Great earbuds, so long as you don't have an iPhone.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 pack a lot into their $149.99 price tag with a comfy fit, good sound quality, and ANC. So long as you're in the Android eco system (or better yet, the Samsung ecosystem), you'll dig these buds.
ANC and Transparency modes
Good sound quality
Lacking iOS support
Battery life is good, but average
Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds 2, priced at $149.99, are perhaps some of the best mainstream wireless earbuds you can buy.
I say that because these particular buds packs so much into them for the price. They’re comfortable, offer active noise cancellation, have good battery life with wireless charging, and are available in multiple color options. Plus, they sound good.
At that point, what more do you need? Sure, some higher-end buds have better sound, better integration with your smartphone, and even better noise canceling. But as a $150 package, the Galaxy Buds 2 strike a great balance between features and price while remaining comfortable enough for virtually anyone. That’s a recipe for contention as the default pair of wireless earbuds money can buy.
Y’know, as long as you’re in the Android ecosystem.
I’m not gonna lie to you, folks. I was pretty excited to get my hands on the Buds 2. I heard from some early reviewers that the fit and finish were stupendous. When I unwrapped my pair, I found my experience to be nearly identical.
The Galaxy Buds 2 are much more round than the old Galaxy Buds they replace. The way the ear tip is designed makes for a much more comfortable fit during long listening sessions, and I never felt like I had to take them out to give my ears a break. They also create a really good seal in your ears to block out external noise.
My only issue with their design was one I spotted when working out. The sweat that eventually crept down to the buds (which are IP68 certified, by the way) made the glossy finish a bit too slippery, so they eventually started exiting my ear canals. This was especially evident during a session of jumping jacks or jump roping. Every now and then, I had to take them out, give them a quick wipe on my shirt to dry them off, and slide them back in. There also aren’t any extra hooks or clips to secure the buds to your ears, so if you plan to work out in them, keep in mind that they might eventually pop out.
Otherwise, I love the design of the Galaxy Buds 2. Samsung has a few extra ear tips in the box for the perfect size, and the case they come in is small and discrete. I do wish Samsung didn’t get rid of the matte finish like on the original Galaxy Buds’ case, but that’s just me.
ANC, Transparency, and Wind
When you open the case, the Galaxy Buds 2 can automatically pair to your Samsung phone through fast pair. This feature isn’t supported on other Android phones, but you can just open Bluetooth settings and manually pair them that way. There’s also a companion app that gives you a few controls over how the buds sound.
One of those controls involves active noise cancellation, a feature that serves as one of the main reasons to buy the Galaxy Buds 2. There aren’t a lot of earbuds under $200 that offer it, and Samsung has pulled off a decent rendition of the feature here.
To activate noise cancelation, you can touch and hold on one of the earbuds while they’re both in your ears. Once enabled, the mics will kick in and start filtering out noise from your surroundings. I found it to work pretty well, although it isn’t the strongest noise cancelation I’ve heard. But for a set of earbuds, it’s more than adequate.
I took them with me on a recent trip to Starbucks where I sat outside in Ocean City, New Jersey just as the summer season was winding down. Cars, trucks, people, and loud music were all still around me, and I could hear it all at a much lower volume. Only loud trash trucks would penetrate ANC and get on my nerves a bit. Everything else was relatively mute.
If you want to boost the volume of your surroundings so you can hear what’s going on, Samsung gives you that option with Ambient Sound mode. There are three different volumes for external sound input (High, Medium, or Low) with no in-between. Whenever I used the feature, I’d just leave it on High since the two lower settings were a little too quiet to comfortably have a conversation with someone. It’s also not the clearest transparency mode I’ve heard, with some wet processing being applied to whatever the mics are picking up.
Wind is also an issue. Samsung doesn’t have the same wind-blocking technology from the Galaxy Buds Pro on the Buds 2, so if you’re walking near a windy bay like I do, you’ll likely find this a problem.
