As the main competitor to Apple in the smartphone space, Samsung is very motivated to go toe to toe with its adversary in other categories, namely personal audio. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is the latest set of noise cancelling earbuds in Samsung’s fairly confusing portfolio. This time around, the company blends premium features like active noise cancelling (ANC) with Bluetooth 5.2 at a reasonable price. While there’s plenty to like about these earphones, the Galaxy Buds 2 may get lost between its siblings, the Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Plus. Still, these mid-tier earphones must serve someone.
Time to break down the Samsung Galaxy Buds line to see how the Galaxy Buds 2 stacks up against the rest. Who knows? This may be the perfect pair of buds for you.
Who should get the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
- Samsung smartphone owners will be able to take full advantage of the Buds 2 from in-app support to Wireless PowerShare for on-the-go charging.
- Listeners who need noise cancellation should consider these fairly affordable earbuds. Few sub-$150 USD true wireless earbuds offer ANC, and the Buds 2 happens to be quite good, outperforming the Beats Studio Buds and pricier Apple AirPods Pro.
- Anyone who wants a solid set of earbuds that cost less than $200 will enjoy the auto-pause function, direct Spotify access (Android only), and sound quality.
What’s it like to use Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
Those who already own a pair of Galaxy Buds will feel right at home with the Galaxy Buds 2 from the hardware to the software. The Galaxy Buds 2 has a playful, rounded design that shapes both the earbuds and USB-C case. It’s a shame that Samsung omits detachable wing tips from this model, which makes the fit less secure than with the cheaper Galaxy Buds Plus. Those who dare can use these as workout earbuds, as they merit an IPX2 water-resistant rating—just be sure not to jostle your head too much, doing so will just shake the earbuds loose.
Start here: What makes a good set of in-ears?
Samsung always packs its headsets with plenty of advanced technology and sensors, and we see the same thing here. A proximity sensor enables automatic play/pause when removing the buds, and it works very reliably. Playback doesn’t resume when reinserting the earbuds; instead, you need to tap either touch panel. As with older Samsung earphones, the touch controls are both intuitive and hypersensitive. The Galaxy Buds 2 often registers accidental taps when adjusting the earbuds, something that happens often and sends media into a syncopated frenzy of skips and pauses. You’d think after a few generations of earbuds, Samsung would decrease the sensitivity but alas: your only alternative is to turn off touch controls altogether.
Samsung didn’t reinvent its charging case, as it has the same shape as the Galaxy Buds Pro and less popular Galaxy Buds Live. It looks great and is easy to open with one hand, thanks to the clearly defined lip that separates the lid from the base. A grippier texture would make it even easier to use, but we can add to the wish-list for the next-generation Galaxy Buds. Internal magnets keep the lid closed, and they work faithfully: anytime I drop the case, the lid stays shut and prevents the earbuds from flying to the not-so-far corners of my living room.
Two LEDs sit on the case, one on the outside and one on the inside. The outer LED communicates how much battery life is left in the case, while the inner LED indicates the earbuds’ battery.
How do you control the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
Controlling the earphones isn’t all that complicated, and you can find the rundown of common operations below. Be aware that you can change the function of the touch controls by opening the Galaxy Wearable app, and navigating to the “Touch controls” menu. You can alter the voice assistant controls, ANC controls, and music playback controls to a point.
|Action||Left side||Right side|
|Two taps||Next track; answer/end call||Next track; answer/end call|
|Hold||Previous track; custom option; decline call||Previous track; custom option; decline call|
Should you download the Galaxy Wearable app?
If you have an Android phone, you should get the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app, and iPhone owners, well, you can try but there’s no Galaxy Buds 2 support on iOS. That’s right, more and more companies are reading from Apple’s playbook and creating their own walled gardens, which really just hurts the consumer.
Those who can access the Buds 2 software features will be able to toggle between ANC and ambient sound mode, the latter of which transmits background noise through the earbuds to keep you aware of the environment. Kudos to Samsung for rolling out a pleasant environmental passthrough that doesn’t sound too robotic. Still, for those who find this feature to sound too synthetic, you can decrease the intensity from the app.
Learn more: Headphones are collecting too much personal data
Like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and other true wireless earbuds, Samsung’s app includes an ear tip fit test to confirm that you’ve selected the appropriate ear tips. Not only does this ensure a comfortable fit, but it also improves sound quality by blocking out the most amount of background noise. The right fit is key to active noise cancelling earphones and this test gives you immediate feedback.
