Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: AirPods competitor boosts performance – CNET

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The Galaxy Buds Plus is available in 3 colors.

Sarah Tew / CNET

When I compile a list of best real wireless earbuds In a YouTube video from 2019, I took some heat off fans of Samsung's Galaxy Buds ((

$ 107 at Amazon

) for not including it in my resume. I liked the Galaxy Buds, I said, but I thought they were missing in some areas: they sounded decent for their price – but not great – and they just weren't good for calls in noisy environments because callers complained about too much background noise to listen.

To like

  • Improved sound with two drivers that deliver better bass performance.
  • Increased battery life (11 hours).
  • Much better for making calls
  • New iOS app for Apple users
  • USB-C and wireless charging

I do not like it

  • Same design as standard Galaxy Buds.
  • Price higher than the previous model.
  • No active noise cancellation
  • IPX2 waterproof only

But now Samsung is getting a do-over in the form of the Galaxy Buds Plus, which was launched alongside the company's new one Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Z Flip Smartphones. The new Buds Plus look essentially the same as the originals, but have some improvements in internal performance: their battery life is 11 hours for music playback (out of 6), and they offer improved drivers for better sound and an extra microphone in each Bud helps with external noise reduction when making calls.

At $ 150, they cost $ 20 more than that Galaxy Buds, And they're not bundled with Samsung's new phones, but with the $ 150 Pre-order credit for the Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra (when ordering through the Samsung website) effectively lowers the price to free. (Prices in the UK and Australia are TBA.) Unfortunately, although they have the same noise-isolating design, they don't offer active noise cancellation like Apple's AirPods Pro to do.

The Galaxy Buds Plus is available in three color options (black, light blue, white). It has the same dimensions as its predecessor and looks almost identical. However, they weigh 6.3 grams (0.2 ounces) or 0.7 grams more than the buds. That's because they have a larger battery and two-way driver (with woofer and tweeter) than a single driver. The battery compartment, which can be charged via USB-C and wirelessly with any Qi-compatible charging pad, is also equipped with a larger battery (a three-minute charge in the housing gives one hour of juice). And yes, all of these new Samsung phones have the Wireless PowerShare feature, so you can refill your Galaxy Buds Plus simply by placing the case on the back of the phone.

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The other notable changes are the pairing of multiple devices – a feature often overlooked that many people appreciate – and one iOS App that makes the Galaxy Buds Plus more user-friendly for the iPhone ((

$ 699 at Apple

) Owner. When launched, the app received many negative reviews from current Galaxy Buds owners, as it does not appear to be compatible with the original Galaxy Buds. But I found the app ok.

The app gives iOS users access to firmware upgrades, EQ settings to optimize bud sound, and "ambient noise" that allows you to adjust the buds' transparency levels (off, medium, or high) to let the sound in from outside the buds. In the app, you can also specify that ambient noises are activated when making calls. So you can hear your voice in the earphones when you speak. (This is sometimes referred to as background noise.)

Android users use the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app and get some small features that iOS users are not able to use. The biggest of these are Spotify one-button access via the buds themselves and a game mode to "minimize audio lag for lively, synchronized game sound". I used the buds with one iPhone 11 Pro and a Galaxy S9 Plus ((

$ 643 at Amazon

),

The Galaxy Buds Plus retains the same touch controls as its predecessor. They work well and respond very quickly, although my double clicks to move a track forward sometimes became triple taps that restarted the track I was listening to (you tap three times to jump back a track). In the app you get some options for customizing the touch controls, including adjusting the volume with a long press. There's even an "experimental" setting that lets you use the edge of the buds for volume and the center for other controls.

The Galaxy Buds fit my ears well and the Galaxy Buds Plus felt very similar in my ears. These are fairly compact buds (they stick out a little bit from your ears, much like Jabras Elite 75t) and should fit most ears. The only problem I had was with the earplugs. With these types of noise-isolating headphones, it is important to achieve a tight seal in order to achieve optimal sound quality. I got a pretty good seal with the largest of the tips included, but things improved when I switched to my own earplugs (one of the advantages of checking a lot of headphones is that I have a lot of earplugs lying around). The ones I used were rounder and a little wider than the supplied tips, which should work well for many people's ears. The Samsung tips – three sizes are included – are slightly more convex in shape.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

Sarah Tew / CNET

I chose the medium-sized wing tip (three sizes are included) and got a nice, secure fit. Although they only have IPX2 water resistanceThey are sweat-resistant (to a certain extent) and can be used in the gym and for running. That is, competing models like that Jabra Elite 75t (IPX5) offer higher water resistance values ​​and some are completely waterproof.

The sound impressed me. It's detailed and smooth, with deep, well-defined bass. The sound is richer and more spacious than that of the original Galaxy Buds. Well-known Austrian audio company AKGSamsung bought when it bought Harmanis behind the audio. While the original buds were also "tuned" by AKG, they are a nice upgrade over the originals – and exactly what you get with Jabra Elite 75t, if not a little bit better. As with many headphones these days, there is a little presence boost that helps make your music sound more detailed and exciting, but which results in a slight hiss in the treble. You can switch between some EQ settings – "Soft, Bass Boost, Dynamic, Clear, and Treble Boost" – but I mostly sticked to the "Normal" EQ setting, which seemed the most balanced.

The buds look exactly like the predecessor, but weigh a little more thanks to new components inside.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Aside from better battery life, the other performance boost you'll appreciate most is call quality. The additional external microphone for better noise reduction during calls helps to fix the greatest weakness of the headphones. The Galaxy Buds may not work quite as well as the AirPods Pro or Anker Liberty Air 2 for making calls, but they're significantly improved in this area over the original Galaxy Buds. During our test calls from the streets of New York City, outside traffic noise was effectively reduced and my voice was clearly heard.

I will also add that my wireless connection has remained absolutely stable during my two days of testing. New York City can be notoriously difficult for real wireless earbuds with interference problems. But I have not experienced any dropouts or glitches. I also haven't noticed any audio sync issues when using different video streaming apps (I've tried YouTube, Netflix and DisneyPlus).

Ultimately, I don't think this will slow down AirPods sales, but the Galaxy Buds have just become a better option for Android users, and may even earn some fans using iOS devices. Hopefully the price will go down a bit – I would have liked to have seen the original Galaxy Buds rise to $ 99, which is $ 129. However, if you choose the pre-order route for your new Galaxy phone and get it effectively "for free", you won't be disappointed.