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Samsung’s bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live true wireless earbuds are here

Samsung has launched a new set of Galaxy Buds true wireless earbuds. With the Galaxy Buds Live, Samsung has moved on from the traditional shape of the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds+, and adopted one of the most unusual designs we’ve seen yet for the new pair. Best described as “bean-shaped,” these tiny buds could be among the most comfortable you’ll ever wear.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

‘Open’ ANC

The major new feature on the Galaxy Buds Live is active noise cancellation (ANC), something that’s missing from the Galaxy Buds Plus. As before, Samsung has worked with its audio brand AKG on the Buds Live, and it is entirely possible that AKG contributed to the ANC tuning, given that it released its own noise-canceling true wireless earbuds, the AKG N400, earlier this year.

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But ANC on the Buds Live will be different than on any noise-canceling earbuds we’ve seen so far. Samsung calls it Active Noise Cancellation for open type, and its goal isn’t to create the cone of silence we’ve experienced with products like Apple’s AirPods Pro, but to instead block selective background sounds.

The claim is that ANC mode on the Buds Live cuts background noise by up to 97% in low-frequency bands, which should effectively neutralize traffic, airplane engine white noise, and the general din of a busy office environment while leaving nearby voices untouched.

Bean-shaped buds

The case used for the Galaxy Buds Plus has been replaced by a small, square case that comes in black, white, or the new Mystic Bronze color that is also featured on the new Galaxy Note 20 smartphone range. The Buds Live themselves are tiny and are designed to fit neatly inside your ear’s concha, without sticking a protruding speaker down your ear canal. This could lessen fatigue when wearing them for extended periods while being less noticeable at the same time.

To help you get a customized fit, two sizes of wingtips are included in the box. We’ll let you know how well this design works once we’ve had a chance to try it out.

Jaw-sensing microphones

There are three mics on each Galaxy Buds Live earbud: Two outward-facing, and one that faces inward. Beside the inward mic is a sensor called the Voice Pickup Unit. Samsung says it senses when your jaw is moving, and as your jaw vibrates, the data is “converted into voice signals that enhance your sound quality — even in a noisy place.”

Voice quality is apparently so good, Samsung recommends using the Buds Live in conjunction with its Galaxy Note20 for recording videos with crystal clear audio.

Listen with a friend

Following in Apple’s footsteps, the Galaxy Buds Live will offer a similar feature to the AirPods and Beats headphones’ audio sharing called Buds Together. Unlike Apple’s version, it only works when two people are using Galaxy Buds Live and are connected to a compatible Samsung phone running One UI 2.5 or higher.

Each set of Galaxy Buds Live can have its volume adjusted by the source phone’s control panel.

Spotify on-demand

The Galaxy Buds Live’s Spotify integration lets you assign a shortcut on your phone, which you can trigger with a one-second tap-and-hold on one of the earbuds.

Bixby on-demand

Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant becomes the fourth (after Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant) to get its own hands-free execution on a set of earbuds. With Bixby Voice wake-up, the Buds Live can be set to listen for spoken commands, and you apparently don’t need to say, “Hey Bixby,” to get its attention. Just say, “How’s the weather today ” or “Call Jessica,” for example.

It should be interesting to see how often this gets triggered accidentally without the use of a wake word as Bixby learns the difference between commands and casual conversation.

Battery life

Samsung says the Buds Live can operate for up to eight hours between charges if you turn off both ANC and Bixby Voice wake-up. That number drops to six hours when one of the features is enabled, and just 5.5 hours when both are turned on.

This measures up well to Apple’s AirPods Pro, which can only go five hours with ANC disabled, but doesn’t quite live up to the incredible battery life of Samsung’s own Galaxy Buds+, which offer 11 hours of playing time.

The charging case can be charged wirelessly — using Samsung’s reverse-charging feature on its phones, including the Note 10 Plus, if you so desire — and can quic charge the earbuds with an extra hour of life in just five minutes. It stores enough power to fully recharge the Galaxy Buds Live a little more than twice, which brings total playtime to 29 hours if you have ANC and Bixby Voice wake-up disabled.

Water resistance

Samsung seems to be afraid of water, or at least, its earbuds appear to be. The Galaxy Buds Live are only rated at IPX2, the lowest amount of protection from water. We imagine this means they’re somewhat sweatproof, but care will need to be taken to avoid serious water exposure.

It’s the same rating as the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds+, so fans of these devices will be used to it, but the rest of the industry has moved to IPX4 or better, almost without exception.

The Galaxy Buds Live will be available for pre-order on August 6 and cost $170.

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