Poke around the app and you’ll find other features like an array of EQ presets (normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear, treble boost), which covers most listeners’ needs. However, Samsung refrains from handing off the reigns entirely: you can’t make a custom EQ. A small segment of Galaxy Buds 2 owners will rejoice knowing that they can access Bixby with just a voice command. The rest of us can create a custom control to access an alternative assistant like Google or Siri.
You can also enable seamless earbud connection (fast switching) in the app, and this works across operating systems. I can quickly switch back and forth between an iPhone and Samsung phone by selecting the “Galaxy Buds 2” from the list of Bluetooth peripherals, without the need to disconnect from the current handset.
The Galaxy Labs tab is home to “gaming mode” which reduces audio-visual lag. Gaming mode isn’t just for mobile gamers though, it’s also a nice feature for anyone who streams a lot of videos from their phone.
The Galaxy Buds 2 doesn’t support Samsung 360 Audio, that’s reserved for the Buds Pro.
Samsung consistently and reliably releases firmware updates for its headsets, which extends the life of your purchase. Even if you don’t care for any of the aforementioned features, the Wearable app is a worthwhile download, just be sure to read the terms and conditions.
Is the Galaxy Buds 2 noise cancelling any good?
The Galaxy Buds 2 has better noise cancelling and passive isolation performance than the Galaxy Buds Pro. Samsung’s ANC quiets low-frequency sounds and makes them one-quarter as loud as they’d sound without the earbuds in at all. You’ll notice a difference when toggling noise cancellation on and off, but this is completely dependent on your ability to get a good fit with the included silicone ear tips.
Read about: The best noise cancelling true wireless earphones
Although most listeners will find something comfortable from one of the three ear tip provisions, not everyone will. This, again, is where it would be nice to have wing tips that keep the earbuds stable. I don’t experience consistently good ANC as the chart depicts, because I’m unable to get the earbuds to stay in place. See, a strong physical seal between the ear tips and your ear canal is required in order to block out the most amount of noise and let the ANC shine. For better or worse, everyone’s ear shapes are different and you may have better luck in this department than I.
What Bluetooth codecs does the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 support?
Like the rest of Samsung’s earphones, the Galaxy Buds 2 supports a few Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable Codec. The proprietary codec works similarly to aptX Adaptive, constantly balancing connection and sound qualities and dynamically adjusting the bit rate from 88-512kbps. This makes the Galaxy Buds 2 an excellent choice for Samsung smartphone owners, and leaves non-Samsung owners holding the short end of the stick since AAC is inconsistent across Android hardware. iPhone owners will benefit fully from AAC support though.
The earbuds use Bluetooth 5.2, which leaves an opportunity for LE Audio support and the LC3 codec. Connection stability is good whether inside or outside, and with either an iPhone or Samsung smartphone.
How long does the battery last on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 earbuds last 5 hours, 9 minutes on a single charge with ANC on, which slightly outlasts the official 5-hour battery life. You may get an even longer battery life out of this if you listen to volumes lower than 75dB(SPL), which is our standard battery test condition. The charging case provides an extra 15 hours of on-the-go playtime. A 5-minute quick charge leaves the earbuds with 60 minutes of battery, so forgetful gym-goers will always have music to underscore their workouts.
Learn more: How can you make your wireless earbuds last longer?
You have a few ways to top up the boxy case, with the flashiest option being Wireless Powershare. To do this, enable PowerShare on your Samsung device, and place the case on top of it. That’s all you need to get charging. Alternatively, you can plop it onto a Qi charging mat or go the wired route with the supplied USB-C cable.
How does the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 sound?
When you buy the Galaxy Buds 2, you’re investing in a pleasing frequency response that reproduces a variety of music genres well. You’ll notice the relatively boosted sub-bass notes, and appreciate how they don’t mask the mids as badly as some other earphones—unless it’s a particularly busy song full of bassy instruments. Treble notes are louder than mids and bass notes, but most listeners prefer this as it adds a greater sense of clarity from strings, small woodwind instruments, and better intelligibility to speech sounds. While there’s definitely not really an ideal response for any genre of music taken in isolation, a lot of the more modern tracks out there will sound just fine with a performance like this.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Zac Greer’s song Melatonin, I notice some masking during the chorus when the background guitar strums are hard to hear over the low-pitched electric guitar strikes. Similarly, some rasp from Greer’s voice is lost during the chorus too. Still, you’ll only notice this if you’re listening critically and trying to find fault with the response. When out and about, the Galaxy Buds 2 sound is great.
Can you use the Galaxy Buds 2 for phone calls?
