Last month at Samsung Galaxy Unpacked, Samsung launched its newest wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Pro. You can read my full coverage of the event here. The Galaxy Buds Pro is the new and improved follow-on to the previously launched Galaxy Buds Live.
The number of companies that producing premium wireless earbuds is astounding. The competition for Samsung in this market includes many large players, including Apple, Sony, Bose, Google, and Microsoft. With so many market options, I believe the difference between winning and losing in this segment is in the details. Samsung sent me a pair of Galaxy Buds Pro to review, and I was excited to test out the changes that Samsung made this generation. I spent a week using the new Galaxy Buds Pro as my primary earbuds for productivity, including watching videos on my Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G and consulting in my collaboration apps like Teams, Skype, and WebEx.
My Galaxy Buds Pro came in a matte black square case with rounded edges. The case is a little smaller than the last generations but still looks premium and has a subtle Samsung logo etched into the top lid. In the back of the case is a USB-C charging port and the bottom of the case has a circular inner ring, which indicates that the earbuds are wireless charging capable. There is also a small LED light on the front of the case that shows the earbuds' charge level. When I opened the case's lid, there was another LED charging light within.
At first glance, the Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds look more like the Galaxy Buds Plus than the previous-gen Galaxy Buds Live. The Buds Pro resembles more of a sleeker oval shape than the bean-like profile of the Buds Live. The earbuds look very minimalistic at first glance. It connects and charges through a small two-prong system within the case. In my opinion, the Buds Pro is slightly more comfortable than the Buds Live due to the more ergonomic form factor. I was very comfortable leaving the earbuds in for over an hour without any irritation or discomfort, which I can't say for all wireless earbuds I have used. The Buds Pro comes in three color options: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Violet. My review earbuds came in the Phantom Black color option, making me feel like Samsung has picked up on my style preferences over the years.
The earbuds are now IPX7 rating for water resistance for those that will be sweating while working out or encountering some light rain while outside, the earbuds should remain intact. I met some light rain on a walk this past week in Austin, and I left the Buds Pro in the entire time with no issues. I made sure to whip them down before returning them to the charging case.
User experience and audio performance
I paired the Buds Pro earbuds with my Galaxy S21 Ultra quickly via my Bluetooth settings. After my first initial pairing, the earbuds automatically connected and were up and running before getting the second earbud in my ear. The Buds Pro icon pops up on display to confirm a successful pairing and to notify you of the current battery life levels.
Samsung beefed up the specs with Galaxy Buds Pro with an 11-millimeter woofer for more base and a 6.5-millimeter tweet for crisper audio. The 360-audio feature with Dolby head tracking technology was a nice touch as well. I will admit that the audio felt more immersive and crisp than the last generation. I listened to music on Spotify and streamed YouTube videos, and the audio felt very balanced throughout, even at max volume. The audio remained loud without being obnoxious, and the bass was a nice subtle touch to make the experience a little better. The earbuds felt versatile enough to watch videos for several hours at a moderate volume and quickly switch to max volume while streaming Spotify songs. There are also six different audio profiles within the Galaxy Wearables app. My profile of choice was bass boosted.
Whether in the office or working at home, it is hard to predict what noise will enter your environment during the day. Efficient noise cancellation is essential for a wireless earbud to make it into my arsenal. In my opinion, the automatic noise cancellation on the Buds Pro is where these earbuds feel like a big step up from the Galaxy Buds Live. Samsung claims that ANC can block up to 99% of unwanted background noise. While I can't confirm or deny the 99%, these earbuds are indeed great at blocking noise. You can further adjust the extent to which you want to stop noise in the Galaxy wearables app. The most significant differentiation point that I saw with the Galaxy Buds Pro is the ambient sound and ANC working together to create a better experience. The earbuds detected when I spoke to my wife and lowered the audio volume automatically until I quit talking. As soon as I finished speaking, the audio resumed to its previous levels. I can't get with my other earbuds, and it is a tremendous value add, considering I no longer have to pop both earbuds out when someone approaches me.
Anyone who has spent time working from home in 2020 knows how crucial good microphone quality is for video and audio conferencing. Samsung put three microphones and a VPU (voice pickup unit) in the Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds to better make the microphone quality for those using them for enterprise or personal use. I used the microphone for video and audio conferencing, and the microphone remained pretty good quality throughout. I tested the VoIP capabilities of the Galaxy Buds Pro while audio conferencing during a Microsoft Teams call. While inside, my microphone was reasonably clear, but it was hard for other meeting participants to hear me when I stepped outside. I always feel like wireless earbuds make it naturally harder for someone to listen to me when using the microphone. No one earbuds manufacturer has perfected this yet, but it is getting better with each generation. Your phone's microphone will likely be more precise than these earbuds, but if you need to go hands-free for a phone call, the earbuds will get you through. I wasn't blown away with the microphone quality, but no wireless earbuds have blown me out yet, to be fair.
In addition to the Android 11 testing, I also ran the Buds Pro with my iPhone X. It was a very similar experience pairing the Galaxy Buds Pro with my iPhone via Bluetooth. After the first initial pairing, the earbuds connected easily to my iPhone. Using iOS did mean that the interface confirming connection and battery life is missing as it is a proprietary Android interface. As far as the audio performance on iOS, it was comparable to that of my S21 Ultra. One point of frustration came from having to download the Samsung Galaxy Buds app from the app store. When I tried to pair the Buds Pro in the application, the Buds Live and Buds+ were the only pairing options. I was stuck with a non-customizable audio profile and settings. The Buds Pro is useable on iOS, but if you are looking to customize and adapt to your changing audio needs, these earbuds will undoubtedly work better with Android devices.
Each Galaxy Buds Pro earbud comes with a 61 mAh battery, and the charging chase contains a 472 mAh battery. Two primary battery life claims came from Samsung with the Galaxy Buds Pro. Samsung claims up to 5 hours of playtime with ANC or Bixby voice wake-up enabled and up to 8 hours of ANC and Bixby voice wake-up turned off. You can expect up to 28 hours of use in a single charge, and I found that to be plenty of uptime. For me, the automatic noise canceling feature is a must for audio and video conferencing, and I am willing to sacrifice battery life for that.
You can also get up to an hour of playback with just 5 minutes of charging. I tested this feature, and it was a nice touch. The case also has wireless charging capabilities, and it paired well with my wireless charger.
All in all, I was happy with my experience with the Galaxy Buds Pro. The earbuds felt nice in my ear, and some subtle new features made for much better audio performance and user experience. With better water resistance, ANC, improved design, and good battery life, there are few reasons not to like the Galaxy Buds Pro. I understand that fit and comfort are relative and vary from user to user, but it felt and performed great for me. The Apple Airpods Pro finally has a worthy competitor with some distinctive features. And $50 less.
The Galaxy Buds Pro is available now on Samsung.com for $199.99.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.