If you're loving living in Samsung's ecosystem, then these are the earbuds to buy. Our only complaint is about the fit and size -- they're not quite as comfortable as the Buds Live, but the Buds Pro are packing considerably more inside their little plastic shells.
Samsung magically turned out a bunch of awesome audio tech (starting at about the same time they bought an awesome audio company — funny that), eventually culminating in this: Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro.
The company’s newest in-ears are a fair chunk more expensive than the range’s immediate predecessors, the Galaxy Buds Live, are. Does Samsung offer enough to make you switch up to (kinda) the same thing in a slightly different format? Read on to find out.
The best of Buds?
Until you uncrate them from the identically-sized lozenge-shaped case, the Buds Pro look a whole lot like their predecessors. But that’s only the case with the case’s outer design. Pop the case open and you’ll mark a whole different interior configuration. The buds are tucked into a deeper recess in front, which swoops up towards the rear of the case — probably to contain the battery you’ll be using for top-ups. It’s still as neat an arrangement as ever.
The buds themselves are larger, bulging into a trumpet or shell-like shape that sticks out of your ear when you’ve poked the softened tips into your ear-canals. They’re comfortable, but not quite as comfy as the bean-shaped Buds Live. The Galaxy Buds Pro are, in our case, a little top-heavy and tend to twist out of place. This means occasional discomfort, and the sensation that they’re about to fall out. Samsung’s beans felt a whole lot more secure.
But that’s where the Buds Live’s dominance ends. The Galaxy Buds Pro feel better, in terms of build, with a better-textured plastic making up most of its construction. The buds also feature active noise cancelling, a feature that Samsung is still tweaking, as well as the company’s great Ambient Mode that lets sounds in when you’re out and about — so you don’t get wiped out by an unexpected pile of logs collapsing on you. That always happens in movies and video games.
Noise cancelling is all right. It could be better but we’ve never liked to work in total isolation. The most recent firmware update dropped as we were writing this review and we’re fiddling with it now — if there are any substantial changes we’ll update this section and, if needed, the review score. But you’re never going to block out the world the way you would with a solid set of over-ears. Not gonna happen, but Samsung does a good enough job here.
Audio performance, though, is splendid. Clarity is bright enough at the mid and high points, never devolving into muddy sound. There’s plenty of bass, which makes itself felt without being overpowering. Unless that’s your thing — the Samsung Wearable app has several equaliser profiles you might want to check out. The Dynamic setting offers good responsiveness, serving up a fuller sound than you might experience otherwise.
You can get better audio, if we’re honest, but you’re not likely to get it from a set of smartphone-specific earbuds and certainly not at this price point. But you’ll get the best results from a Samsung smartphone — we’re sure this is intentional. The Galaxy Buds Pro are just a little better tuned for these devices. And if you’re using them on a device that can’t access the Samsung Wearable app, then you’ll consider the Galaxy Buds Pro rather conventional in-ears.
Our feature presentation
But they’re not conventional, in the right hands. Samsung’s included SmartThings Find, which would let you track down your buds if you ever lose them in your home. It’s much better than the foot-detection method, where you’re waiting for a crunch underfoot.
Active noise cancelling includes a Voice Detect option, that switches the Buds from ANC to Ambient modes if voices are detected. It’s not so sensitive that a video playing on a nearby laptop will set it off but say a few words and audio is muted for about ten seconds. Long enough to have a conversation, but also annoying if you forget it’s enabled and mutter to yourself while you’re working.
And then there’s the waterproofing. Most ‘buds feature an IPX4 rating, including the Buds Pro’s immediate predecessors. Samsung’s one-upped all of the competition by packing in an IPX7 rating. They’ll survive a dunking in about a metre of water for 30 minutes. Technically, you can shower with them in, but that’s not something we did for this review. Mostly because we don’t do music in the shower.
In terms of the battery, you’re looking at five hours on a charge, maybe a little more with active noise cancelling turned off. There’s another fifteen hours or so in the case, but you’ll burn through it pretty quickly without noticing the time pass — but that’s because you’re wrapped up in an auditory world of your own, for the most part.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Verdict
At R4,000, Samsung’s Buds Pro aren’t exactly cheap. But you’re getting what you pay for — these wireless in-ears offer excellent audio, a significant amount of battery life and speedy charging within the case. The introduction of a new software update this week improved the Pro’s active noise cancelling capabilities and audio quality with regards to music playback is as excellent as ever.
Samsung’s made a significant design change for this iteration, however. We prefer the smaller bean-like shape of the Galaxy Buds Live — the Buds Pro are a little too bulky to get really comfortable and they still feel prone to shifting, something the Buds Live almost never do. But there’s a better waterproof rating here and the audio is undeniably good. If, that is, you’re using these on an Android smartphone — preferably a Samsung device.