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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
What we like
What we don't like
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
The Samsung Galaxy Buds family has undergone a number of evolutions in a relatively short time. It grew from the great Galaxy Buds Plus to the forgettable Galaxy Beans… sorry, Galaxy Buds Live. Now, Samsung is back with the Galaxy Buds Pro, and the gel ear tips have made a triumphant return. Let’s find out if the changes are enough to redeem Samsung’s true wireless earbuds family right here in our review.
Update, April 2022: This review was updated to include improved charts, standardized microphone demos, and include the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless and Sony WF-1000XM4 as alternatives.
Who are the Galaxy Buds Pro for?
- Everyday listeners will enjoy these active noise-cancelling (ANC) earbuds for their straightforward design and comfortable fit.
- Athletes who want a stylish pair of ‘buds will happily show these off at the gym.
What are the Galaxy Buds Pro like?
If you’ve tried out any of Samsung’s other true wireless earbuds, you should have at least a basic familiarity with the Galaxy Buds Pro. They’re somewhat similar to a love child of both the Galaxy Buds Plus and the Galaxy Buds Live. You’ll notice a familiar glossy metallic finish on the earbuds, reminiscent of the Galaxy Beans. However, you can choose from black, silver, and violet this time around.
The clamshell-style case sticks around as well, which is small but feels solid. The earbuds fit nicely inside and secure via magnets. You can also charge the Galaxy Buds Pro case wirelessly if you so desire. Samsung retained Wireless PowerShare, too, so you can charge the case atop a compatible Samsung Galaxy device.
While Samsung kept a few defining features from the Galaxy Buds Live, the features that the company dropped make a big difference. The Galaxy Buds Pro are closer in size and shape to the older Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds Plus, though the design is more refined. Samsung smoothed out the edges and ditched the small fins that helped lock the old ‘buds in your ears. However, these new earbuds still feel secure thanks to the rounded shape.
The true wireless Galaxy Buds Pro offer a number of features that we’ve come to expect in premium earbuds. They add active noise-cancelling from the Galaxy Buds Live, and the rubber ear tips mean that ANC actually performs consistently this time. It’s easy enough to get a good seal from the ear tips, as you have a variety of sizes to choose from.
Once you finally lock down the right size, you should have no problem keeping these earbuds securely in place. They feel comfortable while exercising, though distance runners may find issue with the intermittent jostling. Samsung’s premium ‘buds are also IPX7-rated, so you can wear them through your workouts without worry.
What does the Galaxy Wearable app do?
If you want full control over your Galaxy Buds Pro, you need the Galaxy Wearable app. This is where you manage noise-cancelling, adjust ambient sound levels, and tinker with the touch controls. Samsung’s noise-cancelling comes with a high and a low setting, and you can swap between the two as you please. The preset EQ profiles are nice as well, but you can’t create a custom profile, which is a real bummer.
The Galaxy Wearable app also lets you manage automatic voice detection and seamless earbud connection. Seamless connection means that your new earbuds will swap between paired sources easily, though this only works with compatible devices like multiple Samsung Galaxy smartphones.
Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app even offers a little something special for Samsung phones — 360 Audio. It’s a lot like the spatial sound you’ll find on Apple’s AirPods Max or surround sound that you’ll find on gaming headsets. 360 Audio crafts a virtual sound environment that uses Dolby Atmos to track your head and adjust the sound accordingly. Remember, you’ll need a Samsung device to take full advantage of 360 Audio, but it’ll bring Netflix, Hulu, and more to a new level.
How do you control the Galaxy Buds Pro?
The Galaxy Buds Pro rely on a set of touch-sensitive panels that manage standard playback controls. Tapping either ‘bud once will start or stop the music you’re playing while a double-tap skips a song and a triple-tap skips back. You can raise or lower the volume by a tap-and-hold of the right or left earbud. If you don’t like the volume control, you can remap that in the Wearable app or shut off touch controls entirely.
So far, the controls have worked very smoothly. I’ve yet to run into any touch detection issues. If anything, the controls might be too sensitive. Any time I go to adjust the Galaxy Buds Pro, the simple act of touching them either starts or stops my music. It’s easy enough to undo the accidental tap, but it can be inconvenient at times.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Buds Pro act up if you have more than one media source open at a time on your device. Adjusting the earbuds while watching videos on mainstream apps like YouTube doesn’t cause issues. If, however, you watch videos on less popular apps like Dropout and tap your earbud, get ready for Spotify to play. Most people should be able to avoid this problem, but it’s one to be aware of.
How do you connect the Galaxy Buds Pro?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro connect via Bluetooth 5.0, and support three main Bluetooth codecs — SBC, AAC, and Samsung’s Scalable Codec. The proprietary codec generally works like aptX adaptive, which means it constantly adjusts your transfer rate. It makes adjustments to both quality and stability, so it should sound the best at all times. Apple iPhone owners will enjoy a high-quality experience with the AAC codec as well.
