The Korean Giants have a good track record when it comes to their smartphones – be it their S or the Note series, it sure does have a great impact in every market for being not just a premium smartphone but a smartphone everyone wants in their hands. But that isn’t quite the case with their True Wireless Earphones, as it always been a hit and a miss. The Galaxy Buds Live we reviewed last year did leave a sore taste for its flaws, which we said that it was a statement piece and nothing more. So, this year they went back to the drawing board, brought some of the elements to its new True Wireless Earbuds with the traditional design we all prefer and now carries the “Pro” moniker in its name – it’s the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Did these bring harmony to my ears?
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The Buds Pro comes in a rather similar color shade package as the S Series smartphone, that is in all-black. Inside the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, we find the True Wireless Earbuds in this Lavender color (Samsung calls it the Phantom Violet), different size ear tips, a USB-C charging cable and some paperwork including instruction on how to wear it in your ears.
Bringing the Goodness from the Buds Live
As I mentioned earlier, the Buds Pro comes in a rather similar package and in fact, it’s the same as the Buds Live. The Buds Pro comes in this square-ish package and once you flip it open, you can see the earbuds with the shiny texture on it. When you do notice the design cues, it does carry some of it from the Buds Live – the case but with a slight modification to fit the Buds Pro inside, the matte texture case, a glossy finish earbud with a matte inside that sits nicely in your ear canal. I am glad they brought the nice part of the Buds Live over with this and you know what I am most happy about?
Goodbye Bean Shape, Hello Traditional Earbuds
This is the best thing to ever happen – sure, the Bean Shape was utterly unique and brought a nice look to everyone’s ears as if it’s a piece of ornament, but that was it. The comfort wasn’t the best and after prolong use, it did hurt the ears. Bringing back the traditional earbuds is a smarter move as it sits really well in ears and gives a better seal to create a better immersion and sound quality. Not to forget, make all the features included work well. Only thing I wish Samsung included is a shark fin tip to hold it inside the ears especially while using it during workout.
Seamless Integration with Samsung Smartphones
Samsung revamping their UI is one of the best things to happen and that integrating with their hardware to form a perfect ecosystem is what I want to see from more manufacturers but for now, Samsung perfected it. The moment you take it out of the box and flip the case open, your phone shows that it has detected the Buds Pro and all you need to do is tap to connect. Voila, you are in and you can use it right away. Say if you do want to pair it with another phone, you can wear the earbuds, tap, and hold both the side for about 5 seconds, and it goes into this SONAR-like beep which indicates that its in pairing mode. Unfortunately, only Samsung users will be able to experience that Seamless integration but that’s an exclusive experience worth paying for – as they say, “Convenience comes with a price.”
A much Better Sound Quality Overall
Personally, I was happy to use the Buds Pro – since it uses a conventional design that sits inside of the ear well sealed creating better noise isolation, there won’t be sound leak nor any issues with loss of details. They sound good. Its an in-ear design so unfortunately if you do want the on-ear design, you have no choice but to resort to the Buds Live. The staging on the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has been improved with good amount of details and a rather balanced sound stating in its default EQ settings. There are high notes that tend to get a little overpowering, as for the other notes like the mids and lows, they are handled well. The bass on the Default EQ is decent and it does have a little more punch but when you tweak it to bass boost, it takes it a little further.
Voice Detect and ANC Works better (2 updates later, that is)
These Galaxy Buds Pro carries the ANC feature from the Live and it actually works a lot better since its sealed off very well. That said, in the initial testing right outside the box, the balance of the ANC with left and right ear wasn’t quite well positioned but after two updates later, Samsung fixed the issue right away and it had a good experience. You can toggle to ambient mode where you can listen to your surroundings and tweak it according to how loud you want it to be, but the Buds Pro does some software noise suppression whenever it picks up a louder noise outside through the microphones.
Voice Detect is a cool feature where the earbuds detect the moment you talk, it will switch to ambient mode to hear others. This feature works with a slight delay as sometimes when you talk after uttering about 2-3 words later, it then triggers it and when the other person tries to talk to you, the earbuds stay in the ambient mode only for a little while and switches back to either “off” mode or ANC.
Equalizer needs fixing and 360 Audio needs work
Samsung’s audio customizability goes only to a certain extent. The Equalizer has minimal room for users to tweak those drivers according to their liking and you are pretty much left with the presets made available – personally, I feel setting it to Bass Boost does it well and it offers the kind of listening experience general consumers would want. The bass is subtle rather than being intense, so worry not. But having the options to tweak the EQ would have been nice.
A lot of audio manufacturers have been dabbling in this 360-audio experience to bring real live experience right in front of you. Samsung’s approach is a little different from the rest. It uses both software and hardware – once you enable it, the earphone’s gyroscope sensor detects the movement of your head and positions the audio accordingly. It works okay but only with certain type of music. We used Tidal HiFi and Spotify to try it out. When it comes to Tidal, they have their very on 360 experience but since the Buds Pro aren’t certified for that, it doesn’t work. But instead, the Samsung Gear uses its own 360 audio and creates a staging of its own. It works but it doesn’t work well all the time, and when you shift a lot, you will notice an imbalance.
The Touch Control: Responsive or Too Sensitive? Your pick
In the past, Samsung’s Touch control wasn’t the best – especially one that I vividly remember is the Gear Icon X which was a long time ago. Since then, Samsung did improve little by little, to what it is now. The touch control works extremely well to a point even a slight rub on the earbuds triggers the command. So, it is much more sensitive, but you can block the touch control via the app whenever you try to clean them or even wear them to avoid that unnecessary accidental touches. But it could use the sensors on the inside to detect if its in the ear or not to disable the touch control automatically, which would be cool and practical – given that it already detects if only one earbud or both is in use and triggers the ANC accordingly.
Let’s give credit where its due: Samsung is learning. Everyone made those trial and errors to make a good product that sits on the pedestal proudly. Samsung’s past attempt leading up to the very moment and to this Buds Pro has been nothing but a journey where they discovered what works and what doesn’t. Right now, they have got few things right – the design, which is universally acceptable, sound quality one can enjoy, ANC that works and a decent battery life. Some of the minor issues can be fixed with a software update but if you are wondering, should you purchase the Galaxy Buds Pro to go along with your existing Samsung ecosystem? Yes, it’s a better buy than the Live.
But if you are using a different Android smartphone, remember – there will be some features missing like 360 audio but if that’s alright with you, well then go ahead. For me, well, let’s just say that this Galaxy Buds Pro is going to be my second go-to True Wireless anyone will be able to find in my trusty Crumpler Messenger backpack heading to gym and in-city commute.
Special thanks to Samsung Malaysia for making this review happen by providing us the Galaxy Buds Pro.