Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Great sounding earbuds with the smartest transparency mode

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Great sounding earbuds with the smartest transparency mode

Samsung’s been making wireless earbuds for many years, but it wasn’t until last year’s Galaxy Buds Pro did the South Korean tech giant really make a great pair of wireless earbuds. Before the Buds Pro, previous Samsung buds were unpolished, like those kidney bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live which I liked, but had the world’s most pointless “active noise cancellation” because the earbuds did not cover the wearer’s ear canals at all.

Launched last month alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro continues that momentum with a sleeker, lighter design that feels more comfortable in my ears during prolonged listening sessions, better active noise cancellation, and end-to-end 24-bit audio support — though the latter comes with major caveats.

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I’m also a fan of Samsung’s decision to not go the AirPods design route with the elongated stem, partly because the buds are more discreet in my ear, but also because I just think it’s tacky when brands openly copy Apple.

The $230 asking price of the Buds 2 Pro could be considered a bit high to some people, because you can get perfectly fine earbuds like the Nothing Ear 1 for less than half the price, or the Google Pixel Buds Pro for $30 less. But the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has better ANC and my favorite transparency mode amongst all wireless earbuds. Plus, the price is comparable to Apple’s new AirPods, and that’s the company Samsung is aiming for as it builds an impressive ecosystem of products of its own.

      The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are comfortable to wear, sound great, and can block out sound.

        Pros:

        Cons:

    Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Specifications

    Specification Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
    Dimensions & Weight
    • Buds: 19.9 x 21.6 x 18.7mm (each)
    • Case: 50.1 x 50.2 x 27.7mm
    Battery and Charging
    • Earbud: 61mAh (each)
    • Case: 515 mAh
      • Wireless charging support
    Speaker and Mic
    • 10mm driver tuned by AKG
    • 5.3mm tweeter
    • Bass duct
    • Air vent
    • Three microphones
    Connectivity
    • Bluetooth 5.3 BLE
    • Codec: AAC, SBC, Scalable Codec, 24-bit audio
    Sensors and other features
    • Proximity sensor
    • Accelerometer
    • Touch-sensitive sensor
    • Conversation Mode
    • IPX7 water resistance
    Colors Black, Purple, White

    About this review: This review was written after nine days using the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro provided by Samsung. Samsung did not have any inputs in this review.


    Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Hardware, Design and Fit

    • Lightweight and compact case
    • Three silicon tip sizes
    • Five hours of listening time with ANC on and eight hours without ANC on a single charge

    galaxy buds 2 pro

    The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro comes in a small charging case that pops open like an engagement ring box, and much to my delight, the entire set — the case and buds — have this matte coating that’s soft to the touch. I like this feel and look much better than the shiny glossy coating of the original Buds Pro, or in most other earbuds like the Huawei Freebuds Pro 2 or AirPods Pro.

    galaxy buds 2 pro

    The earbuds weigh just 5.5g a piece (down from 6.3g), and the vents in each are also larger to allow for better airflow, so the wearer wouldn’t get that stuffy, clogged ear feel — and it works! These are some of the most comfortable earbuds I’ve ever worn.

    galaxy buds 2 pro

    Because they don’t have stems, the buds are quite discreet — if you look at me straight on, you may not see I’m wearing them.

    Hardware components

    The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are rated IPX7, meaning they can be submerged in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. I have worn them during showers and had no issues. There’s a 10mm driver and 5mm tweeter in each bud, which pump out lively and full sound for up to five hours with active noise cancellation on and eight hours without. The charging case adds another 3.5 charges. The case can be charged via USB-C or wirelessly. Samsung’s recent flagships, as well as many others, can also reverse charge the buds wirelessly.

    galaxy buds 2 pro

    Each earbud has a touch-sensitive panel on the outside that can detect single taps, double taps, or long presses. They work as advertised — one tap to start audio, another tap to stop, long press to switch ANC modes — but because these earbuds do not have extra parts like elongated stems, this means you won’t have many places to touch the earbud when they’re in your ear that isn’t part of the touch panel. Often, when I’m simply trying to adjust the fit of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in my ear, I will have accidentally paused or started the music. It doesn’t help that the controls are just a single tap.


    Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Setup, Audio Quality, Features

    • Can use it right away after pairing
    • But using the Galaxy Wearable app grants it more controls
    • Can play 24-bit “hi-fi” audio — but only if you use a Galaxy phone and have a streaming service that supports 24-bit audio

    Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

    The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro can be used immediately after pairing with any device. But if you’re using an Android and have Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app, you gain access to granular controls over audio EQ, reassign some touch controls, and options for getting incoming notifications read to you via Bixby.

    Much like Apple, Samsung’s goal is to build a seamless ecosystem of products, and to sort of lock you in too. To that end, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has several exclusive features that require a Samsung phone. The first is the aforementioned 24-bit audio. You can only get this higher-quality audio if you are using a phone running One UI 4.0 or higher and use a streaming service that supports the format such as Tidal and Amazon Music. Neither of these streaming services is close to mainstream services like Spotify, by the way, so it would not be an overstatement to say 24-bit audio support for the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is a bit of a niche feature. Don’t worry, listening to a “normal” 16-bit audio stream is more than good enough. I’ll talk more about sound in a couple of paragraphs.

