Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review: Raising the bar for wireless earbuds

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Last updated: September 15th, 2021 at 15:59 UTC+02:00

Samsung has taken to launching a pair of new wireless earbuds every six months. It launched the Galaxy Buds Pro with the Galaxy S21 series earlier this year. The new Galaxy Buds 2 have been launched alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3.

Don’t think of the Galaxy Buds 2 as a successor to the Galaxy Buds Pro. They’re actually meant to replace the Galaxy Buds+ that Samsung launched back in 2020. There are a lot of similarities between Samsung’s wireless earbuds, so do the Galaxy Buds 2 offer enough to justify their existence? Are they really one of the best Samsung earbuds yet?

That’s the main question we’ll be answering in this Galaxy Buds 2 review. We’ll also dive deeper into all of the improvements that Samsung has made and the features that the Galaxy Buds 2 offer.

Design and fit

The familiar in-ear design has been further improved with the Galaxy Buds 2. They’re actually 15% smaller than the first Galaxy Buds. The difference can be felt instantly. These earbuds don’t protrude from the ear; in fact, someone looking straight at you would probably not be able to make them out at first glance.

This is the third pair of earbuds to have the same square case design. You can hardly tell them apart. As you’d expect, the earbuds are made out of plastic with touch panels on either side. The glossy finish doesn’t look that appealing. Personally, I would have preferred a matte finish on the earbuds to keep up that understated look.

The touch panels work very well, perhaps too well. There were no issues trying to get them to pick up the taps for play/pause, double taps for skip or triple taps for back. Given how sensitive they are, expect the earbuds to pick up accidental taps when adjusting or taking them off unless you’re really conscious to not hit the panels with your palm.

These aren’t the only Samsung earbuds that we have experienced this behavior with. That being said, the touch panels remain an integral part of the Galaxy Buds user experience. You can customize the actions using the Galaxy Wearable app for enhanced control.

The Galaxy Buds 2 are comfortable for extended wear

I still remember how uncomfortable it would get wearing the original Galaxy Buds for long periods of time. Samsung has improved comfort with every iteration since then. Despite its curvy housing, the Galaxy Buds 2 are comfortable for extended wear. Three sets of silicone ear tips ship with the earbuds to allow you to get a secure fit.

There were no problems with the fit when wearing the Galaxy Buds 2 during a run or intense exercise. What I do miss are the wingtips of the Galaxy Buds+ as they provided a more confident and snug fit. Samsung probably had to remove those silicone bits to prevent interference with the mic array or the Voice Pickup Unit.

It’s also important to note in this Galaxy Buds 2 review that the earbuds are IPX2 rated for water-resistant. You shouldn’t submerge them but they’ll hold up nicely during exercise or even taking a leisurely stroll when it’s drizzling outside.

Since the Galaxy Buds 2 are $50 cheaper than the Galaxy Buds Pro, the first thought most customers would have is what has Samsung cut back on to reduce the price. It’s great to see that the build quality, fit and finish were not degraded in order to achieve the lower price.

Sound quality and performance

This is where the Galaxy Buds 2 took us by surprise, particularly the bass. Samsung’s previous earbuds were able to output decent levels of bass but the Galaxy Buds 2 kick things up a notch. The bass is punchier than you’d expect at default settings. I didn’t feel the need to turn it up using the bass boost option in the app.

It’s impressive that the audio quality you get from the Galaxy Buds 2 is quite close to the Galaxy Buds Pro. The sound stage does feel a tad restricted but that’s something most normal users wouldn’t really pick up.

Use the Galaxy Buds 2 with a Samsung smartphone for the best audio experience. That’s because Samsung’s proprietary Scalable Codec is then used to deliver superior sound. Even though these earbuds work with all Android devices, you’ll lose some of the quality on a non-Samsung device.

Sound quality is certainly not where Samsung has made adjustments to reduce the price

The Galaxy Wearable app provides a host of EQ options that can be used to tune the listening experience. Most users won’t need to tinker with those options as the sound profile is nicely balanced by default.

Once again, we were pleasantly surprised by the Galaxy Buds 2. Wireless earbuds that don’t provide great sound are not worth buying. Samsung has made sure that its latest earbuds deliver an enjoyable and immersive experience. Sound quality is certainly not where Samsung has made adjustments to reduce the price.

Active Noise Cancellation

It’s great to see that these $150 wireless earbuds provide Active Noise Cancellation. This feature is even making its way to entry-level earbuds so it would have been a shame if the Galaxy Buds 2 didn’t have it.

Active Noise Cancellation makes a noticeable difference in cancelling out background noise when you enable it. The earbuds do a better job of cancelling out high frequency sounds like that of an overhead fan or an airplane engine compared to constant rumbling frequencies of traffic sounds, for example.

That’s not a complaint about the ANC performance on these earbuds. Let’s not forget that this is a pair of $150 wireless earbuds. For the price, the Galaxy Buds 2 deliver excellent noise cancellation, perhaps even better than some of the competing products in this price range.

