The smartest transparency mode wins for me

Samsung has been making wireless earbuds for many years, but it wasn’t until last year’s Galaxy Buds Pro that the South Korean tech giant made a great pair of wireless earbuds. Before the Buds Pro, previous Samsung headphones were unrefined, like the beanbag ones I loved, but had the world’s most useless “active noise cancellation” because the earbuds didn’t cover the wearer’s ear canals at all.

Launched last month alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro continues that momentum with a sleeker, lighter design that feels more comfortable in my ears during extended listening sessions and better active noise cancellation. Offer 24-bit audio support – although the latter comes with major caveats.

Best XDA Award

I’m also a fan of Samsung’s decision not to go the AirPods design path with the elongated stem, in part because the buds are more discreet in my ear, but also because I think it’s tough when brands publicly copy Apple.

The asking price of $230 for the Buds 2 Pro can be considered a bit high for some people, because you can get just as good earphones as the Nothing Ear 1 for less than half the price, or the Google Pixel Buds Pro for $30 less. But the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has better ANC and my favorite transparency mode among all the wireless earbuds. In addition, the price is similar to that of Apple’s new AirPods, and this is the company that Samsung is aiming for as they build a great ecosystem of their own products.

    Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are comfortable to wear, look great, and can block out sound.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Specifications

Customize Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Dimensions and weight
  • Buds: 19.9 x 21.6 x 18.7 mm (each)
  • Case: 50.1 x 50.2 x 27.7 mm
Battery and charging
  • Earphone: 61 mA (each)
  • Case: 515 mAh
    • Wireless charging support
Loudspeaker and microphone
  • 10mm driver tuned by AKG
  • 5.3 mm tweeter
  • bass channel
  • air vent
  • Three microphones
  • Bluetooth 5.3 BLE
  • Codec: AAC, SBC, Scalable Codec, 24-bit audio
Sensors and other features
  • proximity sensor
  • accelerometer
  • touch sensitive sensor
  • Conversational Mode
  • IPX7 water resistance
Colors Black, purple and white

About this review: This review was written nine days later with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro provided by Samsung. Samsung had no input in this review.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Hardware, Design, and Convenience

  • Lightweight and compact bag
  • Three sizes of silicone tips
  • Five hours of listening with ANC playback and eight hours without ANC on a single charge

Galaxy Bud 2 Pro

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro comes in a small charging case that pops open like an engagement ring box, and I’m glad the entire set—the case and the buds—contain this soft-touch matte finish. I like that feel and sound a lot better than the glossy glossy coating of the original Buds Pro, or in most other earbuds like Huawei Freebuds Pro 2 or AirPods Pro.

Galaxy Bud 2 Pro

The earbuds weigh only 5.5g (down from 6.3g), and the holes in each are also larger to allow for better airflow, so wearers don’t feel stuffy and clogged in the ears – and they work! These are some of the most comfortable earbuds I’ve ever worn.

Galaxy Bud 2 Pro

Since there are no stems, the buds are completely discreet – if you look directly at me, you may not see that I’m wearing them.

Hardware components

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is IPX7 rated, which means that it can be submerged in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. I wore it while showering and had no problems. There’s a 10mm driver and 5mm tweeter in each earphone, which pumps out vibrant, full sound for up to five hours with active noise cancellation and eight hours without. The charging case adds another 3.5 charge. The case can be charged via USB-C or wirelessly. The flagship of modern Samsung, as well as many other devices, can also wirelessly reverse the charging of the headphones.

Galaxy Bud 2 Pro

Each earbud has a touch-sensitive panel on the outside that can detect single clicks, double clicks, or long presses. They work as advertised – one click to start sound, another click to pause, long press to switch ANC modes – but since these earbuds don’t have extra parts like long stems, that means you won’t have many places to touch the earbud when It’s in your ear and not part of the touchpad. Oftentimes, when I simply try to adjust the fit of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro to my ear, I will have paused or started playing the music. It doesn’t help that the controls are just a click away.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Setup, Sound Quality, and Features

  • It can be used immediately after pairing
  • But using the Galaxy Wearable app gives it more controls
  • It can play 24-bit ‘hi-fi’ audio – but only if you’re using a Galaxy phone and have a streaming service that supports 24-bit audio

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro can be used immediately after pairing with any device. But if you’re on Android and have Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app, you can access finer EQ voice controls, reset some touch controls, and options to have incoming notifications read to you via Bixby.

Like Apple, Samsung’s goal is to build a seamless ecosystem of products, and shut you down, too. To this end, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has many exclusive features that a Samsung phone requires. The first is the 24-bit audio mentioned above. You can only get this high quality audio if you are using a phone with One UI 4.0 or higher and are using a streaming service that supports the format like Tidal and Amazon Music. None of these streaming services are close to mainstream services like Spotify, by the way, so it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s 24-bit audio support is a somewhat niche feature. Don’t worry, listening to a “normal” 16-bit audio stream is more than good enough. I’ll talk more about sound in two paragraphs.

