Samsung Galaxy Buds review: surprisingly excellent true wireless buds
“The Galaxy Buds are a valuable pair of true wireless earbuds.”
- Six hours of battery life
- Light, comfortable fit
- Wireless charging case
- Only 7 hours of battery in case
This review was last updated by Digital Trends A/V staff writer Nick Woodard on 6/5/2020.
It’s an exciting time for true wireless earbuds. With new chips promising more compact designs and better battery life finally making it into real-world products, there are more reasons than ever to cut the cord on your listening life.
Among the first of the next-gen true wireless headphones to hit the market, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds showcased the cutting edge of technology. With six hours of battery life, a wireless charging case, and a light, nimble design, there’s a lot to love about the company’s latest set of buds.
Most impressive, the Galaxy Buds’ collection of features comes at an affordable $129 price tag and the Buds were even bundled with pre-orders of the S10, S10+, or Fold phones. The combination of technology and value made the Galaxy Buds among the best wireless earbuds you can buy right now, at least until the Galaxy Buds + came along.
Out of the box
The Galaxy Buds come in a small box with the charging case, a long USB type-C cable, three sets of silicone eartips and sport fins, and a small user guide. Opening the case, it’s immediately evident that Samsung’s follow-up to the 2018 Gear IconX are significantly smaller and lighter than their predecessor, allowing them to sit more comfortably in your ears.
An ergonomic triangular design integrates the comfortable rubber earfins and soft rubber eartips, providing a very solid fit and great seal, easily ranking among the most comfortable true wireless earbuds we’ve tested. Where Apple’s eartip-free AirPods can be a bit rough on your ears during longer listening sessions, the Galaxy Buds are nearly unnoticeable once you put them in.
First and foremost, Samsung’s headphones offer a solid six hours of battery life per charge — an hour more than similarly priced Apple and Jabra models. It was impressive at the time of its debut, though the bar has since been raised. The Galaxy Buds + offer 11 hours of playback, while the Edifier TWS NB offer five hours of noise canceling playback and 11 hours without that feature.
Unfortunately, the impressive playback time is not met with a lot of juice inside the case itself, marking our only real gripe about the Galaxy Buds. The Galaxy Buds’ case offers just seven hours of additional battery life, while competitors offer 20-30 hours or more.
The most comfortable true wireless earbuds we’ve ever tested.
This will be less of an issue for Galaxy phone owners, as the case includes the ability to wirelessly charge from the back of new Galaxy phones (or a standard wireless charging pad), but it does mean you won’t be able to go days at a time without finding a charging pad or outlet. That said, plugging in your headphones after 13 hours of playtime isn’t a huge deal for most of us and it’s a small price to pay for all the Buds’ other qualities.
In addition to good battery life and a wireless charging case, the Galaxy buds come with a number of cool features. Changing songs or adjusting volume, for example, is accomplished via intuitive touch controls that can be customized inside the Samsung Wear app. The app also allows you to pick between five different equalization settings, letting you tailor the sound of the headphones for your ears and musical tastes.
Perhaps the most useful feature of the app, however, is “Find my earbuds” which does just what you’d think, preventing you from digging through the couch cushions or jeans pockets when the Buds go missing.
The Galaxy Buds are particularly impressive in the way they use the two onboard microphones built into each earphone. When making a call, the headphones can analyze how loud the sounds around you are, using the microphone on the outside of each earphone when ambient sound is quieter, and the mic near the inside of the headphones when it’s louder. The mics also allow you to pipe in the sound of the outside world while you listen using Samsung’s ambient sound mode, which even includes a feature that uses filtering to highlight the sound of human voices.
Both ambient sound mode and call mode worked well in testing, allowing co-workers to be heard over music without taking out the earbuds, as well as calling in both quiet and loud rooms without skipping a beat. Call quality is not as good as Apple’s AirPods, but it gets the job done.
Ambient sound mode is great for situations like runs or bike rides, where you want to jam out, but don’t want to miss a shout or a car horn when you need to hear it. And that’s not the only way Samsung has geared its latest earbuds toward those who like to break a sweat: The Galaxy Buds have an IPX2 rating, which means they are protected against dripping water (or sweat). That’s not as good as the IP56 rating boasted by Jabra models like the Elite Active 65t, but considering that Apple’s pricier AirPods offer no water resistance whatsoever, the feature is welcome. You’ll have to pay $250 for the AirPods Pro to get water resistance from Apple.
I took the headphones on a 5-mile run on a treadmill and found them to be excellent for working out. Their lightweight and compact design means they stay in place, and the IPX2 rating means you don’t have to worry about getting them sweaty.
The Galaxy Buds’ ergonomic design and soft silicone eartips allow them to seal very well in your ears, presenting warm bass and low-mid response, and allowing them to avoid harsh, tinny sounds up top.
There aren’t a pair of true wireless earbuds we’ve tested that feel so freeing.
I listened to a wide variety of music during my time with the headphones, playing everything from The Beatles to Kendrick Lamar. Overall, the headphones performed well with all music, offering a relatively flat response despite what was playing, even with a huge variation between the genres.
My favorite equalizer mode turned out to be the “Dynamic” setting, which seems to adjust the sound to best suit whatever you’re listening to at the time. “Soft” mode and “Clear” mode were also interesting, with the former allowing you to listen to things with a rounder, less harsh sound signature, and the latter bringing out the shimmer of acoustic guitars and cymbals just a touch.
While I preferred Dynamic most often, it was nice to actually have a choice when it came to adjusting the sound to fit the music, an option I wish came standard on all wireless headphones.
The Galaxy Buds don’t offer the same vibrant clarity we’ve experienced from true wireless headphones like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 or the Master and Dynamic MW07 and MW07 Plus, but at well under half the price, they deliver pleasurable and customizable sound that could easily be enjoyed every day. In fact, their sound is as good or better than the more expensive Apple and Jabra models.
The steady Bluetooth 5.0 connection made them magnificent when cleaning my living room and kitchen, too, allowing me to just set your phone on a table or counter and forget about it.
As a way to listen to your favorite music in all styles on the go, the Galaxy Buds absolutely serve their purpose, and the lightweight design really accentuates the luxury of having no strings attached. Frankly, there are still very few true wireless earbuds we’ve tested that feel so freeing.
Samsung offers a warranty that covers defects in materials and workmanship for one year.
With a plethora of great features, six hours of battery life, and a fantastic $129 list price, the Galaxy Buds are currently the most compelling true wireless earbuds out there.
Is there a better alternative?
The Galaxy Buds + are the obvious option here, with improved battery life and other features for $20 more. The previously-mentioned Edifier TWS NB might be an even better fit, since they incorporate good active noise cancellation for $10 less.
You should also consider Amazon’s Echo Buds. They’re a great alternative if you’re already deep in Amazon’s Alexa ecosystem.
Other close competitors to the Galaxy Buds — Apple’s AirPods. You can take a look at the Galaxy Buds vs. Apple AirPods in a head-to-head comparison so you can decide which one is right for you.
How long will they last?
Samsung has a history of making long-lasting products, and we don’t expect the Buds to be any different. With replaceable eartips and earfins, we expect them to last through years of solid use.
Should you buy them?
Yes. If you’re looking for comfortable true wireless earbuds with great battery life, good sound, and a palatable price tag, these are just the ticket.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: I can hear clearly now
- Samsung Galaxy Buds+ vs. Amazon Echo Buds
- Galaxy Buds Pro bring fresh features, tight integration to Samsung phones
- The best new headphones of CES 2021
- These are the best cheap Samsung Galaxy Buds deals for January 2021