Last year’s Galaxy Buds+ were some of the best truly wireless earbuds to date, but they still left quite a bit of room for improvement. For 2021, Samsung is launching the Galaxy Buds Pro that provide a new design, additional features, and a higher price tag. Through it all, they might be Samsung’s best earbuds to date.

HARDWARE

Nothing special in design, but it works

Truly wireless earbuds basically come in two forms. There are AirPod knockoffs, which these are not, and silicone-tipped designs. An evolution of the design from Buds+, Buds Pro have a glossy, almost mirror finish across the main hardware that is broken up by a microphone grill and cuts into a matte plastic finish that sits against your ear. 

This design is safe. It doesn’t do anything even remotely groundbreaking but it works really well. The buds sit in my ears without protruding too much and a quick twist helps lock the buds in. 

Comfortable eartips address my biggest complaint

By far my biggest problem with Galaxy Buds+, aside from the mediocre sound quality, was comfort. While they could last 11 hours on a charge, I couldn’t wear them for more than an hour without feeling deeply uncomfortable. Buds Pro are nearly the exact opposite, in my experience.

The oval-shaped tips fit in my ears nicely with a seal that works for ANC and overall sound quality without leaving “pressure.”

SOUND QUALITY

Samsung’s biggest improvement to date

Getting right to the point, one of the biggest advantages Galaxy Buds Pro have over other Samsung TWE’s is sound quality. Using a two-way speaker design that separates the tweeter from the woofer, Samsung is able to create clear audio with good bass. Unlike past Samsung earbuds, I don’t feel compelled at all to use the equalizer just to get acceptable sound. Even on the default setting, these buds just sound good. Dynamic ups the quality just a bit, and bass boost offers some powerful lows, too.

I’ve tested quite a few earbuds in recent memory, and Buds Pro definitely rank toward the top. The sound quality is similar to that of the Jabra Elite 75t/85t, but with a bit less emphasis on the bass. The audio is definitely more clear.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Samsung’s buds and phones have always played best together. Scalable codecs on Galaxy smartphones allow these buds to sound their best, but it also means that the buds lose a bit of quality when connected to other devices. The good news? They still sound pretty great. Connected to my Pixel 5, Buds Pro definitely don’t sound quite as dynamic as when connected to a Samsung phone, but they still offer excellent sound quality. Audio is clear and lows are still good, with the most sacrificed in the mids. Sound quality fanatics should still opt elsewhere if they’re using non-Samsung smartphones, but most people won’t be disappointed when connected to Pixels, OnePlus, or other Android smartphones.

Effective, but not impressive ANC

With Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live, the company tried its hand at active noise cancellation, but it was a pretty pitiful attempt if we’re being honest. The lack of any seal whatsoever on the ear meant that the ANC had almost no effect, making it a feature that only added cost and complexity without any real benefit. With Buds Pro, the story is different.

I can only say so much about ANC, though because I’ve not left my house since getting the Buds Pro in hand. Partially because, if you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been pretty busy here at 9to5Google lately, but also because I’ve been in COVID quarantine due to potential exposure. A private home isn’t exactly the best place to do some in-depth ANC testing, but as mentioned, I’ve been impressed based on what I’ve been able to do. Background noise is canceled out for the most part with only some clicks, taps, and bangs making their way through. The best example I had on how the effectiveness of the ANC was raking leaves in my backyard where the sounds were mostly eliminated between ANC, the silicone tip seal, and the music that was playing.

Latency is not bad, not perfect

An often neglected thing to mention about truly wireless earbuds is their latency, and with Buds Pro I’m happy to report that I had no noticeable issues. With a Galaxy Z Fold 2 and a Galaxy S21, there was no noticeable latency while watching videos. 

Switching over to an iPad Pro, the results remained the same. Streaming from Disney+ I couldn’t see any latency whatsoever. I attempted to connect to my desktop Windows PC to see if there was anything noticeable there, but for reasons unclear I could not get the Buds Pro to pair with that machine. That’s likely a localized issue, though.