You can definitely use the Galaxy Buds 2 for phone calls, but keep your expectations realistic: this can’t compare to an external boom mic. Samsung’s triple-microphone system reads as impressive, but as you can tell from the demo below, my voice is a bit “hollow.” Don’t be too off-put by the microphone quality, though, because this is fairly easy to fix with a firmware update, something we’ve seen Shure do with its AONIC headset.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo:
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
The Galaxy Buds 2 is a good buy for listeners who want reasonably priced earphones with solid sound quality and fast charging. Although a greater rating than IPX2 would be nice, the Galaxy Buds Plus has held up over the years without issue. I sincerely hope Samsung fixes the sensitivity of its earphones’ touch panels, but that won’t be solved by switching to another pair of Galaxy Buds. Ultimately, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 doesn’t break new ground but it does perform well and has solid noise cancelling for the price.
Still, if you don’t care for noise cancellation, the Galaxy Buds Plus is a true treasure that compares favorably to the Google Pixel Buds A-Series with its sub-$100 price, excellent battery life, secure fit, and similar feature set. Alternatively, if you want a more attractive earbud design with a few more software features and much better microphone quality, save $20 and get the Buds Pro instead.
Editor’s note: This review was written with firmware version R177XXU0AUFC, Galaxy Buds2 app version 3.0.21061051, and Galaxy Wearable app version 22.214.171.12471361.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.
Samsung Galaxy Buds guide: What’s the difference between the Plus, Live, Buds 2, and Buds Pro?
If you want to be sure you’re making the right decision before you commit to the Galaxy Buds 2, let’s do a brief rundown on the Samsung Galaxy Buds line of earbuds. First, the similarities: all models have touch controls, an IP rating (IPX2 to IPX7), support for the SBC, AAC, and Samsung Scalable codecs, and all include a USB-C case with wireless charging and Wireless PowerShare functionalities.
Onto the differences:
The Samsung Galaxy Buds
Samsung discontinued the original Galaxy Buds when it announced the Buds 2. You can learn all about this in our full review, and if you can find them: you’ll enjoy the Bluetooth 5.0 firmware, IPX2 build, and 6 hours of battery life.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus is the most comfortable pair of earbuds you’ll wear, or at least that’s what many of the user reviews say. This is a great value as it has the same IPX2 rating as the Buds 2, a nearly 12-hour battery life, and wing tips that stabilize the earbuds.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Do you like the idea of beans in your ears but don’t want to deal with the mess, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. These earbuds don’t seal to the ear and rely on an ergonomic bean shape to stay in place, along with very small ear stays. This is Samsung’s only open-type fit earbuds, and hopefully its last. We give props to Samsung for braving something new here as the open earbuds also have noise cancelling. It actually works a little bit, but at that point, just get any of these other headsets instead.
The Galaxy Buds Live is, however, good for the Android phone owner who wants to be aware of their environment at all times. The fit is more secure in my ears than the AirPods, which isn’t saying much, and this model introduced the jewelry box-inspired case.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung’s flagship headset shows that the company learned from the foibles of the Galaxy Buds Live, and returned to a sealed design. The Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds have a pretty standard shape and seal to the ear, blocking out quite a bit of background noise. You get an IPX7 rating and they’re the first, and currently only, earbuds to support 360 Audio (compatible with Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus.). Battery life is okay at 4 hours, 48 minutes and iPhone owners don’t get any app support with this headset either.
What should you get instead of the Galaxy Buds 2?
Aside from Samsung’s litany of true wireless earphones, there are plenty of suitable alternatives depending on your needs. If you want a pair of smart earbuds with even better ANC, consider the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen). Amazon decks its earphones out with a more robust IPX4 rating and direct voice access to Alexa instead of Bixby. You also get an ear tip fit test, and the experience is identical on Android and iOS.
Another OS-agnostic option is the Nothing Ear 1, which retails for $99. These earbuds have an IPX4 rating, decent noise cancellation, and superior fast charging speeds. The design is sure to catch eyes and serve as a fine conversation starter. Like the Echo Buds, the Ear 1 supports automatic ear detection for auto play/resume.
If you own an iPhone, just save up for the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro noise cancelling isn’t as good as the Buds 2, but at least you get to take advantage of software features like spatial audio and automatic device switching across iOS devices (under the same iCloud account). You also get an ear tip fit test through the iOS Settings app and the earbuds warrant an IPX4 rating. The AirPods Pro is quite a bit pricier than any of Samsung’s offerings at $199 USD, but it often goes on sale for even less.
Next: The best true wireless earbuds