The Samsung Galaxy buds are becoming an affordable true wireless headphone option for those who don’t want to shell out the full price for the Bose and Sennheiser alternatives. While these are more accessible to the budget market in comparison to their premium competitors, you do get what you pay for, and there are issues that we’ll talk about. In this review, I’ll give some thoughts about the Galaxy Buds+ as a true wireless option for several uses.
If you’re just here for the TL,DR (too long, didn’t read), skip on down to the Conclusion section.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ and included wireless charging case are constructed entirely of plastic, but that doesn’t mean they feel cheap. The charging case is much weightier than I expected, but not heavy enough to be a burden. It feels nice in the hand. The buds themselves are also plastic, but feel sleek and well-built; they definitely don’t feel cheap at all. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they feel “premium,” they do feel quality enough that I don’t immediately have concerns about it, and don’t regret the purchase.
The wingtips for the earpieces and the silicone plugs are pretty much what you would expect. The only note here is that I will be interested to see how the wingtips hold up if swapped regularly, as they are silicone/rubber and must be stretched to remove or install on the buds. While this might not be normal usage since most folks will pick the combination which works best for them and leave it at that, I am still concerned to see how they hold up. Other wireless earbud solutions I have used previously have had the silicon/rubber portions of the construction be the weak point and those fell apart long before the device stopped working (looking at you, Bose SoundSports–review coming soon).
The most important part of my review–of course–will be sound performance. After all, isn’t the point of purchasing audio gear having your music sound good? Before I dive into some analysis here, please do note that the Galaxy Buds+ do have a built-in software EQ via the Samsung Wear (wearables) app on Samsung smartphones, which offers various EQ presets, however, I will be performing my analysis with a direct bluetooth connection to my PC without any EQ, that way the analysis will apply to those of you who might use these on non-Samsung devices. I am also listening without the ambient noise pass-through enabled, and with the default wingtips and small eartips installed. I’ve selected twelve (12) songs from my usual list of analysis tracks to analyze to get a good baseline of how these little buds from Samsung perform. I’ll list a few likes/dislikes for each song. If you’d like to hear further thoughts on any particular aspect of the buds’ sound performance on a particular song, let me know in the comments below. Also, for your convenience, I’ve included the Spotify links below, though I recommend the FLACs or another source if you have it available. Now let’s get to it!
- Dislike: Bass is muddled, muted, and sort of sloppy, which is unfortunate as this song has some seriously fun bass.
- Dislike: Snare/snaps are not crisp at all and feel like the higher end of the treble falls off.
- Like: Adequate separation to be able to discern timing differences in various snaps and overlapped vocal parts.
“Water Night” – Eric Whitacre, performed by the BYU Singers
- Like: Harmonies are still smooth in the beginning, despite the overlap of the many, many different parts.
- Dislike: Lower parts don’t hum and fill the space as nicely as they do when listening on other gear.
- Dislike: at 1:17, the Galaxy Buds+ do not perform well with the intricate and swelling treble harmonies. While other gear allows you to hear the ringing of each part without blowing out the earbuds, the Galaxy Buds+ got crackly during the swell and really ruined that part of the song. I do admit this is a tough part of a tough song for many headphones and earbuds, but I am still disappointed with the poor performance from the Buds+ here.
- Dislike: You can faintly hear a hissing during soft/quiet parts of the song. I have verified this is not room/recording noise from the song.
- Like: As with Bad Guy earlier, there is pretty good separation of the different parts here. Earbuds are notorious for having poor sound stage and spatial imaging, and that’s fine–they’re not exactly for critical listening. While you won’t get that level of detail and space with the Buds+, they do a decent enough job at letting you hear all the different parts of the music.
- Dislike: Again, I’m hearing not as punchy of bass as I would like, and not as crisp treble. It all feels very softened. And this is a punchy song.
- Like: The mutedness of the Buds+ kind of works here. The song starts out quiet, but rich and reflective. At 1:20, the type of muted bass the song incorporates works really well with the lack of punchy bass that the Buds+ provide. If you listen to a lot of music with bass like this, then my comments about the limited and muddled bass may be negligible to you.
- Like: Immersion was much better on this track, whereas previous tracks it really felt more like I was sitting with earbuds in, listening to the song, rather than experiencing the song.
- Dislike: Beginning around 1:45, the cello, bass, and other deep stringed instruments come in. The bow pulling across the strings of these instruments produces a lot of beautiful texture when recorded–however the Buds+ didn’t reflect that at all.
“La Luna – Binaural” – Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra
- Like: The different claps at the beginning of the song do actually sound various and differentiated.
- Dislike: At 1:14 when the guitars come in, I felt like I was listening to the song live, but from behind a thin sheet of plexiglass. Again, overall very muted.
“Radioactive” – Our Last Night (Originally performed by Imagine Dragons)
- Like: These earbuds definitely perform quite a bit better for rock, punk, metal, and heavier/grittier music. Separation was pretty good and things felt more crisp. Part of that is inherently due to the type of music, but the performance really started to shine a little more instead of being dull.
- Like: The texture of screams and heavier vocals was present and defined, and surprisingly not muddled like I’d experienced otherwise prior.
- Dislike: There is a particular cymbal that is repeatedly hit in this song. The Buds+ do not like the frequency at which the sound is produced. You can hear a little bit of textured hiss as the drivers get fuzzy.
