Samsung Galaxy Buds Review


There's no denying this: true wireless earphones are pretty awesome. They're light, discreet, and completely untethered, providing freedom and convenience we could once only dream of.

Samsung joined the party back in 2016 with the Gear IconX – a set of earphones that looked cool, but lacked in many areas, such as battery life. The second-gen IconX earphones from 2018 lasted much longer between charges, but overall, they were still largely unremarkable as a product.

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been testing Samsung's third-generation truly wireless earbuds – the Samsung Galaxy Buds. Are they Samsung's best attempt so far, and should they be considered over notable alternatives from well-established audio brands? Time to find out!

Design and comfort


Samsung Galaxy Buds Review
Samsung Galaxy Buds Review
Samsung Galaxy Buds Review

With the Galaxy Buds, Samsung sticks to a familiar formula. The earphones are of the in-ear variety and need to be tucked in place with a slight twist. The rubbery tips that enter the wearer's ear canal are replaceable and you get three different sizes in the box. Finding the one that fits you best is crucial as it affects not only how comfortable these feel, but also how good they sound. On the opposite side, rubbery wings press lightly against your earlobe and provide extra friction. Again, these are replaceable and you get several wings of different sizes in the box.

Throughout my testing, I've never felt like the Galaxy Buds were about to fall from my ears. They are very light and I feel comfortable wearing them for a couple of hours straight while at the office. However, I do feel their presence a lot more while doing intense activities like running, for example. They're probably not the best earbuds for working out as they don't have a high level of resistance against water.

The Galaxy Buds come in three colors: black, white, and the kind of bright yellow people can spot from a mile away. We've noticed that the white model reflects light with a subtle pearlescent effect, much like the one seen on the white Galaxy S10+. With their similar paint jobs, the two devices go together pretty well.


While not in use, the Samsung Galaxy Buds can be stored in their pill-shaped carrying case, which also doubles as a charger with its internal battery. The earphones snap into their spots with the help of magnets, which minimizes the chance of you stowing them away without them making full contact with the charging terminals. This was an issue with last year's IconX. The case itself is bigger than that of the Apple AirPods, but smaller than the cases for many other alternative offerings. It fits fully inside the coin pocket of my jeans.

Connectivity


Samsung Galaxy Buds Review

To no surprise, the Galaxy Buds work best with a Samsung Galaxy phone, and they were paired to a Galaxy S10+ for the purposes of our testing. Pairing is quick, as when I opened the case, the Galaxy phone detected that the earphones were in range and asked if I wanted to pair the two devices.

The Bluetooth 5.0 range with these is outstanding. It took a distance of 120 feet (~37 meters) in open space before the connection would get choppy, without dropping completely. Also, the signal is strong enough to get through at least one brick wall, so music or calls will remain uninterrupted even if you're in the next room. But when paired to my laptop, which only supports the older Bluetooth 4.1, the range of the Buds was just about 20 feet in an open office room.

In case you're wondering, you may use the Galaxy Buds with non-Galaxy phones. On other Android devices, though, you will need to download additional software before having access to more advanced features and settings, such as Ambient Sound. These are inaccessible on iPhone due to the lack of a companion app, but other than that, the Buds work normally with Apple's phones.

Functionality and controls


Samsung Galaxy Buds Review
Samsung Galaxy Buds Review

The Android Wearable app is what you use to access the aforementioned Ambient Sound feature. As its name implies, it uses the buds' built-in microphones to let noise from your surroundings pass through – useful for crossing the street safely or for talking to someone without taking the buds off. At least in theory.

Unfortunately, using Ambient Sound is not the best experience. When it is turned on, barely any of the surrounding noise can be heard over the playing music. While walking down the street, I can hear louder sounds like a car's horn, but not the engine of one passing by you unless no music is playing. Ambient Sound can be enabled temporarily when you touch and hold a finger on either earbud. This does let me hear someone talking next to me, but when talking back to them, I can hear my voice booming in my head, as if I've stuck my fingers in my ears.

The sides of the Samsung Galaxy Buds are touch sensitive: a single tap pauses the song, a double tap skips to the next one, and a triple tap plays the previous track. Of course, having some kind of controls is much better than having none at all, but reliability with Samsung's implementation is far from perfect. Sometimes a double tap would register as a single one, and single taps may not register at all unless you're very accurate and convincing with your tap. I must also mention that tapping on the buds feels unpleasant, like I'm beating right on my eardrums.

You do have control over what a long press does. As mentioned above, I have my buds set to activate Ambient Sound with a long press, but alternatively, the same action may be set to control the volume or access your virtual assistant, be it Bixby or Google Assistant. To be clear, you can't have access to both volume controls and Ambient Sound or an assistant at the same time.

