You can buy truly wireless earbuds at just about any price point now, whether that’s super-premium options that cost well over $200 or super-affordable options that cost just $20. It’s the middle ground, though, which I find the most interesting. That’s where Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds 2 sit, and they accomplish their given task very well.
Sound and ANC: a happy medium
Kicking things off with the obvious, let’s talk about sound quality. Samsung has never been at the top of the field in this regard, but Galaxy Buds 2 sound pretty darn good in their own right. The sound profile is fairly balanced by default, and switching to the “Dynamic” mode in the equalizer just makes everything a bit punchier. You won’t be blown away by the bass, but it’s not overpowering, either. You won’t be impressed by the clarity, but everything sounds very good and crisp. Galaxy Buds 2 just sound “good,” and that’s genuinely the best way to describe them.
One important note, though, is that Galaxy Buds 2 sound best when paired to a Galaxy smartphone. This is because Samsung uses custom codecs that only work on its devices. So if you were planning to pick these up to use with a Pixel, you’ll have all of the same features, but sound quality might take a hit. Similarly, iPhone users will also lack a bit on quality, but Samsung has also stopped supporting iPhones officially with these new buds, meaning a lot of features will be broken entirely.
That brings us to Active Noise Cancellation, hands-down the biggest selling point of these $150 headphones. You can pay a lot for very good noise cancellation, or you can pay a lot less for very “meh” noise cancellation. Galaxy Buds 2 again strike a good middle ground here. The ANC isn’t so wildly strong that it can drown out loud noise, but it can take the edge off a flight or silence a room where people are quietly talking so you can better concentrate. Samsung also has an “Ambient Mode” that uses microphones to pump sound from the outer world directly into your ears, and it’s actually pretty great. Even compared to other Samsung earbuds I’ve tried with the same feature, this might be one of the most convincing implementations I’ve tried, at least for ambient noises.
Speaking of the microphones, call quality was perfectly acceptable. The microphones aren’t amazing, but they filter out other noises, and callers said they could hear me just fine if I spoke up. Though, in one call, I was told that a sentence I said was “the most muffled thing” the caller had heard. The same was true of how I could hear them.
Hardware and case: no deal breakers here
Moving on to the hardware, it’s a similar story. There are no deal breakers here at all. The earbuds themselves are shaped like little beans and have a pastel look to the color. My unit came in a nice shade of lavender, and you can also pick black, white, and green colorways. Personally, I think the lavender is the best of the bunch.
The fit of each earbud may vary for you, but I found them very comfortable. The default eartip size did a good job of sealing out the world around me, though each earbud did slowly slide its way out over the course of an hour or so. I had to readjust on a regular basis, especially if I was walking around.
Then, there’s the case. The charging case Samsung is using here is virtually identical to the one on Galaxy Buds Pro and Live, and it still works great. The square shape leaves plenty of room for the two buds to neatly settle into their charging divots while the lid is easy to open and closes with a satisfying “thunk.” The case is white on the outside regardless of the color of your buds, but there is a small accent strip that matches the color of your buds.
The plastic construction is super glossy, but not in an unpleasant way. In fact, I actually prefer glossy finishes on earbuds because it makes it easier to clean them. The same applies to the case, but with the added benefit of making them easier to slide out of a pocket.
The only thing I found myself a little frustrated with while using the Galaxy Buds 2 were the touch controls. While the hardware is similar in shape and size to the Buds Pro, I found the touch controls just a bit pitty/finicky while using Buds 2.
Features: You get what you pay for
Samsung didn’t really sacrifice build quality, sound quality, or even ANC to get its price down, so what are you giving up to save $50 on the Galaxy Buds 2 compared to the Pro counterpart? Most of that story comes down to features.
The Galaxy Buds Pro pack some pretty excellent options in the features area, including 360-audio that tracks your head movements to simulate audio from videos and music as if you’re in a 3D space. Another feature I sorely missed from the Pro model was Voice Detect, which lowers the volume and turns off ANC when you start speaking to another person. Buds 2 lack both of these and more, but aren’t completely empty of additional software features.
Galaxy Buds 2 can read notifications aloud if you let them, activate Bixby for voice commands, perform an earbud fit test, and even automatically handoff their connection between your phone, smartwatch, and tablet – assuming they’re all from Samsung, at least.
Battery: Wireless charging appreciated as always
Samsung claims that Galaxy Buds 2 can get five hours of playback with ANC turned on and 7.5 hours with the feature turned off. This roughly aligns with what I’ve experienced during testing. Most sessions barely made a dent in the battery, but one session that lasted around 3 hours managed to drain the buds around 65% of the way with heavy ANC use and a lengthy phone call. I did manage to drain the case within a few days, too. Samsung rates the case at between 20 and 29 hours of playback (including the Buds batteries) and again, that roughly aligns with what I’m seeing.
Notably, these numbers are way lower than the Galaxy Buds Plus, which these earbuds replace. The Buds Plus could last a whopping 11 hours on a charge, granted without even offering ANC. It’s a shame to see, but I’d argue that the vast majority of customers just don’t need that much endurance for a single run. After all, charging in the case for just a few minutes provides hours of additional power.
The biggest perk I enjoyed with the battery life was wireless charging, which is a feature often left out around this price point. USB-C will always be faster, but the ability to just plop the case on a wireless charger and pick it up later, fully charged, is a fantastic perk.
Final thoughts: a worthy buy
At $149, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 just get the job done. They aren’t so expensive that they’re unreasonable for many folks, but they’re also not so cheap that Samsung is limited in designing the product. To me, I just view them as the Galaxy Buds Pro, but cheaper. They nail the basics and deliver on ANC, but with a 25% discount. If you see a sale for the Galaxy Buds Pro that brings the price down to $169, as is the case this week, I’d go for that instead, but you won’t be disappointed with the Buds 2, either.
Galaxy Buds 2 will be released on August 27 and pre-orders are open now.
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