“Iscariot” – Fundamentally Sound
- Like: Finally, some a capella portion felt like it filled the space a bit better. This is partly due to the song, but something with the key and tonality of the vocalists combined with some really neat resonance really pops here.
- Like: Starting 0:35, the texture of the vocalists’ voices (particularly the /n/ sounds being held) are much better and are actually interesting.
- Dislike: There are definitely details being lost. This recording has some mouth and minor breathing noises that I can usually hear on other gear, but don’t hear here.
- Dislike: At 3:45, the bass and percussive voice that comes in sounded like I was listening to it from the room next door, while the rest of the sounds were present in a you’re-in-the-room sense.
- Dislike: I know I sound like a broken record, but the bass performance is less-than-desirable. While this bass line is fairly muted, there is a lot of texture that the Buds+ simply didn’t deliver.
- Like: The sweeping/panning at 1:02 is pretty smooth and makes its way from ear to ear without any gaps or interruptions.
- Dislike: At the same spot, 1:02, there is an odd ring part-way through one of the sweeps that I’ve not heard on other gear before, including my critical listening gear. I wonder if this is issues with the drivers/build.
- Like: Harmonic separation is good enough and the different parts of the chorus (the most iconic part of the song) are easy to hear and blend smoothly.
- Like: At 3:03, the marimba/vibraphone/whatever-it-actually-is has some great little pings and pops as the mallets strike the bars.
- Dislike: As with the previous tracks, not clear enough bass.
“The Ground” – Ola Gjeilo, Tenebrae + The Chamber Orchestra of London
- Dislike: It is difficult to discern the different stringed instruments and their strings being played. There is a lot of texture here that is lost, despite it being a smooth harmony.
- Dislike: While there is quite a bit of bass here in this song, the texture and tone of the basses’ voices is completely lost.
- Dislike: There are quite a few places where the drivers peak, as they did in Eric Whitacre’s “Water Night,” ruining swells and treble parts.
- Like: Piano part and keyfalls come through roughly as expected and the quiet piano parts are well-heard.
- Like: You can discern some of the quiet noises of the conductor moving, which I like.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – Small Town Titans
- Like: Here again we find that the Buds+ perform much better for harder styles of music. These earbuds do this song some justice compared to the prior tracks.
- Like: There is a lot of texture in the vocalist’s voice at the beginning of this song, and it shows through clear and cleanly when listening with the Buds+. This was shocking given the performance of the earbuds on other tracks.
- Like: When the vocalist plays around with his tone and different “characters” in the verse around 1:30, the tone is really quite good considering the previous performances and the fact that these are earbuds. You can really hear and enjoy the difference between his placed and proper intonation and when he pulls it forward to the front of his mouth or gets wider with it.
- Important Note: I decided to add this song after I had written the Call Quality section of this post. After having used the microphones on the Buds+ to do a recording test, the sound performance when listening completely changed. I checked my Windows audio settings, and everything was still the same as when I had previously done my analysis. This is wildly inconsistent, and alarming.
- Treble is now suddenly very crisp — too much so. Snares hurt your ears and most sounds above the mid range seem to be crackling. Actually, there’s lots of crackling in general, and it sounds hardware-related.
- Bass is still very lost and muddled.
- Sound is now overall very shrill.
- Harmonies are present, but less defined.
Just…no. During my test of call quality, the audio was constantly popping, and the people on the other end of the call were also hearing the popping. There was also an annoying buzzing sound the entire call. Volume on my side was okay, but the other people I was calling commented that beyond the cutting out and popping, I was very quiet as well. Below is a recording using the built-in microphone.
With wireless headphones or earbuds, the big question–next to sound performance–is obviously going to be how long the battery lasts. My prior wireless earbuds were the Bose SoundSports. To me, the seven (7) hour battery life was acceptable, and the norm. Especially with other offerings on the market such as Razer’s true wireless solution only having four (4) hours of listen time. Imagine my pleasant surprise when my first day with the Buds+ was not interrupted at all by lack of battery. I was able to make it through a full day of music listening, many phone calls and video conferences, and tinkering with my new earbuds without having to charge. When I got to the late evening, I did have to top off while I finished my tinkering for the first day, but just 10 minutes of fast charge got me another several hours of listening.
With an MSRP of $149.99 and the fact that Amazon typically has these earbuds on sale for $99.80, they are certainly an option for those who do not wish to pay the full retail price of other options such as Bose’s QuietComfort, TrueWireless, or Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless offerings. Or of course Apple’s AirPods Pro, for the iPhone crowd.
So. I would say that for the $99.80 plus tax that I paid, the earbuds and included charging case are pretty decent for listening to rock, punk, metal, or heavier genres, as long as you don’t want to listen too loudly, and you’re not looking to do any critical listening.
If you’re an audiophile, these are not the earbuds for you. If you’re someone just looking for some portable earbuds that are truly wireless, effortlessly pair with your devices, and come with a charging case, this could be an option for you.
If you’re looking for something to listen to music and make/take any kind of call or communication with, these are not it.
Overall I would say that these have their place, but the MSRP of $149.99 is too high, and the earbuds deliver disappointing performance overall. This is particularly frustrating since the Buds+ are the second and “improved” iteration of Samsungs true-wireless audio offering.
Do you have the Samsung Galaxy Buds+? What are your thoughts on them? Do you have other true wireless earbuds you love, and why? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.