The Galaxy Buds offer better sound and fit than the AirPods, but if you're willing to look elsewhere then there are better performers available for a similar price
- Great fit
- Discrete design
- PowerShare will be useful for Galaxy S10 owners
- Better sounding sets available
- Prone to drop-outs
- Review Price: £139
- 3 tip options
- 6 hours playtime
- Bluetooth v5.0
What are the Galaxy Buds?
The Galaxy Buds are Samsung’s answer to Apple’s true wireless AirPods. They aim to entice buyers away from their fruity competition by offering a less ostentatious, sports-ready design, and a custom wireless charging feature that lets you power up the case using your Galaxy S10 smartphone, or a compatible Qi pad.
For the most part the Galaxy Buds stack up well against their rival, offering better audio quality, superior noise isolation and a better seal. If you’re an Android or Samsung fan who’s after a set of true wireless then you could do a lot worse than the Galaxy Buds.
Look elsewhere, however, and you’ll find that there are a number of better-sounding true-wireless sets available. The Amps Air 2.0 and TicPods Free are similar in cost and offer noticeably better audio quality. The arrival of the new AirPods could further diminish the Galaxy Buds time in the sun.
Related: Best true-wireless earphones
From a design point of view, the Galaxy Buds are excellent and a clear step-up on the Apple AirPods.
This is for two simple reasons. First, because they’re proper in-ears. It’s no secret that the AirPods offer a pretty terrible seal and noise isolation. This is because their atypical design doesn’t see them actually fit into your ear canal. So straight off the bat the Galaxy Buds win out here, featuring a multitude of tip options.
Second, the Galaxy Buds are more discrete – so long as you don’t opt for the ludicrous yellow option. The Buds sport a small-form-factor design, and miss the extended shaft seen on the AirPods. This means they can be worn discreetly, which will be a bonus for more self-conscious buyers. Aside from the insanely small Earin M-2, you’ll struggle to find a more discrete set of true wireless earphones.
I’m also a big fan of the fact that Samsung has loaded the Galaxy Buds with wings on their top side. The wings provide a radically better fit and seal than you’ll achieve with many competing true wireless units, such as the BeoPlay E8 2.0 and Amps Air 2.0. This ensures they remain in place even during heated workouts, such as outdoor runs and working a boxing bag. The only other true wireless set I’ve tested that can compare are the gym-focused Jabra Elite Sport.
The only downside is that there’s no IP resistance rating, which means you’ll want to wipe them down after a sweaty workout to avoid damage. Build quality is otherwise excellent, though, and after a fortnight of use in the gym I haven’t had any issues.
It’s only with regards to battery life that I have mixed feelings about the Galaxy Buds design. Samsung quotes around six hours’ playtime, but the company has been oddly silent about the number of charges you’ll get from the case, which includes only a 252mAh battery. With real-world use I generally got closer to 4-5 hours’ use from the Buds, which is fine. But the case, which is far smaller than competing sets, managed only one and a half charges – well below that of competing products.
The addition of PowerShare does make it easy to top up the case’s charge if you have a Galaxy S10 – this lets you charge the buds by placing the case on the back of the phone. But I’d still like to get more than one re-charge out of the case.
Related: Best wireless headphones
Audio quality and connection stability are a bigger concerns. The Galaxy Buds’ audio quality is without doubt better than that of the AirPods. They offer superior max volumes, better detail and more low end. Listening to Jazz, the rumbling bass displayed noticeably more power and piano strokes more sparkle with the Galaxy Buds. For the most part, if you’re a casual music listener then you’ll be more than satisfied with the Galaxy Buds’ audio performance.
However, audio quality doesn’t match that of some competing, similarly priced sets – such as the Amps Air 2.0 and TicPods Free – in a few key areas. Tonal balance is a key one.
No set of true wireless at this price offers stellar tonal balance, but the Galaxy Buds noticeably under represent the mid-range. Listening to complex orchestral pieces and post-rock, mid-heavy guitar parts could be lost. Sibilance also reared its ugly head on more than one occasion, giving drums’ cymbals an unpleasant, slightly acidic quality.
Connection stability can also be a problem. In general, the Galaxy Buds work fine and don’t suffer from too much interference. But on more than one occasion they inexplicably dropped out, requiring a hard reset.
This is to be expected in busy signal areas, such as tube stations, which knock out most true wireless earphones. And, being fair to Samsung, the company has rolled out a load of software updates that have helped tackle the issue. Nevertheless, it’s still all too common for me to experience dropouts in areas where competing sets work just fine. This was particularly annoying mid-workout.
Why buy the Galaxy Buds?
If you’re thinking about picking up a Galaxy S10 and fancy getting a pair of true wireless earphones at the same time then the Galaxy Buds are a solid option. They offer a pleasingly subtle, gym-ready design, with a wonderfully comfortable fit. The ability to charge them wirelessly using a compatible PowerShare device is another welcome addition. They also sound a lot better than their arch-rival, the Apple AirPods.
However, you can get better-sounding true wireless earphones for the money. The Amps Air 2.0 aren’t perfect, plus they don’t offer as solid a seal as the Galaxy Buds, but audio quality is more balanced and battery life is better. The same is true of the TicPods Free, although their design is far more marmite.
The Galaxy Buds are a noble rival to the Apple AirPods, but there are better true wireless headphones available for the money.