Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 REVIEW
Is “pretty good” enough in a crowded market? PAT PILCHER reviews Samsung’s new buds and declares them a no-brainer for current Galaxy owners.
Samsung’s Galaxy buds have a solid pedigree. Using both Samsung and AKG’s know-how, the original Galaxy buds were well regarded. Now their replacements are here in the form of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2.
There have been a lot of developments since the original Galaxy buds launched way back in 2019. To that end, Samsung has added the expected improvements to the Buds 2, all of which make them easy to recommend for anyone with a pair of original Galaxy Buds.
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Design-wise, the Galaxy Buds 2’s resemble a pair of smallish pebbles in that they’re small, rounded, polished and smooth. Their compact design makes them super comfy to wear, even for prolonged use. Their charging case is also slick and highly pocketable, easily sliding into a pocket or purse. The Buds 2 come in four different colour flavours: Lavender, Olive, White, and Graphite. That said, the outside of their charging case is always white.
Samsung’s bumpf says that the Buds 2 are 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. While that does make them comfy to wear, they’re so small that I found they slipped out of my hands on more than one occasion.
Once they’re in their case, they do stay put as they magnetically attach. Being careful when removing the buds or putting them back into their case is a must. Most importantly, once plunked into my ear holes, they were snug and stayed put, even when I ran to catch a bus.
There is one small gotcha. If you run in the rain or work up gallons of sweat at the gym, the Buds 2’s are only IPX2 water-resistant. For sweaty workouts or runs outside when it’s pouring, they’re not ideal.
Samsung bundles two additional ear-tips and a small USB-C charging cable with the Buds 2. There’s also a handy fit test backed into the Galaxy Wear app. It makes getting the best passive noise isolation possible a doddle. When it comes to driving the Buds 2, their touch controls are standard fare. Play and pause require just one tap. FFW is two taps, while three gets you skipping backwards. While testing, I got a firmware update that allowed me to double-tap the earbud’s edge to tweak volume levels.
The Buds 2 feature a dual-driver design. Like the Buds Pro, they now use a single mid driver plus an additional tweeter. Three mics are used for active noise cancellation, which was missing from the original Galaxy buds. Doing a long press on either bud switches between ambient or ANC mode (the long press gesture can also be customised to carry out other tasks like summoning the Google assistant). Firing up the Google assistant won’t happen if you say “okay Google” with the Buds 2 planted in your noggin. Summoning the Google Assistant with your voice is something other earbud brands have long had. Its absence in the Galaxy Buds 2 is surprising.
Active noise cancellation is a welcome addition to the Galaxy Buds line up though. Testing in Wellington’s CBD during rush hour and on a busy bus highlighted that it was competent, but still not quite in the same league as Sony’s WF-1000XM4 buds. That said, with music playing, I couldn’t hear the people behind me chatting, even if loud noises from a nearby construction site still managed to punctuate music playback. Phone-call quality was, however, very polished indeed, thanks to the use of AI to exterminate background noises. I was told by people I called that calls made using the Buds 2 were clearer than when I used my phone’s in-built earpiece/mic.
Alongside ANC, there’s also Ambient mode. It uses the three built-in mics to pipe environmental noise into the Buds. This proved useful for tasks requiring greater situational awareness (such as crossing the road) but also for having a quick conversation without having to rip the Buds out of my ears. The Ambient mode can be used in calls, which was really useful while waiting for a flight to be called when on a call.
The Galaxy Wearable app also deserves mention. With it, EQ settings can be tweaked. It’ll display how much battery life the case and earbuds have left. There’s also the Earbud Fit Test and a Find My Buds option. If that’s the good, the not so good news is that your equalisation options are limited to a bunch of presets. There’s no manual option, and many features are only available on the Android version of the app. The iOS version of the app has yet to be updated and is still lacking several key features.
When it comes to codec support, you’re well catered for. Not only do the Buds 2 support SBC and AAC codecs, but Samsung Galaxy owners also get support for Samsung’s Scalable Codec. Trying it out saw audio get a solid bump in quality which makes the Buds 2 a no brainer for anyone with a Galaxy device.
When it comes to their audio chops, the Galaxy Buds 2 did a good job. Mid-range and upper bass is plentiful, while mids were accurate and highs crisp. Low-end bass was lacking. Firing up ‘Yellow Dress’ by David Gilmour saw the Buds 2 doing nice things to the sweet, jazzy bass guitar goodness, while hi-hat and bass drums and vocals felt balanced. Their sound stage might not be vast, but it is accurate. It is also a significant improvement over the original Galaxy buds.
In use, I managed to wring just on five hours with ANC enabled. Their case can deliver another three charges (equalling around 20 hours using ANC and 29 hours with ANC disabled). The good news is that the Buds 2 charge case plays nice with a wireless Qi charge pad. There’s a USB-C port around the back of the case, and I was able to get a 13% charge after 10 minutes. It might not be fast charging, but it is still quick.
If you own a Galaxy device, the Buds 2 are a complete no brainer. Support for Samsung’s Scalable codec makes them a pretty compelling option. Other Android users won’t gain access to the fancy pants codec, but there’s plenty of value for money on offer. That said, Apple users might want to hold off until the IOS Galaxy Wear app offers greater support.