Headphone Reviews

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ review: Slick and simple, with monster battery life

Samsung Galaxy Buds+

“With upgraded audio and a continued dedication to comfort and ease of use, Samsung has done a good deal more to add to the quality of its true wireless buds.”
  • 11 hours of battery life
  • Comfortable, lightweight design
  • Additional accessories for ideal fit
  • Stellar app for customization
  • Charging case carries only one recharge
MSRP $149.99

Sequels don’t always have to be worse than the original. The Terminator 2 was every bit the blockbuster that its predecessor was, and Red Dead Redemption 2 was a masterpiece. Now, it seems like Samsung’s new true wireless earbuds could be joining the ranks of second-edition success stories.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ were unveiled at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event on February 11 and went on sale three days later for $150 through Samsung’s website. Judging by the modest price bump from the original Galaxy Buds ($129), as well as the appearance and features of the new buds, it’s clear Samsung knew it didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. The company just had to make a few improvements, and keep them priced low enough to be a serious competitor to the Apple AirPods.

The verdict on the G-buds+ is in: Samsung’s latest are right on the money.

Getting going

As has become the standard for brands like Samsung and Apple, the packaging, accessories, and actual Galaxy Buds+ adhere to a less-is-more aesthetic. Opening the compact white box reveals an even more compact, pill-shaped charging case with the buds nestled inside. Also in the package are a USB charging cable, two extra pairs of eartips and sports fins, and a quick-start manual to guide you through setup.

That setup, by the way, is pretty painless. Most major brands have finally gotten this down to a simple science, and Samsung is no exception. Those not already acquainted with Samsung’s wearables, however, will need to step through a few digital hoops.

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First, you’ll want to download the Galaxy Wearable app and allow the app access to your phone. Next, download the Galaxy Buds+ plug-in, allow a few more permissions for the buds themselves, and the buds will automatically connect to your device as you open the charging case.

From there, the next move is pulling the buds out of the case and fitting them in your ear.

The buds were a bit small for me with their initial eartips, as the seal in my ears didn’t feel secure. After swapping in larger tips, I found them just as comfortable as their predecessors, with an extremely lightweight build that would almost let you forget they were there, if not for the sound emitting from their dual drivers.

That’s a lotta battery

One of the biggest upgrades Samsung touted on its new buds was the improved battery, which it claims will provide 11 hours of playing time between recharges. That’s up from 6 hours with the original Galaxy Buds, and miles from the company’s first pair of buds, the Gear IconX.

In fact, we’ve yet to try out a pair with more battery life per charge. They offer more than double the playtime from Apple’s pricier AirPods (including both the second-gen pair and the $250 AirPods Pro). Unlike the AirPods, the Galaxy Buds+ add just a single recharge in the case, but since it’s 11 hours per shot, it amounts to nearly a full day of playback and falls just below Apple’s 24 hours.

The life span for these buds is as stellar as advertised, but there’s an interesting quirk.

As to that battery life claim, the life span for these buds is as stellar as advertised, but there’s an interesting quirk. The app provides you with charging levels for each bud, as well as the charging case itself. I noticed that my right bud ran out of juice faster than the left. It was a slight difference, usually no more than two or three percent at a time. It’s a puzzling trait, though not fully unsurprising — we noticed the same thing with older Samsung earbuds, including the Galaxy IconX 2018.

Custom touch

The Galaxy Buds+ come with standard-programmed gestures for each bud’s touchpads. A single touch will play or pause music, a double tap skips to the next track or answers/ends calls, and a triple tap skips backward.

We feel obligated to point out that on our first run-through with these buds, all these gestures failed. However, after disconnecting and reconnecting, each gesture worked without a glitch, and has continued to do so since. We should also mention a colleague had a different pair of Galaxy Buds+ in the office and experienced zero issues with controls.

A few more touch controls are also available. Through the app, you can determine which earbud will control features like voice command, turning ambient sound on and off, switching playlists on Spotify, and turning the volume up or down. In our testing, each of these controls worked flawlessly.

Riley Young/Digital Trends

On the subject of Spotify, the integration here is both compelling and leaves us asking for just a little more. With a long press on the Galaxy Buds+ touchpad, Spotify will resume playing the last playlist you were listening to. Another long press, and the buds will cycle through to the next playlist in your collection, though there doesn’t seem to be a way of determining what that will be. It could be a playlist you created, a “Daily Mix” playlist curated by Spotify based on your listening habits, or a playlist you recently listened to. It definitely kept us on our toes musically, and that’s truthfully not a bad thing, but more direction when toggling between playlists wouldn’t be bad, either.

Sound and call quality

With dual dynamic drivers – a woofer and a tweeter – as well as a new speaker and microphone system powered by Samsung subsidiary AKG, the company has dubbed its new buds as capable of producing “studio-quality sound.”

We wouldn’t go that far, and at $150, we wouldn’t expect them to, either. Honestly, studio-quality is a buzz phrase that really shouldn’t be used for wireless earbuds of just about any kind.

The Galaxy Buds+ instantly sounded clearer than the AirPods to our ears.

What we would say, though, is for the money, the Galaxy Buds+ present a very pleasing soundstage, with decent bass and a clear upper register. The app provides several equalizer presets to adjust the sound however you’d like.

For most tracks, from Blues Traveler’s Hook to Maroon 5’s Girls Like You, the “dynamic” equalizer setting produced the best overall sound, avoiding the sometimes flat-sounding “normal” setting while offering less brightness than “treble boost.” For us, that dynamic setting was the sweet spot. A few selections sounded slightly unnatural (a couple of classic rock songs come to mind), but for the most part, this setting combined vocal clarity and unmuddied instrumentals best.

The Galaxy Buds+ instantly sounded clearer than the AirPods to our ears, though they weren’t as detailed or defined as the lovely AirPods Pro. The latter comes with active noise cancellation, a feature that has escaped Samsung’s wireless offerings. At the price, however, it makes sense that the Galaxy Buds+ have omitted the technology. The only earbuds under $200 that feature noise control features are the Amazon Echo Buds, and even those offer only active noise reduction instead of full cancellation.

Riley Young/Digital Trends

For what it’s worth, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ do a commendable job of blocking out exterior noise.

As for call quality, following a few test runs, we’re happy to report that conversations come in clearly, without much distortion from the outside environment. Voices on the other end did sound somewhat distant at a few points, but it was a minimal occurrence.

Warranty information

Samsung’s 12-month warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship.

Our take

If the Galaxy Buds+ kept everything the same from the original Galaxy Buds and simply doubled down on battery life, that would still be deemed an improvement worth the cost bump. With upgraded audio and a continued dedication to comfort and ease of use, Samsung has done a good deal more to add to the quality of its true wireless buds.

Is there a better alternative?

While the Galaxy Buds+ certainly have more than enough features to punch up at pricier competitors, the $200 1More Wireless ANC and $200 Jabra Elite 75t would both be solid alternatives without having to totally break the bank. Apple’s Air Pods and Amazon’s Echo Buds also fit into the same tier as the Galaxy Buds+, and either may be more preferable depending on which ecosystem you may already be invested in.

With that said, you’d be hard-pressed to find earbuds that can do everything the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ can at this price point.

How long will it last?

Samsung’s products are generally a durable breed, and these Galaxy Buds+ should be no exception. With swappable eartips and fins, they seem well-equipped for the long haul.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Samsung’s follow-up to the original Galaxy Buds introduces ground-breaking battery life to the landscape of true wireless earbuds, fine-tunes an already-stout audio performance, and maintains an attractive price. That’s a winning formula in our book.

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