Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: The best wireless earbuds for Galaxy phone fans

Advantages

  • Very comfortable
  • Active noise cancellation is excellent
  • Deep integration with Samsung devices

The inconvenients

  • Battery life has been hit or miss
  • Ambient mode is good, not great
  • Deep integration with Samsung devices

Earlier this month Samsung has announced a handful of new devicesall should start arriving on August 26th. There are new Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy ZFlip 4 smartphone, the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Proand Galaxy Buds 2 Pro wireless headphones. Shortly after the event ended, I received a test sample of the Buds 2 Pro.

I’ve been using them for a week as much as possible, listening to music and watching a few YouTube videos on a Z Flip 4. So far, the Buds 2 Pro deliver on the promise of premium wireless earbuds. , with one exception.

Features

Microphones 3 in each earbud
Speaker Custom 2-way coaxial speaker
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.3
Battery life with ANC 5 hours of playtime, 18 hours total with case
Battery life with ANC disabled 8 hours of playtime, 29 hours total with case
Characteristic: Active noise cancellation, ambient mode, 360 audio, voice detection
Colors Bora Purple, Graphite, White
Water and sweat resistance IPX7
Price $229

Comfort is key

After a week of use, including two flights across the country, I can say that the Buds 2 Pro may be the most comfortable wireless headphones I’ve ever worn. I was able to use the default medium-sized ear tips that come fitted to the headphones. There are small and large tips included in the box, along with a USB-C to USB-C charging cable.

Comparing the Buds 2 Pro to the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro, Samsung’s headphones have a unique shape. There’s the tip of the ear, then a small bump that fits my ear nicely, with a larger area on the outside that houses the touchpad.

Exam: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: Lighter, brighter and friendlier

I was able to wear them for several hours at a time without having to take a break because my ears hurt or felt uncomfortable. I also don’t feel like the Buds 2 Pro are going to fall out of my ears. Maybe that’s because they feel a lot lighter than the Pixel Buds Pro. Each Buds 2 Pro buds weigh 5.5 grams, while the Pixel Buds Pro buds weigh 6.2 grams each. It’s not much, but I can feel the difference (to be clear, I didn’t look at the weight before I started writing this, so it’s not a placebo effect).

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and a closed Galaxy Z Flip phone

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Pro sound quality and features

The Buds 2 Pro have all the basic features that now come with the Pro nomenclature for wireless headphones. That means fast pairing, active noise cancellation (ANC) to block out background noise, and some form of ambient or transparency mode that lets background noise through. All of these features work as expected and are on par with the AirPods Pro or Pixel Buds Pro.

The ANC is strong enough to block out my very noisy mechanical keyboard and office air conditioner when it’s running, and made a huge difference when walking through an airport and during the flight. The ANC wasn’t strong enough to block out the constant hum of the planes’ engines, but I didn’t hear the captain’s announcements or the stewardess asking me what I wanted to drink. Ambient mode lets a lot of sound through, but I found it was only really useful if I turned the music volume down almost completely. Otherwise, I couldn’t hear what was being said during announcements, for example.

The Buds 2 Pro also have a voice detection feature that turns on Ambient Mode and lowers the volume of whatever you’re listening to once it detects you’re speaking. The assumption is that you are talking to someone and adjusting the sound will allow you to hear the person better. After 10 seconds during which the headphones no longer detect your voice, the sound settings return to their previous state.

In a few quick tests, I found the voice detection to work well. It’s quick to respond when I start speaking and lowers the volume enough that I can hear someone across the room. You can customize the timeout from 10 seconds to 5 or 15 seconds, but not longer than that. I originally thought 15 seconds was too short for a window, but after using Voice Detect to talk to different people throughout my trip, I think 15 seconds is about as long as you’d want headphones to wait you speak again. I ordered food and even spoke to the gate attendant without removing the headphones, and didn’t miss a thing. It’s a damn cool feature.

Samsung has also added 360 Audio to the Buds 2 Pro. It’s a feature similar to Apple’s Spatial Audio that creates the effect of being surrounded by the music you’re listening to or the video you’re watching. Samsung’s 360 Audio isn’t as aggressive as Spatial Audio, but there were times when I forgot 360 Audio was on and turned my head and heard different distinguished instruments.

