Samsung has finally turned a corner with its Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, which forego futuristic looks in favor of great 24-bit sound, head-tracked spatial audio and a design that fits comfortably.
Vastly improved hi-res sound quality
Classy, comfortable design and finish
Battery life is only average
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- Two-minute review
- Price and release date
- Design and features
- Sound quality and noise cancellation
- Should you buy them?
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: two-minute review
Given Samsung's formidable reputation in the smartphone and tablet arena, it has long surprised us that the company's Galaxy Buds output never quite hit the mark. A sensible (and color-coordinating) bet if you're already buying a Galaxy phone, maybe, but best avoided by everyone else as a serious sonic proposition.
The big news is that Apple, Sony, Bose, Sennheiser and in fact all of the best wireless earbuds manufacturers now need to take a good look at what Samsung has done with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. They're good. No, really, they're good.
The company has emphatically turned a corner. These smaller, more comfortable and less arrogant earbuds (remember the rose gold, kidney-bean shaped Galaxy Buds Live? These are nothing like those) are packed full of useful perks such as excellent ANC, voice detect, wearer detection and customizable on-ear controls – all of which work very well indeed –plus IPX7 water ingress protection.
But the headline-grabber, if you own a Samsung Galaxy device (and thus, access to the Samsung Wearable companion app and home-screen widget) is 360 audio with optional head-tracking, thus allowing you to use your phone as the focal point to direct more of that new end-to-end 24-bit high-res audio to whichever ear you prefer.
With a standard price of $229 / £219 / AU$349 and available in Graphite, White, and Bora Purple, these are viable and slightly cheaper rivals to the Apple AirPods Pro if you own a Samsung Galaxy device – and we mulled this judgement over at length before telling you as much.
The uptick in sound quality emphatically goes hand in hand with the improved fit and lightness here –the Buds Pro 2 are 15% smaller than Samsung's last effort and 0.8g lighter per earpiece (5.5g vs the 6.3g Buds Pro) –but more importantly, the design fits your ear simply and without the wearer having to master any overly-aggressive twist-and-lock techniques. In terms of fit, Samsung has absolutely hit a home run with the Buds 2 Pro – and the praise doesn't stop there.
The sound quality features a punchy bass, impactful and textured mids and sparkling, easily handled highs. You can tweak the EQ for yourself if you'd like, and a useful Voice Detect feature means that when you pipe up vocally, Ambient mode and lower music volume is automatically deployed to make your conversation easier. After five, 10 or 15 seconds of no talky (you can choose in the app), the music simply returns to normal.
The scope for noise cancellation is on, off, or ambient (so you cannot select the level you'd like on a slider, for example), but it works easily as well as anything at this price and the extra features for the level are comprehensive. It's possible to connect the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro to two devices simultaneously, and the touch controls cover every function you'll want –including volume alterations via a long press of either bud, as long as you tailor it in the app and are prepared to forego the option to scroll between noise cancellation profiles.
The only fly in the ointment is battery life, which is a claimed five hours of continuous playtime with ANC on (or eight without it) and up to 18 hours in the cradle. This is acceptable rather than class-leading and we had hoped for a little extra stamina.
Ultimately though, we find ourselves shaking our heads at the improved sound quality. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro support Bluetooth 5.3 – and LE Audio "will be eventually supported" by the end of the year, according to Samsung. All of this bodes well for the future, because it means Auracast audio sharing might soon be on the cards.
We're willing to wager that the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's sound and design will suit practically every ear. The sound quality also now falls in line with Samsung's great reputation in other arenas. Bravo Sammers!
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: price and release date
- $229 / £219 / AU$349
- Announced August 10, available in stores from August 26
Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro on August 10, as part of its Unpacked event where the tech giant also announced the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, its Galaxy Watch 5, and Watch 5 Pro.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro cost $229 / £219 / AU$349 and are available in three colorways: Graphite, White, and Bora Purple.
To put that pricing into perspective, it's a middle ground between the Apple AirPods Pro, which came with a launch price of $249 / £249 / AU$399, and the AirPods 3, which cost $179 / £169 / AU$279 –but remember, those cheaper 'Pods don't feature any active noise cancellation.
You can bag the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro on pre-order now, and the Buds 2 Pro will land in stores on August 26.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: design and features
- Small, comfortable earphones
- IPX7 waterproof earbuds
- 5 hours of playtime with ANC on; up to 18 hrs in the case
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are refreshingly smaller and lighter than most competing options – and Samsung was right to shave a little off the design. The result is a stylish, minimalist, secure and ergonomic fit that almost feels as if you're not wearing earbuds.
Across the course of our listening, we experienced zero fall-out anxiety, even with our small ears and without switching from the pre-fitted medium eartips (although you also get small and large tip sets in the box). We found the earpieces never budged, even when breaking into a sprint for the train en route to work, which is unusual.
The rounded top surface of the earbuds had us a little worried that the touch controls might be somewhat hit-and-miss. We were wrong to doubt them – the Buds 2 Pro's on-ear touch capacitive controls are very good indeed. They're easy to tap, registering your touch with little reassuring beeps, to the point that we found ourselves rarely needing to dig out our phone during our commute thanks to their efficacy.
USB-C and wireless charging is supported here as expected.The earbuds themselves boast an unusual IPX7 waterproof rating however, which will keep them safe even if submerged in freshwater up to a depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes, but take note – the case is not water resistant at all.
Wearer detection works, voice detect works, dual connectivity works, the Find My Earbuds feature works and ANC nixes noise without adversely coloring your music – everything does as claimed without fuss or dropouts. And if it sounds de riguer for a product's claimed features to come good under intense review, know that it isn't always the case.