These complaints, while worth mentioning, aren’t deal-breakers by any means. The Galaxy Buds 2 have proved that they’re great all-rounders thanks to the ANC, transparency mode, and sound quality which remains well-balanced and clear. No, the Buds 2 aren’t gonna blow your socks off with how they sound, but what pair of wireless earbuds actually does that for under $150 anyway?
Sound Quality and App Compatibility
Samsung includes two-way dynamic drivers with woofers and tweeters in each earbud. These specifications provide a pretty clean, simple audio experience. I’ve listened to a lot of music on these buds from hip-hop like Logic’s Bobby Tarantino III to classics like The Mamas & The Papas. For those who enjoy more modern sounds, you’ll be pleased with the level of bass and clear highs these buds can achieve. I was a bit disappointed in the mids which can get muddy fast, especially on tracks like “I Saw Her Again” which depend heavily on a good centered soundstage.
That being said, the Buds 2 sound absolutely fine. Other than with more detailed tracks, I don’t think anyone will have a real problem with them. Samsung didn’t set out to make the most amazing-sounding headphones with the Galaxy Buds 2 – they shot for a solid, mainstream sound anyone could accept. I think they achieved that here.
Tuning the sound of your Buds 2 is another subject, however. Samsung supplies very limited EQ controls in its companion app. You can opt for Bass boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear, or Treble boost. This isn’t extensive by any stretch of the imagination, so if you’re looking to fine-tune your perfect sound, the Buds 2 may not suffice. At the very least, you do get good codec support in the form of AAC, SBC, and Samsung’s own Scalable.
There’s one more issue with the Buds 2, and this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back: Samsung doesn’t include proper iOS support. Sure, you can pair the headphones with an iPhone or iPad like any other Bluetooth product (just enter pairing mode and go to town). However, if you want to control any aspect of the Buds 2 like EQ or ANC strength, you’ll have to get an Android phone to use the Galaxy Wearable app – there’s no iOS alternaitve.
Now, you’re not mistaken if you think, “Wait, isn’t there a Galaxy Buds app on the App Store?” You’d be right, but that app only supports the Galaxy Buds Live and Buds Plus. I’m not sure if Samsung ever plans to build in support for the Buds 2, but as of right now, that seems unlikely.
If you want to buy the Galaxy Buds 2, you really should own an Android phone. It’s kind of like how you shouldn’t buy AirPods unless you had an iPhone. The Buds 2 lack good cross-platform support, which is unfortunate given how capable these headphones are.
Battery life with the Galaxy Buds 2 remains in line with what you’ve come to expect from truly wireless earbuds. The case can supply up to 29 hours of listening time, with the buds themselves lasting up to 7.5 hours on their own. Mind you, this is with active noise canceling off. If you turn it on, you’re looking at five hours of play time and up to 20 hours with the case. This is in the same ballpark in terms of endurance as other high-end wireless earbuds like the AirPods Pro, Pixel Buds, and Sony’s WF-1000XM4s. Recharge times are also good, with 60 minutes of playback added after charging for just five minutes (on wired, wireless, or reverse wireless charging).
I never ran into any problems with recharging the buds, and I don’t think they run out too quickly. They don’t come close to what you can get with earbuds like the Galaxy Buds Pro which can last for over 10 hours on a single charge, but seven and a half hours should still be enough for most people.
The only real downside of the Galaxy Buds 2 is their lack of good iOS support. Other than this minor inconvenience, I have no problem recommending the Buds 2. They sound good, offer ANC, have good battery life, and fit very comfortably in your ears. They’re even sold in a handful of colors, which is always fun.
Are there better pairs wireless earbuds on the market? Sure, but it’s hard to one that costs under $150. The Galaxy Buds 2 are a good default pair of headphones for Android users, and they deserve your attention if you’re looking to upgrade to something new.
So long as you have an Android phone (or better yet, a Samsung phone), the Buds 2 won’t disappoint.