Samsung's rapidly growing range of true wireless earphones has a new entry, and it isn't the most expensive or advanced one yet. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is, as its name suggests, the successor to the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds+, rather than a new flagship product in the company's Galaxy Buds range. Priced at Rs. 11,999, there's a lot on offer here as well, including premium features such as active noise cancellation and support for the company's Scalable advanced Bluetooth codec.
While the Galaxy Buds Pro remains at the top of Samsung's pecking order for true wireless earphones, the Galaxy Buds 2 promises to be the value-for-money headset that has thus far been missing from the portfolio. It's impressive on paper, but can it live up to the hype? Find out in this review.
The last three true wireless headsets from Samsung have all had significantly different designs, and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 has the best of them all. The earphones have a proper in-canal fit, but the shape of the earpieces means that they fit securely. In my experience, they provided decent noise isolation without putting too much pressure on my outer ears.
This improved design and the lower weight of these earpieces fix some of the long-term comfort issues I had with the Galaxy Buds Pro. Each earpiece weighs 5g, while the charging case weighs around 41g. There are a total of six microphones (three on each earpiece) which enable active noise cancellation and voice communications. The earphones are IPX2 rated for water resistance, which is a bit disappointing.
Although the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is the successor to the Galaxy Buds and Buds+, the look of the headset is similar to that of the Galaxy Buds Pro, with a glossy outer side and a charging case that is nearly identical to that of the more expensive Pro headset. The outer sides of the earpieces are touch-sensitive for the controls, which are customisable through the Galaxy Wearable app on Android smartphones.
There's no app for iOS yet which is a bit disappointing, and no Dolby Atmos support. Some Samsung features such as Auto Switch and support for Bixby will make the experience a bit better for Samsung smartphone users.
In terms of features, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is very similar to the Galaxy Buds Pro, with active noise cancellation, customisation through the app, and Qi wireless charging in addition to USB Type-C fast charging. For connectivity, the earphones use Bluetooth 5.2, with support for the SBC, AAC, and Scalable Bluetooth codecs. Each earpiece has dual dynamic drivers, a woofer and tweeter.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 works with the Galaxy Wearable app on Android smartphones. This can be used to control the ANC and Ambient Sound modes, customise the touch controls, adjust the equaliser settings, and tweak a few other features such as reading notifications aloud. You can perform an earbud fit test, and choose whether or not to use Ambient Sound mode during calls.
The controls are customisable, but the level of customisation is a bit limited on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. A single tap plays or pauses your music, a double-tap skips to the next track, and a triple tap skips to the previous track – these functions can only be activated or deactivated; you can't change the function itself. The touch-and-hold gesture switches between noise control modes by default, but can be set to activate the voice assistant or control the volume instead.
There is also an experimental setting that, if enabled, lets you adjust the volume by tapping on the edges of the earpieces, thus freeing the touch-and-hold gesture for a different function. I actually didn't mind these limitations at all, and using the controls was easy enough during my time with the Galaxy Buds 2.
Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 isn't as impressive as with the Buds Pro when it comes to the earpieces, but the charging case is able to top up the earpieces a bit more. I got a total listening time of around four hours on the earpieces with ANC on, with the charging case managing to top them up thrice, for a total battery life of around 16 hours per charge cycle. Although not exceptional, battery life is decent enough compared to similarly priced competition.
Priced at Rs. 11,999 in India, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 competes in the mid-range segment. That said, there's plenty to like about these earphones for the price, including good active noise cancellation, support for the Scalable Bluetooth codec, and good tuning.
I used the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 with my iPhone 12 mini and OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition for much of this review, but I also tried it with a Samsung smartphone to test performance with the Scalable codec. While the latter did provide a noticeably better listening experience, the AAC codec in use on the other devices didn't hold back the earphones too much.
Listening to I Don't Trust Myself by John Mayer on Apple Music, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 provided a clean, relaxed sonic signature that blended all the different parts of the frequency range well. From the gentle rumble of the bass guitar and drums to John Mayer's uniquely soulful voice, the track sounded enjoyable in every way. Even with the volume at just about 60 percent, the Galaxy Buds 2 made for an engaging and involving listening experience.
Switching to faster and more bass-centric music, I listened to Fire by Ferry Corsten, Although the bass was not as tight and calculated as on the OnePlus Buds Pro, I quite liked the more subtle grunt of the low end on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. It was gentle, but sounded a bit more natural and accommodating of the vocals and highs, which is great in its own way.
The Samsung earphones don't sound quite as forward and enthusiastic as competing options from OnePlus and Oppo, but more than make up for this with the soundstage and clean sound. I found a level of refinement in these earphones that I haven't heard on too many options priced at under Rs. 15,000, and it's superior to what Samsung has itself offered with its previous products at this price.
Even with the AAC Bluetooth codec, the earphones sound very good, making the Galaxy Buds 2 a fairly good pick even if you don't have a Samsung smartphone. App support only for Android means that iOS users will have the least comprehensive feature set available, but the core experience remains decent regardless of your source device.
If you do have a compatible Samsung device, the Scalable Bluetooth codec makes for a slightly more detailed sound and better soundstage, thanks to the superior data transfer capabilities of the codec. It's therefore definitely worth considering the Galaxy Buds 2 if you do have a modern Samsung smartphone or tablet.
Much of the credit for the good overall experience on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 goes to the active noise cancellation performance. The ANC on these earphones is practically as good as what you'd get on more expensive headsets such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Jabra Elite 85t, and is supported by the excellent fit and passive noise isolation. The earphones worked well to quieten noise in my home, and even helped when walking on the street.
The noise cancellation was good enough to use even without music playing, and it made listening to music significantly easier and more pleasant, even at low volumes and in noisy environments. There's only one intensity setting for ANC, and you can only turn it off or switch to the hear-through mode. Although not quite as natural-sounding as on the AirPods Pro, the Ambient Sound mode does make for a reasonably accurate hear-through experience that didn't sound too sharp.
Call quality on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 was decent in indoor and somewhat quiet outdoor environments, and the hear-through mode can be set to activate during calls so you can more clearly hear your own voice. Connection stability was never an issue with these earphones; I was able to use them without any trouble at distances of up to around 3.5m.
Even though the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 isn't the most premium and well-equipped pair of true wireless earphones in the company's range, this is nonetheless my pick even when compared to the more expensive Galaxy Buds Pro. It's a good value-for-money proposition at Rs. 11,999, with comfortable design, good sound, and very good active noise cancellation. It offers a largely uncomplicated and hassle-free approach to wireless listening.
The Galaxy Buds 2 is a bit more expensive than some excellent options such as the OnePlus Buds Pro and Oppo Enco X, but is worth considering for its laid-back yet engaging sound. It particularly makes sense if you have a Samsung smartphone, since this will unlock the potential of the Scalable Bluetooth codec and further improve sound quality.
Is Samsung Galaxy S21+ the perfect flagship for most Indians? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.