When Samsung launched its originalnoise-canceling headphones, one of the main marketing messages was the attention it paid to sound quality. They did work in that regard, but a certain subset of users, myself included, found them to be less than ideal for their ears. In my case, none of the included ear tips gave me a tight seal, so I had to swap out a larger set of tips from a competing set of headphones. Needless to say, I was curious to see what Samsung’s engineers had come up with for the second generation ($230, £219, AU$349) suspecting that they would address this issue.
- Improved design with more comfortable wear
- Excellent sound and good noise cancellation
- Very good voice call performance
- An assortment of additional features for Galaxy device owners, including 360 Audio virtual surround sound and hands-free Bixby voice assistant
- Fully waterproof (IPX7)
I do not like
- Quite expensive
- Some key features only work with Samsung devices
- No true Bluetooth multipoint pairing
Sure, they did. The first thing you’ll notice about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 2 – which are being launched alongside the newand — is that they simply have a better all-around design than their predecessors. Not only are they 15% smaller, according to Samsung, but they have a matte finish on both the buds and the case, which gives them a nicer feel and makes them a bit more grippy.
This makes the compact case less likely to slip out of your hand and – more importantly – helps keep the buds in your ears a little more securely. And with their new shape and smaller size, I was able to get a tight seal with the largest set of included ear tips and not have to supply my own. In addition, the headphones do not stick out of your ears as much as the original Galaxy Buds Pro and look more discreet. They come in three colors – Bora Purple, White and Graphite – and while I can’t say they’ll fit all ears equally, they should fit more ears better than the original Galaxy Buds Pro.
Custom High Definition Audio and other Galaxy exclusive features
In addition to the redesigned design, Samsung offers improved noise cancellation and support for 24-bit high-resolution audio. The catch is that to get 24-bit audio you’ll need a Galaxy device equipped with Samsung One UI 4.0 andlike , or which streams high definition audio tracks. On all other devices, including Android phones and iPhones, the headphones have AAC as their default audio codec. They use Bluetooth 5.3.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro don’t support the more common AptX Adaptive audio codec for Android devices, only the new Samsung Seamless Codec Hi-Fi, which Samsung says provides 256x more audio data than 16-bit audio (CD quality). . Numbers like that are a bit misleading, as in my experience you’ll only really notice a slight difference when streaming higher bitrate tracks. But more on that when I finish the rest of the feature set.
Like their predecessors, these have touch controls (you can turn some on or off, or you can turn them all off) along with the ability to activate hands-free Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant. Additionally, Samsung’s 360 Audio virtual surround sound feature (with head tracking) returns in an “Enhanced” version and now works with a number of Galaxy devices out of the gate, though it’s not compatible with other Android devices. It works on the same principle as Apple’s surround sound feature for AirPods and can improve your movie and TV viewing experience, although it doesn’t seem as pronounced as Apple’s surround sound, which I think is slightly better overall. It also works with music or any audio you are listening to.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are IPX7 waterproof, which means they can withstand full immersion in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. I had no problem running with them and they didn’t slip out of my ears.
As with their predecessor, battery life is rated at 5 hours with noise cancellation on and 8 hours with it off at medium volume, with about three more charges in the case (charged via USB-C and wireless). You might guess there’s no improvement in battery life, but it’s hard to shrink buds and extend battery life.
Sensors detect when the headphones are in your ears and pause your music when you take the earbud out and resume playback when you put the earbud back in (you can use one cup and leave the other in the case). In addition, you can choose to activate the “voice detection” mode in the companion Galaxy Wearable app, which automatically turns off noise cancellation and switches to “ambient sound” mode when you speak, allowing you to hear the world around you and engage in a conversation with someone. Sony offers a similar feature with itsand earplugs.
Another new feature worth noting has nothing to do with sound. You can turn on a “neck stretch reminder” setting that detects your head position and alerts you when you bend your head down for 10 minutes. I was warned several times to stretch my neck while writing this review.
Like AirPods and some other headphones, they have a find-my-buds feature that Samsung calls SmartThings Find. It can tell you your location when the headphones were last connected to your device, but it doesn’t offer more accurate tracking capabilities than Apple’s improved Find My feature in its latest AirPods.
Finally, just like their predecessors and more affordable, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro do not offer true multi-point Bluetooth pairing, which allows you to pair them with two devices, such as a phone and a computer, at the same time. However, Samsung says they will pair seamlessly with all Samsung devices signed into your Samsung account, including Samsung TVs made in 2022 or later and Samsung built after 2020.
