Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: best earbuds? (video)
Anton D. Nagy contributed to this Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.
With the release of the Galaxy S21 line, Samsung also introduced an update to their truly wireless earbuds. Despite having quite a few options in the lineup — ranging from long battery life to simple sound to interesting bean designs, Samsung decided that they would put all of that together to create their version of a Pro earbud. I have already done a Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review over on my channel, but weeks later I have a couple of extra thoughts on these little earbuds.
Let me put this out there right now: despite me saying these aren’t the absolute best I’ve ever used, the Galaxy Buds Pro has become my go-to every day truly wireless earbuds. So let’s talk through that. This is Pocketnow and this is our Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review video
Small yet mighty
The terminology of Pro might make you think that Samsung’s track record of making small earbuds is shifting. Instead, Samsung manages to make earbuds that are basically the same size as the previous Galaxy Buds Live, to the point that style shells for the Live can actually fit on the Buds Pro case.
The overall footprint of the Galaxy Buds Pro is pleasantly small, making for a package that can be thrown easily in any pocket or bag. The case still has some smarts installed, with the USB-C port providing conventional charging on top of the wireless charging capabilities. It’s kind of nice to be able to put the Buds Pro case on a wireless charger while I’m using whatever phone was previously sitting on it — I barely think about how much battery the Live case has, because it’s constantly being topped up. So while it might not have the longevity of the Galaxy Buds+, the give and take means I’ll take the better sound in the Pro despite that sacrifice.
The word Pro
Obviously, the actual shape of the Galaxy Buds Pro is different than the Galaxy Beans — in the first move toward what could constitute the word ‘Pro,’ Samsung comes back to an in-ear driver that creates a seal in one’s ears for better-isolated sound. The result inevitably is better bass response, for a bit more bump than before. That’s not to say Samsung completely moved away from the lessons learned with the Buds Live — the Buds Pro still has a small vent that allows for just a little bit of air to filter through so that you don’t have a total and potentially uncomfortable seal. This is something that actually adds to the earbuds’ ambient sound feature, which we’ll get into later.
The Buds Pro has touch-sensitive areas on both earbuds that can be customized in the app, but basically provide just the typical tap and hold controls. Single, double, and triple taps on either earbud give you playlist control while holding either earbud can control volume, activate voice assistance, or change up the sound modes. Either earbud can be used on their own, making for the usual scenario for me where I have one earbud in until it runs out of battery and then switch up to keep the background tunes or podcasts rolling. And finally, if you want to turn on the pairing mode to get the Buds Pro connected to a new device, both earbuds have to be in and pressed until the mode is activated.
Samsung sound, now Pro
Now obviously sound and sound mode quality might be different across other people’s I found in my JV review and since then, the Buds Pro provides a great listening experience that works for multiple genres of audio content. Finding the right ear tip for a comfortable but robust seal is the first step toward a good sound experience, and I found the already installed tips to be just fine. The music I generally listen to came through very pleasantly, from hip-hop tunes to poppy R&B to electronic songs from Daft Punk (shouts out to them, end of an era). While I did say that there is better bass this time around, I will also admit that I’m a bit of a bass head especially for my hip-hop songs, so it’s good that in the Samsung app there are equalizer settings — Bass Boost was an obvious choice.
But for yet another layer of immersion on top of the raw sound profile, you get the active noise cancellation. That’s part of the joy of the Buds Pro, as the typical construction finally meets the features of the previous releases and puts them all together. The noise cancellation only works when both buds are in, at which point you can select two levels: high and low. The high setting seems to make the bass response stand out even more, so if you have this on with bass boost, you’re definitely in for a bump.
Overall, I’m really happy with the sound of the Galaxy Buds Pro but I have to restate the point I made in my first review: these are not the best-sounding earbuds I’ve ever used — that accolade for me goes to the Sennheiser Momentum 2. They’re also not the best noise-canceling earbuds I’ve ever used — that distinction still goes to the Sony WF1000Xm3. But like I said at the beginning of the video, the Galaxy Buds Pro has become my go-to dailies — and it comes down to how practical they are for my personal utility.