On the subject of cases, this one is small and easily pocketable, with strong magnets to keep it shut, a solo LED light on the front and a finish that resolutely refuses to collect fingerprint smudges.
Until you come to that slightly underwhelming battery life of five hours from the buds with ANC on, we've got nothing but good things to say about the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's design and feature set.
- Design and features score: 4.5/5
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: sound quality and noise cancellation
- 2-way speaker design (woofer and tweeter)
- Impressive and detailed 24-bit audio
- ANC is seriously good for the level
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sport a two-way driver design, with a 10mm woofer and 5.4mm tweeter in each earbud. It's a formidable improvement on Samsung's previous earbud releases too, with YoDogg and Cardo's NIP(streamed in 360 reality audio, on Tidal) sounding atmospheric and foreboding while snaking from one ear to the other in a talented display of immersive audio.
On the subject of head-tracked Dolby Atmos content, it's a subtler performance than LG's Tone Free T90 when it comes to serving up audio betwixt each ear as you turn your head, but it is fun and effective nevertheless – and make no mistake, the sound is expansive and realistic throughout.
Sheryl Crow's Soak Up the Sun has us nodding our heads happily as we seek out backing vocals other earbuds can't deliver as cleanly or with as much space around each singer. Here, they are showcased pleasingly against a backdrop of keys in our right ear and guitars in our left.
DJ Snake's reggaeton romp Taki Taki is nothing short of zealous as whirring synths jump across the soundstage and drums crash in centrally and unapologetically. The soundstage is wide for a set of in-ear headphones and, asour playlist continues to Daddy Yankee and Snow's Con Calma, we realize it's the most energetic and agile performance of the track we've heard in some time through the grippy bassline.
Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 Pro include Bluetooth 5.3 and high-quality 24-bit music support, when used with compatible Samsung devices, thanks to the new 'Samsung Seamless Codec'. Although we still don't have full details on exactly what this codec can do, Samsung's slightly older (but still very talented) Scalable Codec is capable of handling 24-bit/96kHz audio streaming, with bitrates of up to 512kbps, so that's the likely minimum support we're talking about here –and regardless of the numbers, the resulting performance is impressive, with high-frequency treble instruments coming through with clarity and nuance, alongside a rock-solid midrange and expressive, impactful low end.
When it comes to noise cancellation, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro delivered the goods and then some. When using the Buds 2 Pro for the first time with ANC on, we had to check that the AC unit we were sitting next to was still in fact working. With 3 high SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) microphones, Samsung claims the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro can track and eliminate more outside sound than any Galaxy Buds that have gone before it – even soft sounds like wind – and we'd agree with the claim.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are beaten initially for ANC by the Galaxy product, but these and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds can still lay claim to the being the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market owing to their more tailored experience –although now, it's a far more closely run race.
- Sound quality and noise cancellation score: 4.5/5
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: value
- Cheaper than AirPods Pro, dearer than AirPods 3
- Recommended for Samsung Galaxy device owners
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro squeeze an incredible amount into their bijou design for mid-range money. OK, you might still wish for ANC you can tweak in increments on a slider in the app, but forgive this and it's hard to quibble with the sound-per-pound value.
The sound quality is unexpectedly good given Samsung's middling track record, and although we had hoped for a little more stamina for those longer listening sessions, there's an awful lot to like here.
- Value score: 4.5/5
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: should you buy them?
Swipe to scroll horizontally
|Design and features||Beautiful shaping and fit, useful features and comprehensive Samsung companion app||4.5/5|
|Sound quality and noise cancellation||Solid ANC allows the improved sound quality to really shine||4.5/5|
|Value||Forgive the average battery life and the Buds 2 Pro represent great value for money||4.5/5|
Buy them if…
You own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone
A no-brainer. The Buds 2 Pro present themselves on your Galaxy device for easy pairing and give you handy home-screen widgets –and the sound is not to be sniffed at either.
You want Samsung's best sound-per-pound audio quality
We didn't expect to enjoy Samsung's immersive, expressive, head-tracked 24-bit audio as much as we did. But here we are – the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's 24-bit sound is very good.
You're curious about Samsung's head-tracked 360 audio
Thanks to Bluetooth 5.3 and Samsung's newest Seamless Codec, you're getting immersive audio that uses your Samsung phone as a source and serves up the sound according to how your head is turned. And that is a lot of fun.
Don't buy them if…
You prioritize a long-lasting battery
Five hours with ANC deployed (or eight without it) won't get you through a long-haul flight without charging, will it?
You own an iPhone
For a seamless experience within Apple's ecosystem, you need to be looking to earbuds that offer a dedicated app for iOS, such as Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1 Plus – or of course, Apple AirPods.
You'd like earbuds everyone will notice
Sonically, these buds are anything but shy –but physically they're coy, retiring types.
Think the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro might not be the true wireless earbuds for you? That's no biggie. Here are three alternatives that could offer just the design, feature-set and sound quality you're looking for.
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Apple AirPods Pro
Perfect for Apple users thanks to their iOS-only features, Apple's AirPods Pro offer good noise cancellation and an alternative fit, but the battery life isn't the best on the market either.
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Fantastic sound quality including call quality, the Sony WF-1000XM4 lack exceptional noise cancellation but they offer some genuinely useful features instead.
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Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
The best earbuds for noise cancellation, the Bose QuietComfort earbuds are bulky and could do with better battery life also, but they're brilliant for blocking out the world.
- First reviewed: August 2022
- How we test: explore TechRadar's review guarantee
Senior Audio Staff Writer
Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.