Buds 2 Pro offers automatic switching between these devices. So, for example, if your phone calls you while you’re watching a movie on your Tab S8, the sound will automatically switch to your phone when you answer the call. It’s similar to Apple AirPods automatically pairing with any Apple device signed in to your iCloud account. Note that I haven’t thoroughly tested the auto-switch feature with many Samsung devices (as I only own a few), so I can’t confirm exactly how reliable it is. I spent more time manually switching the audio between the Galaxy Flip 3 and non-Samsung devices.
An impressive all-rounder
Samsung says it’s improved the noise cancellation on the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro by 40% (it calls it “Intelligent ANC”). I found this to be an improvement over the original Galaxy Buds Pro, but the noise canceling performance is affected by how tightly you seal the ear tips (as is the sound quality), so your perception of how much it’s improved may vary depending on well the seal you get.
I thought the noise cancellation was close, but not quite there, compared to the noise cancellation of the Sony WF-1000XM4, but it did a good job of drowning out various sounds on the streets of New York and underground in the subway. You can turn off noise cancellation or activate ambient mode, the equivalent of Apple’s transparency mode, which I thought sounded natural. But there’s no setting to adjust noise cancellation levels; it automatically adapts to your environment.
Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are equipped with dual-band drivers (10mm woofer, 5.3mm tweeter) and three microphones, two of which are beam for voice calls. I paired them with a Galaxy Z Flip 3, iPhone 13 Pro, and Google Pixel 4 XL and streamed music using Qobuz. I also streamed some movies from Google Play and Netflix.
According to Samsung, there’s no way to check if you’re getting 24-bit audio (there’s no indication if you are or not), but if your audio setup meets the requirements listed – a Galaxy phone running Android 8.0 or higher and One UI 4.0 or higher with at least 1.5 GB RAM – You’ll be using the Samsung Seamless Codec, which transmits in 24-bit format, provided your audio files support it. (Qobuz files do.) I’m annoyed that there’s no way to tell what bitrate you’re streaming, but I’ll have to take Samsung’s word for it that I’m getting 24-bit audio.
I noticed a slight difference when streaming with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. However, when using the iPhone 13 Pro, the sound quality was also very good with a wide enough soundstage. I went back and forth with Spoon’s Knock Knock Knock and a few other songs. The Flip 3’s sound was slightly more accurate (slightly brighter) with more detail and depth. Bass is punchy and well-defined, and I didn’t notice any noticeable distortion at higher volumes. In short, these are great sounding headphones, although I’m not sure they’re any better than other high-end headphones in their price range, including, and .
I mostly went with the default sound settings, although you can tweak the signature profile in the Galaxy Wearable app using some preset equalizer settings, including bass boost settings. The truth is, many of these premium headphones are starting to sound very similar, and it’s really how they fit—and how they fit your particular ears—that will make you like one more than the other.
I’ll end by saying that Samsung has once again delivered a set of Galaxy headphones that double as a headset for calls. They have good voice transmission from the beam forming microphones while providing good background noise reduction. Callers said they could hear me fairly clearly on the noisy streets of New York and that the buds did a decent job of reducing wind noise. They are in the upper echelons when it comes to voice call performance.
Final thoughts on the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
For better or worse, the Galaxy Buds have always been an accessory for Galaxy smartphones, and as a result have been more targeted towards Galaxy device owners. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are no exception. They’re excellent headphones, but if you don’t own a Galaxy device, you’ll be missing out on some of their key features. Because of this, it’s easy to think of them as the equivalent of Samsung’s AirPods Pro, which may very well get some high-definition wireless streaming capability with the arrival of the AirPods Pro 2, which will likely use Apple’s proprietary technology that only works. with your devices.
In comparison, the Pixel Buds Pro have fewer features aimed exclusively at Pixel owners (virtual surround sound), and features like hands-free Google Assistant and true Bluetooth multi-point pairing are available on all Android devices. However, the Pixel Buds don’t have improved audio codec support, which may be important if you believe it makes a big difference. Personally, I think it’s a small difference with this class of headphones, which may have a premium price but aren’t high-end.
The bigger question will be whether it’s worth upgrading to the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro if you already own a pair of Galaxy Buds, especially the original Galaxy Buds Pro. I think it will largely depend on how much you can get the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro for. While their list price is $230, Samsung is currently offering(any Galaxy Buds in any condition) that bring their price down to around $155 and you can often get deals on them as part of a bundle with a new Galaxy phone.
For me anyway, while the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offer some small performance improvements over their predecessor, their design is the biggest upgrade. This makes them the best Galaxy Buds yet.