Today, true wireless headphones are one of the most influential trends in audio, with significant brands of headphones trying to claim a lot of action after the launch and the subsequent conquest of the Apple AirPods. And while Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are the South Korean company’s next big game in the real wireless headset market, they are not Samsung’s first attempt to be truly wireless: the company has manufactured two generations of the Gear IconX. This is our Samsung Galaxy Buds review.
What classifies IconX’s Galaxy Buds, however, is that the latter abolishes the Gear brand and these headphones are part of the Galaxy family, alongside the new Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus and Galaxy S10e – three devices that offer a interesting trick with the Buttons, but more on that later. Nearly a year after launch, a new pair of genuine wireless headphones from Samsung is on the horizon. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is set to improve the battery life of its predecessors and will come with exceptional support for iPhone users in the form of an iOS application.
We hope that the new wireless headphones will be launched on February 11 at Samsung’s Unpacked event – where we will also see the next Samsung Galaxy S20.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Review – Design
Overall, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are very attractive, with a completely white design (also in black), consisting of two ear plugs and a charging case. Earplugs have an elegant and compact appearance, with soft rubber wing tips for a secure fit in your ears. You get small, medium and large earplugs and wing tips in the box, to easily find a combination that fits your ear perfectly. Although the tips look quite cute when you first put them on, and there is a risk that they will fall off, they are surprisingly stable and comfortable to use.
The lack of cables to pull them down means that they stay in the ear due to an amazing amount of twisting or shaking their head, and we found that they survived the gym and running sessions and have a healthy amount of balance. A new design feature is the use of a mother of pearl material on the outside of the buttons, which reflects the light in a beautiful way and has an almost holographic effect. The boxes not only look good, but also act as touch controls, allowing you to play / pause your music, change tracks, answer / end phone calls and start Samsung’s voice assistant on compatible devices.
You can also customize the long press action for Galaxy Buds via the Samsung Wearable app from Samsung (Android only), choose the volume (top right, bottom left) or start Bixby (long press on one of the buttons) . Since our first review, a Samsung The Galaxy Buds update includes Bixby voice control with speakerphone, enhanced touch control and the ability to maintain the surround sound function at all times. Touch control is convenient, but you need to be extremely precise with your taps, applying enough pressure to the flat part of the gems to register your action.
On several occasions, we miss the mark or do not apply enough pressure, so we have to try again (sometimes several times). While this is only an inconvenience when sitting at a table, it becomes more problematic when you are moving and your hand is less stable – for example, when you are at the gym or on the run. The good thing is that, over time, with use, you will be more in tune with the system and, eventually, it will get better – although we still don’t have a 100% success rate.
Now, in the charging case, it’s incredibly compact and can be easily slipped into your pocket when you’re listening on the go. If you’ve used the Samsung Gear IconX, you’ll notice that the whole package here is much smaller than the latest generation of headphones. It’s 30% smaller, and it certainly makes a difference if you keep it in your pocket. The case usually looks quite solid, with a snap-on lid and magnets that hold the plugs in place when not in use.
On the outside of the case, you will find a small LED that indicates the amount of battery that the case has, while an LED on the inside of the case shows the remaining charge of the headphones. There is a USB-C charging port on the back of the case – Galaxy Buds comes with a USB-C cable so you can charge the case. The buttons have a battery life of six hours, while the charging case provides an additional seven hours, which is quite good for truly wireless buttons.
Review of Samsung Galaxy Buds – App
The Galaxy Wearable app tells you how much battery Buds left when you pull them out of the case. Still, it does not indicate the amount of charge left in the case. Unlike Apple AirPods, you need to rely on the LED indicators on the outside of the case to see how much battery is left. One of the most attractive features here is that you can charge these wireless headphones in their cases.
This means that if you have a Qi-compatible wireless charger – if you have one for your phone, it’s probably just that – you can plug it in and charge it. It is especially useful when you consider that the new Galaxy S10 series comes with bidirectional wireless charging. This means that you can set the function on your Galaxy S10 phone and place your headphones on the back of the device to charge them too. It’s smart and we found it to work perfectly in our short test period.
If you own the Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus or Galaxy S10e, pairing the buttons is a perfect experience, similar to the way Apple AirPods connect directly to iPhones. Connectivity appears to vary between different users; several writers on our Compsmag team tested the buttons, and while some did not experience connection failures, others tried them regularly.