Other exclusive features for Samsung users include 360-degree audio, which I turned off after a few minutes because I find it distracting, and the ability for the speakers to seamlessly switch between Samsung devices like phone and tablet, etc. Between the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, but the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro can’t pair with two devices at the same time as recent Huawei earbuds or Google’s Pixel Buds can.

sound quality

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s sound is excellent – better than AirPods Pro

Thanks to dual drivers and tuning by AKG, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound excellent. And that’s despite the fact that I’m testing audio from Spotify and YouTube, where I don’t get 24-bit audio. Whether it’s ’90s rockstars from Stone Temple Pilots and Foo Fighters or more modern things from Billie Eilish, Samsung Buds pump out full, vibrant tunes with a special focus on the mid-range. I think Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro have more kick – that extra “oomph” – for bass-heavy songs like hip-hop tracks, but I think Samsung’s more balanced approach suits all audio types. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro seem to provide greater separation and clarity between vocals and instruments. When I listen to “Someday” by The Strokes, I hear the difference between Julian Casablancas’ vocals and Albert Hammond Jr’s guitar tones more than I do on the other buds. At least I think I do – after all, I’m not a big fan of music. But I think the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s sound is distinctly more dynamic than Apple’s AirPods Pro headphones — not the newer ones that haven’t been sold yet, but those that are almost two years old. It’s not the most fair comparison, but we’ll see in a week if Apple catches up or takes back the lead.

Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode

I live in one of the busiest cities on earth, so ANC really matters to me, and I find the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro to have one of the best ANC’s. By combining a silicone tip that provides a seal around my ear canal as well as Samsung’s smart software, I find the Buds 2 Pro can block human chatter, air conditioning hums, and distant traffic noise very well. Of course, still sudden loud noises like dishes in a restaurant intertwine with each other or the beeps of a car pass by, but they are less loud. The earbuds also don’t feel stuffy in my ears even after 30 minutes of ANC, due to the larger vent.

But the star of the show and the biggest reason I love the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is Transparency Mode, which is when the Buds intentionally let sound in, so you can have a conversation or hear important sounds even when listening to audio.

Galaxy Bud 2 Pro

What makes Samsung’s Transparency Mode the best isn’t necessarily the audio quality allowed — I find Huawei and Apple’s own Transparency Mode to work well — but because Samsung has a smart “Audio Detection” feature that will automatically change the speakers from ANC to Transparency mode as soon as they I speak.

This allows me to wear the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with ANC turned on, but when I need to hear, say, someone greeting me or announcing a bus stop, I just mumble at a syllable and the buds automatically switch to let the sound in for a set amount of time. The default time is 10 seconds (you can extend this by continuing to speak). This feature isn’t new — it was at least available on the previous Galaxy Buds Pro too, but it saves me from having to use my hands to turn the volume down or take out the earbuds, anytime I need to hear something for a few seconds. Samsung’s software to handle this is also smart because it only turns on if I really try to make a sound audible to my mouth. If I’m coughing or mumbling something under my breath, Bud won’t be tricked into activating transparency mode.

Activate the voice assistant – it doesn’t have to be Bixby!

If it’s a big issue I have with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, it’s still using Bixby as a voice assistant, and Bixby just isn’t as capable as Google Assistant. Samsung tries very hard to hide the fact that you can choose between the two as well. If you go to the Galaxy Wearable app, the option to turn on the voice assistant only shows Bixby. You can, fortunately, switch to the Google Assistant on Galaxy Buds.

Using the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as a Bluetooth microphone

Another feature that I absolutely love: You can use the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as a Bluetooth microphone for Samsung phones. This isn’t a new feature either, but I’m finding the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s microphones to do a better job of capturing my audio this time around, as can be seen in the video sample below.

Since the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound more discreet than the derivative earbuds, creators who are just getting started can consider using this option to enhance the audio for their social media content.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Should You Buy These Earbuds?

Galaxy Bud 2 Pro

You should buy the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro if:

  • You are immersed in the Samsung ecosystem and want new wireless earbuds
  • You often use ANC on your earbuds but find it hard to have to turn it off anytime you’re having a conversation
  • You want earbuds that look discreet without the stems sticking out of your ears

You should not buy the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro if:

  • You’re on a Budget – There are $100 wireless earbuds that do absolutely fine
  • You need to connect your buds to multiple devices simultaneously
  • You fiddle with the earbuds often and would rather not accidentally operate the touch controls all the time

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are an excellent set of earbuds that check just about every box a pair of wireless earbuds should make. The smart switch to Transparency mode makes my life easier throughout the day, and the fit is so comfortable that I wear it for hours at a time.

But like I said, there are perfectly good wireless earbuds out there for half the price, like the Nothing Ear 1. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are better, but not twice as good. Those with a tighter budget should look elsewhere. But if you’re already in the camp of the okay spenders of $200-$250 for earbuds, these are excellent options, and probably the best Android answer on AirPods.

    Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are comfortable to wear, look great, and can block out sound.

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