Sound quality


Samsung Galaxy Buds Review

The Samsung Galaxy Buds sound okay. They are not a pair of audiophile-grade in-ear monitors, that's for sure – and they don't sound as good as the wired headset bundled with the Galaxy S10 – but they should meet the expectations of most listeners. They do sound a bit strained at high volume, but I never found myself needing to crank them up to the max. Bass notes are well defined, but not overpowering. Highs could be clearer, but are definitely there. There are five equalizer presets, but I'd say only the Dynamic one is worth using. Sound leaking isn't an issue.

The Galaxy Buds can also handle phone calls, and we have no major complaints about how they perform. Their microphones can pick up my voice pretty well, and I'm easily understood on the other side of the line.

While watching video, the sound from the Galaxy Buds doesn't lag behind – or at least not to a perceivable extent. However, audio is delayed when playing games.

Battery life


Samsung Galaxy Buds Review
Samsung Galaxy Buds Review

Samsung claims that the Galaxy Buds can last up to 6 hours on a single charge, and the battery built into the carrying case can extend that even further. Of course, your mileage will vary depending on the listening volume and on how often you turn ambient sound on, but judging by my experience, you should be able to get at least 5 hours of listening time out of the earbuds alone. After using the fully charged Galaxy Buds for about a couple of hours per day for three days, I noticed that the case was out of juice, while each bud had 80% of charge remaining.

Something cool about the Samsung Galaxy Buds is that the case can be recharged wirelessly – either from any Qi-compatible wireless charger or from the Galaxy S10 itself thanks to the new Wireless PowerShare feature found on the phone. With the case and the buds fully drained, a complete wireless charge from the Galaxy S10 took under three hours. 40 minutes were enough to reach the 30% mark.

Conclusion


Samsung Galaxy Buds Review

While Samsung's previous truly wireless earphones tried to stand out with features like coaching and heart rate monitoring – features that most people don't really need in a product of this kind – the Samsung Galaxy Buds stick to the basics. They are a no-nonsense product designed for Samsung Galaxy users to listen to their favorite tunes in a convenient fashion. They look good, last long between charges, and have excellent Bluetooth 5.0 range. Audio quality could have been better, but then again, it is good enough for most people – and adequate for a pair of truly wireless earphones priced at $130.

Should you pick a pair? Sure, especially if you consider picking up a Galaxy phone as well. However, we wouldn't recommend these to iPhone users due to the limited access to advanced features and settings.

Pros

  • Impressive range and strong wireless connection
  • Light and generally comfortable
  • Good battery life
  • Wireless charging battery case is convenient

Cons

  • Touch controls are fiddly
  • Ambient Sound feature leaves room for improvement
  • No high water-resistance rating

PhoneArena Rating:

7.5

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25 Comments

1. worldpeace

Posts: 3077; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Btw, it's "The Most Repairable Wireless Earbuds" according to iFixit. And it's rated IPX2, it's save to say that it's sweatproof. (just like other reviewers said)

2. Juarizs

Posts: 43; Member since: Jan 22, 2019

I think the repairability should be a +

20. worldpeace

Posts: 3077; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

According to soundguys's review.. This Buds have much better audio than AirPods (8.5 vs 7.4 in SOUND QUALITY rating), and last 6,5 hours in battery test, much higher than 3.4H on AirPods, playing the same track at the same loudness (they measure the dB level)..

3. cmdacos

Posts: 3764; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Definitely a number of improvements over my 2018 icons however ambient sound levels are not as good and the touch gestures aren't set up as well as they were on last years icons.

4. Senthilg

Posts: 49; Member since: Apr 07, 2016

The battery drains a lot overnight on the carrying case after it is charged fully. This should have been mentioned in the battery life section

25. oldskool50

Posts: 170; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

Because if u leave them in the case. They don't stop charging. That's why you should open the case at night. It's not an issue. You're just using them wrong.

5. pimpin83z

Posts: 198; Member since: Feb 08, 2019

Cons No high water-resistance rating Soooooooo, are you trying to go swimming in them or rock them at a waterpark or.....? Unless you want them in your ear while taking a shower, this con is pointless.

6. Vega007

Posts: 44; Member since: May 18, 2017

Conclusion: not as good as AirPods. Next!

7. cmdacos

Posts: 3764; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Depends on your needs. I wear mine while riding my Harley. Airpods wouldn't last 10 seconds.

8. Alcyone

Posts: 175; Member since: May 10, 2018

https://www.phonearena.com/reviews/Apple-AirPods-Review_id4290 Ouch, guess the scoring grades changed? Airpods outdated 9, is an insult at best. 2 yr old tech really? Revisit and compare side by side. I did, and I'd gladly take the 7.5. Although, I know its worth higher. Ps, put the pipe down already.

