The Galaxy Buds Pro are a combination of past features, with new tweaks sprinkled in, to create the best wireless earbuds from the company to date. It took a while for Samsung to get to this level of performance, and there are a number of reasons why it worked out this time. The design is very much in line with the Galaxy Buds and Buds+, only the slightly larger frame means the fit won’t be quite as nestled and snug right off the bat. They’re small, lightweight, and the matte finish on the inside makes them easier to grip. The IPX7 rating also makes these earbuds the most rugged Samsung has made for water and sweat resistance.
There’s plenty of tech inside to warrant the size. You get active noise cancelation (ANC) with two settings to keep ambient noise out. Ambient mode now has four settings to filter in outside sounds. Both can also work together, like with Voice Detect, which lowers the volume of the audio you’re listening to and turns on Ambient mode once you start talking so you can converse without touching anything on the earbuds or your phone.
The larger drivers pump out a crisper sound by default, though you can always adjust that in the Galaxy Wearable app by selecting one of the six equalizer presets. Just a bummer that you have no way to customize it and create your own presets. Call quality is better than ever, with great clarity at a consistent level. You do have to be careful with the finicky touch controls, regardless of whether you’re on the phone or listening to music. The 360 Audio using Dolby Head Tracking technology is a first for Samsung’s earbuds, but it’s a cool effect when you want to get virtual 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound watching shows and movies coded for it.
One sacrifice for all that is battery life. It maxes out at up to five hours per charge when ANC is on, going up to eight hours when ANC is off. The case is good for an extra three charges, which charges via USB-C or wireless charging. Charge up quickly for five minutes through USB and you get up to an hour of playback.
You can’t talk about the Galaxy Buds Live without mentioning the unique design first. The bean-shaped earbuds are Samsung’s attempt at crafting something to conform to as many ears as possible. To pull it off, engineers cut off the driver sticking into the car and just let the earbud rest over the ear. Because nothing is sticking into the ear canal, it reduces any discomfort or fatigue in wearing them for longer periods, which could also benefit smaller ears.
Despite the unusual design, these were also Samsung’s first earbuds to offer ANC support, except the open fit means it has to work harder to block out ambient noise. For that reason, it’s not going to be as effective as the Galaxy Buds Pro are. In addition, passive noise isolation is easier when there is an ear tip plugging into the canal — another thing the Buds Live can’t offer.
That’s a big reason why Samsung equipped them with 12mm drivers to deliver stronger sound. They provide some good clarity and better bass than you might expect otherwise. You do have some flexibility in the Galaxy Wearable app to adjust the sound, should you feel the need to. Even call quality is excellent, ensuring callers can hear you clearly because of the onboard microphones.
Battery life isn’t bad, going up to eight hours when ANC is off or six if always on. The charging case is very small, and supportes both USB-C and wireless charging. Plus, color options are nice, especially Mystic Bronze, though you also have mystic black and white.
In lieu of the Galaxy Buds Pro or Buds Live, Samsung still sells the Galaxy Buds+ and with good reason. They’ve become an affordable alternative within the same ecosystem, and still receive updates that can improve their performance.
They may also retain the role of being the most comfortable of the lot. Samsung had done well to maintain the form factor of the original Galaxy Buds and only improved upon them in several key ways to make them viable even up to now. They lack ANC support, but passive noise isolation is great, with lightweight fit that doesn’t feel cumbersome at all. Audio quality stands up well, with call quality that represented a dramatic improvement from their predecessors. The Galaxy Wearable app still supports all the available features, including the EQ presets and Ambient mode.
They’re also the longest-lasting per charge, playing up to 11 hours, depending on volume level. The case has an additional charge inside to double the total to 22 hours. You can also charge via USB-C or wireless charging for some extra convenience. If budget is a factor, and you want a more traditional design, the Galaxy Buds+ check off both of those boxes.
The Gear IconX are a little longer in the tooth compared to the successors that have come after them, but they are worth a look if you want something good enough to work out in, but aren’t willing to pay the price for the Galaxy Buds Pro. In many ways, the Gear IconX paved the way for the others on this list, as the overall design provided the foundation for what was to follow.
Admittedly, an IPX2 water-resistance rating is low by today’s standards for what one could consider “rugged,” but their matte finish makes them easier to wipe down and clean after you’re done. So long as you take care of them, you should be able to keep them going for a longer period. They also have a built-in workout detection that kicks in when you start getting active while paired with Samsung’s Health app, so that’s always a nice perk.
Sound quality retains much of Samsung’s sound signature. It won’t be quite as balanced or crisp as the newer models, but you shouldn’t run into too many problems there. The Galaxy Wearable app is always available to tweak that a little, and Ambient mode is always available on top of that.
You can expect up to five hours of battery life, but that will trend lower if you keep raising the volume. The case provides an extra two charges, yet is bigger than the others are. Plug in via USB-C and you can quick charge for 10 minutes to get up to an hour of playback.
For those on tight budgets and who are willing to keep wires around, the Samsung Type-C Earbuds certainly fit the bill that way. You’re not looking at the flashiest or most exciting pair to put on, but it’s hard to argue with what you’re paying to get them. And the best part is they prove their value every time you play tunes on them afterward.
Being wired earbuds, they connect to your phone using USB-C, which is great if your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack. Samsung claims the USB-C connection enables the separate left and right channels come out 10x better than traditional 3.5mm jack connections. But the real benefit comes from the high-quality DAC (digital-to-analog converter) that amplifies sound quality to be much better than what you’d expect for earbuds this cheap.
The company also wisely went with a braided cable design to make them lighter to hold, and less susceptible to tangling when storing them away. The in-line playback controls are easy to find and nicely responsive when adjusting volume or play/pausing a song without having to reach for your phone to do it.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are among the best of the current crop of next-generation true wireless earbuds that have followed in the footsteps of the AirPods and they deliver pretty much everything you want in a solid, no-frills pair of Bluetooth earphones. They’re light, comfortable in the ear, have a slick design, offer an impressive six-hour battery life (plus another seven hours or so with the case), and, unlike the AirPods, the Galaxy Buds come standard with a wireless charging clamshell. Most importantly, they simply sound good with a nice array of equalization features, customizable settings, and an ambient mode that keeps you aware of your surroundings.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ only improve on that great design. One of the best upgrades is the battery; while the six-hour battery life of the original Galaxy Buds themselves is quite good, the limited charging capabilities of the case was one of the few gripes we had with it. In contrast, the Galaxy Buds+ boast a very nice 11-hour battery life which is doubled by the charging case. That brings the Galaxy Buds+ up to speed with other contenders such as the AirPods, which offer about a full days’ worth of juice between the earbuds and case.
Where Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ outshine the AirPods, however, is their sound. Mediocre audio has always been a sticking point of ours with the AirPods, so if sound quality is something you put a premium on, the Galaxy Buds+ are simply the better choice. That’s even truer when you consider that the Galaxy Buds+ are around the same price or slightly cheaper than the standard Apple AirPods (not to mention the pricier AirPods Pro), and these Samsung Galaxy Buds deals can let you score a pair for even less than that.