Tech review: Samsung's new Galaxy Buds Pro are a contender to cancel the AirPods culture

Galaxy Buds Pro. features: Speaker: 2-way (11mm woofer + 6.5mm tweeter) Microphone: 3 mics (2 outer + 1 inner) + Voice Pickup Unit + Wind Shield Water Resistance: IPX7 (Samsung/TNS)

By Jim Rossman

The Dallas Morning News

Samsung is great at rolling out new products, but sometimes it can be hard to keep up.

It was just last August when I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, with a very unique bean-shaped design. They were touted as ready to take on AirPods Pro.

Now, just five months later, we have the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro ($199.99), which is Samsung’s next set of wireless earbuds ready to take on AirPods Pro.

The pace of new products coming from Samsung can be a bit maddening, but I do like the Buds Pro – and I will say they are the best sounding wireless earbuds Samsung has put out.

Design and fit

If you follow the design evolution of the last few versions of the Samsung Galaxy Buds, the Buds Pro are similar to the Buds Plus. Buds Pro have a small silicone tip that are designed to seal in your ear canal. The Buds Live from last year had a different fit that just nestled in your ear without any protrusion into your ear canal.

The Buds Pro have a slimmer design, but all of it is in your ear.

The Buds Pro ship with three sizes of ear tips, so you can get the best seal. I found the largest size fit me the best.

Without the seal, you really won’t benefit from the Buds Pro’s active noise canceling.

These are Samsung’s first Buds to have active noise canceling and if you don’t have a good seal, you won’t notice much noise canceling.

Like the Buds Live, the Pros come in a small charging case that houses a battery so you can keep the Buds Pro charged when you’re away from power.

The case is small and resembles a box for an engagement ring.

You charge the case with USB-C or wireless charging and the case charges the Buds.

Each bud has a touch button on the outside. The button lets you answer calls or control music playback.

A single short touch pauses or resumes play. A double touch skips to the next track or answers or ends a call. A triple touch plays the previous track.

Touch and hold activates a user-defined shortcut. By default, a touch and hold changes the noise canceling mode.

You interact with the Buds Pro to assign touch and hold and other options through the Samsung Wearables app on your Samsung phone or tablet.

Active Noise Canceling

I’m sure you’ve heard of headphones with active noise canceling. This is done by placing microphones on the outside of the buds to listen to what environmental noises are being produced. The buds then produce noise with opposite sound waves to cancel or at least minimize the noise getting to your ears.

Bose is famous for active noise canceling headphones. Apple introduced it with the AirPods Pro and now Samsung has it with Buds Pro.

You press and hold on either bud to switch in and out of noise-canceling mode.

The better the seal in your ear, the better the noise canceling. Also, it works best on constant sounds like a jet engine or fan or vacuum. It doesn’t work nearly as well on sounds like a conversation in the next cubicle or someone playing their own music.

Conclusions

I really like the Galaxy Buds Pro.

If you are ensconced in the Samsung ecosystem, these are the wireless earbuds you want. They sound good, active noise canceling works well and they play nice with Samsung phones and tablets, plus they’ll work on your PC or any other Bluetooth device.

They were comfortable to wear for extended periods and battery life is above average.

This isn’t a knock on Samsung, active noise canceling works like that for all brands of headphones.

The Buds Pro also have a mode called Ambient Sound, which uses those external microphones to let the sounds of the outside world in while you are listening. This is handy if your wife wants to talk to you while you are wearing the Buds Pro. Press and hold and you’ll go into Ambient Sound mode.

There are four levels of Ambient Sound mode. The loudest really amplifies the sounds around you to almost an annoying level.

Again, you make these adjustments in the Samsung Wearables app on your Samsung phone.

While I’m talking about the Wearables app, if you don’t have a Samsung phone, the Buds Pro can be paired via Bluetooth and you can use them to listen to music and take calls, but special features like active noise canceling will not work.

I found the Buds Pro easy to pair and use with my iPhone.

More details

Connecting them to the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G could not be easier. Unlock the phone, open the headphone case and you’ll see a popup on the phone asking if you’d like to connect.

This is a straight mimic of Apple’s AirPods setup, but it works here just as seamlessly.

The Buds Pro are IPX7 water resistant, which means they can survive a dunk in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes, but they are not recommended for use while swimming.

They can provide up to five hours of playback with active noise canceling enabled or up to 28 hours with it turned off.

The case also has a battery, which can provide an extra 13 hours of active noise caneling listening.

If you are out of juice, a five minute stop in the charging case will let you listen for an hour.

Sound is provided by two drivers – a 6.5mm tweeter and an 11mm woofer. The Wearables app lets the user choose from several equalizer presets, including bass boost, which did provide an impressive thump on the low end.

Overall, the Buds Pro have a good sound. But again, this will depend on the quality of the seal in your ear canal.

A feature called Voice Detect is designed to work with active noise canceling and Ambient Sound to automatically switch to Ambient Sound mode for up to 15 seconds when the buds detect you are speaking.

I didn’t really care for this feature and turned it off.

If you have more than one Samsung Galaxy device, the Buds Pro can seamlessly switch between them, but note, this does not include computers, only phones and tablets.

There is a 360 Audio experience you can enable if you have a Galaxy S21 phone. It gives you the feeling sounds are coming from all around, but I found it disorienting.

Conclusions

I really like the Galaxy Buds Pro. If you are ensconced in the Samsung ecosystem, these are the wireless earbuds you want. They sound good, active noise canceling works well and they play nice with Samsung phones and tablets, plus they’ll work on your PC or any other Bluetooth device.

They were comfortable to wear for extended periods and battery life is above average.

They come in three colors – Phantom Violet, Phantom Black and Phantom Silver – and they are priced at $199.99.

Pros: Sounds great, active noise canceling, long battery life

Cons: Can drain the battery if you don’t return them to their case

Bottom Line: Comfort + active noise canceling + great sound = the best Samsung Buds yet.

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Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at jrossman@dallasnews.com.

©2021 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

 

 

 

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