Like the Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Buds Plus before them, you can use the Galaxy Buds Pro in mono mode with either earbud. It’s a handy feature if you live with a hearing impairment, or you just prefer to hear the world around you.
To make life even easier, the Galaxy Buds Pro can swap between Samsung Galaxy devices without any manual input. You can jump from your Galaxy S21 device to your Galaxy tablet and back, just as long as you activate the auto-switch feature in the Bluetooth menu. Of course, all of your Galaxy devices must be associated with the same Samsung account to make this work.
What is the battery life like?
Samsung claims that the Galaxy Buds Pro will last five hours on a single charge with 13 extra hours of playback stored in the charging case. At a constant output of 75dB — our standard test — we found that the claim wasn’t far off. We experienced four hours, 48 minutes of playback with ANC activated, which is remarkably close to the estimate. We also found that the case provided enough juice for a few charge cycles.
This performance isn’t terrible as far as we’re concerned, but it’s also not close to the best around. It’s somewhat disappointing due to the dominant battery life of the older Galaxy Buds Plus, admittedly without ANC to weigh them down. The Galaxy Buds Pro come up just a few minutes shy of the Galaxy Buds Live, so it’s well-within expectations.
How is the sound quality?
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro offer very accurate output. The chart shows the earbuds (the cyan line) have notable bump in bass reproduction as well as a spike in the treble range, but everything else comes in as expected compared to the SoundGuys in-house target curve (the pink line).
This frequency response means that music should sound great pretty much all of the time. You may occasionally notice some auditory masking on particularly bass-heavy tracks, but not often. In fact, that bass boost is fairly common in consumer-friendly headphones, so you may want that extra oomph to begin with.
Lows, mids, and highs
We put Black Sabbath’s classic War Pigs to the test on the Galaxy Buds Pro, and it sounded great the entire time. The early bass notes come through clearly, and they remain audible even as Tony Iommi’s guitar takes over throughout the song.
Samsung managed to reproduce accurate mid range sounds as well, as heard in One Day We’ll be Okay from Modulogeek. The piano doesn’t overwhelm the softer tones. However, the clapping that comes in late in the song is a bit too loud, to the point of unpleasantness.
Do the Samsung Galaxy buds Pro have good noise-cancelling?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro come with just about standard isolation as far as true wireless earbuds are concerned. While that may not sound like high praise, earbuds with rubber tips tend to isolate pretty well once you get a good seal. Of course, the Galaxy Buds Pro offer two levels of active noise-cancelling so you can block out background sounds even better.
We’ve noticed that the higher ANC setting does a better job of quieting bass and low-midrange frequencies, while the low ANC setting does a better job of quieting midrange frequencies. While the difference in midrange frequency attenuation is odd, it makes sense for Samsung to prioritize low-note reduction for its high setting. This just means that you should be able to easily tune out the droning of a bus or microwave. Neither ANC setting performs particularly well with nearby speech recognition, at least not when compared to the AirPods Max or Sony WH-1000XM4.
How well does the microphone perform?
Samsung packed a very good microphone into its Galaxy Buds Pro, at least as far as true wireless earbuds are concerned. The microphone is very accurate, offering neutral output across the vocal range. There’s some muffling due to the embedded design, but it’s still significantly better than many options on the market. In fact, the microphone does impressively well at dampening background noise, provided the noise is far enough away.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro microphone demo (ideal):
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro microphone demo (street):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: The verdict
If you want solid true wireless earbuds that feature active noise-cancelling for less than $200, absolutely consider the Galaxy Buds Pro. They really are great true wireless earbuds. The sound is great and they’re comfortable to wear, and the noise-cancelling performance is impressive for the money.
At $199, they barely sneak in below two Benjamins, but they’re significantly cheaper than the AirPods Pro ($249). They offer most of the same features as the competition, but it would have been nice to see aptX alongside the Samsung Scalable Codec.
You should note that the Galaxy Buds Pro are significantly more expensive than the other members of the Galaxy Buds family. If you’re not particularly drawn in by noise-cancelling, the Galaxy Buds Plus still dominate the market in terms of battery life. Better yet, you can find the older ‘buds for close to half price most places.
In short, if you want the premium true wireless earbud experience, the Galaxy Buds Pro are one of the best ways to get it. They check most of the boxes, and the styling is just right for everyday life.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro alternatives
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless is a great option for aptX enthusiasts
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless earbuds ($189) are a great alternative to the Galaxy Buds Pro, with similar ANC performance and great sound quality. They also support SBC, AAC, and aptX Bluetooth codecs, so you have high-quality options regardless of OS. They also have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, and an app where you can customize EQ, remap controls on the buds, and install firmware updates. For $20 less than the Galaxy Buds Plus, this is a great option to consider.
For a more premium experience, consider the Sony WF-1000XM4
If you have the extra cash to shell out, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds ($279) have excellent ANC and isolation, comfortable foam ear tips, and support 360 Reality Audio. It also uses Bluetooth 5.2, meaning there should be an improvement in battery life when connected to devices that support this version of Bluetooth. They also support the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, so anyone can enjoy these buds.