Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review
A skeptical eye may roll at what appears to be an iterative upgrade from Samsung with the new Galaxy Buds Plus, but I’m here to tell you that this is worth its asking price. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus may be nearly indistinguishable from the original Galaxy Buds, but don’t let that discourage you. Samsung makes a host of improvements to the Galaxy Buds Plus like extra-long battery life and better microphone quality. With Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 rumors floating about, you can snag this headset on a steep discount nowadays.
Editor’s note: this Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review was updated Aug. 5, 2021, to respond to a FAQ of Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus vs Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2.
Who should get the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus?
You can charge the case via Wireless PowerShare or with a Qi-certified power mat.
- Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners and anyone with an Android device should consider the new Galaxy Buds Plus. Although Wireless PowerShare is a Samsung exclusive, other important features including Spotify integration, are available across Android.
- Plus, even iPhone users will benefit from AAC support for lag-free media playback. Then, there are things everyone can enjoy like IPX2 water resistance and nearly 12 hours of playtime on a single charge.
- Long-haul commuters will appreciate the excellent battery life.
Start here: What makes a good set of in-ears?
What is it like to use the Galaxy Buds Plus?
Playback automatically pauses upon removal simultaneous removal.
Samsung noted the Galaxy Buds’ wild success and took a calculated approach to the Buds Plus: these are virtually identical to last year’s model with most of the changes taking place under the housings.
The all-plastic build feels cheap, but has its benefits by keeping the earphones lightweight, comfortable, and lest we forget: affordable. One welcome change to the Galaxy Buds Plus has nothing to do with the earbuds’ design, but with the included accessories. Listeners are afforded the pre-installed medium ear and wing tips along with three extra pairs varying in size. This is great news for all, as a solid fit rewards listeners with better audio quality.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus looks nearly identical to the original but house a new dual-driver system for clear audio reproduction.
Another under-the-hood change has to do with the new dual-driver system; each earbud contains a dedicated woofer and tweeter. AKG tuned the frequency response which reproduces impressively clear audio for the price. If you’re familiar with 1MORE’s earphones, you’ve come across this kind of technology before.
The Galaxy Buds Plus are the perfect AirPods alternative for Android users.
A glossy finish adorns the whimsical charging case and collects more fingerprints than the FBI. Despite the sleek exterior, it’s easy to grip and never slipped from my hands when opening. Lifting the lid reveals a rubberized strip with “L R” to indicate which earbud is which. At first, I thought this was a button that would share the remaining battery life for each earbud, but alas, it’s just a fancy label.
Get Spotify integration through the Galaxy Wearable app
The App Store’s Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus app doesn’t support the first-gen Galaxy Buds.
One of the most unique features of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is Spotify integration, which is now available with the original Galaxy Buds, too. In order to directly access the popular streaming service from the earphones, you have to download the Galaxy Wearable app, which happens to be one of the better apps accompanying true wireless earphones. Just remap the tapping gesture on the earbuds to receive recommended songs. Unfortunately for iOS users, Spotify functionality is only available to Android devices.
Learn more: Ultimate headphone buying guide
There are other great functions from the Galaxy Wearable app, too, including ambient sound adjustments, find my earbuds, software updates, EQ presets, and more. Gamers who enjoy beta testing things should consider giving Game Mode a shot for reduced latency. The Apple App Store now has Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus app available; however, the application does not support the original Galaxy Buds, which is ridiculous. You’re afforded all of the same features as the Android app provides, save for Spotify integration as of app version 1.1.2.001.
How do you connect the earphones?
The Samsung scalable codec functions similarly to aptX adaptive, and constantly balances connection and audio quality.
If you have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone running Android 7.1.1 or later with the SmartThings app installed, then you’ll be met with a pop-up window when initially pairing the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. Otherwise, you can pair the earbuds by removing them from the case, going into your phone’s Bluetooth menu, and selecting “Galaxy Buds+.”
The earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and grant listeners a 10-meter wireless range. I was hoping to see aptX support with the second-generation Galaxy Buds, but the same codecs are supported by these earphones as the first-generation model: SBC, AAC, and the scalable Samsung codec. Although Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus isn’t supported, connection strength is reliable within the listed span. If you have an iPhone or Samsung device, latency is a non-issue.
