Samsung is increasing the number of True Wireless headphones and the latest are the Galaxy Buds Pro. Focusing on active noise reduction as well as intelligent use, this new product impresses with its quality and finishes.
It has now become a tradition at Samsung. With each new line of smartphones, a pair of True Wireless headphones is announced. The manufacturer has released four models since 2019: the Galaxy Buds, the Galaxy Buds + accompanying the S20, the Galaxy Buds Live with the Note 20 and now Galaxy Buds Pro with the S21. This new model brings some interesting innovations to the range. The design has been revised (we say goodbye to the bean shape of the Live) and we note the presence of active noise reduction. In addition, Samsung promises smart sound management with automatic volume down when you speak.
A product that makes you want to. Now remains to be seen if Samsung turns the test and if the Galaxy Buds Pro are pleasant both in sound and in use. Does the Korean firm offer a serious alternative to Apple’s AirPods, the example to follow in the market?
Pricing and availability
Galaxy Buds Pro are already available. They can be purchased on the Samsung website or from partner resellers. They were released at the same time as the Galaxy S21, S21 + and S21 Ultra, that is to say on January 29, 2021.
The product is sold on the Samsung website at the price of 229 euros, which clearly places it in the top-of-the-range category in its segment. For comparison, Apple’s AirPods Pro are priced at $ 279 and Galaxy Buds Live at $ 199.
On paper, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro have it all. The headphones are 6 grams each and store away in a 45 gram tin. In terms of autonomy, we can count on a battery of 61 mAh for each headset and 472 mAh for the case.
Everything connects via Bluetooth 5.0. Each earbud has three built-in mics which, we’ll see, work wonders, and a tactile surface for quick control. For the rest, we note the presence of a USB Type-C port (with cable provided) on the case, but also a proximity sensor and an accelerometer within the headphones. These are IPX7 certified, therefore water resistant, which means they’re not at all shy if you use them for jogging in the rain or accidentally drop them in the water.
Read also – OnePlus Buds Z review: practical headphones, but disappointing sound
A wise design, but effective
With its Galaxy Buds Live, Samsung had tried the “bean” form. This Pro model comes down to a more classic in-ear format with a silicone tip that fits into the ear canal. The Korean brand also offers three different sizes of eartips in its packaging, which should reassure those afraid of having an earpiece too big for their small ear (or vice versa). Both headphones adopt an ovoid shape and leave nothing sticking out when placed in the ear. We notice a shiny material on the products, it is the tactile surface which allows quick orders (we will come back to this later). We also see microphones and on the inside, the magnets to wedge them in the case.
The polycarbonate case adopts a square shape and once opened, we notice the two locations for the headphones (not interchangeable). It has two LEDs, one inside and one outside, which provide information on the battery level or the connection status. At a glance, we know roughly how much time we have left. Its small size also allows it to be slip easily into a pocket or bag and it will not accidentally open there, the valve being held by magnets. Magnets are also present at the location of the headphones, to help you put them back easily. Ideal if you are on the street and are afraid of dropping them when putting them away.
Featuring a simple design, the case is available in several colors. Black (like our test copy), but also lavender and silver. It uses the colors of the Galaxy S21 line. Last detail, there is a USB Type-C port on the back for charging (a compatible cable is provided in the box, but no charger). Ultimately, Samsung gets straight to the point with its design and that is not to displease us. As usual with the brand, the smallest details are worked out to the extreme and while these Buds Pro are not surprising in their appearance, they are very practical to use.
The question of comfort was our big unknown for this test. We were indeed a little dubious when we saw the size of the ear cups. Our doubts were quickly dispelled once we brought them to our ears. Well wedged because it adapts perfectly to the shape of the pavilion, the headphones do not move one iota, even during sudden movements, such as when you are running. Only downside, they lack the sockets to remove them, but you get used to it very quickly.
What’s more, they are very comfortable, even completely painless, to the point that you forget their existence. In our test, we set the headphones to “Surrounding sound” (more on this later) with music. Once Spotify cut, we continued to wear them without realizing it for an hour, so they know how to be forgotten. On this point, Samsung has done an excellent job.
We pointed out above that the headphones have a tactile surface. Very practical, it allows you to interact with your music. Tap once and you pause it, twice to skip to the next track. Hold down for three seconds and you change the listening mode (by default, this command is customizable through the app). Press both earbuds at the same time for a few seconds to connect them to a new device. It is quite possible to deactivate this touch mode in the application so as not to do anything wrong, such as when you just want to readjust the headphones in your ears. Again, everything is working fine and we have no complaints.
