Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: Samsung’s Pro sounding headphones
Quick Verdict: Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro are its best headphones yet, but they’re best suited to existing Samsung Galaxy phone owners.
- Comfortable fit
- Good audio reproduction
- Voice dimming works well
- Decent noise cancellation
- Some features are Galaxy-specific
- Lower battery life than comparable true wireless buds
Samsung's latest true wireless headphones, the Galaxy Buds Pro, promise pro level sound, and for the most part, that's what they deliver. They're not quite up with the best of the best when it comes to active noise cancellation, but if you're a Samsung Galaxy phone owner, they're an easy recommendation.
- Range of colour choices
- More traditional design compared to the Galaxy Buds Live
- Water resistance
Where the Galaxy Buds Live were cute little beans, the Galaxy Buds Pro are… just true wireless headphones, really. The most striking aspect of their design will depend on your colour choice, with Phantom Black, Phantom Silver or Phantom Violet on offer to match the commonly available Galaxy S21 phone colours. I tested with the Phantom Black variant, which is probably the way you'd want to go if you had any other phone. Black pretty much goes with everything, after all.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro case is a small jewel box affair that pops open to reveal the two Galaxy Buds Pro headphones themselves. It'll easily slip into a pocket or bag, unlike some bulky competitor headphones.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro also offer enhanced water resistance, with up to IPX7 rated resistance. In theory, this allows them to survive for up to 30 minutes in a metre of clean water.
I can't quite hold my breath for that long, and it's debatable how well they'd work in a swimming situation where Bluetooth typically struggles. Still, if you do drop them into water accidentally, or need to give them a post-run sweat rinse, that should be fine in most cases.
- Easy set-up
- Some very Samsung specific features
- Automatic voice detection works well
- Noise cancellation is good – but you can get better
- Best sounding Samsung buds to date
- Reasonable microphone pick-up
Setting up the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is a fairly seamless affair, although the degree of control you're going to have over them depends very much on the phone you're connecting them to.
Samsung has its own specific app for wearables – the deftly named Samsung Wearable app – for both Android phones, but at the time of reviewing, only the Android app supported the Galaxy Buds Pro. Try to find the Galaxy Buds Pro on the iOS Galaxy Buds app, and you can't, which means you can't fully customise the features of Samsung's latest smart buds
Like its competitors, Samsung wants to nestle comfortably within the Samsung ecosystem of devices, and as such, some of the software features of the Galaxy Buds Pro are rather specific to Galaxy phone users.
Want to use a hands-free assistant rather than tapping the Buds Pro with a long press to invoke it? You'll have to want to use Bixby on a Galaxy handset, because that's the only one that works. Your need for that may vary – I'm not a big fan – but it'd be nice to be able to set Google Assistant at least, and Siri as well if feasible as options, given other wireless headsets can manage exactly that.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro also support voice detection, automatically dimming the audio if it detects that you're talking. The idea here is that you don't have to switch to the full ambient mode if you get involved in an ad-hoc conversation.
Voice detection works quite well, dipping the sound for up to 10 seconds after the last spoken words, so you can chat while your music hums along in the background. The only catch here is if you're a singing-in-the-shower type, because the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro can't differentiate between different types of vocals.
Why yes, I do sometimes sing to myself in my home office. Why do you ask?
The other big selling feature of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is the active noise cancellation, which Samsung enables either in a "high" or "low" mode. I genuinely struggled to hear a particular difference between either type, which sits on the softer side regardless, against headphones such as the AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones.
Like most smaller buds, touch controls are enabled and mostly obvious if you've used any other pair of true wireless headphones. This means you can easily pause music, take calls or skip tracks with single or multiple presses, for example. It also means you're fairly likely to do something while you're taking them out of your ears because it's pretty hard to avoid tapping them when you do so.
One of my biggest complaints against the Galaxy Buds Pro's predecessors, the bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live, was that they got rather uncomfortable if you were wearing them for extended periods of time.
Thankfully that's not the case for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, thanks to the use of standard rubber tips. You get a selection in the case, and the app even reminds you to check for best fit, as that will give you superior noise isolation.
Audio representation was decent, and Samsung is clearly leaning ever more heavily on its ownership Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro's "normal" setting to be a touch flat, helped out by switching it to "dynamic" mode, but your tastes may of course vary.
There's a slight preference towards bass in the basic mix of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, which again is a taste matter dependent on your music choices. With dynamic sound enabled, Prince's classic "Bambi" had plenty of presence in the low range, but if your tastes aren't as bass-centric you won't find them quite as engaging.
Switching to something with more of a vocal focus, Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" gave a good mix between the angry vocals and the underlying drumbeat that was easy to discern. Samsung has definitely given the Galaxy Buds Pro the tools to make them the best headphones they've made to date, but then this is a competitive field with the likes of Apple and Sony also offering superior options in this price bracket.
On the calls front, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro's microphones worked quite well according to those I chatted to while reviewing them. Mobile call quality is always variable on a wide variety of factors, but most respondents could clearly hear me talking with only minimal external noise getting in the way. You do still look odd walking down the street seemingly talking to nobody, but that's a category problem, not one unique to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
- Lower battery life than competitors
- Fast wired or wireless charging
Samsung's claims for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are that they're good for up to five hours of audio playback with active noise cancelling enabled. That's mildly down from the six hours claimed for the Galaxy Buds Live, which is unusual in a market where we usually see more battery life, not less in newer products. You'll get more battery life – up to 7 hours – with ANC disabled, but what's the point in that?
Five hours is maybe achievable, and at least the Galaxy Buds Pro were comfortable enough to wear for that long, but I'd probably put the real achievable battery life at more like four hours or so in most situations.
That's below what you'd see from similar competitor devices in this price range, which is disappointing. As with most true wireless buds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro recharge from their case, with an additional 13 hours available from the case. Again, that's reasonable, but below the pace for higher priced wireless buds.
The Galaxy Buds Pro support USB C charging (although, like the Galaxy S21 phones that it's the partner to, there's no charger in the box) as well as wireless Qi charging, including Samsung's reverse wireless PowerShare functionality.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro?
- Buy it if you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy phone and want to stay on-brand.
- Don't buy it if you want the best buds with ANC and audio reproduction.
Samsung is slowly improving its own-brand audio offerings, and the Galaxy Buds Pro are definitely nicer headphones than the Live buds were, if only on a comfort front.
However, they're not quite the best of the best and that makes them most suited to folks who want to stay within the Samsung brand for both their handsets and headphones, along with the specific features that you gain when staying within the wider Samsung ecosystem.
Pricing and availability
Images: Alex Kidman
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