9. xtremesv

Posts: 299; Member since: Oct 21, 2011

It's a matter of priority, if you truly want "ambient sound", then get the Airpods which let pass through all the sound around you and it is not even a feature! I personally prefer ambient noise isolation for tighter sound. I don't need my earbuds to be waterproof, splash and sweat resistant is enough. Touch control are fiddly, does this ruin the whole experience? Maybe and in that case it should be penalized. My point being: the rating seems low, I would've liked to read how sound quality compares to other wireless earbuds within the same price range. One thing is for sure, most reviewers praise this buds versus the now overpriced Airpods, which got a 9 in PA back in the day.

10. wickedwilly

Posts: 495; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

This review shows how poor and inconsistent PA reviews are. I have used the predecessor of the Galaxy Buds virtually every day since before Apple came out with the Airpods, so know full well what is good and bad. A few examples are shown below. One of the pros in the AP review was its minimalist design, yet the GB are far more minimalist than the ugly AP that protrude way outside of the ear. The GB are not waterproof but are sweatproof, I have run marathons at temperatures in the mid 40's with high humidity and never had a problem, AP are not even sweatproof as far as I am aware, yet the plastic build makes them super slippery even if they fit you properly. Gestures are not perfect on the GB it is one weakness, but they are better than the AP which lacks the ability to control fundamental actions every set of headphones should have. PA mention the sound quality of the GB compared with the wired ones Samsung supplies, without mentioning they are the best of any supplied with a phone. Compare that to Apples supplied ones which are pathetic in comparison. The GB sounds a level above the AP which are OK but bested by every other set of wireless earbuds I have tried. On battery life the GB outperform the AP in actual use by an hour or more. There is more life in the case but that is far less important. In the AP review, PA noted that "Price is competitive against similar gadgets" in the advantages, yet when the superior GB are priced significantly less than the AP and other competitive headphones and no mention here. I could go on but it is obvious that when the GB are better than the AP in almost every way how can the AP score 9.0 and the buds 7.5 the reviewer is totally misleading his audience.

14. AmirBudi

Posts: 88; Member since: Mar 21, 2014

" They are not a pair of audiophile-grade in-ear monitors, that's for sure – and they don't sound as good as the wired headset bundled with the Galaxy S10 – but they should meet the expectations of most listeners "

15. Alcyone

Posts: 175; Member since: May 10, 2018

Agreed. Finicky touch controls can be ironed out via software update(s). Apple should know all about constant software updates....

27. oldskool50

Posts: 170; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

Well teh reviews are done by different peopel with their own varied opinions. But it is funny how when they list cons, those same cons apply to Apple products, yet they almost never list them as cons or even mention them at all. But attack the crap out of other products though. The Galaxy Buds are far and any better than the Airpod's and have a charging case and cost less too. Blogs that are bias, really suck.

11. AllMyXsLiveInTX

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 10, 2019

No mention of the loss of onboard storage as compared to the Iconx. A real shame they dropped a differentiating functionality. Would rather not take my phone into the gym.

13. wickedwilly

Posts: 495; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

I do agree with you here it saves a tiny bit of volume, but it is a major feature.

23. Alcyone

Posts: 175; Member since: May 10, 2018

I second that. However, if it is that important, than there is a solution. It's an inconvenient one, that requires a Gear s2 or newer. I use a Gear s2 classic, and can load about 1k songs on it. Just pair that with the GB. Yeah, it sucks but that the best solution I could find.

12. PostmanLV

Posts: 44; Member since: Sep 11, 2012

Must have tested that mic for a 5 second phone call,because the mic is terrible on these things,took mine back to ATT today because of the mic,a shame since I got them so cheap

19. iphart

Posts: 18; Member since: Oct 17, 2018

How cheap?

21. Alcyone

Posts: 175; Member since: May 10, 2018

Got my pair from ATT. 105 and some change. 25% off certain Samsung products till 4/11. Can't order thru mobile browser, dont know why. White is not available, black is usually in stock to ship.

22. Alcyone

Posts: 175; Member since: May 10, 2018

Said mine was back ordered. But, mine arrived next day when I was told they shipped. 3 days total. Worth it.

24. Cat97

Posts: 1677; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

How many times in history a new generation of a product from a company was not "the best" from that company ? It's so lame to read these "are they Samsung's best attempt so far" or "Apple's best iPhone ever"...

26. oldskool50

Posts: 170; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

Are you planning to swim in these? Seems you are just reaching and looking for negatives. As far as what you described as cons, the Airpod'ss have the same cons and yet the Buds are better in everything else. Another pro-Apple site I see. I hate sites who rate lesser [products better and rate better products lesser.

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