Multipoint functionality isn’t available
There are plenty of EQ options available from the Wearable app.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus was supposed to support Bluetooth multipoint between Bluetooth 5.0 devices. However, the company discreetly removed any mention of this functionality on the official Galaxy Buds Plus page. Perhaps we’ll see this reinstated in a future software update.
No matter, the Buds Plus remember multiple devices which makes switching easy. In fact, I don’t need to manually disconnect the earphones from my smartphone when connecting to my desktop. Instead, I can just select the pre-paired Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus from my laptop’s Bluetooth menu and it automatically disconnects from my S10e. Sure, it’s still a bit cumbersome but it’s not too much of a chore.
How long is the Galaxy Buds Plus battery life?
True wireless earbuds aren’t known for having impressive battery life, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus lasts 11 hours, 44 minutes. Interestingly, depletion is uneven: the right earbud cycled out 24 minutes before the left. It’s curious, but likely something that will be remedied with a software update.
Once the batteries deplete, it takes just three minutes of throwing the buds into the case to enjoy one hour of listening. The case provides just one extra charge cycle, which isn’t great but is the sacrifice we make when getting such a compact case. The charging case is Qi-certified, meaning there are more ways to wirelessly charge than Wireless PowerShare atop a Samsung Galaxy phone.
How does the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus sound?
- AKG tuned the Galaxy Buds Plus drivers, resulting in clear audio with just a touch of amplification in the low-end.
- Passive isolation performance is unchanged from the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
Just as before, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is tuned by AKG, this time to have a slight elevation in bass response. This is great for listeners who enjoy popular genres of music like pop, hip-hop, and so on as it adds a greater sense of impact with every kick drum. Highs and mids hardly receive any amplification, which means instrumentally busy songs may seem like they’re lacking detail. That’s not the fault of the audio file, rather of how louder bass notes are bound to mask quieter, high-pitched notes.
Isolation is good, thanks to the spare ear and wing tips provided by Samsung. If you can hear what’s going on around you with the default ear tips, take a few seconds to swap them out for the small or large size: finding the right fit will greatly improve clarity and audio quality.
Lows, mids, and highs
Noname’s song Blaxploitationrelies on a simple pattern comprised of a bass guitar, drums, high hats, and synth. The Galaxy Buds Plus’ frequency response is perfect for this type of music whereby the bassline isn’t rendered to overpower the vocals, but could use some emphasis to please general consumer taste.
The isolation performance and sound profile tuned by AKG make for good sound quality overall.
Skip ahead to 0:23, when Noname says, “… eating Chick-fil-A in the shadows that tastes like hypocrite.” Her voice is easy to hear above the constant accompaniment, even as it increases in pitch during the word “hypocrite.” The dual-driver system does a great job of ensuring clear vocal reproduction while simultaneously pumping out amplified bass lines.
Can you use the Galaxy Buds Plus for phone calls?
Samsung equipped the Galaxy Buds Plus with a three-microphone array: two outer and one inner microphone which works in tandem for clearer voice transmission than before. The two external microphones focus on your voice while simultaneously combating ambient noise, similar to what’s used by the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus microphone demo:
When using the Galaxy Buds Plus during a conference call, my fellow SoundGuys shared that I sounded quite clear, especially for earbuds. Don’t take their words for it, though; I read an excerpt from Catcher in the Rye with the Bud Plus above.
How is the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus better than the Galaxy Buds?
The original Galaxy Buds fit into and charge via the Buds Plus case.
Looking at specs alone, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is better than the original Galaxy Buds. The Buds Plus has significantly better battery life, lasting listeners almost 12 hours on a single charge. Quick charging efficiency is improved too, which is great for on-the-go users.
I discovered some fun bops, thanks to the Buds Plus Spotify integration.
I thoroughly enjoyed Spotify integration when using the Buds Plus, something that is now available on the original Buds with the April 27, 2020, update. For anyone who frequently takes hands-free calls, the upgraded microphone system is a huge improvement over the 2019 Galaxy Buds, and makes it easier to justify the price. You’re also given more color options: black, light blue, white, and red whereas last year’s Galaxy Buds is available in black, white, silver, and yellow.
