Review

Samsung Galaxy Buds review: Worthy of your hard-earned money

Samsung introduced its first truly wireless earbuds three years ago. The Gear IconX could do more than just stream music wirelessly. It even had sensors for activity and fitness tracking. It was clear that Samsung was aiming the product at fitness enthusiasts with the device trying to punch above its weight and replace their fitness tracker.

This year, the company has launched new wireless earbuds, and they’re not a successor to the Gear IconX. The Galaxy Buds are primarily for a cord-free music experience. They are smaller and lighter than the IconX. They’re also cheaper. So are the Galaxy Buds worth putting your money on? That’s what you’ll find out in this review. For a short version, you can check out our video review below; for the long version, keep reading after the break.

Galaxy Buds review: Design and fit

Galaxy Buds Review

The Galaxy Buds come in a pill-like carrying case out of the box. They have been ergonomically designed to ensure a snug fit in the ears. Put them in your ears with a slight twisting motion to securely lock them in place. It’s actually quite easy to get a good and comfortable fit with the Galaxy Buds. At 4.9g per earbud, they’re not among the heaviest earbuds out there. You will find three sets of earbuds tips and fins in the box. Swap them out for the ones that fit you best. This isn’t something that you can do on the Apple AirPods and it certainly elevates your comfort level with the device.

There’s a touchpad in the center of each earbud. There are predetermined actions which will be carried out based on a single, double or triple tap. They can’t be changed but you’re allowed to configure what a long press of the touchpad does. For example, you can set it to launch Bixby. We’ll talk more about that in a second. There’s an LED outside and inside the charging case to show the charging status. The light is amber when it’s charging and green when it’s full.

You do get a really good fit with the Galaxy Buds. They sit nice and snug in the ear canal which allows for better sound insulation. You’ll always be reminded, though, that you’re wearing the earbuds. They don’t just sort of fade into the background. That being said, I never felt uncomfortable wearing them for extended periods of time. I have quite happily worn and used them when out and about the entire day or binging Netflix for hours on the weekend. That snug fit does come in handy when you’re out for a jog or are headbanging at a concert. The Galaxy Buds will, more often than not, stay put.

Galaxy Buds sound quality and performance

Before we dive into this section, it’s best to temper your expectations. Let’s take a brief look at the facts. The Galaxy Buds, like many other cord-free earbuds, are small. The actual source of the audio inside the shell is small. Wireless earbuds are known more for their convenience than their ability, or lack thereof, to deliver studio quality sound. You will not get exceptional sound quality on such products. However, it doesn’t mean that the Galaxy Buds are bad at the one job they’re supposed to do.

Once they’re paired and you pop them into your ears, the Galaxy Buds acknowledge that with a nice futuristic chime. You can use each bud one at a time if you’d like, just leave the other to charge in the case. Right, then, the basics. Volume is good, the Galaxy Buds can get nice and loud. So is clarity. I rarely noticed crackling sounds when the volume was turned all the way up. However, you may or may not like the Galaxy Buds based on your preference of good sound quality. The Galaxy Buds are neutral sounding for the most part with decent bass at full volume. There’s good separation as well with more detail than you might have expected. They’re not bass heavy by any stretch of the imagination.

Samsung allows for some personalization in sound quality. Pop into the Galaxy Wearable app and switch between the five Equaliser presets. It’s set at Dynamic by default which will be good for most users. Other presets include Soft, Clear, Bass boost and Treble boost. Bass boost does pump it up a little bit so if you like yours on the heavy side, utilize the preset. The sound isolation is exceptional, though, and that just makes the overall listening experience so much better.

Since that sound isolation is on point, Samsung offers an Enhanced Ambient Sound mode on the Galaxy Buds. It uses the dual microphones to let ambient sound through the earbuds so that you’re aware of your surroundings. That’s a great feature to have when you’re out for a run or cycling and want to make sure that you’re safe on the road. However, the ambient sound just feels too artificial. I never wanted to keep it enabled because it felt even worse when I had the volume turned all the way up.

I quite prefer the quick ambient sound feature. Just touch and hold your earbud touchpad to enable it. The feature will turn down the media volume and turn up the ambient sound temporarily. That way you can quickly help that person who just asked you for directions and then go back to having a wholesome listening experience again. You do have to configure it from the app, though.

The touchpad is how you control the various functions once you’re wearing the earbuds. A single tap will play or pause a track, double tap will play the next track or answer/end a phone call while a triple tap will play the previous track. These actions can’t be changed. Touch and hold the touchpad to decline a call. This action can also be configured to something more to your liking, such as configuring it to launch Bixby or the quick ambient sound feature.

The dual microphones work well for phone calls. The person on the other end of the call had no problems with call audio as I talked to them while walking around in a busy Seoul market. However, Bixby commands don’t seem to reach the earbuds properly, as there were quite a few instances where Bixby didn’t respond. However, this is probably an issue with the voice assistant and not the earbuds, as phone calls worked perfectly fine.

I did notice that sometimes a tap wouldn’t register if my finger didn’t hit the exact center of the touchpad or that it just wouldn’t register if I was rapidly going through the allowed actions. However, my biggest qualm with the touchpad is that it doesn’t allow swipes to control the media volume. It’s frustrating to not be able to do that. You could try asking Bixby to turn down the volume for you but it will do that in tiny increments and you’d rather just give up and do it manually. The long press action can be configured for volume up and down but it’s just not intuitive.

It was slightly concerning when I experienced my first Bluetooth connection dropout merely ten minutes after using the Galaxy Buds for the first time. I was walking outside and the Galaxy Note 9 was in my jacket pocket. The connection drops out for a split second and while there’s minimal disruption to the media, it’s not difficult to miss. I have noticed dropouts on several occasions, mostly when I’ve been using them outside. They aren’t frequent enough to be a major problem. The video lag was quite noticeable when the Galaxy Buds were paired to my four-year-old MacBook Pro but I faced no such issues using them with a variety of Samsung smartphones and tablets.

