Anton D. Nagy contributed to this Galaxy Buds 2 review article.
These are Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds2 and put simply, they’re a very interesting update to the original Galaxy Buds which were pretty affordable. They might just be one of the best alternatives to Apple’s regular AirPods, but, if looked at in a vacuum.
See, even if AirPods remain the most popular earbuds you’ll see on the street, they never were the best value. They had a terrible fit, no noise canceling, no water resistance, and well. they’re nearly 5 years old… At their price, any pair of earbuds that can offer more for the same price will look better. This would be the case for these Buds 2 if 2021 hadn’t changed everything.
Now we have Nothing’s Ear (1s) and Amazon’s Echo Buds 2 offering essentials like Active Noise Canceling and water resistance for a lot less money, which takes me back to the point about looking at these Galaxy Buds 2 in a vacuum. They do make AirPods look bad, but the question is if they’re good enough to stand against the rest, or if they even have to.
I think the main reason why I make a basic comparison to Apple’s regular AirPods, is because they are the perfect example of a bad product that became popular because of its ecosystem. The difference is that the Galaxy Buds 2 are a very good product, and if you are on Samsung’s ecosystem, they’re kind of a no-brainer.
Like the first generation, pairing them the first time is a simple open the case for them to be detected, and the Galaxy Wearable app becomes your place to control how their features work. I do find it kind of cumbersome to not have these controls easily accessible but there is a widget on Android for quick access. Also, pairing with your other Samsung products is not really automatic it seems, but once you do, switching between them is. To pair with a second or third product, tap and hold both earbuds for a couple of seconds at the same time.
Their plastic build looks a lot more like the Buds Pro, but I’d give these more points for the feel. Given their slimmer footprint, I am more comfortable for prolonged periods of time. If what you liked about AirPods is that you could forget them in your ears, I think Galaxy Buds 2 does a better job cause they’ll do so without falling off thanks to the silicone tips that are interchangeable. I do wish they had the wing option their predecessors included for a workout, but given their IPX2 rating, I’m not exactly sure they’ll survive the amount of sweat I produce. If you’re considering them for a workout, I’d go for the Pros if I were you.
That said, they resemble the Pros a lot more than their predecessors, and not just in looks. For starters, they bring the same case, meaning they pass the coin pocket test, for whenever the weather allows jeans again. They do come in 4 colors, with white being my favorite, but I also like that the case remains white and glossy on the outside, ensuring it’ll age better than my sad experience with the Pro case over time.
The Buds 2 bring 3 mics: two for beamforming, an inner mic, and a voice pick-up unit. This allows it to use a machined learning approach to voice calls, which were pretty good in my testing, with callers liking the results even in noisy New York. (Try audio test). They also bring really good Active Noise Cancellation for their price. I had a chance to test them against the Buds Pro and even Apple’s AirPods Pro on a flight recently, and the results were almost as good. If anything I’d say they provide less suction than AirPods Pro, which in turn means better comfort. Now they aren’t as good when it comes to Ambient mode as they lack the vents that make the Buds Pro and AirPods Pro famous. I would give them a second-best as you get three different levels of it to choose from, even if some go at the expense of feeling natural. There’s even a fit test on the app for you to figure your best combo.
Sound is an interesting thing to consider. They’re Bluetooth 5.2 with support for Samsung’s Scalable proprietary codec along with AAC and SBC. You’ve got a woofer and a tweeter on each side, and since there are so many ways to ensure you have the right seal, audio quality is pretty great. I’d say they do a better job than most in the highs, and balance the lows enough to not rumble in your ear. In a word, they’re pretty crisp, but through the app, you can modify this behavior to your heart’s content.
Now another thing I wished they brought from the Buds+ is their battery life. Those were just legendary at 10+ hours, but I understand larger drivers will take a hit. In my testing I did get the 5 hours advertised, so they are on par with the Buds Pro, but not enough for a 6-hour transcontinental flight. Turning ANC off will give you up to 7.5 hours, but if that’s not your jam, the case will give you up to 3 charges, and the 5 minutes you’ll take to go to the bathroom will give you that extra hour of a charge you need to end the flight. To recharge the case, USB-C or Qi are all supported.
And then another thing I’m mixed about is the touch controls. Yes, capacitive controls are better than pushing buttons into your ears, but be prepared to get those controls wrong at least 3 out of 10 times, which only gets worse if your hands are wet.
That said, something cool is that even if the Samsung ecosystem is a selling point, you’re not forced to stick to it. They work fine with other phones, and even on a Galaxy, you can call on your voice service of choice, be that Amazon’s service, Bixby for the proud few, or the Google Assistant. Given their crisp output, I actually find myself using them mostly for listening to Audio Books.
To conclude, I think calling the Galaxy Buds2 an evolution to the Buds+ would be a huge understatement. They don’t really replace the Galaxy Buds Pro but provide the right amount of everything for you to not need to pay extra. It’s as if Samsung is not afraid to cannibalize its own product if it’s discovered new technologies that are ready to put on the market.
In a vacuum where all you have are Galaxy Buds or AirPods, this would be my top pick right now. The problem is that you and I know they’re not alone. I think Amazon’s Echo Buds in particular are just too good for the money, but their ecosystem doesn’t include other Samsung products as well as it includes other Amazon products.
Given how Samsung’s ecosystem has matured over the past 3 years, I’d say the Galaxy Buds2 would be my top pick right now. They stand well on their own and play well with other Samsung or even Android products better than most. If you’re in the market for a new pair of buds, I have no problem recommending that you give these a try.