We are entering new territory in the fenced garden earphone war – to get the best sound quality from Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, you need to use them with a Samsung phone. It would always come to this. Between Apple’s AirPods, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, Google’s Pixel Buds, and other headsets developed by companies with a deep-rooted interest in the world of smartphones, we’ve already seen many convenience-oriented features: one-touch setup, automatic device change. , test – space audio tracking and others – that incentivize consumers to match their brand of gems with the phone in their pocket. The goal is to lock yourself into that ecosystem as you gradually upgrade one device and then the other in perpetuity.
But the $ 229 Buds 2 Pro are the first to reproduce superior sound quality like the great exclusive. Connect them to any recent Samsung phone and you can wirelessly stream “24-bit hi-fi audio” from services like Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz and others that offer lossless, high-resolution music catalogs. Samsung claims that this results in substantially richer audio and a better listening experience from where things were before.
I’ll delve into all of this later, but the important thing is that the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, thankfully, are great earbuds no matter what type of phone you have. In more than a week of testing, I found they are the best sounding and most comfortable Samsung gems ever.
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The Buds 2 Pro are 15% smaller than the original Galaxy Buds Pro and both the earbuds and case now have a soft-touch matte coating. I prefer it to glossy plastic – the case stays smudge-free and the gems are easier to grip with the coating. The new earbuds are also lighter (now down to 5.5 grams per earbud) and have a larger vent on the outside for better airflow and to mitigate any unpleasant “plug” feeling. They have proved nothing but comfortable in the days I have used them so far and have stayed reliably in my ears. Battery life is completely unchanged from the previous model, promising five hours of listening with ANC enabled and eight with it off, plus another 18/28 via the charging case. It’s adequate resistance for most situations, but nothing special in 2022. The Buds 2 Pro retain the same IPX7 water resistance rating as their predecessors.
It doesn’t take long to conclude that these earbuds sound great. With a dual-driver design and tuning by AKG, they eclipse the AirPods Pro by a country mile, it’s no surprise as Apple’s buds are approaching three years. But they also outperform the excellent Pixel Buds Pro in this department and are more in line with my favorite earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3 and Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They are supreme artists with a level of depth and detail that their great contemporaries of technology cannot match.
Hold Steady’s “Heavy Covenant” demonstrates their separation and clarity, giving guitars, horns and Craig Finn’s recognizable voice plenty of room to breathe. As a devoted fan of ’90s music, I went back to Counting Crows’ “Omaha” and the Buds 2 Pro enhanced the warmth of the accordion and mandolin by giving the drums a natural kick. Returning to modern life with Orville Peck’s “The Curse of the Blackened Eye”, I was struck by the wide soundstage that Samsung has given these gems.
But is it true “hi-fi” sound? After more than a week, I’m still trying to find out. Samsung says its new Seamless codec allows the Buds 2 Pro to stream 24-bit, 48kHz audio over Bluetooth. But the company has been less transparent about the bitrate of that audio. For reference, Sony’s LDAC codec reaches around 990 kbps, which is still not up to par with lossless CD quality. Samsung spokesman Jordan Guthmann said so The border via email that Samsung Seamless Codec can reach a bitrate of up to 2304 kbps, which would actually work with lossless high-resolution sound.
That number makes me skeptical. That would be a monumental leap over existing earbuds, and there’s nothing in the Android developer settings menu that confirms the bitrate details – just the 24-bit / 48kHz part. Higher quality streaming works with any Galaxy smartphone running Android 8.0 and One UI 4.0 or later (with 1.5GB of RAM or higher). That is A lot of phones, which adds to my confusion about bitrate and how Samsung could reach 2304 kbps. More will follow, hopefully, but don’t get lost in the numbers – these earbuds sound really great, as long as you have a good seal and turn them comfortably. They will also support Bluetooth LE Audio across the board, although Samsung hasn’t specified what benefits it will bring.
Active noise cancellation is satisfactory. When you are not listening to music, you will hear what is going on in a bar; that’s the trade-off for those larger air intakes and extended comfort. But once the audio plays, the background fades convincingly and distractions are unlikely to be noticed, even with the volume around 30 percent. Transparency mode works fine but not yet rather natural sounding like on the AirPods Pro. I don’t know why it’s so hard for companies other than Apple to get it right now.
Samsung’s head-sensing spatial audio does what you’d expect, shifting the soundscape as you turn from side to side. I am finding more and more that this is a “love or hate” type function for people. Personally, I still like to take advantage of 360 ° audio when watching video content, but I’m not convinced it’s any kind of change for music. Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app (available only for Android) allows you to customize the sound equalization, but noise cancellation is on or off with no manual adjustments allowed.
Samsung is still lagging behind in some categories. Google has included multi-point Bluetooth connectivity on the Pixel Buds Pro, and the ability to pair with two devices at the same time is a huge plus. The best Samsung can do is automatically switch between a Samsung-branded product, be it laptops, phones, tablets, smartwatches, or even TVs. Maybe it’s convenient if you live up to your neck in the Samsung world, but I don’t know anyone who does and it can’t provide the same multitasking convenience as a true multipoint.
Other ideas are blatantly copied. Samsung’s Voice Detect feature works much the same as it does on Sony headphones: when the earbuds detect that you are speaking, they automatically enter transparency mode and lower the volume for a configurable amount of time, ranging from five to 15 seconds. The self-mutters will want to avoid this. And then there are the weird features, like the default-off “neck stretch reminders” that use the earbuds to detect if you’ve been hunched over with poor posture for 10 minutes. When this happens, a voice sounds with an audio alert “it’s time to stretch your neck”. In the end I left it on, as I’m about to be 38, no longer extravagant.
Samsung’s touch controls can be a bit too sensitive at times, so you might pause a track when adjusting a headset. Surprisingly, there’s no automatic pause here, meaning songs or podcasts will continue playing if you remove one of the Buds 2 Pro’s from your ears. This is an odd omission for the $ 230 earbuds, but not one that I’ve been too frustrated with in practice.
As you can hear in our latest Vergecast microphone test, Buds 2 Pro wouldn’t be my first choice for voice calls aboard a noisy ferry. But in more traditional everyday use cases, they do their job. However, Sony’s LinkBuds and Google’s Pixel Buds Pro both outperform Samsung’s latest flagship earphones with overall microphone quality.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are Samsung’s best wireless earbuds ever – the company has found a winning formula in terms of sound quality, noise cancellation and comfort. They perform at their best when operating in the Samsung ecosystem, but are still very good with other Android devices. Some will find it frustrating that hi-fi audio is limited to Samsung phones. But this is a preview of where the tech industry is likely headed: Apple’s upcoming AirPods Pro are rumored to support Apple Lossless wireless playback on iPhone. The walls are climbing higher and higher among tech’s biggest players, although there are still great platform-independent headsets available from Sony, Sennheiser, Jabra, and others. Google’s Pixel Buds Pro is worth checking out if you’re a big multipoint advocate, but the Buds 2 Pro represents Samsung in great shape.
Photograph by Chris Welch / The Verge