REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro - In The Big Leagues
Samsung’s latest generation of Galaxy Buds, the Galaxy Buds Pro, take a well-deserved place among the upper tier of great-sounding earbuds with effective noise canceling. But one feature separates the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro from all other true-wireless buds: the best ambient sound mode we’ve encountered. Here’s what you can expect from the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
When you open the Galaxy Buds Pro box, you’ll find the earbuds nestled in a pretty compact yet sturdy case, which is only a tiny bit larger than the varying AirPods cases and smaller than nearly all other true-wireless earbuds case.
Also inside the packaging is a smaller package with a USB-C charging cable and small and large silicone ear tips, in case you want to swap out the medium-sized tips already attached to the buds. Under the box is a slim black package that is almost a false bottom that you have to dig out to get the Quick Start Guide.
The buds themselves are as stylish as a bud can be, not anywhere near as aesthetically obnoxious – or admittedly distinctive – as the Apple AirPods. Ergonomically, the Galaxy Buds Pros are smaller-than-thumb-sized, a bit slippery, and easy to drop. None of the available Buds Pro colors – Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, or Phantom Violet (which match the available Galaxy S21 phone hues) are particularly standout since the buds themselves nearly disappear in your ear. Since the buds lay flush inside your lobes, a stray face mask strap won’t accidentally dislodge them.
The Buds Pro also are IPX7 rated, which make them pretty much waterproof.
Set-Up & Controls
The Wearable app is where you can access and set up the Galaxy Buds Pro’s innovative features. You can customize the Buds Pro on-bud “touch-and-hold” controls – toggling between ANC and ambient mode is the default for each bud – or you can choose touch-and-hold to activate Samsung’s Bixby or Alexa voice assistant, volume up/down, or Spotify. Single, double and triple-taps on each bud are hard-wired for pause/play, next track/answer-end call, and previous track, respectively. Or you can turn off the tap controls all together.
An important note, whilst there is an iOS version of the Wearable app to use with previous Galaxy Buds models, the app not currently support the Galaxy Buds Pro. iPhone owners can only access the Buds Pro basic functions available via the tap-touch or tap-hold on-bud controls.
Sound & ANC Quality
Samsung claims its ANC reduces background noise by up to 99%, which is quite the claim but firmly-fitting ear tips (that create a tight seal) really does most of the heavy noise stifling lifting, with the ANC slicing off a fair bit of the remaining, lower end sounds. Samsung hasn’t been all too generous when it comes to additional ear tip options by including just three sets. To get a tight noise-isolating seal, Samsung says to insert the Buds Pro and twist it to fit. We found to ANC capabilities of the earbuds to be pretty solid but not mind-blowing, they’ll definitely help reduce the hum of vehicles in the streets and some conversations in shops but certain, higher-pitched sounds still make their way in through the tech.
We used a variety of tracks in a variety of music genres to test the Galaxy Bud Pro’s audio chops. Overall, we’d rate Galaxy Buds Pro’s audio capabilities near the top compared to other buds at its price range. You get plenty of volume, a clean and wide soundstage, wide dynamic range, and well-defined but not dominant bass, which can be emphasized if desired via bass boost in the Wearable app EQ.
If pure sound quality is your primary true-wireless bud qualification, the Buds Pro have competition. For instance, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are easily the best sounding buds around, but they are coming in at €60 more than the Galaxy Bud Pro’s asking price.
While the Galaxy Buds Pro ANC is good, not great, and the overall audio quality is up there with the rest of them, it’s their ambient mode, which is an ANC mode, that is truly astounding. You can choose between four ambient mode settings: Low, Medium, High, and Extra High. Essentially, Medium is what you’d hear without the Buds Pro in your ears. Both High and Extra High significantly boost ambient sound, especially noise. If you suffer hearing issues, you’ll be tempted to wear the Buds Pro all the time (or at least as long as the battery lasts) for conversation or TV watching.
Features specific to Samsung smartphone owners
Now, this is either good news or bad news, depending on which smartphone you’re currently using but, unsurprisingly, Samsung are ensuring owners of their own smartphones will have access to a number of additional features and functions that can’t be accessed on non-Samsung devices.
With Auto Switch, for instance, the Galaxy Buds Pro Bluetooth connection can automatically be passed from one Samsung device to another, as long as these Samsung devices have Samsung’s One U 3.1 or higher installed and both devices are operating on the same Samsung account. If you’re watching a movie on a Galaxy tablet, for instance, and then receive a call on your Galaxy phone, Auto Switch will pause the tablet video and lets you answer your phone via the Galaxy Buds Pro. Once the call is over, your earbuds instantly switch back to your video through the earbuds.
Another new feature is if you’ve paired the Galaxy Buds Pro with a new Samsung Galaxy S21 phone, you can access surround 360 Audio with Dolby Head Tracking so you can “feel” which direction the sound is coming from. This particular feature is yet to arrive on the earbuds but can be seen as direct competition to Apple’s ‘Spatial Audio’ on their own AirPods Pro and Max.
Also, when the Buds Pro are paired with a Galaxy phone, you can enable dual-mic video recording – which means you can use your phone to records audio around you while the Galaxy Buds Pro captures your voice, almost like a lapel mic.
More generally, there’s a Gaming mode (curiously behind the “Labs” tab in the Wearable app) that lowers audio-video lag time, and the Buds Pro can be quickly paired to a compatible Windows 10 PC via Microsoft’s Swift Pair – just open up the Buds Pro charging case and wait for the pop-up pairing prompt on your PC screen.
The Galaxy Buds Pro delivers 8 hours of playback and 28 hours of total listening with the charging case. Turning on ANC (which includes the ambient mode) reduces battery life significantly, reducing playback to five hours and 18 hours of total time. You may decide that play longevity is more valuable than the slight ambient sound dampening that the ANC mode provides but I guess it’s good you have the option to choose between the two. The case is also capable of wireless charging too which is great, given its tiny footprint.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro are the best true-wireless buds for Samsung Galaxy phone owners, offering top-notch audio capabilities, best-in-class ambient sound mode, a clean and tidy ergonomic design, and a boatload of useful Samsung-specific features. For non-Samsung smartphone users, the Galaxy Buds Pro still offer some impressive features and settings but iPhone users may need to look elsewhere.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are available on Samsung.ie for €239.99.