If you’ve been eagerly anticipating the launch of Samsung’s next true wireless earbuds — the Galaxy Buds Live — we’ve got good news: Your wait is almost over.
Following weeks of leaks, not only is the scheduled Galaxy Unpacked event nearly upon us (it takes place virtually on August 5), but Samsung itself is apparently giving up all pretense of surprise by releasing a support page for the new earbuds.
It’s the latest indication that Samsung is going to break with wireless earbud tradition in a big way, by giving the Galaxy Buds Live a design that is neither a silicone-tipped in-ear shape, nor an AirPod-style dangling stem approach.
Instead, the ergonomically shaped Galaxy Buds Live look to be a hybrid, with a shape that completely covers the ear canal, yet doesn’t enter it.
Recent photos shared on Twitter by prolific leakers Evan Blass (evleaks) and WalkingCat pretty much tell us everything we need to know about how the new buds look, and they even give us a sense of Samsung’s new jewelry-inspired colors and finishes. But we’re still missing the key details like price, release date, and major features.
— WalkingCat (@h0x0d) July 17, 2020
The debut of the Galaxy Buds Live is expected to coincide with the launch of Samsung’s next smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 3. Given that both of these wearables will likely be equipped with a variety of onboard sensors, this could be the start of a new, multipronged health and fitness effort from Samsung. Recently, the company rolled out its health and wellness app suite to its smart TVs, making the Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Watch 3 a logical set of monitoring accessories.
At this point, it’s a lock that Samsung will debut the Galaxy Buds Live at the Galaxy Unpacked event in August. What’s less certain is when the new earbuds will go on sale.
However, if past Unpacked events are any guide, the Galaxy Buds Live should be available for pre-order in the weeks following their official announcement.
— Tech SciCo (@techscico) July 18, 2020
These renders show a beanlike shape that would not only be a first for Samsung, but also a first for the true wireless earbud category. What makes them unique is the way they sit in your ear. Unlike the majority of true wireless earbuds. which incorporate a short stem, capped with a silicone eartip, the Galaxy Buds Live use a smooth one-piece shape. “Bean” was even Samsung’s code name for the new earbuds, according to WinFuture.
There’s no separate part that embeds itself into your ear canal, which makes the Galaxy Buds Live closer in approach to Apple’s AirPods — and their many imitators.
The renders also show what appears to be two microphones on the outer shell, and possibly a third on the inner shell. Charging contacts are visible, as are areas that could be used for various sensor arrays. In the past, these have been used to detect if an earbud is actually seated in the ear, as well as for health-monitoring functions like heart rate.
With no visible buttons, we’re assuming the Galaxy Buds Live will use a touch-sensitive outer surface for all control functions.
This unusual design could come with some significant benefits for those who typically find in-ear true wireless earbuds uncomfortable. The absence of a silicone eartip means no unwanted pressure within the ear canal, something that even the most comfortable earbuds — like the Jabra Elite 75t — require us to put up with.
On the other hand, those silicone tips are often an essential element of the design that helps to keep true wireless earbuds secure in our ears. Removing them could reduce that security.
Another aspect of the Galaxy Buds Live that could be affected by the bean-shaped design is sound quality. All of the best-sounding true wireless models, from Apple’s AirPods Pro to Sony’s WF-1000XM3 and the recently launched Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, all have one thing in common: They use an ear canal-seated silicone tip. It’s a design that is highly effective at isolating the ear from external sounds — whether you employ active noise cancellation (ANC) or not — which naturally produces higher sound quality.
Can a set of true wireless earbuds that eschew such a feature still sound as good? The odds don’t favor it. Apple’s original AirPods sit just outside the ear canal and offer little to no sound isolation. They don’t sound especially good, either.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live do appear to do something that the AirPods don’t. If the initial images are correct, these new earbuds might provide a significant degree of sound isolation despite their lack of silicone eartips, thanks to a design that fills the concha — that part of the ear that sits immediately outside of the ear canal.
It’s a design that has been used successfully on hearing aids, and it could be a good compromise between the leaky design of an AirPod, and a fully isolating shape used by the majority of true wireless earbuds.
Could such a design incorporate ANC?
Even though they’d be the first non-in-ear variety to do so, South Korean media site m-i.kr claims the Galaxy Buds Live will have ANC. And a snapshot of the Galaxy Buds Live app for iOS appears to confirm it, showing not only ANC, but also a Find My Earbuds feature, a simplified set of EQ settings, and the ability to lock the touchpad on the outer surface of the earbud.
— Engadget (@engadget) July 24, 2020
ANC works best when it can completely control what you’re hearing, which is why, so far, it has only appeared on over-ear or on-ear headphones and in-ear-canal earbuds. Apple’s AirPods Pro, Sony’s WF-SP800N, and Master and Dynamic’s MW07 Plus are all examples of this trend. If the Galaxy Buds Live ship with ANC, it may not be as effective as the ANC found in these other true wireless models.
The best true wireless earbuds offer a battery life of up to 11 hours between charges. Samsung’s own Galaxy Buds+ do just that. It’s a feat that’s usually accomplished through more efficient management of Bluetooth wireless connections because battery sizes and capacities haven’t increased all that much. Because the Galaxy Buds Live appear to have a larger overall shape than other designs, there may be room on board for a bigger battery.
If the Galaxy Buds Live make use of the advantages offered by the latest Bluetooth specification — LE Audio — and they possess a bigger battery, that could lead to some seriously impressive battery life numbers.
A report issued in April from m-i.kr suggests that the new earbuds will sell for 170,000 won (about $140), but we suspect it will end up being at least $150 when the time comes. That would put them on par with Samsung’s own $150 Galaxy Buds+, making for something of a dilemma for potential buyers.
But assuming for the moment that the two products are designed to appeal to very different kinds of buyers, perhaps it’s every other maker of true wireless earbuds that should fear the Galaxy Buds Live — because there will be nothing like them at any price.
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