Small, comfortable true-wireless earbuds, good sound, last ages, with a pocketable case and iPhone app
Samsung’s second-generation Galaxy Buds+ correct a few mistakes and are now fully iPhone compatible, making them some of the very best standard true-wireless earbuds for just about anyone.
There is no shortage of good true-wireless earbuds in 2020, but Samsung’s £159 Galaxy Buds+ look to take the crown as the best set without noise cancelling.
Launched alongside the Galaxy Z Flip and S20 line, the earbuds are practically identical to their predecessors, which is a very good thing.
They are exactly the same size and shape as the old ones, but are 0.7g heavier at 6.3g per bud, not that I could tell, even side-by-side. They slot right into the concha with a quick twist, barely protruding from my ear, staying put without the need for any wings. You have to like the silicone-tip fit, of course, but they are one of the most comfortable earbuds available making them easy to forget while wearing.
If you need more stability there are two sizes of wings and three sets of silicone tips in the box, but they stayed put even while running for me.
Water resistance: none
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, SBC, AAC
Battery life: 11 hours listening, up to 22 hours with case
Earbud weight: 6.3g
Charging case dimensions: 38.8 x 70 x 26.5mm
Charging case weight: 39.6g
Case charging: USB-C, Qi wireless charging
Case and battery
The case is one of the best. Small, with a pocketable pill-like shape. It’s slightly larger than the standard AirPods case, but similar in volume to the AirPods Pro and Jabra Elite 75t cases. The lid closes with a reassuring snap, locking the buds in place. It will fit in a money pocket of a pair of jeans.
The earbuds lasted just over 11 hours of playback between trips in the case, which is far longer than most. The AirPods Pro last four hours, while the Elite 75t last 7.5 hours. The case then provides one full charge of the earbuds for a combined 22 hours between charges. The case charges via USB-C or wireless charging, while a three-minute fast charge via cable provides around one hour of playback.
Neither the battery in the case nor the earbuds is officially replaceable, which ultimately means they are disposable, but they should last several years of daily use at least. A third-party may be able to replace the battery, as was possible with the previous Galaxy Buds.
The earbud tips are standard, meaning third-party replacements are widely available should they get lost, but Samsung does not sell individual replacement buds or cases.
Connectivity and controls
The Galaxy Buds+ support Bluetooth 5, and the ability to “hot swap’ , which means either can be used on their own. They have support for the standard SBC and AAC audio formats, plus Samsung’s proprietary Scalable Codec when used with one of the South Korean firm’s devices.
There’s also a dedicated low-latency gaming mode that’s exclusive to Samsung devices, which helped all but eliminate the lag between something happening on screen and the sound reaching your ears that’s unfortunately inherent to Bluetooth earbuds.
They performed flawlessly with a Galaxy Z Flip and Galaxy S20 Ultra, but were equally good with a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and an iPhone 11 Pro. They can only connect to one device at a time, not two like some competitors.
Pairing is super easy. Either use the Galaxy Wearable app on your phone, or press and hold the touch panel on both earbuds while in your ears for five seconds until the tone sounds, then find them in your Bluetooth menu.
Switching from one device to the next is just a case of selecting the earbuds from your device; no need to disconnect another device first, which is a very welcome feature.
Each earbud has a touch panel that handles some of the best controls in the business. Tap once for pause/play, twice to skip forward or thrice to skip back. On all devices you can also press and hold the touch panel to do one of the following: adjust volume, activate the ambient listening mode or trigger your phone’s default voice assistant. On Android you can also fire up Spotify, which will immediately start playing the playlist you were last listening to or another recommended one.
I selected volume controls and never looked back. There is also the option to enable a double tap of the earbud’s edge to adjust the volume as an experimental feature under a section called “Labs” of the app. I couldn’t get it to work reliably without accidentally skipping track every second or third attempt.
The Galaxy Buds+ have improved audio thanks to a new dual-speaker system featuring a separate tweeter and woofer. Overall they produce detailed, balanced audio, with reasonable punch in the low end and clear mids, but need to be turned up a little to really bring out the bass. They sound great with pop music, high-energy electronica and even do a pretty full rendition of something like Miles Davis, but occasionally lack a bit of depth to really make the most out of a track such as Baba O’Riley by the Who.
The Galaxy Buds+ therefore sound considerably better than most rivals costing under £160. They won’t produce the sort of sparkling audio you’ll get out of Sony’s (RRP) £220 WF-1000XM3, but they’re less than half the size and a lot more comfortable.
The one thing the Galaxy Buds+ lack compared with recent rivals from Apple and Amazon is noise cancelling, which puts them in the same boat as Jabra’s Elite 75t. They do, however, make a good job of passively blocking out the world thanks to the snug fit and a good set of silicone ear tips.
By default there are three levels of ambient passthrough available if you do want to hear the world. The low setting was fine for listening out for announcements, while high was about the same as my normal hearing. There’s an experimental extra-high setting available, which amplified my hearing beyond normal limits but felt like something you could be easily deafened by.
You can activate ambient mode in the app, or by a long press, but I wish you could activate ambient mode automatically when you pause the music.
Call quality is much improved, too. Recipients said my voice came through clearly, but that some background noise from a coat was picked up, while road and wind noise was effectively suppressed. I could hear the other end of the call clearly, while sidetone is available as an option too.
The shiny black case is fairly easy to mark.
It takes a little bit of practice to insert the earbuds without activating the touch panel.
They are comfortable under a woolly hat because they don’t protrude from your ears.
The music doesn’t pause when you take an earbud out, like many others.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are available in white, black or blue for £159.
For comparison, Apple AirPods cost £159, the AirPods Pro cost £249, the Jabra Elite 75t cost £169.99, the Libratone Track Air+ cost £167, the Sony WF-1000XM3 cost £169, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless cost £280.
Samsung’s latest Galaxy Buds+ strike the right balance of comfort, battery life, pocketability and sound to make some of the very best day-to-day wireless earbuds.
The controls are good, connectivity is rock solid, call quality is greatly improved and the case is great. They’re a no-brainer for Samsung users, great for other Android users and, now that there’s a dedicated iPhone app for them, they’re an excellent option for most people. They’re very easy to live with in a way only Apple’s AirPods have managed in the past, just with the proper isolation of a silicone earbud tip.
They’re not perfect, of course. They don’t feature noise cancelling - Apple’s AirPods Pro or Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are the ones you want if that’s important for you - but they do a good job of simply blocking out noise with a solid fit. They’re not water resistant, which is a bit disappointing too, but not a deal killer. They are not cheap, either, with an RRP of £159, but look out for deals given their predecessors were heavily discounted for long periods.
Galaxy Buds+ are an excellent set of everyday true-wireless earbuds. Samsung’s AirPods-killers, now great for just about everyone.
Pros: small, comfortable, good pocketable case, wireless charging, USB-C, long battery life, good sound, good calling, rock-solid connectivity, apps for both Android and iPhone.
Cons: no water resistance, no noise cancelling, no auto-ambient on pause, no pause on removal, no aptX, can’t connect to two devices at once.