We’re entering new territory in the walled garden earbud wars: To get the best sound quality from Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, you need to use them with your Samsung phone. It always gets this far. Between Apple’s AirPods, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, Google’s Pixel Buds, and other earbuds developed by companies with a deep interest in the smartphone world, we’ve seen plenty of convenience-focused features—one-touch setup, automatic Device switching, headsets – tracking spatial audio and more – incentivize consumers to match their headset brand with the phone in their pocket. The goal is to lock you into that ecosystem as you gradually upgrade one device and then permanently upgrade another.
But the $229 Buds 2 Pro are the first to offer great sound quality as a big exclusive. Connect them to any recent Samsung phone and you can stream “24-bit Hi-Fi Audio” wirelessly from Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, and other services that offer lossless and high-resolution music catalogs. Samsung claims this results in richer audio and a better listening experience.
I’ll dig into all of these later, but the important thing is that, thankfully, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are great earbuds no matter what phone you own. After more than a week of testing, I found them to be Samsung’s best-sounding and most comfortable headphones to date.
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The Buds 2 Pro are 15% smaller than the original Galaxy Buds Pro, and the earbuds and case now have a matte soft-touch coating. I prefer it to the glossy plastic: the shell doesn’t smudge, and the buds get caught more easily by the coating. The new earbuds are also lighter (now as low as 5.5 grams each) and have a larger vent on the outside to improve airflow and alleviate any unpleasant “clogged” feeling. In the days I’ve been using them so far, they’ve proven to be nothing but comfort and stay in my ears reliably. Battery life is completely unchanged from the previous model, promising 5 hours of listening time with ANC enabled and 8 hours with it off – plus another 18/28 for the charging case. That’s enough stamina for most situations, but nothing special in 2022. The Buds 2 Pro maintain the same IPX7 water resistance rating as its predecessor.
It’s quick to conclude that these earbuds have great sound. With AKG’s dual-driver design and tuning, they dwarf the AirPods Pro — not surprising given that Apple’s bud is nearly three years old. But they also outpace the department’s excellent Pixel Buds Pro and come closer to my favorite headphones like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3 and Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They are top-notch performers with a level of depth and detail unmatched by the big tech companies of their generation.
Hold Steady’s “Heavy Covenant” showcases their separation and clarity, providing plenty of breathing room for guitars, horns, and Craig Finn’s recognizable vocals. As a devout ’90s music fan, I jumped back to Counting Crows’ “Omaha,” and the Buds 2 Pro brought the warmth of an accordion and mandolin while giving the drums a natural kick. As Orville Peck’s “The Curse of the Blackened Eye” returns to modern life, I’m impressed by the expansive soundstage Samsung provides for these buds.
But is it really “high fidelity” sound? Over a week later, I’m still struggling with this issue. Samsung says its new seamless codec lets the Buds 2 Pro wirelessly stream 24-bit, 48kHz audio over Bluetooth. But the company is less transparent about the bitrate of that audio. For reference, Sony’s LDAC codec tops out at 990kbps, which is still below lossless CD quality.Samsung spokesman Jordan Guzman told edge With email, the Samsung Seamless codec can reach bitrates up to 2304kbps, which does allow for lossless, high-resolution sound.
This number makes me suspicious. This would be a huge leap over existing earbuds, and there’s nothing in the Android developer settings menu to confirm bitrate details – only the 24-bit/48kHz part. Higher quality streaming is available on any Galaxy smartphone running Android 8.0 and One UI 4.0 or higher (with 1.5GB RAM or higher).That is a lot of phone, this adds to my confusion about the bitrate and how Samsung could possibly reach 2304kbps. Hopefully there’s more to follow, but don’t get lost in the numbers: These earbuds do sound great as long as you have a good seal and twist them tightly. They’ll also support Bluetooth LE audio, although Samsung hasn’t specified what benefits this will bring.
Active noise cancellation is satisfactory. When you’re not playing any music, you hear what’s going on in the coffee shop; it’s a trade-off for those bigger vents and greater comfort. However, as soon as any audio is played, the background convincingly disappears, and you’re unlikely to notice any distractions—even at around 30 percent volume.Transparency mode works great, but still doesn’t work quite Just as natural as on AirPods Pro. I don’t know why it’s so hard for companies other than Apple to do this even now.
Samsung’s head-tracking spatial audio does what you’d expect, changing the soundscape as you turn left and right. I’m finding more and more that this is the type of feature that people love or hate. Personally, I still like to take advantage of 360-degree audio when watching video content, but I still don’t believe it’s going to be a game-changer for music. Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app (Android only) lets you customize the sound EQ, but noise cancellation can be turned on or off, and manual adjustments aren’t allowed.
Samsung still lags in some areas. Google has included multipoint Bluetooth connectivity on the Pixel Buds Pro, and the ability to pair with two devices at once is a huge plus. The best thing Samsung can do is automatically switch between Samsung-branded products, whether it’s a laptop, phone, tablet, smartwatch, or even a TV. Maybe it’s handy if you live in a Samsung world, but I don’t know of anyone who does, and it doesn’t offer the same multitasking convenience as proper multipoint.
Other ideas were blatantly copied. Samsung’s voice detection works much the same way as Sony headphones: when the earbuds detect that you’re speaking, they automatically go into transparency mode and lower the volume for a configurable amount of time, between 5 and 15 seconds. People who talk to themselves will want to avoid this. There are also some odd features, like the “neck stretch reminder,” which is off by default, uses earbuds to detect if you’re hunched over for 10 minutes due to poor posture. When this happens, a “stretch your neck” audio alert will sound. Finally I turned it on because I’m almost 38 – no more listless.
Samsung’s click controls can be overly sensitive at times, so you might pause a track while adjusting the earbuds. Surprisingly, there’s no auto-pause here, which means that if you take one of the Buds 2 Pro out of your ear, the tune or podcast will continue to play. It’s an odd omission for a $230 earbud, but I didn’t get too frustrated with it in practice.
As you heard in our latest news live streaming Microphone test, the Buds 2 Pro would not be my first choice for voice calls on a noisy ferry. But in more traditional everyday use cases, they get the job done. However, both Sony’s LinkBuds and Google’s Pixel Buds Pro surpass Samsung’s latest flagship earbuds in overall microphone quality.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are Samsung’s best wireless earbuds yet: the company has succeeded in sound quality, noise cancellation and comfort. They work at their best in Samsung’s ecosystem, but still work great on other Android devices. Some will be frustrated that high-fidelity audio is limited to Samsung’s own phones. But here’s a preview of where the tech industry could be headed: Apple’s next-generation AirPods Pro are rumored to support wireless Apple Lossless Playback on the iPhone. The gap between the tech giants is growing, even though Sony, Sennheiser, Jabra and others still offer great, platform-agnostic earbuds. Google’s Pixel Buds Pro are worth a closer look if you’re a multipoint fan, but the Buds 2 Pro represent Samsung’s top-of-the-line performance.
Chris Welch/The Verge Photography