Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus boost the sound and extend the battery life of the original Samsung Galaxy Buds with its new dual-driver design, but it’s still missing advanced audio codec support and full-on noise cancellation.
- Better sound with woofer/tweeter combo
- 11 hour built-in battery life
- iOS compatible
- No advanced codec support
- Only IPX2 splash resistant
- No noise cancellation
Samsung has launched its latest true wireless earbuds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, at its Unpacked 2020 event in San Francisco.
Picking up where the original Galaxy Buds left off, Samsung says that the new earbuds offer an upgraded battery life, more inbuilt microphones for improved call audio, and more powerful drivers for better sound. On top of that, there’s a new gesture control to bring up a recommended set of songs from Spotify, plus wireless charging and power sharing.
The downside? The new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus lack high-end audio codecs and higher IPX4 rating that the Apple AirPods Pro have.
While the new earbuds weren’t available to test at Unpacked due to health concerns, attendees were given a chance to take a pair of the earbuds home with them, thus giving us our first chance of hearing the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus in action.
We’ll update this review as we continue to listen to the Buds Plus, but this is our early thoughts as we put them through their paces.
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus will be available to buy online from February 14, and in stores from March 6.
Costing $149.99 (about £115 / AU$220, though no UK pricing has been announced yet), they’re a little cheaper than their biggest competitors, the Apple AirPods, and significantly cheaper than the best true wireless earbuds of 2020, the Sony WF-1000XM3.
You can buy true wireless earbuds for far less however, with prices dropping as low as $29 / £29 (about AU$40) for the JLab Go Air, and rising as high as $649 (about £490 / AU$930) for the yet-to-be-released Klipsch T10.
The new Galaxy Buds Plus sport a very similar design to their predecessors, with slick pearlescent housings and adjustable silicone eartips. They come in red, white, blue, and black, and you should be able to find a color that suits your sense of style – something that can’t be said for the strictly-white AirPods.
Eschewing the long ear stems of the AirPods and the AirPods Pro, these sleek little buds pop neatly into their charging case and into your ear, being held in place by a small nub that catches a fold in your ear lobe.
Inside the box you’ll find additional eartips in three different sizes, a larger nub to hold the earbuds in place if they’re falling out and a rubber ring if you don’t want any nub on the outer edges of the buds.
On the outside you’ll find the touch capacitive button that understands single, double, triple and long presses. Single, double and triple do what you’d expect them to do and the long press can either activate your virtual assistant, lower the volume or turn on ambient sound amplification.
The only glaring issue we’ve found so far with the Buds Plus is that they’re only IPX2 splash-resistant. That means they’re mostly fine for workouts, but won’t be the kind of thing you’d want to take with you to the pool or beach, where they could easily get damaged. For comparison the Apple AirPods Pro are IPX4 water-resistant, and while that’s not as good as being fully waterproof, it should assuage any fear you have of damaging them at the gym or outside in the rain.
As for the case itself, it’s fairly light and smooth with rounded edges. It should fit fairly easily in your pocket and provides an additional charge for the earbuds in between uses. As you’d expect, the charging case uses USB-C, like Samsung’s flagship phones, which means you don’t need to carry a separate cable.
Battery life and connectivity
The Galaxy Buds Plus boast a far longer battery life than the original Galaxy Buds. The earbuds themselves contain 11 hours of charge, while the charging case provides an additional 11 hours, bringing the total battery life to 22 hours.
That 11 hour battery life is pretty long for earbuds – but for the charging case, it’s not a huge amount of battery. For comparison, the Apple AirPods contain 5 hours in the buds themselves, with an additional 20 provided by the charging case, for 25 hours in total. It’s nice to see the Buds Plus with a larger internal battery, but a shame the charging case didn’t get something more substantial.
If the stated battery life is accurate, it should last you a week’s worth of commutes fairly comfortably though – or one very long flight.
Bluetooth 5.0 should provide a stable wireless connection – the AirPods still only support 4.2, which is pretty old now. Unfortunately, however, neither the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus nor Apple AirPods Pro support higher-end audio codecs like aptX, aptX Low Latency or, even better, LDAC. For now your only options are SBC and AAC – though the inclusion of the latter means the Buds Plus will work with iOS.
Setting up the earbuds can either be done by pairing via Bluetooth for basic playback or by downloading the Galaxy Wearable or Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus app from the Google Play and Apple App Store. With those you’ll be able to customize the headphones and set up ambient noise reduction so it’s well worth downloading.
Finally, if you have multiple devices, the Galaxy Buds Plus support multi-pairing, allowing you to connect them to several devices without needing to re-pair them every time you go to use them.
The headline news in the audio department is the new dual-driver system that the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus use. There’s now a woofer and a tweeter to expand the range of the earbuds and lead to an increase in overall clarity.
In our short time testing them after the event we found that songs that should have phenomenal bass response, like Brass Monkey by Beastie Boys, sound a bit subdued to other earbuds, but it is a marked improvement for Samsung.
Using the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus and/or Samsung Wear app you can customize the sound of the earbuds (there’s options for Soft, Dynamic, Clear, Treble and Bass Boost) but there’s not a significant difference between them.
While the increased clarity is the highlight of the new design, Samsung says it’s also increased the amount of internal microphones by one and that, in theory, should lead to better call quality. Without a pair of the original Buds next to us we couldn’t verify that claim, but anyone we called with the earbuds reported that they sounded as good as talking directly into the phone’s mic. So that’s something.
Having the extra mic also means that ambient noise amplification is better this time around, too. Obviously ambient noise amplification – which pipes in outside noise rather than cancel it out isn’t as good as noise reduction or noise cancellation, but it can be helpful at airplane terminals or bus stations when you’re waiting for a crucial piece of information over the loud speaker or while riding a bike.
It probably goes without saying, but not having noise cancellation is a painful oversight here.
As far as dual-driver true wireless earbuds go, there’s a lot to like about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. They have great clarity and a good mid-range. They’re not as bass-heavy as we might’ve liked, but what’s on offer is far better than the previous iteration.
Not having noise cancellation or a higher level of water resistance are two of the Buds’ biggest weaknesses, but its lower price, new iOS compatibility and extended battery life should help it keep pace with the AirPods and AirPods Pro.