    Other exclusive features for Samsung users include 360-degree audio, which I turned off after a few minutes because I find it distracting, and the ability for the buds to seamlessly switch between Samsung devices like a phone and a tablet, etc. This worked well between my Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, but the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro cannot pair to two devices simultaneously the way Huawei’s recent earbuds or Google’s Pixel Buds can.

    Audio quality

    The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound excellent -- better than the AirPods Pro

    With dual drivers and tuning by AKG, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound excellent. And this is despite the fact I am testing the audio from Spotify and YouTube, where I am not getting 24-bit audio. Whether it was 90s rock from Stone Temple Pilots and Foo Fighters or more modern stuff from Billie Eilish, Samsung’s buds pump out full, lively-sounding tunes with a particular focus on the mid-range. I do think Huawei’s FreeBuds Pro have more kick — that extra “oomph” — for bass-heavy tunes like hip hop tracks, but I think Samsung’s more balanced approach is more suited for all types of audio. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro seem to provide greater separation and clarity between vocals and the instruments. When I listen to The Strokes’ “Someday,” I hear the separation between Julian Casablancas’ vocals and Albert Hammond Jr’s guitar riffs more so than I do on other buds. At least I think I do — ultimately, I am no audiophile. But I do think the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound clearly more dynamic than Apple’s AirPods Pro — not the newest ones which aren’t on sale yet, but the ones that are almost two years old. Not the fairest comparison, but we shall see in a week whether Apple catches up or retakes the lead.

    Active Noise Cancelling and Transparency mode

    I live in one of the noisiest cities on earth, and so ANC really matters to me, and I find the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has one of the best ANC. With the combination of the silicon tip providing a seal around my ear canal plus Samsung’s software smarts, I find the Buds 2 Pro can block out human chatter, air conditioning whirring, and distant traffic noise very well. Of course, sudden loud sounds like dishes at a restaurant clanging against each other or car honks, still get through, but they are less jarring. The earbuds also don’t feel as stuffy in my ear even after 30 minutes of ANC, due to the larger vent.

    But the star of the show and the biggest reason I love the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is the transparency mode, which is when the Buds will let in sound on purpose, so you can carry a conversation or hear important sounds even when listening to audio.

    galaxy buds 2 pro

    What makes Samsung’s transparency mode the best isn’t necessarily the quality of audio let-through — I find Huawei’s and Apple’s transparency mode to work just as well — but because Samsung has an intelligent “voice detection” feature that will automatically switch my buds from ANC to transparency mode as soon as I speak.

    This allows me to wear the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with ANC on, but when I do need to hear, say, someone greeting me or a bus stop announcement, I just mutter a syllable and the buds automatically switch to let sound in for a set amount of time. The default time is 10 seconds (you can extend this by continuing to talk). This feature isn’t new — it was available on at least the previous Galaxy Buds Pro too, but it saves me from needing to use my hands to lower audio volume or take out the earbuds, anytime I need to hear something for just a few seconds. Samsung’s software to handle this is smart too because it only kicks in if I really attempt to make an audible sound with my mouth. If I cough or mutter something under my breath, the buds don’t get tricked into activating transparency mode.

    Activating voice assistant — it doesn’t have to be Bixby!

    If there’s a major gripe I have with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, it’s that it still defaults to using Bixby as the voice assistant, and Bixby just isn’t as capable as Google Assistant. Samsung tries its hardest to hide the fact you can choose between the two too. If you jump into the Galaxy Wearable app, the option to trigger voice assistant only shows Bixby. You can, thankfully, switch to Google Assistant on the Galaxy Buds.

    Using the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as a Bluetooth microphone

    Another feature I quite like: you can use the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as a Bluetooth mic for Samsung phones. This isn’t a new feature either, but I find the microphones of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro to do a better job of picking up my voice this time, as can be seen in the video sample below.

    Because the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is more discreet looking than stemmed earbuds, content creators that are just getting started could consider using this option to improve audio for social media content.


    Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Should you buy these earbuds?

    galaxy buds 2 pro

    You should buy the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro if:

    • You are immersed in Samsung’s eco-system and want new wireless earbuds
    • You often use ANC on your earbuds but find it a hassle to need to switch off anytime you have a conversation
    • You want earbuds that look discreet without the stems sticking out of your ears

    You should not buy the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro if:

    • You are on a tighter budget — there are $100 wireless earbuds that do a perfectly fine job
    • You need to connect your buds to multiple devices at once
    • You fiddle with your earbuds often and would rather not accidentally trigger touch controls all the time

    The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are an excellent set of earbuds that checks almost every box a high-end pair of wireless earbuds should do. The smart switch to transparency mode actively makes my life easier throughout the day, and the fit is comfortable enough that I wear them for hours at a time.

    But as I said, there are perfectly fine wireless earbuds for half the price, like the Nothing Ear 1. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is better, but not twice as good. Those on a tighter budget should look elsewhere. But if you’re already in the camp of spenders who are okay with $200-$250 for earbuds, these are excellent options, and perhaps Android’s best answer to AirPods.

      The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are comfortable to wear, sound great, and can block out sound.

    About author

    Ben Sin
    Ben Sin

    I'm a senior editor at XDA Developers. I have been a journalist for a decade, the last five years covering the mobile tech scene closely, reviewing just about every phone and attending trade shows and launches. I also run a gadget review channel on YouTube.

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