Samsung’s Gear IconX turned quite a few heads when the noise cancelling earphones came to market last year. This year, Samsung upped the ante by renewing the IconX series with the Galaxy Buds. The company maximized the battery life while reducing the size of the buds and also the casing. So, what’s the sitch with Samsung’s latest wearable audio device?
The Galaxy Buds iterate on the Gear IconX’s design. So if you’re a fan of the IconX, you’ll be right at home with the Galaxy Buds. The sleek design and its many ergonomic touches make a come back in the Galaxy Buds with one big difference – the size.
The Galaxy Buds are one of the most comfortable in-ear earphones that I’ve tried so far. The buds – for lack of better term – fit snugly into the ear canal and don’t really irritate; even after prolonged listening sessions. In fact, I would go as far as to say that they are actually the perfect weight when it comes to earbuds. Even when I used the Galaxy Buds while running on a treadmill, it managed to stay snug in the ear without any instance of it popping out. This is largely thanks to the winged tips of the buds which helped keep the buds in quite snugly.
When it comes to size, however, the Galaxy Buds encounters its first pain point: it may be a little too small for its on functionality. The primary way you’d be interacting with the Galaxy Buds is through the touch panel on the side of the buds – you can see them as they’re the shiny, reflective surface of the buds. From just looking at them, you’d be thinking, “It’s a little small isn’t it?” and you’d be spot on. For someone with sausage fingers like myself, I found the touch panel on the Galaxy Buds to be extremely hard to interact with. That said, Samsung has addressed this by simplifying the gestures used on the Galaxy Buds to tap gestures only; which is a shame considering the IconX gestures allowed you to turn up the volume with intuitive gestures which became second nature.
That said, the Galaxy Buds are even more pocket-able than the IconX. Samsung has successfully reduced the size of the Buds and its casing to fit comfortably in the pocket. Of course, there’s still a little bit of a bulge situation in the pocket – but the size of casing doesn’t impose itself on your thighs. If you’re used to wearing tight jeans, though, that may be a different case. Girls should have much of an issue with the Galaxy Buds as it fits pretty well into the same compartment as your lipstick – yes, I did test this.
The Galaxy Buds is one of the more feature packed wireless, in-ear earphones on the market. They come with a touch panel, ambient sound and even multipoint bluetooth connectivity. Each of these features brought something to the table but let’s take a closer look at each of the major features.
Quick Pairing & Galaxy Wearables App
The Galaxy Buds is one of the easiest headsets to pair with your smartphone. If you’re using a Samsung device, all you have to do is open your casing and it will magically pair with your smartphone. However, using any other smartphone requires you to go into the Bluetooth menu and click on the Buds in the menu to pair.
That said, the Buds requires the Galaxy Wearables app which you will need to download from your respective app stores if you are not using a Samsung device. Otherwise, it will magically appear in your app menu if you’re using a Samsung device. Using this app, you’ll be able to customise your experience on the Galaxy Buds. Everything from enabling ambient noise to customising the touch gestures is done in the app. It also guides you through how to use the Galaxy Buds when you first pair them.
The Galaxy Buds aren’t active noise cancelling earphones but they block a good amount of sound when you put them in. The Buds pretty much seal the ear canal tight. I literally couldn’t hear a thing when I had them in. It’s a nice alternative to active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones. I’m the time of person who gets a little bit disoriented with ANC headphones as they work by countering the sound around you and this results in a vacuum-ish sound on your ear. That said, the way the Buds sealed the ear made it pretty comfortable for me throughout my time with it.
Since the buds pretty much made me deaf to the world, I found myself using ambient sound A LOT and I mean A LOT. It was turned on pretty much the whole time I was using them. That said, the ambient noise mode on the Galaxy Buds is good – but it was a little tinny for my taste. The surrounding sounds were a little robotic but thanks to Samsung’s voice amplification, it seemed like I had bionic ears.
The earphones were able to pick up and amplify the conversations of people sitting about two tables away in a crowded McDonald’s – which was both amazing and a little bit creepy. But that aside, the voice amplification also did help me have conversations with the buds in my ears. The people I talked to sounded loud and clear. Although, since the Buds seal the ear canal pretty well, replying with them in the ear was a little bit weird as I couldn’t really hear myself and my skull was conducting my speech so it sounded a little bit dulled.
The touch gestures on the Galaxy Buds was where I had some issue with the earphones. The surface you have to interact with the earphones is pretty small which posed an issue for me as my hands are pretty big. The way the buds rested on my ear made it so that the touchpad was obstructed by my ear hence it was a little bit of an exercise to get to it. That said, this was a relatively minor issue as all it took was a little nudge to get to panel.
That said, the touch gestures on the earphones seemed pretty limited compared to the IconX of last year. The only way you can interact with Buds is by long press and tapping. The swipes that were on the IconX don’t make a return in the Galaxy Buds. So, to turn up the volume you’d have to do it from the device you have paired with Buds. Pausing and playing is a tap on the right ear while skipping tracks is a tap or double tap – depending on your setting in the Wearables app.
The Buds received an early update during our review period which allowed it to integrate with voice assistants. While this was a welcome update, the functionality is still limited. Of course, it goes without saying that integration worked best with Bixby. However, when it came to Google Assistant, I felt like Samsung could have worked a little bit more to make the experience more seamless.
The battery life on the Buds was just enough. By just enough, I mean I got about 5.5 hours on a single charge of the earbuds. This was with mixed used; i.e. phone calls, WhatsApp calls and media. This level of charge should be sufficient for any commuter or even day to day user. That said, when it came to the case, I easily got about two extra charges from it. However, during my time with the Galaxy Buds, I never ran into a situation where I didn’t have charge in casing.
Charging the Buds was an easy task thanks to the USB-C charging port and also the wireless charging compatibility. I found myself dropping the Buds on my wireless charger while it was not in use to keep it topped up. That said, I could get a full charge on cable within an hour while wireless charging took about an hour to fully charge.
The audio quality on the Galaxy Buds was good – but not great. When Samsung touted AKG tuned audio I was expecting a lot more from the sound quality of the Buds. But that said, I’ll take it that the drivers needed to be bigger for better sound.
As for what we have with the Buds, I found the audio quality of the Buds acceptable. It had a good range of sound. You had warm mids and highs with rich lows and bass. That said, while the experience with buds is immersive, the sound quality felt a little bit dull when it came to the mids. It didn’t give the fullness of sound you’d want when listening to music or watching videos. You had good lows and bass though. The highs were also pretty nice and full. While it seems like its a big let down, it actually isn’t really. Unless you’re a true audiophile, you won’t miss much in terms of sound.
That said, when taking calls on the Buds, the sound quality was pretty good. The person on the other end sounded warm and natural. Even the mic pick up was good as people on the other end didn’t have much problem hearing and understanding me. Even in a pretty noisy environment, it worked pretty well.
Almost All the Boxes Checked
All in all, the Samsung Galaxy Buds is a pretty good set of in-ear headphones. It fits better than most in-ear headphones and can stay in-ear during exercise. It’s also got pretty good sound although it may not make the cut for audiophiles. That said, while the Galaxy Buds brings a lot to the table in terms of features, it still needs a little bit of tweaking to get the formula just right to be a must get.