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Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: The best buds in the galaxy

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Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: The best buds in the galaxy 2

Update, September 17, 2020: This review was updated to address minor improvements with software version R175XXU0ATH7 and to include an isolation chart.


Skeptical eyes roll at iterative tech updates, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus make marked improvements over the original and make it easier to justify the costlier price tag. Physically, the Buds Plus are identical to the first-generation version, but there’s more than meets the eye: Spotify integration is a lovely feature for any die-hard music fan and the extended battery life is great for commuters.


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Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

The new Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus boast the same design as the originals, but with improved battery life, Spotify integration, and quicker fast charging.


Who should buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus?

Samsung Galaxy S20 and S10 users, you’re the target demographic for these whimsical earbuds as Wireless PowerShare is only available with compatible Samsung smartphones. Spotify integration is also included, but its availability is limited to Android devices; iPhone users will still have to open the app for music playback. However, iPhone users do get some perks like AAC support for high-quality, lag-free playback. Although direct Spotify access is a unique feature, it’s now supported by the original Galaxy Buds, too, with the April 27, 2020, software update.

Read more: Here’s everything new in Samsung One UI 3.0

What are the Galaxy Buds Plus like?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus true wireless earbuds case

Anyone who’s used the original Galaxy Buds will feel at home with the Plus model. The design doesn’t deviate from the first-gen earphones, save for the carrying case that now has a glossy finish, rubberized “L R” indicator, and slightly larger earbud cutouts. All else remains the same, including the all-plastic construction and IPX2 water-resistant rating. This may read as boring to some, but it just means Samsung focused more on functional, rather than aesthetic, upgrades — something I appreciate.

Identical touch panels adorn the outside of the earbuds and their functions may be remapped in the Galaxy Wearable app. This is an application you’ll actually want to download as it lets you assign either panel to direct Spotify access. By tapping and holding the assigned panel, you’re introduced to a random recommended playlist or radio based on the service’s algorithms. It’s a unique feature that I dearly miss after returning to standard ‘buds. Sure, I can enter the actual Spotify app but the Galaxy Buds Plus streamline this process.

Other functions are afforded by the application, like ambient sound mode. You’re given three intensity levels to choose from; I like the low or medium settings and found the highest level too loud. You can also choose between six equalizer presets; dynamic is selected by default, which slightly elevates low-end and upper-midrange frequencies to accommodate consumer audio preferences. There’s also a “Labs” tab within the app for experimental features such as Game Mode, which further reduces audio-visual latency.

Some of the best true wireless battery life around

A photo of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus true wireless earbuds using wireless PowerShare atop a Samsung Galaxy S10e.

During SoundGuys’ Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review, a standalone playtime of 11 hours, 44 minutes was recorded, which outperforms the beefy Beats Powerbeats Pro. Quick charging is supported, too: tossing the Buds Plus into the case for just three minutes provides an hour of listening.

Depletion is uneven, however, as the right earbud’s battery cell drained 24 minutes prior to the left. This shouldn’t pose much of an issue since most of us place the earbuds into the charging case when inactive, thereby ensuring consistently topped up battery life. Although doing so is convenient, it also contributes to true wireless earbuds’ short life cycles. The constant charge cycling takes a toll on the small battery cells, wearing them down much faster than those found in traditional; Bluetooth headphones.

The pill-shaped charging case provides just one full battery cycle. It may not seem like much, but you get almost a full day’s worth of listening before having to use the included USB-C cable. You can also charge it via Wireless PowerShare atop a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone such as the S10 or S20. Alternatively, the case is Qi-certified, so any Qi wireless charging mat will do as well. It takes less than two hours to fully charge the case, depending on the speed of your power source.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus connection strength is consistent

A picture of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus Wearable app pulled up on a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone.

Those with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone running Android 7.1.1 or later who also have the SmartThings app installed will see a pop-up window asking if you want to pair the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus to your device. Anyone using a different source device will have to go the old fashioned route of pairing the ‘buds by removing them from the case and selecting the Galaxy Buds Plus from the source’s Bluetooth menu.

Samsung’s earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and afford the standard 10-meter wireless tether. There’s no aptX support. Instead, we get the same high-quality Bluetooth codecs as before: AAC and the scalable Samsung codec. The latter operates similarly to aptX Adaptive by constantly optimizing connection strength and audio quality. It only works with Samsung devices, so other Android users (e.g. those with LG smartphones) are left streaming via the unstable AAC codec or default SBC codec. It’s disappointing but expected.

The Galaxy Buds Plus are the perfect AirPods alternative for Android users.

Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus isn’t supported, but connection strength is reliable and latency is nearly imperceptible. This was further improve with software version R175XXU0ATH7, which improved stability and reliability. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus initially promised Bluetooth multipoint connectivity to two Bluetooth 5.0 devices, but the company covertly removed any mention of this from the official product page. When asked about future support, a Samsung representative simply iterated that it is not currently available.

As of an updated released on April 27, 2020, users benefit from automatic Ambient Sound mode, direct access to Spotify, and Microsoft Swift for quick switching between Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices. This update makes the Samsung Galaxy Buds very enticing, as direct Spotify access was initially thought to be relegated to the Buds Plus. Surely there are still reasons to upgrade, namely for the improved microphone quality and battery life.

The earbuds sound very good

A chart depicting the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus frequency response, which amplifies bass notes (slightly).

 

AKG tuned the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus drivers and slightly amplified bass reproduction, creating a more consumer-friendly sound compared to the original Galaxy Buds. Listeners who prefer pop, hip-hop, rap, and dance music will enjoy this sound signature, as it adds a greater sense of impact to your music without detrimental auditory masking. Highs and mids don’t receive much emphasis, which is fine, but certain songs may seem to lack detail — especially those with prominent female vocals.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus AA isolation chart

 

Isolation is good so long as you use the proper ear tips to achieve a proper fit. Doing so will effectively keep environmental noise out. Not only does this optimize sound reproduction, enhancing bass specifically, but it also aids in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. We’re less likely to crank up our tunes when ambient noise is passively blocked out.

Microphone quality is better than the Galaxy Buds

A three-microphone array rests inside each earbud; two outer mics and one inner mic all work together for more accurate voice transmission. The external microphones focus on your voice while also reducing external noise, which is similar to how the Apple AirPods Pro system operates. During my time with the Galaxy Buds Plus, I used them for a handful of conference calls and my co-workers stated I sounded quite clear. Listen for yourself with the demo below.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus microphone demo:

Samsung Galaxy Buds microphone demo:

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

A picture of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live noise cancelling true wireless earbuds in the open case next to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbuds have attracted the eyes and ire of many, and separate themselves from previous Samsung Galaxy generations. The Galaxy Buds Live don’t seal to the ear, and instead rely on an open-type fit. This means the fit is akin to the AirPods: you’re constantly aware of your surroundings while listening to your music. The kicker: active noise-cancelling (ANC).

Don’t miss: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs. Galaxy Buds Plus

Samsung tried something completely new with the Galaxy Buds Live by creating a hybrid product, but the noise-cancelling is limited by how they fit in each individual’s ears. The fact that noise-cancelling works at all with an unsealed ear is quite the feat, but subjectively, I found the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus did a better job of blocking noise out by nature of the dedicated ear tips.

The point of the Galaxy Buds Live, though, isn’t to be the best ANC earbuds on the market. No, instead, the Samsung wanted to set itself apart, and if you like how the Samsung Galaxy Buds operate with Android devices, you’ll appreciate the Galaxy Buds Live. They provide a seamless experience on devices running Android 5.0 and later.

Battery life is much better with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus than with the Galaxy Buds Live, even if noise-cancelling is disabled the entire time. However, microphone quality has been improved with the bean-shaped buds. If you want to try something new and are realistic about the ANC performance, the Galaxy Buds Live are worth considering. However, listeners who want something cheaper and equally as functional should stick with the Buds Plus.

How do the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus compare to the Galaxy Buds?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus vs Galaxy Buds true wireless earbuds portable cases

SoundGuys conducted a detailed comparison between the true wireless earbuds, but here’s a basic breakdown of the differences: you get 4.5 hours more playtime from the Plus than from the original Galaxy Buds. What’s more, quick charging efficiency is improved, and microphone quality is notably better than before.

I’m disappointed that Samsung ditched the matte case for a glossy one, as 2020’s glossy case is a fingerprint hoarder, but I suppose something had to change. The company also offers different color options with the Galaxy Buds Plus: black, white, and light blue compared to last year’s silver, white, black, and yellow schemes. On March 11, 2020, Samsung announced two new color variants: red and pink, both of which are now available on Amazon.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review: Should you buy them?

Anyone who wants the best that Samsung has to offer should save for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. Although one could argue most of the improvements, better battery life and cleaner mic quality, are unexciting, the fact remains that they’re all much-needed upgrades from the original Buds. If these features don’t pique your interest, then the Google Pixel Buds (2020) may tickle your fancy as they mimic Apple’s streamlined user experience on Android.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (white)

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