On a budget? The original Galaxy Buds are still a fantastic deal
The earbuds have the same IPX2 rating as seen in the newer version and a virtually identical appearance, save for the additional colorways. Sure, fast charging is more efficient but it’s not slow by any means with the Galaxy Buds: 15 minutes of charging supplies 102 minutes of playtime. With the April 27, 2020, software update to the Galaxy Buds, users can also benefit from Spotify integration, one of the Buds Plus’ main selling points.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus?
If you must have the latest and greatest, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is a fine purchase to make. Sure they don’t disrupt the field of true wireless earbuds, but they retain many of the features from the Galaxy Buds while making major battery life and microphone improvements. Anyone who’s constantly on the hunt for new music will rejoice upon realizing how easy it is to directly access Spotify. Again, if these things don’t tickle your fancy, last year’s Galaxy Buds will serve you just as well.
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The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has good active noise cancelling
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro charging case supports wireless charging and Wireless PowerShare.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is the company’s second active noise cancelling (ANC) true wireless earphones, and Samsung learned plenty from its experimental bean-shaped buds. The Galaxy Buds Pro drops the open-fit style of before in favor of silicone ear tips that actually block out background noise. This physical barrier between your ear canals and the outside world is key to effective, consistent noise cancelling performance.
Aside from ANC, Samsung improved the microphone quality of its Pro variant, and features a handful of new colorways. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is a great option for listeners who need an all-in-one headset that doesn’t break the bank. If you want to try an open-type fit, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds may be more your speed.
If you’re patient, you may want to wait around for the rumored Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. Not much is known about these earphones, so stick around and we’ll keep you updated on the latest specs.
Don’t want Galaxy Buds at all?
That’s fine, you may want to think about getting the 1MORE True Wireless ANC, which retails for $50 more than the Galaxy Buds Plus. That extra cash goes a long way, though, as you benefit from noise cancellation, a comfortable fit, aptX and AAC support, and Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus.
If you have an iPhone, the Apple AirPods or AirPods Pro have likely been on your mind. Well, the AirPods (2019), are a hard sell, especially when compared to the Pro. If you’re between the standard AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, go with the latter: sound quality, fit, comfort, and durability are all better. However, if your budget is more flexible than mine, the AirPods Pro is an excellent choice.
A $150 budget gets you far in the true wireless earbuds market.
They feature Apple’s H1 chip for hands-free access to Siri as well as ANC, and a DSP that calibrates noise cancelling intensity on the fly, among other things. Sometimes the price dips around $230, which is still expensive but a fine option for iOS users who want a seamless cross-device experience.
Another great option is the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), which includes very good ANC, an IPX4 build, and plenty of great software features like an ear tip fit test. With the Alexa app, you’ll always have the best ear tips selected, ensuring a stable, comfortable fit and optimal sound quality. The case is compact and easy enough to throw into a jeans pocket.
Next: Best noise cancelling true wireless earphones
Samsung's Galaxy Buds Plus were released two years ago and earned a lot of fans thanks to their comfortable fit, good sound and impressive battery life (up to 11 hours). But with the arrival of the new Galaxy Buds 2, available for preorder now and set to ship on Aug. 27, the Buds Plus are apparently being discontinued. While Samsung hasn't officially announced the Galaxy Buds Plus' retirement, they're no longer for sale on Samsung's website and I spoke with two customer service reps about it (via text chat) and both said the buds had been discontinued.
This isn't terribly surprising. After all, the Buds Plus are a two-year-old product and Samsung had them on sale recently for $80. Currently, they're selling for $100 at most online retailers. With close to 40,000 user reviews on Amazon, they've been very popular among both Samsung and Android users, and some of those folks got the Buds Plus for "free" as part of a bundle with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
We've already reviewed the new Galaxy Buds 2 and both Senior Editor Lexy Savvides and I were impressed with their design and overall performance (they're also very good for making calls). They don't have nearly as good battery life as the Buds Plus, but they have active noise canceling and they're very comfortable to wear.
