The earbuds Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro make a lot of claims.
They feature immersive 360-degree audio with dynamic head tracking, better active noise cancellation (ANC), a sleeker design, end-to-end 24-bit high-resolution playback (with limitations), better active noise cancellation (ANC), end-to-end 24-bit high-resolution playback, and a host of other features that are intended to make daily use of them easier.
Yet in terms of sound quality, Samsung hasn’t exactly had a stellar track record. Looking at the star rating here reveals that the new Buds 2 Pro upholds the tradition of the previous Buds Pro and Buds 2 models, both of which garnered three star evaluations last year. But, there are many other ways in which these updated Samsung earbuds have advanced.
Build & Design
The original Galaxy Buds Pro’s shiny plastic surface is no longer present. The new Buds 2 Pro have an all-matte, smooth finish that looks and feels more sophisticated, and the charging case that goes with them is also slim. Everything seems to have been trimmed to provide a more upscale and polished profile.
They are available in graphite, white, and Samsung’s distinctive Bora Purple, three colors. We adore the new finish; it has a more mature appearance appropriate for the over-£200 price tag.
The actual earbuds have shrunk by 15%, making them even more secure and barely protruding from your ears at all. Our pair firmly tucks into the recess of our ears and is difficult to remove. But, the buds are so tiny that it may be difficult to get your fingers around them to position them properly if they don’t fit well. Over time, our ears did become a touch sore as well, with the earbuds rubbing against them visibly after prolonged use.
You receive three ear tips in the package, and to get the greatest seal, we advise launching Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app and doing the Earbud Fit Test. If you have the best option or if you need to test a different ear tip, the app will let you know.
With touch-sensitive taps on the earphones, you can control music playback, change noise-cancelling settings, activate the Bixby speech assistant, answer calls, and more. The controls are precise but maybe a little too delicate; a few times, we unintentionally paused our music by lightly touching the earbuds. It’s convenient that you can prevent this by completely disabling all touch controls in the Wearable app. Moreover, you can enable and disable touch controls for each action. You don’t want to use Bixby with headphones, do you? Switch it off.
A coaxial driver with a 5.3mm tweeter and 10mm woofer is housed into each earbud. The earbuds’ drivers and sound are handled by the headphone brand’s expertise, and you’ll see “Sound by AKG” branded inside the casing. According to Samsung, the two companies continue to have an excellent working relationship.
The new charging case is unique in that it is small enough to fit in the palm of our hand and has a soft-touch texture that feels great and provides a secure grip. It doesn’t take up much room in our pocket or small bag and is far smaller than the Sony XM4 or AirPods Pro cases. The case did accumulate some scratches over time, so those who want their kit to remain spotless should be mindful of this.
With a best-in-class IPX7 rating, the Buds 2 Pro earphones can withstand 30 minutes in up to one meter of fresh water. It is superior to the IPX4 ratings of competing ANC earphones and suitable for the savagest workouts in any weather.
Battery life is the one area where Samsung has not made any advancements. It compares favorably to the AirPods Pro’s five hours of battery life (with ANC enabled), but falls short of the Sony XM4’s eight hours. With the case (ANC on), you get a total of 18 hours, and with it off, the Buds 2 Pro earbuds can last up to eight hours on a single charge. Although the headphones kept us going on our usual commute without the battery dying completely, we can imagine needing more time on a long-haul flight.
Fortunately, a quick charge of five minutes will provide you with an hour of battery life, and you can charge them wirelessly or with a USB-C cable.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are jam-packed with innovative features and cutting-edge technology from Samsung, but many of these only function when used with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone running the appropriate software.
The Buds 2 Pro’s primary feature, end-to-end 24-bit high-resolution “hi-fi” sound quality, stands out among these. The goal is to hear music “exactly as the artist intended” using these earphones, which means the earbuds will properly decode and play 24-bit audio files from music streaming services (including Amazon Music, Tidal, and Qobuz). This is made possible by the Samsung Seamless Codec (SSC) HiFi, a new codec found in the Buds 2 Pro.
There are a few restrictions in this. Only when the earphones are connected to Samsung Galaxy handsets running One UI 4.0 or higher does the full 24-bit playback function. For our assessment, we are use a Galaxy S22 Plus from Samsung. Samsung promises us that the SSC HiFi codec will ensure it is delivering the full bit depth as long as the audio source is 24-bit. Yet, there is no way to verify this in the music player, phone, or earphones’ settings.
The 24-bit audio stream will be downscaled to 16-bit if you’re using an iOS device or another Android device that doesn’t support this program.
