I’ve come to like reviewing headphones.
I think it’s because when I’m evaluating headphones, I take some time to sit back and listen to my music.
I listen to a lot of music during an average day, but almost all of it is through speakers in my car, on my bedside table or through my computer speakers at work.
I’m not the kind of person who spends all day wearing headphones.
I know plenty of people who spend their days listening to music through headphones or earbuds as they work. But I’m an IT guy who does end user support, so I spend my days talking to people, listening to them describe their issues and asking questions.
If I had to remove headphones or earbuds every time I had a personal interaction, I’d go crazy.
I do keep a Bluetooth headset on my right ear when I’m sitting at my desk, but that’s only so I can talk on the phone hands-free.
This week I’ve been testing the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Live ($169.99), which are Samsung’s answer to Apple’s AirPods Pro. They were announced along with the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G I reviewed last week.
I have a pair of AirPods Pro and I really like them, so this Buds Live review is going to reference my experience with both.
The first thing I noticed about the Buds Live is their design, which is unlike any earbuds I’ve seen before.
They are shaped like beans. They also don’t have any type of silicone or foam tip to fit into your ear canal.
They are smooth and are made to sit snugly in your ear. They do make a seal, but not as much of one as the AirPods Pro.
But they are the most comfortable earbuds I’ve ever worn, even though I noticed a few little annoyances that I’ll get to later.
The Buds Live slide into my ear, nestle in place and they feel very secure. I can’t imagine that any kind of movement would cause them to fly out. I can’t say that about my AirPods Pro.
I have pretty big ears, so I asked my wife to try them on, too.
She is not an earbud wearer, but once I showed her how to put them in her ears, she said they were very comfortable, and she couldn’t shake them out of her ears either.
Each bud has a small area that is a touch button. Even the lightest touch presses the button, which was really my only gripe with the design.
Touch the button once to play/pause the music. Touch twice to answer or end a call or advance to the next song. Triple touch to play the previous track. The user can define what happens when you press and hold the button. By default, pressing and holding turns the noise canceling on or off.
My gripe is it is nearly impossible to insert or remove the Buds Live without touching the button. I also touch or adjust them every once in a while, and you really can’t do that without touching the button, which starts or stops the music.
You can disable the touch buttons in the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app, but I find the buttons useful, so I leave them on and just grumble when I press the buttons accidentally.
The Buds Live have Active Noise Canceling, which uses microphones on the outside of the Buds to listen to the noise of your surroundings and quiet it as much as they can.
You can hear the ambient noise lessen when you turn on the noise canceling, but not a lot.
Noise canceling works best with a good seal in the ear. AirPods Pro do a little better job of canceling noise because of their silicone ear tips.
I was surprised at how good the Buds Live sound. I tend to like a lot of treble and mid-tones in my music and go light on the bass, and I was pleased at the range of sound I could dial in.
The Samsung Wearables app has an Equalizer section with six presets, including bass boost, treble boost, normal, soft, clear and dynamic.
I found I liked the clear setting, which dials back the bass a bit.
The Galaxy Wearables app is available for Android and iOS, and it looks and acts the same on both platforms.
And don’t worry about having not enough bass. They have bass to spare, especially if you choose the dynamic or bass boost settings.
I like the sound of music through the Buds Live better than the AirPods Pro.
The microphone for talking on phone calls is good but not great. I had more than one person tell me that I sounded muffled at times during phone calls.
The AirPods Pro microphones sound better on phone calls.
BATTERY LIFE AND CASE
The Buds Live have a battery life of eight hours if you don’t use noise canceling and six hours if you do.
The Buds Live case has its own battery to charge them up. The case can extend the Buds Live to play for up to 29 hours.
The case has a USB-C port to charge, and it also charges wirelessly.
I realize trying to tell you how something sounds to me is subjective, but I hope my descriptions of the experience are helpful.
It’s a pretty simple comparison. Buds Live have great sound, comfortable fit and long battery life, and they cost $80 less than the AirPods Pro.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the best wireless earbuds I’ve tried.
Pros: Great music playback, comfortable and relatively inexpensive.
Cons: Touch buttons are too easy to press by mistake.
Bottom line: Add it all up and the Galaxy Buds Live are the best choice.
(Article written by Jim Rossman)