Talk to me
It all has to do with the last sound mode — Ambient Sound. The mode that uses the microphones to funnel in the sounds of the outside world. It’s there so that you can continue engaging comfortably with the outside world, even with both buds in — this is a feature that Samsung took further with detection, where the buds will automatically turn down the volume and max out the ambiance when its sensors and microphones can tell you’re trying to talk to someone. It’s sensitive enough so that the one sentence of ‘sorry, repeat that’ can trigger it.
And while it’s a nice mode to have especially when you’re just jamming out with both buds in, you can forget about singing along with your music. It’s only really useful for those incidental moments like a family member trying to get your attention. I still prefer to have as much environmental awareness as possible. when I’m out and about.
Talking to people in the meat space is one thing, but of course, you can use these earbuds and their microphone arrays for voice and video calls. Here is your test of the microphone quality using the Galaxy S21’s Pro Video mode, where the earbuds can be used as the Bluetooth audio input.
My use case
This brings me to my use case. If you want to just have some literal background tunes while running around and getting things done, you can do what I do and have one of the Buds in at half volume with Ambient Sound on max. Let’s call this the multitasker’s scenario, in that I can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, news, or YouTube videos without it fully taking my attention away from the task at hand. I can continue enjoying that content even if I’m walking around in a grocery aisle, without blocking out speaking scenarios with workers or cashiers. And if I need even more open hearing, a quick tap to pause the media is just fine because the maxed out Ambient Sound mode in just one ear lets me comfortably interact.
This is the way I use the Galaxy Buds Pro more than half of the time. The fact that the sound is plenty good to enjoy, the active noise cancellation does a proper job of blocking out the world, AND the ambient sound mode can help me maintain awareness makes these earbuds one of the most satisfyingly versatile pairs I’ve ever used.
It’s not all high notes, though, as Samsung’s move to marry multiple features into a Pro model actually makes the Galaxy Buds Pro regress a tiny step backward in the fit department. Don’t get me wrong, I love that these are the more typical earbud design because it means the low-end response is better — but it’s almost as if Samsung prioritized small size over design cues that might help keep the buds in one’s ear.
The Galaxy Buds Live, with all of its quirks, fit really nicely in my ears, while the wingtips of the Galaxy Buds+ gave them that needed a bit of extra security. I appreciate that the overall footprint of these earbuds is so small, but without these little extras, extended-wear times for me eventually mean a bit of sweat internally or externally makes them slip. It can get kind of annoying and considering the vast differences in people’s ear sizes and anatomy, obviously, your mileage will vary.
The specter of Samsung
You might have noticed that in this video I’ve been using the Galaxy Buds Pro with a phone that isn’t made by Samsung. The Buds Pro, like most all Samsung accessories, can be used with any Android device as long as you install the companion app. This means installing not just a frontend app, but also some backend services. While all of these things are innate to any Samsung smartphone or tablet, you’ll have to just install the additions to your phone to get the most out of these earbuds.
This includes sound mode switching, the equalizer, getting notifications read aloud, and using the Find My Earbuds feature that blares sounds from each earbud if you forgot to put them back in the case. But for those of you who want the lowest latency, the Gaming Mode feature is only available if you pair these with a Samsung phone. That’s the thing about high featured earbuds like these — Samsung tuned them for best use with a Samsung phone, which makes sense but is something you have to keep in mind.
With the occasion of our Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review, we want to take this opportunity and award these earbuds with our Recommended badge for all-around value true-wireless earbuds.
All things considered, the Galaxy Buds Pro provides so many features in a package that sums up the best parts of Samsung’s previous audio products. Even though the fit might be a point of contention, the practical use cases that each and every capability the Buds Pro bring to your ears makes them so useful.
If anything, the $199 price tag is right in the middle between the more affordable offerings that don’t have as many features and the higher-priced competitors that excel in certain departments like noise cancellation and battery life. Despite each particular part not being the best, Samsung used the sum of those parts to pleasantly achieve the term ‘Pro.’
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