The Galaxy Buds 2 list for $150. But by the holiday season, we should see some discounts that bring the price down by $20-$30. The Galaxy Buds Pro list for $200 but today are selling for $170 or only $20 more than the Buds 2.
The Buds Plus may be discontinued, but like most discontinued electronics, you'll probably be able to buy them for a while. And perhaps you'll see them back down to $80 or less.
Samsung PR did not immediately respond to a CNET request for comment.
Read more: Best true-wireless earbuds for 2021
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Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: better sound, even better stamina
Samsung’s original Galaxy Buds were decent true wireless earbuds: they offered impressive battery life, wireless charging, and a lightweight, comfortable fit. But sound quality was merely okay, and their built-in mics were awful when it came to voice calls. If you got the $129 Galaxy Buds as a phone preorder bonus or on sale at a discount, there was reason to be happy. But paying full price for them wasn’t as easy to justify.
For 2020, Samsung is back with the Galaxy Buds Plus. They look mostly identical to the originals, but they contain several key improvements. Battery life has been extended to a class-leading 11 hours; sound quality has been ramped up, thanks to a new dual-driver design; and they’re finally a good option for making calls. Samsung has hiked the price by $20 to $149, but the new Galaxy Buds Plus are more well-rounded than their predecessors in pretty much every way.
Not much has changed on the outside. The case is glossier than before with raised indicators for the left and right earbud cradles, and Samsung has added a second outer microphone to the earbuds. Those are really the only subtle tells that you’re dealing with the newer Galaxy Buds. The Galaxy Buds Plus come in black, white, and blue, and as with the previous model, the white buds give off a nice pearlescent effect.
Like other companies, Samsung packs in three sizes of ear tips and also gives you a choice of silicone ear hooks to help the Galaxy Buds Plus latch securely into your ear. Comfort was never a problem for the old Galaxy Buds, and these retain the same excellent fit — provided the included tips work for you. They’re lightweight to the point of being unnoticeable, and the subtle design doesn’t draw attention to your ears. If you’re someone who doesn’t like the feel of in-ear earbuds and the seal they create, these won’t do anything to change your mind. They lack the vent system of Apple’s AirPods Pro that can help alleviate ear pressure. But at $149, it makes more sense to compare the Galaxy Buds Plus to the regular AirPods and other competitors like the Amazon Echo Buds and Jabra’s Elite 75t earbuds.
I mention that because the main thing you sacrifice compared to pricier options is active noise cancellation. The Galaxy Buds Plus can achieve satisfactory passive noise isolation — certainly better than the open-design AirPods — but they are unable to mute your surroundings quite to the level of Sony’s 1000XM3 earbuds or the AirPods Pro. Even Amazon’s Echo Buds pack in Bose’s noise reduction technology, which helps silence the outside world. Still, I found myself able to wear the Galaxy Buds Plus for hours at the coffee shop or office without getting distracted or annoyed by outside noise.
Samsung’s approach to controlling the earbuds hasn’t changed. You’ll still be tapping the touch-sensitive outer portion of the Galaxy Buds Plus to play and pause music, skip tracks, or answer calls. The long-press action is customizable, letting you choose between voice assistants (Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri), ambient sound mode, or volume controls. I always favor having direct volume controls without having to whip out my phone, so that’s what I tend to pick.
If you’ve got an Android phone, there’s another long-press option: Spotify. When this option is selected, Spotify will open and immediately start playing something it thinks you’ll like. It could be a playlist like a Daily Mix or Release Radar, or just a song that the Spotify algorithm serves up for you. I wish there were a way to set this to do one particular thing every time, but as far as I can tell, there’s always a randomness factor.
The Galaxy Wearable app (or Galaxy Buds Plus app if you’re on iOS) has another neat, experimental feature. If you go into the labs section, you can enable an alternate way of controlling volume that lets you double tap the outside of the earbuds — not the touchpad but the top of the buds themselves — to increase or lower the volume. This seems to use the accelerometer built into the earbuds, and it worked surprisingly well in my tests. It also frees up the touch and hold gesture for one of the other features outlined above.