Capability for 24-bit audio is great, but wireless music streaming is still a lossy process, particularly when using Bluetooth. In order to compare the amount of information being transmitted when playing 24-bit audio, we must first determine the transmission rate. The Buds 2 Pro support 24-bit/48kHz audio at a data rate of 584kbps, according to Samsung, who confirmed this to us. An uncompressed CD-spec data stream operates at 1411kbps as a comparison.
How does that compare to other Bluetooth standards and headphones? Samsung’s new SSC HiFi Codec provides a little bit more information than this since aptX HD Bluetooth supports 24-bit/48kHz at 576kbps. The greatest specification is still provided by the Sony XM4, which uses LDAC to transmit 24-bit/96kHz audio at up to 990 kbps. Of course, if the earbuds themselves don’t sound their best, none of these stats will matter. But that will be discussed later.
Moreover, the earphones provide enhanced 360-degree audio with direct support for multiple channels and dynamic head tracking. This produces a more immersive audio experience when playing TV episodes and movies with Atmos 5.1 or 7.1 surround soundtracks, like Marvel’s output on Disney Plus, and while listening to Atmos-mixed songs on Tidal.
Another major development is the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.3, which is a significant improvement over the 5.0 (and 5.2) of the Buds Pro. This is the first time we’ve seen the newest Bluetooth standard on a product. It’s now just as simple to pair the Buds 2 Pro with our Galaxy S22 Plus phone as it was with the AirPods Pro.
According to Samsung, the One UI 5.0 upgrade and Bluetooth LE “Low Energy” Audio will both be released later this year. The biggest benefit will be that you can use these earbuds to record 360-degree audio, which is an interesting idea.
The Buds 2 Pro also features improved active noise cancellation (ANC), which makes the noise outside your ears disappear as soon as you put the headphones on. On our daily journey, we can hardly hear the train’s engine and the noises around us are nearly silent, with the exception of a hiss of voices when music isn’t playing. Three high SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) microphones from Samsung help to reduce outside noise by 40% more than the previous Buds Pro. Moreover, the Buds 2 Pro’s wind shield has increased in size, making it more effective at blocking out undesirable outside noise.
Conversation Mode, also known as Voice Detect, is another new function. Similar to Sony’s Speak-to-Chat feature, which hears you speak and switches to Ambient mode and lowers the volume so you can hear the other person better, this also detects when you’re speaking.
This works as planned in practice, according to Samsung, saving you precious seconds from having to utilize the earbuds’ touch controls to make the changeover or remove the earphones totally. It clearly feeds in outside noise and people’s voices when you order coffee or pay at the register, enabling you to conduct a brief conversation without any hassle. The mode takes a moment to activate, and we wish the change was less abrupt, but it does function effectively.
Nevertheless, the Buds 2 Pro don’t pause music when you take one earbud out, which is one strange absence from the list of functions. While we’ve always found this to be a useful feature in daily use when using other earbuds like the Sony XM4 and AirPods Pro, it’s evident that Samsung believes this won’t be necessary if you’re depending on speech detect mode.
The whole feature set of the Buds 2 Pro is available to owners of Samsung Galaxy phones, including a home screen widget that enables quick switching between noise settings and turning off all touch capabilities. Other Android users can access the Wearables app with the vast customizability of the Buds 2 Pro, but Apple/iOS users are out of luck; they will only have access to the basic Bluetooth connection for playback, the basic touch controls without any customizability, and not much else.
Auto switching is a benefit for people who are completely enmeshed in the Samsung ecosystem since the Buds 2 Pro connects seamlessly to Galaxy watches, smartphones, and now, for the first time, Samsung 2022 smart Televisions.
“How are you Samsung?” We posed that query at the outset of our initial Galaxy Buds Pro review, and it is still relevant—if anything, it is more so. So the new Galaxy Buds 2 Pro will serve you very well if you’re incredibly Samsung.
Using the Buds 2 Pro with the most recent Galaxy devices is as seamless as it gets thanks to a wealth of fantastic features that you can customize to your requirements. There is a sense that everything has been streamlined to provide a more premium and polished experience. The new design is particularly appealing, and the ANC is more efficient.
Both Apple and Samsung making 24-bit high-resolution audio capabilities exclusive to their respective ecosystems makes sense because their individual walled gardens will reward devoted users. But, it also makes you make a decision. And given that the Galaxy mobile we used to test the Buds 2 Pro sounds better than the iPhone, everyone is losing out in this situation.
We usually hope for the best when “hi-res” audio is promised, but despite technological advances, the overall sound quality consistently falls short of our expectations. The sound quality of the Buds 2 Pro may have improved over their predecessors, but it still falls well short of the benchmarks set by the competitors.