Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Review: Nailing the Basics in Style

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Alongside the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Turn 3, Samsung also introduces Galaxy Buds 2. The $ 149 earbuds will replace the Galaxy Buds Plus as the entry-level model in the company’s lineup. This family now includes Galaxy Buds Pro, bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds 2.

Buds 2 enhances its predecessors by adding active noise reduction. But the few days I’ve spent with them so far, I’d say Samsung’s bigger and most impressive progress is in their design and fit. These are the company’s smallest and lightest true wireless in-ear headphones. And in my ears, Buds 2 offers a flat, unobtrusive fit that stands out uniquely from the company’s best competitors. Still, they follow the Buds Plus battery over the life of the battery, so no all is necessarily better. But Samsung was right enough that these could end up being a new choice for Android users who want an easy and reliable pair of wireless headphones with satisfactory sound. In fact, Samsung did so well with Buds 2 that the flagship Buds Pro just got a lot harder to sell.

The Buds 2 comes in a case that is similar in size and shape to Buds Pro and Buds Live before them; Samsung seems to have decided on this style of jewelry box for the whole lineup, and I can’t complain. It’s small enough to fit comfortably in your pocket, supports wireless charging, and closes comfortably clack. The exterior of the case is glossy white, while the matte interior matches the colors according to the color tone of Buds 2: white, dark gray, green or purple. The headphones themselves have a glossy finish, which may make them a little slippery in the summer heat, but so far I’ve managed not to drop them.

Galaxy Buds 2 replaces Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus series of in-ear headphones.

They have a similar curved shape to the Buds Pro, but thanks to the reduced size, the Buds 2 virtually disappears into the slits in your ear. When you look at someone who uses them directly, you can forget about Buds 2 altogether. They are really so subtle. By comparing them to the larger Galaxy Buds or Buds Plus, you have an undeniable example of Samsung’s smoothing in headphone design. If you’re more interested in in-ear headphones as a fashion accessory, Galaxy Buds Live still exudes a more unique style. But I barely take the Buds 2 there every day.

Given how well hidden Buds 2 is, I assumed the quality of voice calls would suffer. But Samsung managed to exceed my expectations here. Those I spoke to on the phone or via Zoom said it sounded just like I was talking through headphones – but the microphones were able to receive everything I said without any problems. Samsung says Buds 2 includes a new “machine-learning-based solution that filters out distracting background noise.” I’m not sure how much it really does, but I can call Buds 2 and be sure they’re not confusing.

Galaxy Buds 2 are Samsung’s smallest and lightest true wireless in-ear headphones.

Battery life is one criterion where Buds 2 cannot measure the Buds Plus model. Samsung estimates that they will last up to five hours of continuous playback when the ANC is in use (when the case stretches to 20 hours). Disabling the noise reduction extends it to 7.5 hours (or 29 hours with the housing). It’s by no means bad, but it’s several hours shorter than the 11 hours of direct playtime that Buds Plus could achieve, which honestly puts these headphones into its own league. I don’t know of many situations where you would listen to music for 11 hours in a row without putting the headphones back in their case (or just because of an ear break), and it seems like Samsung was willing to change some durability to this smaller, more stylish format. I think that was the right decision.

The buds 2 sit well against the inner ear.

But what about the Galaxy Buds Pro? How do Samsung entry-level in-ear headphones stack their most expensive pair? The company predictably predicts that high-end headphones will deliver excellent sound quality and more efficient ANC. The latter point is accurate: Buds 2 has a noise reduction that is valid but never wows. The sound around them also sounds well computerized and artificial, so Buds Pro does better. Some features, such as 360 sound and automatic switching between Samsung devices, are missing. In my opinion, the most significant real difference between Buds 2 and Buds Pro, which is important for potential buyers, is that the latter are classified in the IPX7 class as water and sweat resistant. Buds 2 is pure IPX2, so using them in the rain is risky, and a lot of sweaty trainers or athletes might want something more durable.

The case has a USB-C port and also supports wireless charging.

Aside from these sacrifices, they produce sound on the front – to the point that separating the two earbuds with just a beep can be challenging. Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 has a two-way controller with a subwoofer and treble speaker in each in-ear headphone. The bass and treble are selected according to a standard equalizer curve that many consumers find pleasing to their ears. But I was pleasantly surprised by the vast sound world of Buds 2 as I listened to the latest Bleachers album, Take the grief out of Saturday night. Bruce Springsteen’s voice goes through just the right sand in “Chinatown,” and even more busy songs like “Stop Making This Hurt” have a nice layered sound instead of being confusing. The in-ear headphones support AAC, SBC, and Samsung scalable codecs, and have been mostly free of noise or interruptions during my time. The sound is sometimes blurred for a few seconds when I walk down a busy street, but overall the performance is solid.

Because the Buds 2 is Samsung’s most affordable true wireless in-ear headset, you don’t get all the features standard on more expensive models: for example, there is no automatic pause when you remove the in-ear headset, for example. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t deliberate closures: when you turn off one in-ear headset, the ANC is automatically disabled on the other to prevent discomfort and the ambient mode is turned on so you can hear what’s going on. When you replace the original headset, the noise reduction starts. It’s not a memorable trick, but I’ll take it.

Samsung’s Galaxy Wearables app includes standard options to help you find misplaced buds or edit their controls. Loops 2 recognize single, double and triple taps, and you can also set the function by pressing and holding a gesture. You need to be somewhat thoughtful with the faucets in order for them to register, but other than that, the controls have worked consistently. The partner app now also has a fit test to help you see which of the three silicone tip sizes best fits your ears.

Galaxy Buds 2 didn’t have to blow doors to succeed. They are set to become the default choice for many Android phone owners – especially as sales, discounts and new phone packages start to hit. They sound perfectly good, sit comfortably and work reliably. But most of all, I’m interested in how compact and low-profile these headphones are. Just like the latest folds, the Galaxy Buds 2 are proof that Samsung is not sitting still. It strikes all cylinders.

Photographer Chris Welch / The Verge


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