Voice Detect and 360 Audio are features you need to enable in the Wearable app – they aren’t enabled by default.

When it comes to sound quality, Samsung has added 24-bit Hi-Fi audio to the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, but you need an audio source or streaming service that also supports 24-bit Hi-Fi . I don’t have access to either, so I can only speak to the standard audio experience. As with ANC and Ambient Mode, the sound quality of the Buds 2 Pro is on par with other premium wireless earbuds.

Battery life is one area that fell short of expectations. When using them at home or even in the office, where you often take a break every few hours and the headphones end up in the charging case, the battery life is excellent. However, on the way to New York, I was only able to get three hours of constant use – with ANC on – before the headphones both died. On the way back, I disabled voice detection and 360 Audio in case it caused a battery drain and was able to get four hours of use. No listening session exceeded the 5 hours quoted by Samsung which would not be possible when ANC is activated.

The charging case replenishes the headphones quickly, so I was only without them for a short time, but I was hoping the headphones would last on the long flight from Colorado to New York.

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro case, closed

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

I enabled automatic switching, but…

One of the benefits of using the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with a Galaxy phone, tablet, computer, and even a Samsung smart TV is that you can easily switch between devices without having to pair and fix the buds when you change device. All you have to do is start playing something on another Samsung device and the headphones will switch instantly. The caveat here is that you need to be signed in to both devices with the same Samsung account.

For most of the week I couldn’t get this feature to work. I originally set up and paired the Buds 2 Pro with the Galaxy Z Flip 4, and logged into the only Samsung account I have. On a few occasions I was listening to music on the Z Flip 4 and then trying to start streaming music or watching a YouTube video on my personal Z Fold 3 or Galaxy Z Fold 4 review model, and not once. the audio switch.

Then today, as I started to update this review, I decided to try it one more time. This time I put the Buds 2 Pro back in the charging case and left them open next to the Z Fold 4. I then opened the Bluetooth connections menu on the Fold 4 to see if the Buds 2 Pro were listed as a paired device. But instead of seeing the Buds 2 Pro listed in the paired devices section, I saw a “Music Sharing” section with the Buds 2 Pro as an option. I tapped on it, and a few seconds later the message told me it was connected through my phone number. So I started playing music on the Z Flip 4 with the Buds 2 Pro, then started playing something else on the Z Fold 4 a minute later – and it worked.

I have no idea if this is how the setup process is supposed to work; it certainly wasn’t obvious or straightforward, but if you’re having trouble, it’s something to check out.

You can use the Buds 2 Pro with non-Samsung devices by pairing them via the traditional Bluetooth method. You need to place both earbuds in the charging case and then long press both touchpads until the status light starts flashing red, green and blue.

The Buds 2 Pro don’t support multipoint connections like the Pixel Buds Pro do. This means the Buds 2 Pro can only stay connected to one device at a time. If you want to switch from, say, a MacBook Pro to your Galaxy phone, you’ll need to unlock the phone, open the Settings app, go to Connections, then Bluetooth, and select Headphones.

For anyone with multiple devices made by multiple companies, this is a cumbersome and inconvenient process. And that’s a shame.

To be fair, Apple AirPods Pro (and the rest of the AirPods line) work the same when used with non-Apple devices. However, automatic switching between Apple devices is seamless.

At the end of the line

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are hands down the most comfortable wireless earbuds I’ve ever worn. I can, and have, worn them for several hours without ever feeling any discomfort or like they were going to fall off at any moment. The headphones sound fantastic and the ANC feature blocks out just about anything you would want. The ambient mode leaves a bit to be desired, and when the auto-switch works, it’s great.

After a lot of internal back and forth, I think the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are the best wireless earbuds for someone who is grounded in the Samsung Galaxy ecosystem. The headphones provide an AirPod-like experience for Galaxy users, but once you try to venture beyond Galaxy devices, that same experience starts to break down. For those who have a non-Samsung Android phone, I think the Pixel Buds Pro offer a better experience when it comes to switching between devices and are slightly more affordable.

About Geraldine Higgins

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