Read our full Samsung Level-Over review.
Samsung’s growing army of Galaxy and Note fans might not know it, but they’re carrying around the most popular high-res audio players available on the market.
Both the S5 and Note 3 smartphones have DACs (digital-to-analog converters) capable of playing high-resolution 24-bit/192-kHz audio. Unfortunately, that capability does them no good if they don’t have some quality headphones to plug in. Now, Samsung hopes to feed that need while keeping fans in the family with the new Level series of mobile audio products.
The Level series comprises a full gamut of headphone models including an over-ear, an on-ear, and an in-ear — cleverly dubbed the Level Over, Level On, and Level In respectively — as well as a new Bluetooth speaker, known simply as the Level Box. The series is tied together with the Samsung Level app, which offers a healthy batch of digital processing to optimize the mobile audio experience.
Follow us below for a quick tour of this succinctly titled new series to help you decide if Samsung’s new gambit has the goods.
The flagship of the series, the Level Over is a sleekly styled pair of wireless ‘phones, crafted from a sleek polished-plastic chassis hosting large oval earpieces. The headphones offer a nice batch of features to reel users in, including an active noise-cancellation system, wireless connection via Bluetooth 3.0 with aptX — an older but effective Bluetooth protocol that allows for CD quality streaming — and NFC one-touch pairing to compatible smartphones.
Sound for the Level Over is delivered from powerful 50mm dynamic drivers (read: huge) circled by an ample layer of padding, and navigation of audio is handled through a swipe-and-tap control system on the right earpiece. The ‘phones also feature an on-board microphone for fielding phone calls, as well as a “premium carrying case.”
Samsung specifically designed its new top-tier cans to work in tandem with the new Level app. The Level app brings a host of digital tricks to the table, including 25 different presets through an EQ system called SoundAlive. Apart from presets, the SoundAlive system also provides virtual “3D audio” to enhance gaming and movies, and even offers a limiting system to save your ears from getting blown out due to volume shifts between different audio sources.
The next step down in the series, the Level On offer a similar design to their larger sibling, but in a pared-down model with a hardwired connection. The Level On come with all the basic features you’d expect from a typical on-ear, including 40mm dynamic drivers (still big), a detachable cable with an inline control microphone, and easy control of Samsung’s S Voice personal assistant. Like the Level Over, The Level On also come with a carrying case.
Color us surprised, because we never saw this coming from Samsung. The company has stepped well into the realm of high-end in-ears with the new Level In. The sleek little buds are packed with a trio of speakers per side, including a standard dynamic driver to handle the power and punch in the bass, and a duet of balanced armatures split between the midrange and treble, to create a distinctive three-way speaker system. They are essentially the polar opposite of Apple’s dismal Earpods.
Balanced armatures are known for their pristine clarity and precision, while the much more ubiquitous dynamic drivers are more capable when it comes to handling the lower frequencies for a smooth, yet potent touch. This hybrid design has spawned some of our favorite offerings, including the Audiofly AF78, so it should be exciting to see what Samsung’s diversely designated engineering staff has come up with here. The ‘phones come with a wide selection of foam and silicon tips, and a carrying case.
Finally, the black sheep of the new family comes in the form of a slim little Bluetooth speaker in a solid metal casing. The Box offers a single 56mm driver inside, paired with a passive radiator to push out some power in the bass frequencies. Samsung claims the speaker’s design is optimized to provide noise reduction and echo cancellation, allowing for clear performance from the on board microphone for conference calls. Other features for the Box include NFC one-touch pairing from a compatible smartphone (which includes all Samsung models), an on-board control panel, and a claimed 15-hour runtime.
Samsung’s new line-up is primed for delivery sometime in mid-May, and pricing has yet to be announced. While we haven’t yet had a chance to check out the new gear for ourselves, there are some intriguing points that go above and beyond what we expect from the tech giant, which is usually much more focused on its smartphone and HDTV branches. Could Samsung be turning the corner towards serious high-res audio performance? We’ll find out soon enough when we get our hands on the new offerings, so stay tuned.