Samsung’s mid-range true wireless earbuds satisfy for Galaxy smartphone owners. They boast an attractive design, an impressive feature set and decent audio performance. For those outside of the Galaxy orbit, there’s plenty the Galaxy Buds 2 do well, but there are also areas where improvements could be made.
- Nice design and fit
- Effective noise cancellation/Ambient mode performance
- Good call quality
- Well-featured app
- Similarly priced rivals offer better sound
- Touch controls a little finicky
- Tailored more for Samsung Galaxy owners
- UKRRP: £139
- USARRP: $149
- EuropeRRP: €149
- Dynamic 2-way speakerBuds 2 aim to offer rich and balanced sound
- Active Noise CancellationSupports ANC and Ambient sound modes
- WeightSamsung’s smallest and lightest earbuds at 5g
Samsung has peppered the true wireless market over the past few years, which perhaps hasn’t been the best tactic in creating familiarity if you’re constantly introducing new models.
However, with the arrival of the Galaxy Buds 2, the series appears to have settled down. An update of the original that started Samsung’s pursuit in 2019, the Buds 2 complete the range of Galaxy Buds by adding yet another noise cancelling pair.
Don’t think of the Galaxy Buds 2 as AirPods rivals, but they do have designs on achieving for Samsung’s own Galaxy smartphones what the AirPods have done for iPhones. They do an admirable job, but come up a little short in some areas.
- Snug fit…
- …that does come loose
- Compact charging case
The Galaxy Buds 2 are Samsung’s smallest and lightest earbuds, weighing in at just 5g each. That feather-lite weight means you’ll forget their presence after a while, but walking about often led to the Buds 2’s fit coming loose, requiring a readjustment to keep its seal intact.
But the design proves comfortable to wear, their ergonomic shape slotting in snugly. The glossy finish differs from the original’s matte appearance, providing a more premium and attractive look.
While that glossy feel offers a nicer point of interaction, the touch surface can be hit and miss, requiring a few more taps than I’d like on some occasions. Sometimes, even repositioning the earbuds can switch through the noise control modes accidentally.
The original’s wing-tips design is gone, but the Buds 2 get IPX2 cover (the original had none) for protection against water splashes from an angle. Along with the default medium ear-tip, small and large options available.
The charging case is nice and compact; easy to slip into a pocket. Open the case and the earbuds are revealed not unlike a pearl in an oyster shell, and although the case is always white, irrespective of the earbuds’ finish, there’s a choice of White, Black (Graphite), Olive and Lavender colourways. It’s a tidy and attractive package from Samsung.
- ANC/Ambient sound modes work well
- Good call quality
- Well-featured app
The Samsung Wearable app knits all of the Bud 2’s features together. Not all the features are unlocked, so it pays to explore and play around with the settings to customise the controls and feature set as you like.
Noise controls cover ANC, Off and Ambient modes. Also included is a toggle for touch controls, so you can have them on or not at all. That’s worth considering if you find the controls either too flaky or too responsive.
Dive into the Earbuds Settings menu and there are EQ profiles but no means of creating your own. There’s a Fit Test that plays some tones to determine the strength of the earbuds’ seal. Firmware updates are possible, and auto-switching with nearby Galaxy devices is supported.
Want more? The balance between the left and right earbuds can be adjusted: noise controls fixed to one earbud, and you can activate a slider control for the Buds 2’s ambient sound to allow in as much, or or as little, sound as you want.
The Labs section activates onboard volume control, which involves a double-tap on the edge of the earbud. While it’s a welcome addition considering so many true wireless omit the feature, detecting where the edge is takes a few attempts. The Find My Earbuds feature plays a series of bird chirps to help locate the headphones, which is a cute touch.
You could argue that some of these features should be enabled by default, but at least they’re present, and there’s the choice of crafting the experience you want.
Battery life is merely okay at a claimed five hours per earbud and 20 hours with the case. That’s better than the Beats Studio Buds (15 hours with ANC), and you can probably eke out more time with ANC off. Fast charging is supported, as is wireless charging.
Both ANC and Ambient sound modes impress, with noise cancelling introducing an immediate sense of calm. The Buds 2’s microphones, along with their fit, perform well to block out cars, people and the general hubbub of everyday life.
