Galaxy Buds 2 review: It's all about being seen, not heard
The Galaxy Buds 2 are the new mid-range true wireless earbuds equipped with ANC from Samsung. There are plenty of decent TWS with ANC going for $150. In this review, I give you my full take of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. Read on!
- Very good design
- Compact and discreet form factor
- Faithful bass reproduction
- Accurate ANC balance
- Qi wireless charging
- Complete companion app
- Any bass profile
- Equalizer is too limited
- IPX2 certification only
- Average battery life
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 in a nutshell
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 really reminded me of the Nothing Ear (1) in terms of its feel and user experience. The design is original and nice to look at, but behind those "walls", it hides a very basic pair of true wireless earbuds. The only difference? The Nothing Ear (1) costs $99 instead of $150. I reviewed the Galaxy Buds 2 paired with a Galaxy Z Fold 3.
These Buds 2 are mid-range earbuds that don't stand out from the rest of the competition. That's both a good and a bad thing. Audio quality is decent with faithful bass reproduction. The average battery life stands at 5 hours and is decent enough, making it similar to other models in this price range. The SBC/AAC audio codecs and non-adjustable ANC are almost a given as the bare minimum in 2021 at the $150 price point. When you're more expensive than the rest and don't stand out, just being "good" isn't enough.
Design: Their best selling point
Contrary to what I mentioned in the intro, Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 stand out from the rest of the competition on just one point: the design that sports a compact look and size.
What I liked:
- Doesn't resemble the Airpods.
- Comfortable to wear and discreet.
- Very compact and well-built case.
What I disliked:
- IPX2 certification only.
Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 have the primary quality of not following the Airpods' stem design. Not that this form factor is bad, but it's all too common that having a change in scenery is more than welcome. As for me, I'd like a change in design from time to time, even if the most common one is a tried-and-true formula. A little freshness never hurt anybody, right? Right?
Visually, you can still make out the bean shape from last year's Galaxy Buds Live. But the form factor has been toned down by a huge margin to make it even more bud-like in terms of design. The lavender color of my review unit is very pleasant to look at, and it's a very good idea from Samsung to splash a similar color on the inside of the case and not on the outside, where the coating is white. The contrasting effect when you open the case is strangely satisfying.
As for the rest, the smooth plastic finish is very clean, the earbuds are comfortable to wear and discreet. I regret that they are only carry the IPX2 certification rating (protection against direct fresh water sprays at a 15° angle, remember to bring a protractor when you go out in the rain with the Galaxy buds 2!). The housing is also very compact and well designed.
ANC and other features
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 offer Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and come with a companion app that includes an equalizer, among other features.
What I liked:
- Effective ANC.
- Clean, uncluttered app interface.
- Built-in equalizer.
What I disliked:
- Equalizer is too limited.
- Non-adjustable ANC.
- Application is not available on iOS.
According to Samsung, the noise reduction of the Galaxy Buds 2 should be able to reduce background noise by a whopping 98%. In reality, it's pretty good although I am unable to seriously quantify my experience. We're not at the level of the Sony WF-1000XM4 's ANC, or Apple's AirPods Pro. But solid noise (resulting from contact between two surfaces) is fairly well attenuated as long as it is regular. When it comes to voices, ANC is less effective but this is an argument that can be made of all its competitors in this price range.
The Galaxy Buds 2 also has a dedicated companion app known as Galaxy Wearable (you have to install a separate Galaxy Buds 2 plugin via the Play Store). It is unavailable on iOS. Pairing is seamless and you're presented with a very clean and neat interface. There is a slider to enable ANC or transparency mode. The latter is adjustable in terms of volume but this is not the case for the ANC, which is a real shame.
You can also customize one of the touch controls (the long press) but not the others. There's a "seamless connection" mode to switch from one device to another as long as it's linked to the same Samsung account. It's convenient when you're in the Samsung ecosystem and the experience is similar to what you have with the Airpods on an iPhone.
The equalizer is present but it is too limited in terms of functionality, only letting you choose between different presets without being able to customize them. There are also accessibility features or the ability to have the earbuds read out phone notifications aloud.
Audio and other minor details: A very common bass profile
Samsung is more muted when it comes to the audio specifications of its Galaxy Buds 2. We do find that it leans more toward a bassy sound which is rather common in the TWS earbuds market.
