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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Best wireless earbuds for Galaxy phone fans

They also come with one darn cool feature AirPods don't offer.
jason-cipriani
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer on
Pros
  • Very comfortable
  • Active noise cancellation is great
  • Deep integration with Samsung devices
Cons
  • Battery life has been hit or miss
  • Ambient mode is good, not great
  • Deep integration with Samsung devices

Earlier this month Samsung announced a handful of new devices, all slated to begin arriving on Aug. 26. There are new Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 smartphones, the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro, and Galaxy Buds 2 Pro wireless earbuds. Shortly after the event ended, I received a review sample of the Buds 2 Pro. 

For the past week, I've been using them as much as I could, listening to music and watching a few YouTube videos on a Z Flip 4. Thus far, the Buds 2 Pro are delivering on the promise of high-end wireless earbuds, with one exception. 

Specifications

Microphones 3 in each earbud
Speaker Custom coaxial 2-way speaker
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.3
Battery life w/ANC 5 hours listening, 18 hours total with case
Battery life w/ANC off 8 hours listening, 29 hours total with case
Feature: Active noise cancellation, ambient mode, 360 audio, voice detection
Colors Bora Purple, Graphite, White
Water and sweat resistance IPX7
Price $229

Comfort is key

After a week of use, including two cross-country flights, I can say that the Buds 2 Pro just might be the most comfortable wireless earbuds I've worn yet. I was able to use the default medium-size ear tips that come installed on the earbuds. There are small and large tips included in the box, along with a USB-C to USB-C charging cable.

Comparing the Buds 2 Pro with the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro, Samsung's earbuds have a unique shape to them. There's the ear tip, then a small bump that fits nicely into my ear, with a larger area on the outside that houses the touchpad. 

Review: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: Lighter, brighter, and more user-friendly

I've been able to wear them for several hours nonstop without having to take a break because my ears are sore or feel uncomfortable. I also don't feel as if the Buds 2 Pro are going to fall out of my ears. Maybe that's because they feel much lighter than the Pixel Buds Pro. Each individual Buds 2 Pro earbud weighs 5.5 grams, while the Pixel Buds Pro earbuds weigh 6.2 grams each. It's not a lot, but I can feel the difference (to be clear, I didn't look up the weight until I started writing this, so it's not a placebo effect).

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and a closed Galaxy Z Flip phone
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Sound quality and Pro features

The Buds 2 Pro have all of the staple features that now come with the Pro nomenclature for wireless earbuds. That means quick pairing, active noise cancellation (ANC) to block out background noise and some form of ambient or transparency mode that lets in background noise. All of those features work as expected, and are on par with the AirPods Pro or Pixel Buds Pro. 

The ANC is strong enough to block out my very loud mechanical keyboard and office air conditioner when it's running, and made a huge difference when walking through an airport and during the flight. ANC wasn't strong enough to block out the constant hum of the planes' engines, but I couldn't hear the captain's announcements or the flight attendant asking me what I wanted to drink. Ambient mode lets a lot of sound through, but I found it was really only useful if I turned down the music volume nearly all the way. Otherwise I couldn't hear what was being said during announcements, for example. 

The Buds 2 Pro also have a Voice Detect feature that turns on ambient mode and lowers the volume of whatever you're listening to once it detects that you're talking. The assumption is that you're talking to someone, and adjusting the sound will make you better able to hear the person. After 10 seconds of the earbuds no longer detecting your voice, the sound settings revert to their previous state. 

In a couple of quick tests, I found voice detection works well. It's fast to respond when I start talking, and turns everything down low enough that I can hear someone across the room. You can customize the 10-second timeout to either 5 or 15 seconds, but not any longer than that. Originally I thought 15-seconds was too short of a window, but after using Voice Detect to talk to various people along my trip, I think 15 seconds is as long as you'd want the earbuds to wait for you to talk again. I ordered food and even talked to the gate agent all without taking the earbuds out, and I didn't miss a thing. It's a darn cool feature. 

Samsung also added 360 Audio to the Buds 2 Pro. It's a feature that's similar to Apple's Spatial Audio that creates the effect of being surrounded by the music you're listening to or the video you're watching. Samsung's 360 Audio is not as aggressive as Spatial Audio, but there have been times when I forgot 360 Audio was turned on and I'd turn my head and hear different instruments singled out. 