The Galaxy Buds can also help you out with notifications. You can go into the Galaxy Wearable app to manage the apps for which you’d want the notifications to come through. You can get a summary of your text messages or emails for example, or hear who’s calling you. There’s a Find My Earbuds feature in the app as well which can help you locate your earbuds if you happen to have misplaced them within range.

Galaxy Buds battery life

Samsung claims that you can get up to six hours of playback when the Buds are fully charged with an additional seven hour charge from the carrying case. And battery life in actual usage is actually quite close to the company’s estimates . The charging case has a USB-C port so you can use your phone’s charger. If you have a Galaxy S10, you can also pop the case on the back and charge it using Wireless PowerShare.

Galaxy Buds verdict

So, the $129.99 question: Should you buy the Galaxy Buds? Given how liberally Samsung handed them out with Galaxy S10 pre-orders and subsequent promotions, those of you who bought the new flagship may already have a pair.

That being said, I was very impressed by the Galaxy Buds. It feels like Samsung knew what it was trying to achieve with this device. It doesn’t try to be something that it’s not with half-baked features that don’t work as well as they should. The sound quality is great for most users. You won’t find any faults with it unless you’re an audiophile who’s particular about the soundstage and very precise about the sound quality.

They look good, are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and are even sweat resistant so you can use them in the gym. You’ll be happy with the Galaxy Buds as long as you’re not expecting studio-quality sound because that wouldn’t be possible on earbuds this size. If your expectations are kept in check, the $129.99 price tag is quite reasonable.

ProsCons
Comfortable fitTouchpad could have been better
Well designed earbuds that stay in your earAmbient sound mode sounds too artificial
Good battery lifeBluetooth dropouts are noticeable
Good sound quality for wireless earbuds

 

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Ankit madaan
Ankit madaan

The call quality is actually bad even when i m alone in the car. I always have to take them out before picking up a call but i have experienced the same with airpods with 2 units not jst 1. But for isolation, music and fit, i would rate them quite high. Even connection is good upto 40-50ft. but after that Bluetooth 5.0 just doesn’t show its worth. It is same distance that airpods cover with 4.2 Bluetooth. I expected it to be better

Wilksie
Wilksie

I bought them at launch from Dubai and generally pleased but they have a few quirks. I get the odd glitch via bluetooth which is rare but occasionally I get the audio feel like it’s all around my head. Like a spatial sound mode. This is NOT the Dolby Atmos. It sounds great when it happens but it is super rare. It happened on my Mac as well. Atmos is on but think it gives almost zero benefit. It’s garbage. The ambient sound turns off if you take just one Bud out of your ear and then you have to… Read more »

cardicek
cardicek

I was just thinking about buying but how do I read those minuses so it really is not 🙂

gentux
gentux

I got mine for free as a pre-orderer of the S10+ but I don’t like the audio quality compared to the wired headset that came with the device, it sounds artificial sometimes while lacking sound space mostly. Forget about hi-res, listening that with the buds is wasted space on the device as it sounds the same or worse than CD audio. Also while waiting for a train, it sometimes stuttered on the playback, maybe some interference from the trains or other people’s bluetooth, who knows. So I gave the buds to my girlfriend who always wanted full wireless headphones.

PaulCSYD
PaulCSYD

I used mine the other night while I was walking my dogs. Was listening to the music stored on my microsd card as I have with all of my previous phones. While I was standing still, worked perfectly, as we started walking I put my phone into my jacket pocket and the music started jittering. I took my phone back out it stopped. I tried in my shorts pocket and the same thing happened. Then I tried holding my phone in my hand with my arm fully extended, same thing happened. If I bent my arm so my phone was… Read more »

freddyba
freddyba

This is exactly the same problem I have here. If I am outside with phone in pocket standing still is fine, but if you move (walk, shift your body etc) it breaks up immediately. Inside no such problem.

locarno
locarno

Too late for review.

Landon A
Landon A

My buddy and I find them to be absolutely horrendous for talking on the phone. It is as if there is a malfunction with ambient sound activating during a call, causing the person on the other end to hear ALL of the background noise. Case in point. If I turn on the sink to wash my hands, the person says, “What is all that noise?!” Another case in point. In the bathroom at work, there is a small odor fan, and yesterday I am in there, and my wife says, “It sounds like you’re standing in front of a waterfall.”… Read more »

Sirjudge
Sirjudge

The microphone is awful when there is noise around you, every single person I call when I’m not at home tells me they cannot hear me properly or I sound like a robot (internal microphone being used I guess) and it’s the same for every galaxy buds owner I know. That’s a shame because I really like them but if you are on phone all the time just don’t get them…

Sirjudge
Sirjudge

Did a mod just remove a part of my comment? Disappointing. As I said, I don’t know if OP really reviewed the phone calls otherwise he wouldn’t have said that.

mihaitdr
mihaitdr

Yes, horrible mic noise. Forums are full of reports yet reviews say nothing about it. They’re so bad that you need to use the phone if in a noisy environment.
Definitely a software issue though as i can hear them turning up the noise and down the voice, quite the opposite as it should do.

o0MHJ0o
o0MHJ0o

Did you not notice that the Galaxy Buds have their own volume control that can only be adjusted via long press (meaning if you have quick ambient mode enabled it won’t work)… Using volume controls on the buds does not effect the media volume on your device. So, you might find you accidentally have muted the buds by holding the left bud in your hand. And they’re no controls in the app for Bud volumes (unlike the ones you get on Samsung Level). I went crazy, blasting my media volume on my device to find my buds ‘not working’. I… Read more »