- Interesting and Refreshing Design
- Integration with Samsung Smartphone is impressive
- Open Type earbuds, which some prefer
- Good Battery Life
- Scalable Codec limited to Samsung and other users are stuck with SBC and AAC
- Underwhelming Sound Quality
- Absolutely no Sound Isolation
- Active Noise Cancellation is non-existent
- Not so Justifiable Price Tag
We have reviewed one too many audio products and its something that we are proud of. That said, Samsung has been putting out some impressive audio product under the Galaxy name and it has been living up to its name so far – we had the Buds which was their first attempt in True Wireless earbuds, then we had the Buds+, an improvement from the buds. And then, they announced a new True Wireless earbuds and no its not a replacement to the Buds+ as it targets a totally different user base. It’s the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. After using it for more than a week and here’s what we feel about these earbuds – honestly, we have mixed feeling with this.
Watch our YouTube Review
Look and Feel
If there’s one thing that would get anyone excited about the Buds Live, it’s the design. After seeing countless similar applesque designs from various brands, surprisingly from brands that claims, “dare to leap”, Samsung took their buds back to the drawing board to give it a completely different look. The moment you look at the earpieces, you can’t help it but to realize they look like magical beans from the fables. Its refreshing, looks great and nice to look at, knowing that it has a DNA of its own.
While the case does come in this matte finish of sorts, the earbuds themselves have a glossy finish which I am not a fan of – and we got the Mystic Bronze finish. Its shiny and looks like an ornament more than a headphone. It carries more of a fashion statement to the product, which is going to be a love hate relationship for some. The magnets on the earbuds aren’t the strongest, and chances are you will drop it at least once. So, be incredibly careful with them and make sure to close the case properly once you have stored it in.
This is where it got very subjective because what I was curious about is this: how does it fit, and does it fit well? So, what I did was, bring it with me and let my friends try the Buds live. After most of my friends tried the Buds Live, here’s what we came up with. 8 out of 10 users weren’t able to get the true wireless earbuds in a comfortable position, not because it was hard to wear them (we made them watch the video on how to wear it, by the way), but because they couldn’t either fit it into their ears properly or they developed some sort of pain in their ear wearing it for a little longer. Most of them, preferred their go to True wireless earbuds: the Sony WF-1000XM3, Audio Technica TWS and some even liked their Buds+ better.
This is where, we answer the question on why the Buds Live design is an absolute miss and why the ANC design doesn’t make any sense. So, watch the video below for that. Other than that, the touch sensor on both ends of the earbuds are super sensitive and responsive. The Microphone on the Buds Live sounds alright, an improvement over the Buds. Battery life is okay with 5 hours off the case and totaling about roughly 20 hours without the ANC turned on.
Overall, the earbuds have the capacity to produce a well-balanced audio quality and it is consistent on both the earpiece with no drop in quality or connectivity with the phone itself. The earbuds take complete advantage of the Scalable Codec which is exclusive to Samsung and if you do try to pair them with some other phone, which we did – to my personal daily driver, ROG Phone, you are stuck with SBC and AAC. Apple users will be able to experience it in AAC so that’s a nice touch. Now the sound quality varies accordingly to the type of songs you listen to. So, we tried with the following.
Forgive Me by Chloe X Halle. Good presence of vocal, punchy bass even with normal configuration. Loss of details in the lows and the staging of the song is a little affected. There is sound leak.
Gotta Be by The Holdup. Bass is strong, vocals are sharp, the staging/dynamic feel is affected, instrument is good, but the background noise does play a role in not being able to listen to the song properly. ANC on – marginal improvement on the lows.
Often by The Weeknd. Has a little bit more dynamic presence but the bass is a little hard hitting than subtle. Vocals in the song is a little echoey but with the earbuds there’s a loss in the finer detail with the vocal. ANC had no effect on the song.
Overall, the Galaxy Buds Live does have some common issues to begin with and this is what we noticed: Sound leak which is due to the whole open design, ANC offers little to no improvement and the experience of the songs itself is average at best due to the loss of certain details. Now this goes back to open backed headphones, and those headphones generally don’t have a good seal thus providing sound leak if you plan to use it outside and there will be loss of details. The same concept applies here too – since it is a true wireless earbuds and there isn’t a seal that goes into the canal, it then leaks sound when you set it to the maximum volume in a loud environment.
Lack of Good Codec Support
It saddens me that the Scalable Codec which honestly, isn’t the best but still has the potential to give something is an exclusive to Samsung smartphones only. Which means getting stuck with an SBC codec for an expensive pair of earbuds is just absurd. Even if you do force the phone to run on AAC which you can by the way, it only offers marginal improvement. Not just that, features like Gaming Mode is also available only on Samsung devices and as for the rest – it’s a big fat nopesville.
Active Noise Cancelling: Where is it?
Samsung was extremely proud of the fact that their Buds Live has Active Noise Cancelling and thing is – it just doesn’t work very well. It does cancel out the lowest hums, but you can still hear the Coffee Machine, people talking around and other noises when you sit at your local Starbucks Coffee writing an article like this one. Let alone, if you do turn it on, it has a weird feeling where the noise is cancelled and not cancelled at the same time giving it an eerie feeling. You can check out our video where we spoke about why the Galaxy Buds Live with ANC doesn’t make any sense.
Is the Buds Live, a replacement to Buds+?
No it isn’t. One may think that just because the Buds Live is a lot more pricier and seem like the successor to the Buds+, to us, it really isn’t. Because these are two different True Wireless Earbuds with different features and price tag to it. While the Buds+ right now does look like a step down from the Live, personally – I feel the Buds+ does certain things a lot better than you’d expect.
Sure, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are truly a unique looking True Wireless earbud and for all I know the only different looking open-designed True Wireless earbuds out there. It sounds okay but if you were to ask me to justify the RM700 price tag that it carries, it falls short. For one, what was marketed as an Active Noise Cancelling True Wireless earbuds, fails to offer a good experience in that department and a design that’s meant for “perfect ears” makes it even harder for me to recommend.
From both an audiophile and a normal user point of view, I am sorry Samsung, I am not going to recommend the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. But if all you need is that seamless integration with your Samsung Smartphone and have that one whole ecosystem, by all means. Although going with the Buds+ is a better idea. There’s isn’t ANC but it does have a good Noise Isolation. But if ANC is what you need, don’t. Go for the Sony WF-1000XM3, which as of right now is the same price as the Buds Live or even lower than that. Or check out the Jabra Elite 75t which has a good sound quality overall.
Special Thanks to Samsung Malaysia for providing us the Galaxy Buds Live for this content happen.