buds products, but it does work with the Galaxy Buds Plus.
The earbuds sound very good
AKG tuned the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus drivers and slightly amplified bass reproduction, creating a more consumer-friendly sound compared to the original Galaxy Buds. Listeners who prefer pop, hip-hop, rap, and dance music will enjoy this sound signature, as it adds a greater sense of impact to your music without detrimental auditory masking. Highs and mids don’t receive much emphasis, which is fine, but certain songs may seem to lack detail — especially those with prominent female vocals.
Isolation is good so long as you use the proper ear tips to achieve a proper fit. Doing so will effectively keep environmental noise out. Not only does this optimize sound reproduction, enhancing bass specifically, but it also aids in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. We’re less likely to crank up our tunes when ambient noise is passively blocked out.
Are the Galaxy Buds Plus good for phone calls?
A three-microphone array rests inside each earbud; two outer mics and one inner mic all work together for more accurate voice transmission. The external microphones focus on your voice while also reducing external noise, which is similar to how the Apple AirPods Pro system operates. During my time with the Galaxy Buds Plus, I used them for a handful of conference calls and my co-workers stated I sounded quite clear. Listen for yourself with the demo below.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus microphone demo:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: The verdict
hings like better battery life and cleaner mic quality are unexciting, but the fact remains that they’re all much-needed upgrades from the original Buds, making the Galaxy Buds Plus a great buy. If these features don’t pique your interest, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series ($99) may tickle your fancy, as they mimic Apple’s streamlined user experience on Android. Additionally, the newer Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149) are around the same price and feature active noise-cancelling.
The Galaxy Buds Plus are becoming harder to find, with Amazon being one of the few retailers still selling them. No matter your smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus are sure to serve you well for your daily listening habits. There are, however, two other Samsung pairs of Samsung buds you should consider, so let’s talk about those in a bit more detail.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus alternatives
Are the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live worth considering?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live ($169) earbuds have attracted the eyes and ire of many, and separate themselves from previous Samsung Galaxy generations. The Galaxy Buds Live don’t seal to the ear, and instead rely on an open-type fit. This means the fit is akin to the AirPods: you’re constantly aware of your surroundings while listening to your music. The kicker: active noise-cancelling (ANC).
Don’t miss: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus
Samsung tried something completely new with the Galaxy Buds Live by creating a hybrid product, but the noise-cancelling is limited by how they fit in each individual’s ears. The fact that noise-cancelling works at all with an unsealed ear is quite the feat, but subjectively, I found the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus did a better job of blocking noise out by nature of the dedicated ear tips.
The point of the Galaxy Buds Live, though, isn’t to be the best ANC earbuds on the market. No, instead, Samsung wanted to set itself apart, and if you like how the Samsung Galaxy Buds operate with Android devices, you’ll appreciate the Galaxy Buds Live. They provide a seamless experience on devices running Android 5.0 and later.
Should you get the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro instead?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro ($199) take the Galaxy Buds Live’s noise-cancelling capabilities and combine it with the Galaxy Buds Plus’ sealed design. This smart combination makes for a portable, comfortable headset with very good ANC that can compete with the best alternatives from Apple, Sony, and Sennheiser. Samsung retains its touch control interface, and with it comes the extra sensitive touch panels of previous Galaxy Buds generations. You can always disable the touch panels altogether, but it would be great to see a way for users to customize the sensitivity, even if it were in the Labs section of the Galaxy Wearable app.
How do the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus compare to the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)?
The Galaxy Buds Plus have much better battery life than the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) ($119), but that can be traced back to the Echo Buds’ effective noise-cancelling. While noise-cancelling has its perks, it’s a very power-hungry technology, and you should only expect about five hours of playtime (if that) from Amazon’s earphones. The Echo Buds are more durable than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, thanks to Amazon’s IPX4 rating.
If you don’t care for Bixby integration with the Galaxy Buds Plus, maybe Amazon Alexa integration is more your style. You can use just your voice to address Alexa to make calendar events, set reminders, and more. The Alexa app is available on iOS and Android and makes it easy to customize your listening experience.
For aptX support, the Sennheiser CX True Wireless is the way to go
If you’re looking for aptX support for high-quality Bluetooth audio on your Android device, the Sennheiser CX True Wireless ($139) earbuds are a great option. The Sennheiser Smart Control app also allows you to customize your EQ, as well as choose from presets, adjust sidetone, and get firmware updates. This is a great option for people who want a lot of control over their audio on top of the high-quality aptX support.
The earbuds also handle the fundamentals very well. They sound great, and can last over eight hours on a single charge (with another 18 in the case). isolation performance isn’t the greatest, but it’s more than adequate for most situations. However, if you’re keen on something that blocks out even more outside noise, the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless ($189) does all the same things as the CX True Wireless, and it features great active noise-cancelling — albeit for $50 more.