Both Voice Detect and 360 Audio are features that you have to turn on in the Wearable app -- they aren't enabled by default. 

Also: 8 tips and tricks to get the most out of your Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

As for sound quality, Samsung added 24-bit Hi-Fi sound to the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, but you need to have an audio source or streaming service that also supports 24-bit Hi-Fi. I don't have access to either, so all I can speak to is the standard audio experience. As with ANC and ambient mode, the sound quality of the Buds 2 Pro is in line with other high-end wireless earbuds. 

Battery life is one area that hasn't lived up to expectations. When using them at home or even around the office, where you often take a break every few hours and the earbuds end up back in the charging case, battery life is great. However, on the way to New York I was only able to get three hours of constant use -- with ANC enabled -- before the earbuds both died. On the way home, I turned off voice detect and 360 Audio in case that was the cause of extra battery strain and I was able to get four hours of use. Neither listening session lived up to the 5 hours Samsung quoted would be possible when ANC is turned on.

The charging case does replenish the earbuds in a quick manner, so I was only without them for a short amount of time, but I was hopeful that the earbuds would last through the long flight from Colorado to New York. 

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro case, closed
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

I got automatic switching to work, but...

One benefit of using the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with a Galaxy phone, tablet, computer and even a Samsung smart TV is that you can easily switch between devices without having to pair and re-repair the earbuds when you switch devices. All you need to do is start playing something on a different Samsung device and the earbuds will switch, instantly. The caveat here is that you have to be signed in to both devices with the same Samsung account. 

For nearly the entire week I could not get this feature to work. I originally set up and paired the Buds 2 Pro with the Galaxy Z Flip 4, and signed into the only Samsung account I have. On a few occasions, I'd listen to music on the Z Flip 4, and then try to start streaming music or watch a YouTube video on my personal Z Fold 3 or a review model of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and not once did the audio switch. 

Then, today, just as I was starting to update this very review I decided to try it one more time. This time I put the Buds 2 Pro back into the charging case and left it sitting open next to the Z Fold 4. I then opened the Bluetooth connections menu on the Fold 4 to see if the Buds 2 Pro were listed as a paired device. But instead of seeing the Buds 2 Pro listed under the paired devices section, I saw a "Music Share" section with the Buds 2 Pro as an option. I tapped on it, and a few seconds later the text said it was connected via my phone number. So, I started playing music on the Z Flip 4 with the Buds 2 Pro, and then started playing something else on the Z Fold 4 a minute later -- and it worked. 

I have no clue if that's how the setup process is supposed to work; it definitely wasn't obvious or straightforward, but if you run into issues, it's something to check. 

You can use the Buds 2 Pro with non-Samsung devices by pairing them via the traditional Bluetooth method. You need to place both earbuds in the charging case, and then long-press on both touchpads until the status light starts flashing red, green, and blue. 

The Buds 2 Pro don't support multipoint connections like the Pixel Buds Pro do. That means the Buds 2 Pro can only stay connected to one device at a time. If you want to switch from, say, a MacBook Pro back to your Galaxy phone, you'll need to unlock the phone, open the Settings app, go to Connections and then Bluetooth, and select the earbuds. 

For anyone who has multiple devices made by multiple companies, it's a cumbersome and inconvenient process. And that's unfortunate. 

To be fair, Apple's AirPods Pro (and the rest of the AirPods lineup) work in a similar fashion when in use with non-Apple devices. However, automatic switching between Apple devices is seamless. 

Bottom line

Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are without a doubt the most comfortable wireless earbuds I've ever worn. I can, and did, wear them for several hours without ever feeling any discomfort or as if they were going to fall out any moment. The earbuds sound fantastic, and the ANC feature blocks out pretty much everything you'd want it to. Ambient mode leaves a little to be desired, and when automatic switching works -- it's great. 

After a lot internal of back and forth, I think the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are the best wireless earbuds for someone who is entrenched in the Samsung Galaxy ecosystem. The earbuds offer an AirPod-like experience for Galaxy users, but once you try to venture out beyond Galaxy devices, that same experience starts to fall apart. For those who have a non-Samsung Android phone, I think the Pixel Buds Pro offer a better experience when it comes to switching between devices, and are slightly more affordable. 

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