An impeccable software part
Galaxy Buds Pro connect to your devices via Bluetooth. If you have an iPhone, then it will be quite possible to use it even though the Buds app does not support the product. On Android, Samsung wants to go further by offering different settings via its Galaxy Wear app. You can go tamper with the equalizer or even adjust the game mode. It also allows you to place Widgets on your home screen to display the battery or the listening mode currently activated.
This app offers three listening modes that you can adjust on the fly. The first allows you to deactivate the effects, you will then have “inert” headphones which only play music. The second is active noise reduction. This technology already exists on other devices, such as headsets, but is entering the Galaxy Buds line. This mode completely isolates the user sounds that can surround it. If we are not logically at the level of ultra high-end headphones, the Buds Pro are still extremely effective in this segment. It is also possible to adjust the intensity of the active noise reduction whether you want to completely isolate yourself or not. In this mode, with music on even at low volumes, you won’t hear anyone talking within a yard of you.
The third mode is the activation of the surrounding sound. Thanks to the microphone located on the outer surface, the headphones transcribe the sounds around you directly into your ears. Everything off, it almost feels like you’re not wearing them. Almost, since the sound is still “artificial”, such as a hearing aid, for example. Once the music is played, the user remains aware of the universe around him. In the street, he hears cars or conversations near him. A very practical thing to prevent dangers in the city. This technology impresses and above all works very well. Again, hard to fault these Buds Pro for anything.
These three modes are coupled with another major software innovation: voice detection. When you are speaking or someone is speaking to you, the music will automatically turn off. More so, the Buds go into “surrounding sound” mode if we’re not there. Everything returns to normal when you don’t speak for a few seconds. Really valuable technology that works well. No need to mute your music and take off the headphones when you go to the supermarket checkout, for example. You will hear your interlocutor perfectly even with music. Of course, it is possible to deactivate this functionality in the application.
Galaxy Wear also makes it easy to locate headphones. If they’re out of the box and you don’t know where you put them, just ring them to find them. A bird song will then be emitted at maximum volume in the Buds. In a quiet environment, you can easily get your hands on it. Finally, Samsung took care of the convergence of Buds with its other Galaxy products. They can be connected simultaneously to several of the brand’s latest high-end terminals. For example, you can juggle your Galaxy Tab S7 or Z Fold 2 easily. On other terminals, you will have to go through the application, which does not take more than a few seconds.
You can of course connect your Buds to your PC if it is equipped with Bluetooth. They’re surprisingly good at games, and can be used as a back-up listening device if you run out of headphones, even for vocal multiplayer games. On Discord, during our Valheim sessions, our playmates absolutely didn’t see the difference in our voice between a headset and the Buds (and neither did we). As the Wear app is obviously not on Windows, you will need to use the touch controls to switch from one mode to the other.
Perfectly balanced sound
For this price (230 euros), we expect to have comfortable and practical headphones, but also and above all, quality sound. Here, it is a near fault on the part of Samsung. We have headphones that deliver a balanced sound that will adapt to all genres. We will still note a certain aggressiveness in the bass that is felt a bit on metal or electro tracks, but nothing too maddening. On this point we remain in the field of detail. We welcome good power (which works wonders with active noise cancellation), excellent stereo, good crosstalk and above all clear vocals. The Galaxy Buds Pro perfectly transcribe the stamps and are therefore ideal for watching YouTube videos or series, in addition to phone conversations.
In hands-free kit mode, Buds also prove their effectiveness. The person you are talking to will clearly hear your voice and will not see any difference to a “classic” conversation. However, we regret some random crackling that can interfere with your calls. This happened to us twice during our fortnight of testing and we were able to eliminate them by removing the headphones and putting them back on.
Correct autonomy, but nothing more
The battery life is a bit the weak point of these Buds Pro. Not that she’s mediocre, but she just isn’t as great as the rest of the board. Each earbud has a small 61mAh battery. With active noise reduction, we noticed a range that oscillates between four and five hours before you need to charge the headphones in the case. With the surrounding sound, the results are roughly the same, but we still get closer to the four hours than the five. It is possible to save an hour by disabling all software effects.
The case allows you to charge your headphones twice from 0 to 100%, so this gives us autonomy ranging from 12 to 18 hours depending on the modes chosen. It remains respectable, but we would have liked a little more. The case recharges itself completely in just over an hour.