Walking through Waterloo station, while the Galaxy Buds 2 aren’t as exacting as the best ANC earbuds, it is noticeably quieter – and the same can be said for travelling on public transport.
Ambient sound is effective at filtering sounds through, offering enough clarity to be aware of what’s around you. The only problem is that at default levels, environmental sounds wash out the music. As such, it’s worth activating the Ambient sound mode’s custom levels in the app to find a balance.
Call quality impresses. Those on the other end have said my voice was a little small but came across fine, the Buds 2’s Voice Pickup feature focusing on my voice and removing background noise. There’s also Bixby integration for those who use Samsung’s voice assistant.
Bluetooth connectivity is 5.2 (the latest version at the time of review), with support for SBC, AAC and Samsung’s Scalable Codec. The latter works similarly to aptX Adaptive in correcting the bit-rate to maintain a strong connection, but is only prevalent on compatible Samsung devices.
Connected to my OnePlus smartphone (which doesn’t have the SSC codec), the wireless tether between the Buds 2 and smartphone was prone to dropping in busy areas such as Waterloo and Victoria train stations. In some circumstances, walking into a busy signal area such as Trafalgar Square was enough to induce a spotty connection.
- Smooth and slightly warm sound profile
- Lack of detail/definition compared to close rivals
- So-so treble response
If there’s an area Samsung’s true wireless often slip up it’s in the sound department. The Galaxy Buds 2 bring in assistance from AKG to help tune the earbuds’ sound – and as a listening experience the Galaxy Buds 2 are solid, if unspectacular.
The approach taken is a smooth one across the frequency range, with a slight hint of warmth at the lower end. As seems to be common with budget to mid-range true wireless, the soundstage comes across smaller than I’d like.
Nevertheless, there’s a good focus on vocals – the earbuds are equally adept at handling male and female vocals without issue. There’s a decent level of detail and clarity, but compared to the Studio Buds, they lack sharpness and definition. The Beats are better balanced in the mid to high frequency range, and that results in a crisper tone and better sense of detail; the Buds 2 are more proficient in the bass area, which contributes to their weightier overall tone.
Even though the bass is prominent, it does lack a degree of depth. The tone reminds me of Audio-Technica’s ATH-CKS5TW and their richer sound profile. However, the effect is the Buds 2’s timing is looser rather than snappy, and dynamism comes up short at normal listening levels.
Really, it’s the Galaxy Buds 2’s sense of definition that leads them astray. A play of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, while the drum hits have weight, the hi-hat cymbal crashes lose out in detail and crispness.
High-frequency notes lack sparkle and definition in The Hands Dealt from the Doctor Strange soundtrack. The tonal difference between each piano key is communicated ok, but it isn’t distinctive enough within the track, and the app’s Treble Boost setting doesn’t have an effect.
The Galaxy Buds 2 are still perfectly listenable for casual users. This a fair effort from Samsung, although there’s some performance left on the table.
Should you buy it?
If you’re an avid Samsung Galaxy user There are lots of features Galaxy owners can take advantage of here, if you have compatible devices. With their notable ANC/Ambient sound performance, the Buds 2 are an affordable counterpoint to the Galaxy Buds Pro.
If you’re not a Samsung Galaxy user There’s plenty to like, but even Android users won’t get the most out of the earbuds considering the Samsung-specific features. There’s better sound to be had from cheaper true wireless, too.
The Galaxy Buds 2 are designed to work best with Galaxy devices, and so they’re tailored for those who live and breathe Samsung’s ecosystem.
The design is good and comfort levels are solid, too, with a satisfying level of customisation on offer in the Wearable app. The ANC/Ambient sound performance impresses for a mid-range-level true wireless, although battery life is merely respectable, and sound quality just fine. There are better performing efforts for less money.
The Buds 2 are a likable pair, and Samsung Galaxy users can add another half-star for the Galaxy-specific features. For everyone else, there isn’t quite enough on offer to take advantage of what is, nevertheless, a solid true wireless package.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Used as the main headphone for the review period
Tested for a week
Tested with various music streaming services
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SBC, AAC and Samsung Scalable Codec (SSC)