Every brand in 2021 wants you to invest in its ecosystem. If you buy a OnePlus phone, the company recommends using a pair of OnePlus earbuds. Getting a Xiaomi smartphone? Using a Xiaomi TWS earphone is recommended by the brand for the best experience. Samsung is no different with its needs and it too wants you to invest in its latest Galaxy Buds Pro if you are considering a Galaxy S21, or any of its newest phones from the brand. On paper, it is the best pair of wireless earphones Samsung sells. Also Read - Tablet sales rose drastically in 2020, e-learning demands cited as reason
It costs Rs 15,990 and that’s expensive by all means. Samsung is promising a “pro-grade” audio experience and the specs on paper are highly suggestive. There’s Active Noise Cancelling, dual-driver setup, smart voice features, and the lot. The design is bold too; it is the prettiest pair of earbuds I have seen in years. As a package then, it all looks exciting, doesn’t it? Also Read - Samsung Galaxy A52, Galaxy A72, Galaxy A32 5G support page goes live in India
Is this worth investing in for someone deeply invested in music? Is it a blind recommendation for a Samsung customer? How does it fare when compared to the competition in its price range? Find out. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy phones to now let you slow or boost the CPU performance
Samsung’s product designs have always tried to take an unconventional yet pleasing approach, which is in stark contrast to what its arch-rival Apple does. This is evident from all its recent smartphone designs and it stands true for its wireless earbuds. Just look at the Galaxy Buds Pro! I haven’t seen a pair of any other wireless earbuds as bold with their design as this one.
Throughout my time with the Samsung earbuds, my office desk was the center of attention; thanks to the Galaxy Buds Pro lying by my laptop all-day. The Phantom Violet colour variant is undeniably fancy and paired with the cosmetic boxes-inspired design of the case, it is indeed an attention magnet. There’s seldom any doubt on Samsung’s build quality and that continues with the Buds Pro. The case is well built and the matte finish is a boon for opposing smudges as well as scratches.
The earbuds themselves look nothing less than jewelry. The glossy reflective finish on the touch surfaces do make the earbuds stand out and grab attention. My fashion-conscious colleagues loved to wear it but as a person who craves for understatement, I wished Samsung offered a low-key matte black finish. Nonetheless, if you love bling, you are going to love the way these look on you.
The in-ear design is something I have never been comfortable with but Samsung’s design makes it possible to wear for long hours. It still falls off after rigorous jaw movements, i.e. while you talk or dash around. The IPX7 rating assures peace of mind for the sweaty Indian summers but don’t wear it to the shower! This is meant to resist moisture damage, not encourage you to go swimming while listening to Zinda from Bhag Milkha Bhag.
Charging happens via a USB-C port or a wireless charging pad. There’s a dedicated LED indicator on the outside to show the battery charge status of the case, while the earbuds inside get another one for showing their battery status.
As part of the package, you do get a USB-C charging cable in the box along with ear tips. The default ones worked wonders for me. I should also point that the ear tips are cleverly designed to prevent the accumulation of ear wax and easy to clean as well. Samsung’s designs are always thoughtful.
I can go describing the dual driver setup on the Galaxy Buds Pro and the clever microphone setup Samsung is using for ANC. However, you can read that stuff on Samsung’s website and I will reserve my words for the audio performance. Simply put, the Galaxy Buds Pro sounds great.
Samsung’s tuning aims for a wider soundstage and regardless of the device or the audio codec, it delivers a satisfying listening experience. There’s just the right amount of bass, the right amount of emphasis on the mids, the right amount of clarity for the vocals, and,… I can go on. In short, this is for you if you value balance.
For example, I was impressed by the lively instrumentals in AR Rahman’s Masakali, and the impeccable vocal clarity in Billie Eilish’s No Time to Die. The low-end isn’t as flat as what I have heard in the Oppo Enco X and the base Apple AirPods; there’s some substance to the audio quality. The volume levels can go incredibly high and yet, I did not notice any distortion with the audio.
Helping the Galaxy Buds Pro is a cleverly designed noise isolation system. The eartips work well to offer a good amount of passive noise isolation while the dedicated set of microphones take care of the pronounced ones using active noise cancellation. Combined, the Galaxy Buds Pro can isolate you from the world to a larger extent but I have experienced better noise cancellation systems.
In quiet surroundings, the earbuds can drown the usual hum as well as the gentle wind noises. However, I wore it inside my workspace and I was able to hear out the shrill voices of my female colleagues, people clapping in the other room, the keyboard bashing, and occasional conversations happening within 5 meters.
