At this point, Samsung has a lot of experience making true wireless earbuds. While the company flexed its design muscle early on with the Galaxy Buds lineup, it hasn’t always nailed the details. It quickly recovered with its second iteration, the Galaxy Buds+, and since then Samsung has continued to refine its aesthetics, improve sound quality and add practical features. It even found time for a polarizing open model with the Galaxy Buds Live.
While the Live legumes were the first Samsung headphones to include active noise cancellation (ANC), the open design made the feature ineffective. With the Galaxy Buds Pro debuting early last year, the company finally delivered true ANC, but there was room for improvement in terms of noise blocking and overall audio quality. Now Samsung is back with version 2.0 of its flagship earbuds, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($230). Not only is this set smaller and more comfortable, it shows off the massive gains the company has made over the last year and a half. However, the most attractive features are reserved for the Samsung faithful.
- great sound
- best fit
- Enhanced ANC
- Samsung Exclusive Features
- Battery duration
- call quality
- Touch controls make adjustment adjustments difficult
Overall, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have a similar design to last year’s Buds Pro, but there are a few notable changes. First, this new model is 15% smaller than the 2021 version, which means they fit better in the ear and are more comfortable for longer periods of time. Additionally, Samsung added a vent inside each earbud to help relieve pressure. Of course, the small stature means that they fit very snugly in the ear, leaving very little protruding from the side of the head. It’s a design that Samsung embraced early on for its earphones, and subsequent models have remained satisfyingly slim.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro have a soft-touch matte coating where the Galaxy Buds Pro were a shiny affair. I prefer the former because it is more pleasant to the touch and is not a magnet for fingerprints. However, it doesn’t necessarily offer more grip and neither surface impacted touch controls. The included charging case for the Buds 2 Pro is covered in the same matte finish, so it’s also pleasant to the touch. Like the Buds Pro, this model is IPX7-rated, which will allow you to submerge the earbuds in up to three feet of “fresh water” for up to 30 minutes, according to Samsung.
Touch controls are mirrored on both earbuds for the most part. There’s a single tap to play/pause, double tap to go forward, triple tap to go back, and a customizable tap-and-hold gesture. That long press can be used to toggle noise controls (ANC/Ambient, ANC/Off, or Ambient/Off) or to summon Bixby, activate Spotify, or control volume (bottom left, top right) . If you don’t want to sacrifice some of those other features for volume, there’s an additional Labs option that will let you double-tap the front edge of the earcups to adjust audio levels.
It’s a bit tricky to get the hang of, but I didn’t have any serious issues with edge-tapping once I got the hang of it. The real annoyance with touch controls comes when you’re trying to adjust the fit of the headphones. The Buds 2 Pro fit well, but as is the case with all true wireless models, you need to regularly reposition them in your ears. Due to the sensitivity of those touchpads and the small size of the buttons, it’s easy to mis-touch when you’re just trying to reset. It happened often enough to become very frustrating over the last two weeks.
Software and features
Like previous Samsung earbuds, all Galaxy Buds 2 Pro features and settings can be accessed through the Galaxy Wearable app on Android devices. Unfortunately, the company remains consistent with recent models by not offering an iOS version. Samsung used to have onr, which made its buttons a great option for both operating systems, but that hasn’t been the case for a while now. You can still use the headphones with Apple gear, but you’ll lose some of the coolest features by doing so.
Within the app, you’ll get battery percentages for both the earbuds and the case on top. The main screen also gives you access to noise controls, so you can see which mode is active (ANC, off or ambient sound) and make changes with the software if necessary. Just below that are options to enable/disable Voice Detect, 360 audio, touch controls, and find lost headphones. Voice Detect is Samsung’s new feature that can tell when you’re talking and automatically turn on ambient sound while lowering the audio volume for quick conversations.
By default, the tool will return to normal levels 10 seconds after you stop talking, but you can also set that time to five or 15 seconds. During my tests, Voice Detect worked just fine, and it doesn’t seem to be as easily fooled by coughing as Sony’s version of the feature. It also continues to work when connected to my MacBook Pro, not just a Samsung or Android device. However, I prefer Sony’s method of completely pausing the audio rather than simply lowering the volume with its Speak-to-Chat tool. So while it’s useful, Samsung’s co-option of Sony’s feature isn’t as nice to use despite its more accurate voice detection.
Gallery: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review | 12 photos
Gallery: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review | 12 photos
The Galaxy Wearables app also offers more detailed settings like equalizer presets, a headphone fit test, read notifications, hands-free Bixby, ambient sound during calls, in-ear detection for calls, seamless connection with select Samsung devices, neck stretch reminders and labs. features. There is a lot of packaging in this software. It’s all pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll point out that a second Labs tool is a game mode designed to minimize latency.
There is also an Accessibility section that allows you to adjust the left/right balance. Here, you can also choose to keep ANC active when you remove an earbud (Buds 2 Pro turns it off by default), and you can adjust the volume and pitch of ambient sound for your listening. Some assistance with amplifying ambient audio isn’t new to headphones, but it’s nice that Samsung offers a degree of customization here.
One item that is still in the works is LE Audio. Samsung mentioned this during its recent event, explaining that the feature will allow you to capture 360 ambient sounds while you’re streaming or recording. For example, if you are broadcasting live. Not many details were shared, other than that the feature is coming later this year. The Buds 2 Pro will also support Bluetooth LE, the next-generation wireless audio standard that’s on the way after first being introduced in 2020.
Samsung’s in-ear headphones have never impressed me much with sound quality. They have ranged from very good to good, but never really great. Well, for the first time, the company has wowed this jaded headphone reviewer. The Buds 2 Pro pack plenty of bass punch with a pleasingly open sound that’s full and full of detail and clarity. The bottom end is also deep and nuanced, not just a heavy dose of thunderous boom.
Many headphones offer balanced sound with good bass. What separates the great from the good is often in the subtle details that can be difficult to replicate for something so small. Samsung does this with a combination of a 10mm woofer for the bass and a 5.3mm tweeter for the treble to come through. Across a variety of genres, that setup allows for stellar clarity and depth, keeping songs layered and involving rather than compressed and messy. Amanda Shires’ voice, for example, seems to float over the top of every song throughout her latest album. Take it like a man.
A big part of the improved audio quality is 24-bit/48kHz Hi-Fi sound processing. Samsung’s new Seamless Codec (SSC) allows 256 times more sound data to be transmitted from your device to the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. In the previous model, 24-bit audio was converted to 16-bit when it reached the earbuds. Going into the Android developer settings, it was confirmed that the 24bit/48kHz was indeed coming from the Galaxy S21 FE 5G that I used to test the Buds 2 Pro, but there is no mention of the bitrate. That number would be an indication of overall quality.