Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Review
Great battery life and audio quality easily make the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ worth the $149 asking price.
- Strong battery life
- Clear, distinct audio
- Great fit
- Clear calls
- Responsive touch controls
- Passively blocks most background noise
- Lack of sweat resistance and fit issues limit their usefulness during exercise
- Ambient noise feature marred by hissing
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are the latest true wireless earbuds from Samsung, announced alongside the Samsung Galaxy S20 family of smartphones and the foldable Galaxy Z Flip. They’re the follow-up to last year’s Galaxy Buds, but it’s no small upgrade this year — while the buds look the same, the substantial jumps in battery life and audio quality makes these buds worth considering, even if you’ve already got the Galaxy Buds from last year.
And maybe that jump should be expected — Samsung owns Harman, and that means they have an awful lot of people on staff who know audio deeply. They took full advantage of that expertise with the Buds+ on both the hardware and software sides. Audio processing is handled by one of Harman’s many audio brands, AKG, but it’s the hardware that makes these buds so impressive this year. Both buds now have two drivers each — a tweeter dedicated to highs and a woofer dedicated to bass. That results in much cleaner audio, as long as you make use of the equalizer in the companion app. The buds are preset to normal — there are a few presets you can choose from, but the dynamic setting seems to make the most of the discrete drivers in the Galaxy Buds+.
Sound blocking has been improved substantially, which really helps accentuate the improved bass. Volume is impressive for the size of the buds, too — for everyday, on-the-go sound, there’s nothing here that disappoints.
Call quality has also been improved from last year’s model. The buds now have three mics each — two external, one internal. The buds also use beamforming to get a better read on your voice during calls, which works well here. I used them for a few calls out on busy streets and in cafes, and the people on the other end had no problem hearing me clearly. The great passive sound blocking helped out a lot here, but on the other hand, I had problems hearing myself. The buds do have a feature that pipes in background noise like last year, but also like last year, that background noise comes through alongside a lot of hissing — I found myself removing one earbud when taking a call by instinct.
The buds rely on touch controls, which are very consistent. A single tap on either bud pauses or plays audio, a double tap skips track or answers or ends a call, and a quick triple tap will play the previous track. Press and hold can be customized — you can set it to activate your voice assistant, turn the volume down, turn on ambient sound, or have Spotify start playing a playlist based on your recent favorites, a new feature introduced with the Galaxy Buds+. And, removing the buds from your ears will automatically pause audio.
The only downside here is that sometimes, the touch controls work too well. I frequently paused or played tracks by accident when adjusting the fit of the buds or tapping the buds in my pocket when not using them. It’s a pretty minor downside, outweighed by the upside of responsive, consistent controls.
Aside from the jump in audio quality, this is the most exciting development in the Galaxy Buds+. Samsung quotes 11 hours of battery life, with 11 hours added by the charging case. As usual with headphones, your mileage will vary depending on how loud you listen to your music or podcasts, but even if you do tax them, they’ll last. Using them throughout the whole day off and on, I never had them die on me, or come anywhere close (you can check battery status using Samsung’s companion app).
The charging case can itself be charged wirelessly, which is a nice little extra if you already have a wireless charging pad. A charge of a few minutes will get you an additional hour or so of listening, so I’d imagine it’ll be pretty difficult to run into situations where battery life would ever be a concern here.
Ultimately, with true wireless earbuds, you just want something that sounds pretty good that can handle calls and won’t fall out of your ears (as long as you grab the right tips, — three pair are supplied, along with some soft inner ear hooks). All those boxes are ticked, with the caveat that exercise probably isn’t in the Galaxy Buds+’s wheelhouse. They’re only rated IPX2, so they aren’t sweat-resistant, and while they never fell out on me during a run, I was often distracted by a slight feeling of looseness.
Like with AirPods and Apple, you’re going to get the most value out of the Galaxy Buds+ if you are comfortably ensconced in the Samsung camp. Switching between Galaxy devices is much easier than switching the connection between non-Samsung devices, which was my situation — I frequently had to disconnect and re-pair the buds when switching from phone to PC and back again. Not ideal, but not enough to keep me from using them. Even without Samsung devices, the great battery life and audio quality make the Galaxy Buds+ worth the $149 asking price.