Samsung says the ANC is here to help with the listening experience rather than being a dedicated noise-cancelling gear and I agree. The Voice Detect feature is a genius feature that draws me to the Galaxy Buds Pro. The moment you utter a word, the Buds Pro automatically switches on the Ambient mode and turns up the volume – the idea is to let you keep your earbuds on while you have a conversation.
Does this work in real life? In my workspace, it certainly does. Every time I had to talk, the Galaxy Buds Pro enabled the ambient audio feature, thereby quickly making me a part of the conversation. Once it detects you haven’t spoken for 10 seconds, it switches on the ANC mode and you are back to your music. This is neat. However, I found the system getting activated in the event of a loud yawn quite irritating. Maybe Samsung could fix it with a future software update.
While the Voice Detect feature is helpful, I still don’t digest Samsung skipping the wear detection feature. In 2021, even the cheapest wireless earbuds get wear detection! On the rather expensive Galaxy Buds Pro, I don’t want to hit the pause key or tap the earbuds every time I want to take them off.
However, the touch controls are among the best in the business. The earbuds are responsive and the control schematics make them easy to live with. A single tap controls the playback while a double tap changes the audio track. You can choose whether you want ANC controls on the “long tap” option or volume controls.
Another feature that caught my attention was the 360 Audio. It makes for an immersive experience with a better surround effect. However, I found the Dolby Head Tracking system lagging behind the Spatial Audio system on the AirPods. The system managed to make me pinpoint the audio source but it did so with a notable lag. Maybe an update could fix it.
Of course, all the customisation happens courtesy of the Samsung Wearable app. On Samsung phones, you open the Galaxy Buds Pro and the pairing process takes less than a minute. You get basic controls from the Bluetooth menu while more customisation options come from the Wearable app. The app lets you update the firmware, locate them in case they are lost, block accidental touches, and even choose Equaliser settings (in case the standard Samsung tuning isn’t to your liking.
On non-Samsung phones, you have to download the Wearable app as well as the Buds Pro Plugin from Google Play store. iPhone users don’t have the app support yet but Samsung says an update is en-route. Do note that the Galaxy Buds Pro works perfectly fine with iPhones as any other pair of wireless earbuds.
I was concerned with the voice reception on the Galaxy Buds Pro due to its in-ear design but Samsung’s clever design, as well as the wind shield feature, bid farewell to my concerns. Even in my crowded workspace, my callers were able to listen to my voice in absolute clarity. The wind shield feature was successful in reducing the wail of my robot vacuum cleaner to a moderate hum (something all my other earbuds have failed at miserably).
Samsung promises up to 28 hours of stamina with the ANC switched off (the figure drops to 18 hours with ANC switched on. I used the Galaxy Buds Pro on an average of two hours daily throughout my time with the ANC and Voice Detect switched on. I had to charge the case every five days in this scenario. Do note I listened to music as well as took several calls. I could never exhaust the earbuds completely, which leads me to believe Samsung’s claims of a five-hour battery life.
Charging the earbuds via a 25W fast-charging system takes close to two hours from under 10 percent. The presence of a wireless charging system is useful if you carry around a Samsung Galaxy S10 or newer flagship Samsung smartphone. However, rely on the wireless charging solution only if you run out of juice on the move as the charging speeds are slower in this mode.
The Galaxy Buds Pro impressed me with its great audio performance, which makes me want to recommend it to those seeking a good pair of earbuds. Coupled with the fancy design as well as a bunch of smart ANC-based features, there’s so much to like about the Galaxy Buds Pro. Next to the similarly priced Apple AirPods and other alternatives from Jabra, Sony as well as other brands, it certainly looks like a smart deal. Samsung plays it smartly with the pricing too, especially against the AirPods Pro, the Sony WF 1000XM3 and the bunch.
While the Galaxy Buds Pro is melody to the ears, I still wish Samsung had given it a proper wear detection system, and a stronger ANC system. These omissions do affect the practicality which isn’t the case with most wireless earbuds at this price. You also need to be invested in the Samsung ecosystem to get the most out of your Galaxy Buds Pro. Additionally, the price tag of Rs 15,990 is still on the higher side, considering Oppo sells its similarly good sounding Enco X closer to the Rs 10,000 mark.
On the whole, if you are willing to spend a sizeable amount of money on a pair of high-end wireless earbuds, go for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro only if you are deeply invested in the Samsung ecosystem – Voice Detect and other smart features make it worth it.