FEATURES

As usual, best with Samsung

In terms of special features, Galaxy Buds Pro are not unlike other Samsung earbuds. They have customizable touch shortcuts, a long-press shortcut for triggering a Spotify playlist, an equalizer, auto-listening “Hey Bixby” support, and more. 

There’s also an added 360 audio feature that’s unique to Buds Pro. It… works, but it’s nothing particularly special. If you have a video open and the feature enabled, turning your head to the left or right will make it seem like the audio is still in front of you. It’s neat, but I don’t find it particularly useful. It feels like more of a gimmick than anything else. 

Another key feature of Buds Pro is ambient mode, which brings external audio in through the microphones. The quality of the audio coming through is not what I’d called great, but it’s better than most other earbuds I’ve tried with this feature. 

“Voice detect” is truly great

By far my favorite thing about Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is their ability to automatically flip on ambient mode and lower music when they detect you are talking. This allows you to hear someone speaking to you as soon as you say something to them. In the week and change I’ve been using this feature, I’ve found it tremendously useful. While outside working in the yard, I could have a conversation with my wife by simply saying “hi” to her. I do wish there was some way for the earbuds to detect someone trying to get your attention, but that feels like it would be too easy to trigger by mistake.

With this feature as it stands, though, it’s pretty reliable. I’d say nine times out of 10 it would work flawlessly, the last time only taking a few additional words or a louder voice to trigger the change. False triggers occur a bit more often than I’d like as well. For example, a cough or clearing my throat would trigger the volume to lower. Overall, though, the feature is a huge win.

BATTERY LIFE

Acceptable for almost anyone

One of the biggest reasons to buy Galaxy Buds+ over other options was battery life, but Buds Pro don’t clear the same bar. Samsung rates Buds Pro at between five and six hours on the Buds themselves with 13 hours in the case when ANC is turned on. I’ve only been using these for a few days so far, but my testing lines up with that claim. My longest session was roughly four hours continuous where I drained the Buds down to 28%.

Charging was quick, but not noticeably faster than anything else I’ve used recently. Of course, it’s also nice that the case charges over both USB-C and Qi. In the week and change I spent using these buds, I only needed to charge the case once. I’d assume that most users will only need to charge around once a week, twice at most.

CASE 

Possibly perfect

For me, the case on truly wireless earbuds is one of the most important parts. I don’t care if the sound quality rocks if I’m lugging around a case the size of a baseball. Thankfully, the Galaxy Buds Pro case is essentially the perfect size. It’s not particularly slim, but the overall size is small. It’s almost the same size as the Galaxy Buds Live case which I also liked, though it does come with one major advantage. 

Instead of the glossy design the Buds Live case used, the Buds Pro have a matte texture. It’s not to the point where it’s too grippy in your pocket, but it’s much more comfortable to hold. I do worry how it will hold up over time, though, as these cases often get scratched up super early.

…though these magnets can be a bit much

The one flaw? The magnets that hold the lid down are just a little bit too strong for my taste. To be clear, it’s a good thing that these magnets are here, but the strength means the case can’t easily be opened with one hand. In fact, it requires two. Minor complaint? Niche use case? Definitely, but something I’d like to see improved later on. Perhaps a spring could fix that. 

One benefit of those magnets? This case closes with a super satisfying “thunk” every single time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

$200 isn’t an easy pill to swallow, but it’s worth it

Samsung’s efforts in truly wireless earbuds to date have been good, but I’d argue that each one had a glaring flaw. Galaxy Buds Live had worthless ANC and Buds+ had middling sound quality at best. The original Buds also had a really poor microphone. With Galaxy Buds Pro, I think Samsung has finally learned from its mistakes and absolutely nailed it. These headphones rock, and it’s hard to find genuine and meaningful flaws.

At $199, these are far from cheap. You can get countless other earbuds for under $100 that are also pretty solid. However, if these are in your budget, they’re absolutely worth the price. You’ll be incredibly happy with your purchase, I’m sure of it.

Galaxy Buds Pro are available now from Samsung.com, Best Buy, Amazon, and other major retailers and carriers.

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Ben Schoon's favorite gear