Most connectivity problems appear to have been resolved by software updates sent by Samsung. Still, as with most true wireless buttons, you may experience connection failures when using them close to other Bluetooth devices. Since the most recent update, we have had no significant Bluetooth disruptions.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Review – Performance
Where Samsung’s true previous wireless buttons, the Gear IconX, were impressed, the Galaxy Buds seem to shine; with warm, deep basses and excellent separation, the music sounds great when played by these tiny buttons. This is not surprising, as they have been adjusted by AKG audio experts. We started listening to Radiohead’s ‘Daydreaming’ and were impressed by the details and the clarity of the vocals, which were complemented by smooth cascading piano arpeggios and soft synthesizers.
Grainy chopped and screwed voices, layered with coherent panning of digital interference from left to right, while violin and cello sounded above and below the mix. However, Galaxy Buds shine when it comes to low frequencies, which is even more apparent when listening to bassists like Billie Eilish’s “Bury A Friend”. On tracks like these, the use of dynamic air-change drivers lets you almost feel the sub-bass hitting your chest – uncommon for real wireless headphones.
We also tested real wireless buttons on the soundtrack of the indie platform game Fez, by composer Disasterpeace. When listening to ‘Puzzle’, we were impressed by the animated treatment of sound by Galaxy Buds, with distorted sine waves flowing and reflecting, while screaming synthesizers tickle the mix. The rotting organ arpeggios and bubbling bells also seemed vivid in the generally warm sound. As a result of this bold and deep sound image, the mid frequencies may appear to be slightly sunk.
It is not the most pleasant sound treatment; so, if you are an audiophile, you may have a little more appetite for high frequencies for a more accurate replication of your music. If you love your music, you will probably like the way these Galaxy Buds sound. It is true that they do not offer the same power or sound isolation as decent headphones, but for real wireless tops, the sound quality is very impressive.
In the Galaxy Wearable app, there are several additional features, including an equalizer, which allows you to switch between different presets, including Bass Boost. We do not think that the different presets have a considerable effect on the sound image of these ridges, but it is still a subtle side effect. The app also allows you to activate the ambient sound function, which mixes background noise with music using microphones built into the buttons – a useful feature if you want to use Galaxy Buds. At the same time, you are spinning and want to hear some outside noise for safety reasons.
It can also balance sounds like loud traffic while amplifying nearby voices, allowing you to be alert to ambient noise without compromising the quality of your music. Although this is a useful feature, we encounter problems with ambient noise on windy days. Under these conditions, the sound of the wind was amplified, creating an uncomfortably shrill whistle.
If you have forgotten where you placed your Galaxy Buds, you can also use the “Find my headphones” function to locate them. If you enable this feature, Galaxy Buds will emit a constant tweeting sound, so you can find them quickly.
Review of Samsung Galaxy Buds – Conclusion
It seems that Samsung has finally done well with the Galaxy Buds, and they face serious competition for Apple’s AirPods in terms of design, sound and ease of use. We love the pearly effect on the outside of the buttons and the sleek design of the box, and we think they felt comfortable and safe. The sound quality of these true wireless buttons is also excellent, with deep bass and a wide open sound stage. However, audiophiles may want to look elsewhere for a more natural sound treatment, as the Galaxy Buds look very hot.
The specified battery life of six hours for the buttons and seven hours for the case seemed right to us, and although there were connectivity issues before Samsung’s last software update, these problems seem to have been mostly fixed. The disadvantage is that other features available in the application, such as ambient sounds and equalizer presets, are useful, but they have not always worked with the expected effectiveness. These features are also quite distant for iOS users, as you can only download the app on devices running Android 5.0 or later.
That said, if you have a Samsung phone, Galaxy Buds is a fantastic pair of real wireless headsets, with some quality features that ensure they can compete with confidence. Otherwise, you may miss out on these extra features, but the high sound quality, comfortable fit and attractive design mean that these buttons can be a smart purchase, even for the iOS audience.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Score
8.5 Total score
Whether you have a Samsung phone or another Android phone, Galaxy Buds offers easy connectivity, a comfortable fit and warm and cheeky sound. Otherwise, you may miss out on some interesting extra features offered by the Samsung Galaxy wearables app.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pros and Cons
- Comfortable and secure fit
- Stylish design
- Easy to pair and use
- Powerful bass
- Ambient sound can be irritating
- Touch controls not always accurate