Rebecca Isaacs is a writer and an educator. She covers all sorts of products, from video games to e-readers and light therapy alarm clocks to standing desks.
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Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs
Comfortable in ears
Multiple equalizer options
Quick charging case
Battery runtime falls short
Some cutouts on windy days
With booming bass and tons of equalizer options, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live offers an immersive audio experience with the added bonus of noise-canceling.
We purchased the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Because I've been working from home a lot, I took my workout routine indoors. Finding the perfect pair of workout headphones is not only essential for my physical fitness, but also for listening to my favorite podcasts. The perfect solution lay with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. While the design is a little unorthodox compared to what’s on the market, the earbuds boast noise-canceling features, six different equalizer options, and easy touch controls. After a week’s use, the Galaxy Buds Live have become my go-to for listening to tunes on the go.
To be frank, I’ve never seen an earbud like the Galaxy Buds. Instead of resting in your using the intertragal notch (the groovy part of your lower ear) as a stabilizer, the Buds focus on tucking into the ear’s concha. I was dubious that at 16.5 x 27.3 x 14.9mm (HWD) the buds would stay in the ear, but it’s big enough that it tucks into the ear and doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall out. If you’re worried about sizing, the Buds only come in one universal size.
One of my biggest beefs with the design of my old true wireless earbuds was that every time I used them, my ear would ache. That wasn’t the case with the Galaxy Buds Live. Because the ergonomic design allows them to rest in the ear, I could wear them for hours without any discomfort.
When I went to grab my lunch from my favorite pasta shop, the windy day caused severe cutouts.
The touch controls are a really solid way to swap between songs without finding your phone in your bag. One tap will pause the Buds, while two taps fast-forward, and three taps rewind. You have to be quick about tapping three times though—I found that sometimes when I tapped to go back and listen to some K. Flay, the Buds registered my tapping on the main interface as a fast-forward.
More importantly, if you have long hair, make sure it’s dry. I tried wearing the Buds Live as I was heading out the door post-shower and found that every time my hair touched the Buds, they registered the wet hair as my finger pressing and holding the Buds, which controls noise-cancellation. If you’re set on using them with wet hair, you can always turn off the touch mechanism in the app.
Once you connect to Bluetooth 5.0, download the Galaxy Wearable App, and follow the prompts to check out the app features and options for the Buds. The app is essential and required for any phone. It’s basically the hub of the Buds, with six different equalizer options to maximize your audio experience. That said, don’t stray too far from your phone with the Buds, as they can only move about 20-30 feet away from the Bluetooth connection.
Those six equalizer options—normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear, and treble boost—really give you true audio customization. Samsung boasts that it has packed 12mm speakers, a larger driver, a bass duct, and an audio chamber into the Buds for an enhanced bass boost experience.
I tossed on some Childish Gambino and found that the bass worked almost too well. As a fan of bass boost, the strong bass sound didn’t bother me, but for those who don’t like bass, there are plenty of options to choose from. Some of the equalizer options didn’t appeal to me, though. The Treble Boost feature didn’t make my music sound any better—if anything, it reminded me of listening on some cheap wired phones I used to pick up at my local pharmacy.
For those who prefer to use the Buds for voice calls, you’ll be pleased to know they use three microphones and a voice pickup unit to capture your voice for crystal clear phone conversations.
If listening to live audio tracks is your jam, then the clear equalizer option works well for clearing up ambient noises on live tracks. By far, the Dynamic setting was my personal favorite equalizer feature, as it heightened both the bass and the treble components so the bass wouldn’t overtake treble noise, like vocals. It was the smoothest sound as the Buds visited various genres, from Lady Gaga’s poppy synthesizers to Rimsky-Korsokov’s violin solos.
While it would have been impossible to integrate a touch button into the buds to slip between the equalizer options—or even volume—Samsung did make it easy to flip through songs through a combination of taps and long presses.
For those who prefer to use the Buds for voice calls, you’ll be pleased to know they use three microphones and a voice pickup unit to capture your voice for crystal clear phone conversations. And, if you connect your Bixby voice assistant as I did, you have the internet at your fingertips. On the flip side, if you keep Bixby connected, it will come at the cost of increased battery drain.
The Galaxy Buds Live have UL Verification that states they are capable of reducing noise at 172Hz. Essentially, they work the same as all noise-canceling headphones, piping in sound to block out background noise. So, when I was walking across campus, the Buds actively reduced traffic and other background noises for a more focused listening experience. While I found they didn’t cut loud noises like blaring horns or construction, they did hone in my true crime podcasts and soundtracks playlists for a better listening experience.
However, don’t plan to use these in a windy environment. When I went to grab my lunch from my favorite pasta shop, the windy day caused severe cutouts. Worse yet, when the Buds registered the cutout, they tried to catch up, resulting in songs that seemed like they’d been fast-forwarded. Overall, you’re likely not going to get the same level of noise-canceling as the Airpods Pro, let alone over-ear headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Bose Headphones 700.
When I was walking across campus, the Buds actively reduced traffic and other background noises for a more focused listening experience.
The Buds Live came with up to 8 hours of battery life in a lithium-ion battery and an additional 29 hours of battery life factoring the charging case in. I turned on the Buds and let them run their course during the workday. Samsung’s battery projections ran a little short of the mark at only 7 of battery life.
Fortunately, a quick 15 minutes in the charging case gave me another hour of battery life. While the battery life falls a little short, I still got around 20 hours of Spotify time all told. If I was concerned about battery life, I just opened the case, popped the Buds into the case, and checked the light in the case, which indicates how much battery life left.
For $180, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live can be yours. The price tag sounds expensive, but it’s actually a fair bit cheaper than the $250 Airpods Pro, and about the same price as the $170 Sony WF-1000XM3. It’s a solid price to pay for your audio experience and if you check Amazon on the regular, you can get them for as low as $139, which at the time of this review, was the list price.
The main competition for the Buds Live is the Apple Airpods Pro. At the cost of $250, the Apple Airpods are the highest-tier earbuds in the Apple products line. Unlike the Galaxy Buds Live, the Airpods offers a more customizable fit with silicone eartips and offers seamless pairing with iPhones. Equalizer settings aren’t nearly quite so customizable and touch controls aren’t remappable, but the H1 chip puts it head and shoulders above the Buds Live when it comes to noise cancellation.
However, Samsung wins out when it comes to battery life despite falling short in my testing. While Samsung promises up to 8 hours of battery life and 29 hours of listening time with the charging case, the Airpods report a much shorter lifespan. On a single charge, the Apple Airpods can only run for around 4.5 hours, amounting to 24 hours with the charging case. On those numbers alone, Samsung offers the upper edge for extended listening, which is perfect for long haul flights.
Apple does offer personalization with initials and emoji engravings on their Airpods. Meanwhile, Samsung opts to provide the basic buds package without personalization options. If you would like that extra couple hours of listening time, then stick with the Galaxy Buds Live. However, if you’re really into fashion and style, the Airpods Pro might be a better option for you.
Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best wireless earbuds can help you find what you're looking for.
A solid pair of true wireless earbuds.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live offer an immersive listening experience, in part thanks to its 12mm drivers, bass ducts, and highly customizable equalizer settings. However, the noise-cancellation plays second fiddle to the competition and isn’t ideal for windy days, so if that’s your main use, you’ll want to consider other options.
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