The true-wireless headphone segment is undeniably booming. The disappearance of the headphone jack in most smartphones, coupled with the fashion started by Apple’s AirPods, has made sales of these products soar in the last four years.
Samsung, like many other technology companies, has been trying to gain a foothold in that market for several years. And, in a way, they have been successful. According to data published by Counterpoint Research, the South Korean company was the third manufacturer with the largest market share during the third quarter of 2020, surpassing historically known companies in the audio field such as Bose or Sony. In his catalog, however, a more advanced proposal from a technical point of view was missing. Or what is the same: a product focused on the Galaxy ecosystem but capable of competing with Sony’s WF-1000XM3 or Apple’s AirPods Pro.
The new Galaxy Buds Pro, presented together with the Galaxy S21 family, hit stores with that mission. They have active noise cancellation, an appropriate isolation system, and new surround audio technology. In addition, they integrate seamlessly into the Samsung ecosystem and are waterproof (IPX7).
On paper, the proposal is quite interesting. But how are they in practice? Are they up to par with headphones like the Sony WF-1000XM3 or the AirPods Pro?
A less fancy, but effective design
Galaxy Buds Pro with AirPods Pro.
The Galaxy Buds Live, presented together with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, attracted a lot of attention due to its peculiar design – similar to that of a bean. With the Galaxy Buds Pro, however, the situation is completely opposite. This time, Samsung has opted for a more traditional way and close to that of previous models.
Headphones, in general, they are well built and small in size, which helps them go more unnoticed when you wear them. The box, on the other hand, is quite small, something super important considering that they will reside in our pocket on a recurring basis. And, like the headphones, this one is also well finished.
If you are super meticulous with the design you may notice that some details of the box are a little better resolved in the AirPods Pro or in the Google Pixel Buds. I mean, I insist, super minor things – like the firmness of the hinge or the interior design – that for most people probably go unnoticed.
Once placed in the ear, the experience with the Galaxy Buds Pro is quite positive. Of course: it is essential that, when using them for the first time, we take a few minutes to choose the appropriate pad size. Otherwise, the insulation may not be as effective, the headphones may fall out of our ears, or we may even feel discomfort after using them for a while.
Once that previous step is completed, I have to admit that the Galaxy Buds Pro stay quite well in the ear. And, after using them for several hours, I have not felt discomfort or fatigue in my ears, which is super important in an in-ear headphones like these. In this regard, therefore, one could say that Samsung has done a good job.
How do the Galaxy Buds Pro sound? How does the noise cancellation work?
One of the things that differentiates these Galaxy Buds Pro from other Samsung headphones is the inclusion of an active noise cancellation system. And yes, the Galaxy Buds Live also had this technology, but, by not isolating the auditory pavilion using pads, its impact was practically zero. So I think that even though technically not so, we can grant ourselves the license to describe the Buds Pro as Samsung’s first noise-canceling headphones.
On the effectiveness of the cancellation system, the South Korean company has given some supposedly relevant data. However, the important thing is that these headphones effectively cancel or reduce outside sounds quite effectively. You put them on, turn on noise-cancellation mode, and in less than a second, the outside world subsides in your ears.
Compared to the Sony WF-1000XM3 or the AirPods Pro, I think Samsung’s cancellation system is slightly behind both, but, despite this, I have been satisfied with its operation. I’d like to have tested its effectiveness on an airplane – one of the most common use cases – but, you know, we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
The Galaxy Buds Pro, like other competitive headphones, offer an ambient mode that captures sounds from outside and allows them to reach the interior of the ear even if we are wearing headphones. This mode is especially useful in many situations. For example, if we have to talk to someone on the street or we want to be attentive to what is happening around us while we walk.
Galaxy Buds Pro with the WF-1000XM3 and the AirPods Pro.
To activate the ambient mode, just use the touch panels of one of the two headphones. We can also do it from the Galaxy Wearable application, where, in addition, it is possible to regulate its intensity. In fact, it is even possible amplify outside sounds above reality.
It is also possible to configure the Galaxy Buds Pro so that activate the ambient mode automatically when they detect that we are talking. In this case, yes, it is a temporary activation. If the conversation does not continue, the headset automatically returns to cancel mode after a few seconds.
The ambient mode of the Galaxy Buds Pro, in general, works as expected, including temporary voice activation. You can hear other people and interact normally without wanting to remove your headphones instantly, so they effectively deliver what they promised. Mind you: the experience is not as natural as with the AirPods Pro, which also have an ambient sound mode. With Apple headphones, the experience is like wearing nothing in your ears. With those of Samsung, on the other hand, you do notice that the audio, despite being heard well, has been processed.
When it comes to sound, Samsung has taken a step forward from previous models. Buds Pro sound pretty good no matter what genre of music you play. In the Galaxy Wearable application, you can also choose between different equalization parameters depending on your preferences (more intense bass, a more dynamic sound, etc.).
Samsung, as in other headphones, too has implemented the scalable codec in the Galaxy Buds Pro. This, according to the company, dynamically adapts the bitrate to avoid possible interferences that cause interruptions in the signal. And, in my experience, it seems to work as expected, as at no point have I suffered cuts while listening to music with them.
With regard to autonomy, Samsung claims that these headphones are capable of offering about 5 hours of use with active noise cancellation. And to this we must add 18 more hours thanks to the recharges provided by the case. Figures that, approximately, are met in practice and that place the Galaxy Buds Pro in the middle of its segment.
Shoring up the ecosystem
The goal of the Galaxy Buds Pro, although Samsung may not have publicly acknowledged it, is become the best option for the brand’s clients –In the same way that AirPods Pro are for Apple users–. It is no surprise, therefore, that although the Buds Pro can be used with other devices, some features are only compatible with Galaxy smartphones.
One of them is the Audio 360, a new surround sound system that monitors head movements. This feature, for example, can only be used if the Buds Pro are paired with a Galaxy smartphone or tablet running One UI 3.1. Right now, only the Galaxy S21 has this version, but the list is expected to grow soon.
Something similar also happens with auto switch function, which alternates between the different Galaxy devices that we have automatically. For example: if we are watching a movie on a Galaxy Tab with the Buds Pro and, suddenly, we receive a call, the headphones will immediately connect to the smartphone to be able to answer it.
All these additions, although secondary, improve the experience of using the product and differentiate this proposal from other more “generic” ones. It is one of the advantages of controlling and intertwining an entire ecosystem of products.
Are the Galaxy Buds Pro worth it?
The Galaxy Buds Pro are available in three colors.
In general, Galaxy Buds Pro they sound good, they have effective noise cancellation, the box takes up very little space, and they are comfortable. They can also be recharged wirelessly and integrate with the Galaxy ecosystem like no other headset.
Evidently, competing products outperform these Buds Pro in certain areas. But what’s really interesting about Samsung’s new headphones is their balance. They may not stand out in every way, but they don’t disappoint in any way. And if you add to that the practicality of their size and how well they understand each other with the Galaxy products, the result is a product that convinces and satisfies.
The article We tested the Galaxy Buds Pro: has Samsung achieved a pair of headphones to match the AirPods Pro? It was published in Explica.co.