Hands-On with Samsung Galaxy Buds

Posted on August 20, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android, Music + Videos, Wearables with 23 Comments

Introduced this past spring, Galaxy Buds are Samsung’s take on Apple’s AirPods, a pair of “true” wireless earbuds. I ordered a pair ahead of the arrival of my Galaxy Note 10, which is expected on Friday. Consider this my first tepid step back into the Samsung Galaxy ecosystem.

I’ve never used “true” wireless earbuds, which are so named because each is separate from, and is charged separately from, the other. What I have been using, most recently, is Apple’s previous-generation PowerBeats 3, which are “wireless earphones” that are connected to each other via a cord.

That cord has value. You can charge the pair as a single unit. And, more important to me, since I have been using them at the gym, you pretty much can’t lose them. The cord, combined with each earphone’s earhook, ensures that.

So, the lack of a cord on true wireless earbuds has been concerning to me. But my daughter reports that she’s never lost one of her AirPods, though she has oddly lost the charging case that came with them. (She is a teenager; I’ll just chalk it up to that. And don’t worry, she found it after I purchased a new one.) And Brad and Mehedi, both of whom are AirPod users, have likewise never lost any of their AirPods.

Anyway, the Galaxy Buds arrive in a package that is as small and high-quality as anything you’d get from Apple, and I assume that’s the point. The hardware itself is also very nice: The Buds themselves and the nice wireless charging case that they ship in are both of very high quality. (The case holds a charge and can charge the Buds even when it’s not plugged in, via USB-C. When it is plugged in, it will charge the Buds as well as itself.)

Because everyone has different ear sizes and shapes ears, Samsung also includes two additional sets of rubbery ear tips (in small and large sizes; a medium set is preinstalled on Buds) and wingtips. This is customer-centric and more than a little bit obvious. But it’s something that Apple does not provide with AirPods because, you know, God forbid everything is not neat and tidy. If they don’t fit in your ears, tough.

Like the OnePlus Bullets Wireless earphones, the Galaxy Buds don’t have any obvious on/off switch, and because there’s no cord, there are no inline audio controls as you see on other headphones. This meant that there would be a bit of user education ahead. Time to RTFM, Paul.

As it turns out, most modern Galaxy handsets should automatically sense the Buds when they’re nearby and in the case, which must be open. I’ll test that when the Note 10 arrives. For now, I’m testing the Buds with my Google Pixel 3a XL instead, so I had to install a Galaxy Wearable app from the Google Play Store. That app detected the Buds and I was up and running pretty quickly.

The app also helps you use and configure the Buds. It provides an animated overview of the various taps you can perform on the touchpad on each Bud. For example, you can tap once to toggle Play/Pause, double-tap to play the next track or answer or end a phone call, and triple-tap to play the previous track. You can also press and hold to decline a call and, for media playback experiences, create a custom command.

That the app required an update on first run, and one that occurred outside of the Google Play Store, is a bit alarming. I trust Samsung, I guess. But that’s rather odd. (Perhaps Samsung handles this through its own store on its own devices. But still.)

The Buds also support an ambient sound feature, which is important because they block out a pretty good chunk of outside sound, even if you’re not playing any audio. (It’s basically passive noise canceling since the Buds completely block your ear canal.) You enable this in the app, of course. And … it can be a little weird, especially if you want to use the Buds indoor, working. But this is crucial if you’re going to go out in the world, especially in busy city locations.

You can also enable a dynamic equalizer setting, which I’m told will improve the sound. That’s the problem with earbuds, of course: The speakers are so small that the sound quality isn’t always great. I don’t have any AirPods experience to compare with, but my first impression of the sound quality was … eh. It sounded OK, but not as good as the other headphones I’ve used recently. Switching to dynamic in the equalizer dial really helped, however. In fact, now they sound fantastic with both music and spoken word (podcast/audiobook).

Samsung says that the Galaxy Buds are good for 13 hours of battery life, but I believe they’re including the 6 additional hours of charge you’ll get from the case, for a real-world battery life total of 7 hours. We’ll see. But charging time is, of course, an issue: Here, Samsung says that 15 minutes of wireless charging will result in 1.7 hours of playback time.

OK, I’m off on a walk to see how the Buds perform outside. And then I’ll start bringing them to the gym this week, and will of course pair them with the Note 10 when that handset arrives. More soon, if required.

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Hands-On with Samsung Galaxy Buds”

  1. Daninbusiness

    Interested in how they actually sound for you! Hopefully okay; wonder how well they compare (sound-wise) to default wired buds.

  2. Nick Vlittas

    I enjoy my buds as well but the sound is disappointing compared to the Bose Sound Sports also truly wireless. The icon X the previous model had better sound quality but less features. Still a quality bud for every day use and podcast or audio book listening but they fall short in sound quality even with the equalizer tuned. Just to comment on them cutting out I have not experienced that .... Maybe update them???

  3. Alodar101

    I got my Buds in the spring when they released. I have never been a Samsung fan, but the Note 9 changed that. excited to get into the system, I soon bought the S10+, and yes, before you ask, the Note 10+ is due here tomorrow. During all the devices over a short period of time, the Galaxy buds have worked, simply and easily. They are comfortable and easy to control. The centralized app, makes maintenance and customization very easy. With that said though, so do the airpods. They are as easy to use and as comfortable. Though you lose some configuration for using them on NON apple devices, they are still work and feel well.

    So why the Buds?

    If you work within the Samsung system, they take advantage of the samsung integration....just like airpods in the apple system. But, with the S10 systems and above, you can charge your buds on the same charger as your phone...be it wireless or cable. In addtion, the powershare feature is in play.

