Samsung's new Galaxy Buds Live are the best from the company yet. Our initial hiccups with range proved to be just that and we were more or less sold on them right out of the gate. If anything, they've gotten better over time. It's hard to imagine life without them, now.
They say that first impressions last but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you get a phone that seems great initially, but the battery doesn’t last for the whole day. Perhaps you go on a date and then later find out they like pineapple on pizza. Maybe it’s a new job that seems great but they won’t pay you unless you turn up every day. It’s always something, right?
Which brings us to Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live in-ear headphones, which left us with a very favourable impression when we first got them out of the box. After using them for nearly two weeks, what have Samsung’s newest ‘buds done to make that first impression a true one?
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
One thing they haven’t done at all is change shape. They’re still in a sturdy lozenge-shaped charging case, which’ll wirelessly top up your buds if you happen to have a charge pad (and it’ll go faster if you connect a USB-C cable). The buds themselves are still shaped like cute little beans moulded from high-quality plastic. There’s a little foot on one end of the buds to keep them in your ears and there’s a spare set in the box in case you somehow lose one.
The buds are well designed for sitting in your ear-holes for extended periods. The smooth plastic doesn’t jam into your ear tight enough to cause that sweaty, gunky feeling and the speaker grilles in the bit that fits in your ear are perfectly positioned to deliver excellent sound right to your eardrums. Nothing we encountered over time lessened our opinion of the Galaxy Buds Live at all — if anything, they’ve gotten better in our estimation. They’ve displaced all our other in-ears for the time being.
The Galaxy Buds Live have a claimed uptime of six hours between charges, with a possible total of 22 hours on a single full charge (buds + case). That’s not far off from our real-world testing. We didn’t sit with a stopwatch at all but got more than five hours of the buds in a single session. Odds are they’ll return to the case more often than we sent them back and Samsung’s top-up is speedy. Five minutes in the case’ll net you another hour (from empty), so it’s quite possible to go the entire day without running out of battery. Just… stick them in the case while you make your coffee or something.
22 hours isn’t fantastic, as buds go — there are larger case batteries out there but they’re not packing Samsung’s fantastic buds. Beyond the numbers, though, the charge in these earbuds is good enough that we often forgot they needed charging. Samsung frequently had to notify us that they required topping up via an actual charger. But that’s because we were far too busy just being immersed in audio.
Sounds like a good time
Is that first impression of the Buds Live as easy on the ears? Yeah, that never went away. Comfort wasn’t the only reason these headphones took over everyday listening duties. The Galaxy Buds+ are decent enough but they’re officially obsolete. Our Jabra Elite 85H cans are also excellent but they were also retired for the duration of the review — Samsung’s buds are better multifunction headphones. Excellent for online meetings and voice calls alike, they pipe audio directly into your ears and ensuring you never miss a thing (unless, like Brad Lang, you mumble absolutely everything). For pure audio we’d stick with the Jabra 85Hs’ (better noise cancelling, there) but when switching roles throughout a workday, Samsung’s buds are a winner.
We absolutely love how they handle music. The other stuff, like crystal clear mics, noise cancelling, a comfortable fit and lengthy battery life, is all decent enough when taken alone but the way the Buds Live make our usual playlists sound… that’s enough to tie the R4,000 price point together for us. Yes, dedicated audiophile headphones will sound better but for wireless in-ears, Samsung holds up its end with aplomb. Clear across the board, no matter which sub-genre of heavy metal we threw at them, with mids and highs distinctly separate and without an overbearing bass (unless you explicitly want it — there’s a setting for that), the audio experience is the best thing about these buds.
You might recall we did have one complaint when setting the Galaxy Buds Live up initially — that’d be: range, or lack thereof. That issue’s cleared right up. Whether that means Samsung’s finished using the Galaxy Buds Live to map the walls of our test environment or just that the update we were expecting came through while we were asleep, we noted a gradual lessening of range dropout until the expected 10 metres is now standard.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Verdict
Samsung gives Galaxy Note 20 pre-orders a R4,000 voucher to spend on the new Samsung Online Store in South Africa (until 23 August, anyways) — which is just enough to get you a set of Galaxy Buds Live. If you’re buying the phone anyway, we’d definitely suggest spending the funds on a set of these. And if you’re just looking for a new set of wireless in-ears, these are Samsung’s best efforts yet. Sony might have them beat in terms of pure audio with the WF-1000XM3s (and their upcoming successors) but they’re a pricier proposition. If you’ve got a Samsung smartphone, these are a great bet — particularly in a work-from-home environment where you want multi-role buds you can wear all day that also sound great.