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Samsung Galaxy Buds hands-on review

It’s a big year for true wireless earbuds. With new chips promising more compact designs and better battery life finally making it into real-world products, you’ll soon have more reasons than ever to cut the cord on your listening life.

Among the first of the next-gen true wireless headphones to hit the market, Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds showcase the cutting edge of technology. With six hours of battery life, a wireless charging case, and a light, sweatproof design, all in a very compact package, there’s a lot to love about the company’s latest set of buds.

What’s more, the Galaxy Buds’ loaded package comes in at an affordable $129 price tag and the earbuds are even bundled with pre-orders of the company’s S10, S10+, and Fold phones. In our short time with the Buds, color us seriously impressed.

Smaller size, better battery

Samsung’s follow-up to the 2018 Gear IconX are significantly smaller and lighter than their predecessor, allowing them to fit even more comfortably in your ears. An ergonomic, triangular design integrates comfortable rubber earfins and soft rubber eartips, providing a very solid fit and great seal. This helps makes the Galaxy Buds easily the most comfortable true wireless earbuds we’ve ever tested.

Where Apple’s eartip-free AirPods can be a bit uncomfortable during longer listening sessions — and even our highly rated Jabra’s Elite Active 65t feel a bit bulky in your ears — the Galaxy Buds virtually disappear once you put them in. The also offer a solid six hours of battery life per charge — an hour more than both the top Apple and Jabra models.

Samsung Galaxy Buds
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

While both Apple and Jabra’s headphones currently offer multiple recharges in their included charging cases, the Galaxy Buds’ case offers just 7 hours of additional battery life. This will likely be less of an issue for Galaxy phone owners, as the case includes the ability to wirelessly charge off of the back of new Galaxy phones (or a standard wireless charging pad), as well as just under 2 hours of playback time on a 15-minute charge, but it does mean that you won’t be able to go multiple days at a time without finding a charging pad or USB type C cable.

Great features

In addition to great battery life and an impressively tiny wireless charging case, the Galaxy buds come with a number of other cool features onboard.

If you want to change songs or adjust volume, their intuitive touch controls can be customized inside the Samsung Wear app, allowing you to choose what you want each earbud’s touchpad to do.

The Galaxy buds come with a number of cool features.

The app also allows you to pick between five different equalization settings, letting you customize the sound of the headphones for your ears and musical taste.

We’ve been particularly impressed so far with the way the Galaxy Buds use the two onboard microphones built into each earphone. When making a call, the headphones can analyze how loud the sounds around you are, using the microphone on the outside of each earphone when ambient sound is quieter, and the mic near the inside of the headphones when it’s louder. The mics also allow you to pipe in the sound of the outside world using Samsung’s ambient sound mode, which even includes a feature that uses filtering to highlight the sound of human voices.

Both ambient sound mode and call mode worked well in our initial testing, allowing us to hear co-workers over music without taking out the earbuds, as well as make calls in both quiet and loud rooms without skipping a beat. We’ll have to test them outside to get a better feel for how well the ambient sound mode works.

samsung galaxy buds

The ambient sound mode isn’t the only way Samsung has geared its latest earbuds toward those who like to hit the biking or jogging trail: The Galaxy buds also have an IPX2 rating, which means they are protected against dripping water (or sweat). That’s not as good as the IP56 rating boasted by the Jabra Elite Active 65t, but at a full $70 cheaper than the Jabra, we’ll give the Buds some leeway. And considering that the more-expensive AirPods offer no waterproof rating whatsoever, the IPX2 rating is welcome.

I took the headphones on a 5-mile run on a treadmill and found them to be among the best true wireless earbuds I’ve ever worked out in. Their lightweight, compact design means they stayed in place, and the IPX2 rating means I didn’t need to worry about getting them sweaty.

Good sound

The ergonomic design and soft silicone eartips allow the Galaxy Buds to seal very well in your ears, helping them offer warm bass and low-mid response, and they also avoid harsh, tinny sounds up top. After a few hours listening to everything from The Beatles to Kendrick Lamar, the headphones did a good job across multiple geners, offering a relatively flat response despite what was playing.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Compared To

My favorite equalizer mode so far is the “Dynamic” setting, which seems to adjust the sound of the headphones to best suit whatever you’re listening to at the time. “Soft” mode and “Clear” mode were also interesting, with the former allowing you to listen to things with a rounder, less harsh sound signature, and the latter bringing out the shimmer of acoustic guitars and cymbals just a touch.

While we’ll need to spend some more time with them for a final verdict, it’s clear the Galaxy Buds don’t offer the same vibrant definition from true wireless headphones like the Sennheiser Momentum, but at well under half the price, their pleasurable and customizable sound appears ready to tackle everyday listening. In fact, their sound already seems on par with the more expensive Apple and Jabra models.

Better than AirPods, for now

With a plethora of great features, six hours of battery life, and a fantastic $129 list price, the Galaxy Buds are already among the most compelling options we’ve come across.

While we still need to spend some more time with them, the only real drawback to the headphones so far appears to be their lack of juice in the charging case. Still, if you’ve already embraced the wireless charging revolution, that won’t be much of a concern. Frankly, even if you haven’t, plugging in your headphones after 13 hours of play time isn’t a huge deal, and it also seems like a small price to pay for all their other wiles.

We’ll be updating this article soon with our final impressions, but suffice to say that Apple’s AirPods — and every other pair of true wireless earbuds, for that matter — should be on notice.

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