    In my book, I rate the Buds the same as the airpods. I returned the Jabras....not in the same ballpark as these 2. Because of the powershare feature, I grab the buds when I'll be away from home for an extended period of time.

  4. rmlounsbury

    I got a pair of the Galaxy Buds with my S10 purchase earlier this year and I've been generally happy with them. The do have connectivity issues; mostly when in my pocket and I'm bending over or doing something that must be covering the antenna on the phone.

    Otherwise I've been satisfied with their battery life and overall sound quality. I've tried different tips but ultimately they end up making my ear sore since they do site in the ear canal. However, I'd rather have that and a generally snug fit vs. the AirPods which feel like they will fall out if I move too aggressively or get a solid breeze behind me.

  5. Chris_Kez

    Your daughter is not alone in misplacing her Airbuds charging case. I routinely find myself scrambling to locate mine as well. I wish I could ping the case as with the buds themselves, and that the case could be located through the Find My... app. This seems like an obvious upgrade for a future version.

  6. Chris_Kez

    Paul, when you get your Note 10 you will be able to customize the sound based on your own hearing profile via Samsung's "Adapt Sound" feature, which Leo mentioned recently on one of his shows. It is buried in Setttings>Sounds & Vibrations>Advanced>Sound Quality and Effects>Adapt Sound. Let us know how this affects the buds (or other headphones).

  7. wolters

    Great article Paul. I'm anxious to see what you think. I have review units of the Surface Headphones, Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9, and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. I prefer over the ear because they are so much more comfortable even if they are bulky. I really do like the Surface Headphones as they are quite well rounded in features vs sound quality. But not knowing where Cortana will go, I tend to lean toward the B&O and the Bose since they have Google Assistant and I use Google Play Music / YouTube Music primarily.

    Ear buds have never felt comfortable to me but I've been interested in the Galaxy Buds, especially since I may give the Note 10 another try...I like the wireless charging option off the back of the Note 10 for the buds and my Galaxy Watch.

  8. bassoprofundo

    "That the app required an update on first run..."

    It's the Buds themselves that required the update (as shown in the screenshot). I've had them since launch, and they've issued several updates around sound quality and connectivity. They just call it "software" instead of firmware.

  9. wunderbar

    I've had these since launch, and i use them literally every single day. They've quickly replaced several pairs of headphones I used as my day to day headphones. I still use my really good headphones a lot, but the versatility of the galaxy buds is great. I love the fact that I can just pop in one or the other and listen to podcasts with one ear bud while at my desk at work, and not miss any outside sounds.

  10. ivarh

    I got a pair with mt S10+ preorder and i soon discovered 2 problems with them. One huge and one small but irritating one. The huge is that my ears does not like something stuck inside them. They become to painful to wear after a while. My AirPods do not have this problem since they dont insert into the ear canal. This is a personal problem and it might not be a problem for other people. The other problem is that they seem to loose connection partially a few times an hour causing short bursts of noice. I'ts kind of hard to describe but if it happens to your set you will understand what i mean.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to ivarh:

      I do understand. In fact, I was going to update the article about that very topic.

      On a 45 minute walk over rough terrain, the left Bud trilled a low sound about 20 times. I thought it was notifications at first, so I turned those off completely. Then I realized it was the movement: Even though the Bud(s) were always firmly connected---which is good---the left one kept signaling that one had become disconnected (incorrectly).

      This was, to put it simply, maddening. I don't mind not having the Buds for walks, I already use a nice pair of Google Pixel USB-C earbuds for walks. But if these don't work at the gym, that will be a showstopper. I'm guessing that gym usage will trigger fewer sounds. Unless of course these things are just broken.

      Depressing start, basically.

      • Cdorf

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I've had them since launch-- that is my biggest complaint is the cutout. I can do yard work with them sometimes with the phone in my pocket if I squat down to pull weeds or something it will interrupt the signal. At first I thought it was Spotify, then i realized it was happening while listening to your smooth silky baritone on Pocketcasts...

        Sometimes resetting the bluetooth helps, but I find myself wondering why I didnt' just wire up.

        • lankyguy

          In reply to Cdorf:

          I've had the earbuds for a few months and really like them. I believe this issue is related to bluetooth power. I find that if I have my phone in my back pocket, the signal cuts out, but if I have in my front pocket, it seems to work fine. I'm wondering if my body is blocking the signal. I've had the same problem as Cdorf when working in the yard and my body gets between the phone and earbuds.

  11. GeekWithKids

    I love my Galaxy buds, I wasn't sure about them but they came with my pre-order of the S10.

    They sound pretty good to me but I mostly listen to audiobooks

    I use them every day and have only had a few hiccups in the last 6 months. Easily the best bluetooth headphones I've used.

  12. briantlewis

    For me, they're better earbuds for the gym than AirPods because they have noise cancelling and isolation (and my gym can get pretty obnoxious with the HIIT pop music blaring.) The buds are terrible for phone calls ironically because of the isolation. Music quality is really good on the S10 (seemingly better than on the iPhone).

  13. jayclawson

    I have been using the Samsung buds all summer and found them to be perfect for my usage. I use them primarily for listening to podcasts and music while working in my yard, taking walks and on long bicycle rides ( I usually ride 150 miles a week). I find the ambient noise isolation to be an important feature, since noise from wind and traffic would otherwise require higher and unsafe volume levels. I have tried several other buds and was unable to achieve a proper fit. The Samsung buds have by far provided the best fit. I was descending a hill on my bike at about 35 MPH when the left ear bud fell out and bounced down the road (at the time I was still experimenting with the ear tips for the best fit). Except for a few scratches on the plastic, the bud still works perfectly months later.