Even with so many options, it’s hard to find a perfect everyday listening companion in a pair of wireless buds. If you’re anything like me, you want some blend of great sound, comfortable fit, and sweatproof performance, a trio of features that’s actually still pretty hard to find together in one product.
You’ll buy a great pair of workout buds that fit well, but then you’ll have to deal with their mediocre sound. Or you’ll snag something that fits great and sounds great, but doesn’t really take the more rugged stuff in stride.
That’s why I’ve been so impressed with Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Pro. Whether I’m enjoying my favorite records, chiming in on Zoom calls, or going on multi-hour runs, Samsung’s new flagship earbuds are a reliable and welcome companion.
A Long Time Coming
The headphone universe closely parallels the smartphone one. Samsung has made some of the best phones for generations, and it’s the same with its wireless earbuds. The Korean company pioneered lightweight and ergonomic models when they were virtually impossible to come by, and it was the first major company to introduce wireless charging to its earbud cases—a move Apple wisely followed with its second-gen AirPods.
With hybrid active noise canceling, a unique dual driver array, and one of the smallest charging cases on the market, the Galaxy Buds Pro continue to showcase the cutting edge of headphone technology.
They also have a wide audience in their sights. At $200, these headphones undercut the similarly appointed AirPods Pro (8/10, WIRED Recommends) by a few tens of dollars, and Samsung has even implemented a quick-pairing feature that works (and, frankly looks) nearly identically to Apple’s iOS-exclusive pairing feature. I paired these headphones with a Galaxy Note S20 Ultra, and it worked flawlessly, syncing the buds to the phone as soon as I popped the earpieces out of the case.
Sleek Looks, Great Features
The earbuds themselves are a mix between the bean-like Buds Live and the more traditional in-ear style of the Galaxy Buds Plus. My shiny black review pair was outfitted with two medium-size ear tips, and they easily twisted into my average-size ears. Samsung also includes two other sizes of tips if you’ve got bigger or smaller ears.
At first, I was concerned that the headphones, which lack ear fins to keep them stuck in your cartilage, would lose their grip during more demanding physical activity. Often, buds like this are great to listen to, but if you start running or doing pushups, they’ll slip right out of your ears. Not so with the Buds Pro. I took them on numerous multi-hour runs, and they easily stayed put the entire time.
Another feature that’s great for workouts is the ability to turn off the external touch controls, which have a tendency to confuse a lock of sweaty hair with a deliberate finger tap. I left them off because I typically just change settings on my phone, but when you’ve got touch controls enabled, they actually work better than most. They’re easy to “find” and very reactive to touches, without randomly misfiring.
Noise canceling is as good as I’ve heard from any earbuds, with the Buds Pro taking most ambient sounds down to inaudible levels, especially when music is playing. When you want to hear what’s going on around you, you don’t need to remove them; there’s a mode that lets outside sound pass through. There’s even a feature that turns on ambient sound when the headphones detect that you’re speaking—pretty neat in practice.
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The case charges wirelessly, and it works with whatever wireless charging pad you already have. In a pinch, it can also grab a charge off the back of a Samsung Galaxy phone. The included USB-C port is the fastest way to charge the buds; plugging in gives them an hour of playtime in just five minutes. Overall juice is also better than the AirPods Pro, with five hours of ANC-enabled playback besting Apple’s four.
One of the most unique things about the Galaxy Buds Pro is hiding somewhere you’ll never see. Beneath the shiny plastic exterior sits a dual driver array designed by the folks at the audio company AKG. The use of two discrete drivers allows the headphone to have both deep bass and hyper-detailed highs.
For the non-headphone nerds among us: Most earbuds have just a single driver, which takes on a jack-of-all-trades role by playing back the entirety of the audio, from the highest frequencies to the lowest. Instead, by dividing up the highs and lows and sending them two separate drivers, each designed to handle just high or low frequencies, AKG and Samsung drastically increased the clarity of the audio when compared to other Galaxy Buds models.
I’d go so far as to say these are some of the best-sounding wirefree earbuds you can buy right now. Even with noise canceling engaged (often a hindrance to higher frequency response), punchy hip-hop tracks to Perfume Genius’ shimmering pop brought a deep and immersive sound to my portable listening.
It’s not just sound quality that’s impeccable; these headphones also have pretty astonishing microphones. I have been seriously impressed with their call quality, and even more so with the audio quality I get when shooting videos where I’m using them as the microphones. Everything is crisp and clear, without any of the muddiness I get from other earbuds. They’re nearly as good as a lavalier mic.
A Real Pro
If you’re gonna spend $200 on a pair of earbuds, it stands to reason you should be able to use them for all your audio needs. Whether you’re searching for peace and quiet in a quarantined house, getting out and about for some exercise, leading your thousandth Zoom call, or making a TikTok video, the Galaxy Buds Pro are a worthy companion.
Even with so many great earbuds available these days, these are the best Pro model I’ve found.
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