What I liked:
- Very accurate bass.
- Dynamic bass sound.
What I disliked:
- Supports only SBC and AAC codecs.
- Marked sibilance in the highs.
- Saturation in the mediums.
I had almost no data to work with for my review. There is no information on its frequency range, no audio codec, no driver size, it seems that the general public does not choose their TWS earbuds based on audio quality but purely in terms of design. Hmmm, that can't be it. Airpods are the best-selling earbuds in the world. That's got to be due to the great sound and not just because of their brand image and design, right?
On a more serious note, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 sound like almost all of the other TWS earbuds in this price range. We have a dual dynamic speaker system, where that in each earbud lies two drivers, a tweeter to handle the highs and mids, and a woofer for the bass. The Galaxy Buds 2 will feature support for just SBC and AAC codecs.
Sound playback is very accurate when it comes to bass. I have checked the frequency curves shown on other tech sites which confirmed my feeling, where the audio signature is rather flat in the bass and low midrange, which means that the sound reproduction by the Galaxy Buds 2 is very faithful to the original.
As for the rest of the musical message, the Galaxy Buds 2 tends to struggle with the midrange, where vocals become saturated at times and once you throw in too many instruments, the Buds 2 will struggle to reproduce everything distinctly without spilling over. The highs suffer from sibilance, which can be annoying especially when you listen at a high volume level. This last defect is really noticeable, and there is no need for a frequency curve to point it out.
Finally, the Galaxy Buds 2 are equipped with 3 microphones in each earbud. When you are indoors in quiet surroundings, sound is a bit compressed but the voice remains clear and the echo is contained. When outdoors, as is often the case, the Galaxy Buds 2 does not manage to isolate your voice from ambient noise effectively enough. This is not very different from what the competition offers in terms of performance.
However, I do like the fact that you can use each Galaxy Buds 2 individually and that the inactive earbud's channel will be reproduced as a mono signal via the active earbud.
Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 promises up to 5 hours of battery life with ANC enabled and another 15 hours with the charging case.
What I liked:
- Fast charging times.
- Compatible with Qi wireless charging.
What I disliked:
- Average battery life.
Each earbud integrates a 61 mAh battery and the case increases its charging capacity to 470 mAh. When in use, Samsung promises up to 5 hours of battery with a mixed usage pattern (video calls + music) and at a high listening volume (80%) with ANC enabled.
The case took an average of 40 minutes to fully charge the Galaxy Buds 2 and is compatible with the Qi wireless charging standard. I know we don't really talk about whether or not true wireless headphones charge fast in general, but I found the Galaxy Buds 2 to charge noticeably faster than other models I've reviewed.
As far as battery life is concerned, it's a very basic figure that falls in within the norm.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
|Drivers||Dynamic (no dimensions specified)|
SBC and AAC
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.2 | A2DP, AVRCP, HFP Profiles|
|App & EQ||Yes|
|Dimensions & weight||
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are mid-range true wireless earbuds that are as decent as they are forgettable. The bassy sound is decent enough for MP3s or Spotify, the 5-hour battery life is average for a pair of non-audiophile earbuds that you only use while you are on-the-go or on calls. The ANC is decent and consistent for this price range.
But that's it! While it is good enough for the average Joe, that does not mean I'm going to give a medal to every manufacturer that does a decent job of delivering out a product. I have the impression that the true wireless earbud is going the same way as the MP3 player market did several years ago. Everyone knows how to make a functional and capable product. And everyone else is content with the status quo, which is a shame.
Consumers, who have nothing (other than a frequency curve) tangible to choose from, will eventually fall back on design. Is this pair of earbuds prettier than the other pair? If so, it must perform better, right?
But I'll stop bitching here, as I'll keep this rant for another article eventually. And in any case, it would be unfair to make Samsung the standard bearer of a trend that ALL manufacturers are contributing to. To Samsung's credit, they're still taking design risks and are trying to offer while succeeding in offering a seamless experience within their ecosystem a la Apple's Airpods.
If you want to own a pair of Samsung earbuds and the Galaxy Buds Pro are too expensive, the Galaxy Buds 2 are a good alternative. And if you're not looking for any particular brand, then the Galaxy Buds 2 or any other pair of wireless headphones released in 2021 that cost around $100 will do. They all sound the same anyway. I await with bated breath for the next iteration!