The app is where you’ll configure ambient sound mode and decide how loudly you want to amplify external noise when it’s activated. Samsung has done a better job with ambient mode this time around, and the effect feels less robotic and unpleasantly digital than before. You can also adjust EQ settings in the earbuds’ companion app, and while I’ve seen some people praise the “dynamic” option, I still greatly prefer the default, out-of-box sound profile.
And that brings us to sound quality. Samsung has redesigned the Galaxy Buds Plus with a dual-driver design (with a dedicated tweeter and woofer in each earbud), and this upgrade makes a considerable difference compared to the previous model. In short, they sound far better — for $150 earbuds, that is. Instruments and vocals have distinct separation, and Samsung seems to be going for a neutral listening experience. Nothing gets too pushed too much, and the treble and mids have a nice balance. For codecs, Samsung supports SBC, AAC, and its own Scalable codec, which can transmit at higher bitrates if you’re also using a Samsung phone.
Bass from the Galaxy Buds Plus lacks the same level of oomph that you get with the latest Jabras, but it’s still enough to make for a pleasing low end. My main critique is the soundstage: everything can sound a little mushed together, and you don’t get the same expansive spread and immersion as you’d find from something like the 1000XM3s. But again, you’ve got to factor in price.
The best thing about the Galaxy Buds Plus is how long you can listen to them uninterrupted. Samsung has managed to squeeze 11 hours of continuous battery life out of the earbuds, which now puts them at the top of the mountain. That’s even better than the Powerbeats Pro, which, until now, had been the longevity champion. Eleven hours will cover your entire workday or a long-haul flight with ease.
And in my experience, Samsung’s estimate is right on point. This raises the bar for true wireless earbuds, which is especially important since your Galaxy Buds Plus will hold less of a charge in a year or two. Even then, they should still last a good while. The charging case nets you another 11 hours for a total of 22 before everything needs recharging. If you find yourself in a pinch with depleted earbuds, Samsung says you can plug them in over USB-C for three minutes to get an hour of listening time. As before, the case supports wireless charging and can be juiced up when resting on Samsung’s recent phones.
The microphones on the Galaxy Buds Plus are also a big improvement. These earbuds are now much better suited for voice calls, whereas the older ones were a disaster that produced garbled, unintelligible audio. Adding the secondary outer mic has resolved those issues, and I’m now confident when placing calls or joining work video chats with the Galaxy Buds Plus — instead of the embarrassment that came before.
So far, I’ve given these earbuds a heap of praise, but there are downsides. The Galaxy Buds Plus can’t connect to two devices simultaneously. Samsung says they’ll automatically be linked up with devices using your Samsung ID — the company is trying to replicate some AirPods convenience there — but you lose out on seamlessly switching between, say, your laptop and phone. Water and sweat resistance is also a weakness. Samsung has stuck with an IPX2 rating when other companies are offering IPX4 or better. If you’re a heavy sweater or you run in the rain often, this compromise might come back to bite you down the line.
And while Samsung has tried to lure in iPhone owners with its new app, I’d still recommend these solely to the Android crowd. I noticed more disconnects and dropped audio than usual on my iPhone 11 Pro Max, and these problems didn’t surface when using a Pixel 4 XL or Galaxy S10.
If you are on Android, it’s a tough choice between these and the Jabra Elite 75t earbuds. The Jabras definitely edge out Samsung on audio, with livelier and more bass-heavy sound output and better water resistance. But I have a much easier time recommending the Galaxy Buds Plus than I ever did Samsung’s first true wireless earbuds. Their stamina alone will be the big selling factor for some people, I’m sure.
Samsung has improved upon those original Galaxy Buds to an impressive degree, and the “Plus” name here is well deserved. The reengineered insides make for better sound quality, they’ve now got the longest-lasting battery life around, and the voice call woes are history. Yes, $200 earbuds still outperform them — as they should — and Samsung’s exclusion of noise cancellation might disappoint some. But if the company adds that to the mix for an eventual third-generation version, the next Galaxy Buds will be tough to beat.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge
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.Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus - Better Than The Original Galaxy Buds?
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