For the price, the Buds 2 deliver excellent noise cancellation

You can always choose to amplify the sound of your surroundings through the Ambient Sound mode. It pipes in surrounding noise through the earbuds. There are three levels of amplification to choose from, with the highest setting turning things up way more than you’d like. This is a great feature for when you want to be aware of what’s going on around you.

Call quality

Call quality left a lot to be desired on Samsung’s earlier earbuds. Users would complain that their voices sounded muffled on phone calls or downright robotic. That’s not ideal if one of the reasons why you’re buying wireless earbuds is to make calls hands-free.

Samsung has progressively improved the call quality on its earbuds. The Galaxy Buds 2 actually deliver the best experience of any Samsung earbuds. That’s partly because of the sophisticated mic array and Voice Pickup Unit that enhance voice clarity.

Buds 2 deliver the best call experience of any Samsung earbuds

The company has added a new machine learning solution to the Galaxy Buds 2 for improving the call quality by blocking out background noises. In our tests, we found that the person on the other end of the call doesn’t really hear any background noise.

There won’t be any disturbance from traffic if you’re on a call while walking outside or even the gentle drone of the AC in your room. One of our team members felt that the call quality from the Galaxy Buds 2 was very close to a call made directly from the phone. That’s high praise for the earbuds.

Connectivity and features

This Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review won’t be complete without talking about the many features that the new earbuds offer. We’re already familiar with most of them as they’re present on Samsung’s earlier models as well. This includes the likes of hands-free Bixby Voice wakeup, Swift Pair for easy pairing with a Windows 10 PC, and Game Mode that reduces latency between the audio and video when playing games.

Still wondering what Samsung has taken away to cut the Galaxy Buds 2 price? The 360-degree audio feature it introduced with the Galaxy Buds Pro is missing from the new earbuds. This feature provided “theater-like” sound by using Dolby Head Tracking technology to provide you with a sense of which direction the sound is coming from.

Voice Detect is another Galaxy Buds Pro feature that’s missing from the Galaxy Buds 2. It makes ANC and Ambient Sound work together intelligently to let you have conversations with people around you without having to take off the earbuds or even turn the volume down.

Samsung has kept the very useful Auto Switch feature that was introduced with the Pro model. It enables the Galaxy Buds 2 to automatically switch between different Galaxy devices. For example, if you’re watching a video on your Galaxy tablet and you get a call on your Galaxy Z Fold 3, the Galaxy Buds 2 will automatically connect to the phone so you can answer the call and then reconnect to the tablet so you can resume watching the video.

Battery life

Samsung claims that the Galaxy Buds 2 can last for up to 5 hours with ANC on and 7.5 hours with ANC off on a single charge. These claims are accurate since we got about the same listening time with both ANC on and off in our tests. The charging case can be used to extend the battery life by up to 28 hours. A quick 5-minute charge provides an hour of listening time.

Since these are meant to be the replacement for Samsung’s 2019 model, a Galaxy Buds 2 vs Galaxy Buds+ comparison is only fair. While the former is better in almost every way it can’t quite match the impressive battery life of the Galaxy Buds+.

Samsung’s claims of up to 7.5 hours battery life are accurate

Improvement of the battery life was one of the reasons why the Buds+ came out in the first place. The Galaxy Buds+ provide an impressive 11 hours of play and talk time on a single charge. That’s just the buds alone without the charging case.

Granted, the Buds+ don’t have speakers as powerful as the latest model or Active Noise Cancellation. Samsung has just prioritized size and weight reduction as well as more powerful internals over mammoth battery life. It’s not like 5 hours with ANC is anything to scoff about.

Verdict

Since it launches new earbuds every six months, Samsung has to position them in a way that customers consider the new earbuds on their merits. It has done that perfectly with the new model. The Galaxy Buds 2 doesn’t threaten the Buds Pro, yet it offers enough to make owners of older models consider an upgrade.

This Galaxy Buds 2 review aims to make your purchase decision easier. Should you buy it? If you already have a pair of the Galaxy Buds Pro, move along. This isn’t for you.

However, they deliver a far better ANC experience than the Galaxy Buds Live and are a huge upgrade over the Buds+/Buds. Consider buying the Galaxy Buds 2 and you won’t be disappointed by everything that it has to offer.

What’s incredible is that the Galaxy Buds 2 are also raising the bar for earbuds in this price segment. The exceptional sound quality, vastly improved call quality, robust Active Noise Cancellation and decent battery life easily justify the $150 price.

Make them your first wireless earbuds if you haven’t bought one yet. Just use them with a Samsung device for the best experience.

Image of Galaxy Buds 2

SamsungGalaxy Buds 2

Samsung
Galaxy Buds 2

What we like

  • Comfortable and snug fit
  • Exceptional bass and sound quality
  • ANC works like a charm
  • IPX2 water resistance rating an added benefit

What we don't

  • Glossy finish isn’t appealing
  • Best experience only possible with Galaxy devices
  • Battery life could have been enhanced
Review Galaxy Buds 2
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