Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: to the loyal go the spoils

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We’re breaking new ground in the walled garden earbud wars: to get the very best audio quality from Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, you’ll need to use them with a Samsung phone. It would always come to that. Between Apple’s AirPods, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, Google’s Pixel Buds and other earbuds developed by companies with a deep-rooted interest in the smartphone world, we’ve already seen many convenience-oriented features: one-touch installation, automatic device switching, head-tracking spatial audio, and others — prompting consumers to match their brand of earbuds with the phone in their pocket. The goal is to lock you into that ecosystem as you gradually upgrade one device and then the other forever.

But the $229 Buds 2 Pro are the first to play superior sound quality as the big exclusive. Connect them to any recent Samsung phone and you can wirelessly stream “24-bit Hi-Fi audio” from services such as Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz and others that provide lossless, high-resolution music catalogs. Samsung claims this results in significantly richer audio and a better listening experience from where it was before.

I’ll get to that later, but most importantly, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are thankfully great earbuds no matter what kind of phone you have. After more than a week of testing, I’ve found them to be Samsung’s best-sounding, most comfortable buttons yet.

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The Buds 2 Pro is 15 percent smaller than the original Galaxy Buds Pro, and both the earbuds and case now have a matte soft-touch coating. I prefer it to glossy plastic: the case remains smudge-free and the buttons are easier to grip due to the coating. The new earbuds are also lighter (now less than 5.5 grams per earbud) and have a larger vent on the outside for better airflow and to reduce the unpleasant feeling of being ‘clogged’. They have proven nothing but comfortable in the days I have used them thus far and have remained reliable in my ears. Battery life is completely unchanged from the previous model, promising five hours of listening time with ANC on and eight with it off – plus another 18/28 via the charging case. That’s enough stamina for most situations, but nothing special in 2022. The Buds 2 Pro retain the same IPX7 water resistance rating as their predecessors.

It doesn’t take long to conclude that these earbuds have fantastic sound. With a dual-driver design and tuning by AKG, they eclipse the AirPods Pro by a country mile — no surprise considering Apple’s buds are nearly three years old. But they also outperform the excellent Pixel Buds Pro in this department and are a better match for my favorite earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3 and Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They are superior performers with a level of depth and detail that their great technical contemporaries cannot quite match.

The Hold Steady’s “Heavy Covenant” demonstrates their separation and clarity, allowing plenty of room for Craig Finn’s guitars, horns and recognizable vocals to breathe. As a devout 90s music fan, I jumped back to Counting Crows’ “Omaha” and the Buds 2 Pro brought out the warmth of the accordion and mandolin while giving the drums a natural kick. When I returned to modern life with Orville Peck’s “The Curse of the Blackened Eye” I was impressed with the wide soundstage Samsung has given these tops.

The Buds 2 Pro is 15 percent smaller than the original Galaxy Buds Pro.

But is it really “hi-fi” sound? After more than a week, I’m still trying to figure that out. Samsung says the new seamless codec will let the Buds 2 Pro wirelessly stream 24-bit, 48kHz audio over Bluetooth. But the company has been less transparent about the bitrate of that audio. For reference, Sony’s LDAC codec tops out at about 990 kbps, which still falls short of lossless CD quality. Samsung spokesperson Jordan Guthmann said: The edge by email that Samsung Seamless Codec can achieve a bit rate of up to 2304 kbps, which would indeed result in high-resolution lossless sound.

That number makes me wonder. It would be a huge leap from existing earbuds, and there’s nothing in the Android developer settings menu confirming bitrate details – just the 24-bit/48kHz part. The higher quality streaming works with any Galaxy smartphone running Android 8.0 and One UI 4.0 or higher (with 1.5 GB RAM or higher). that is a lot of phones, adding to my confusion about the bit rate and how Samsung could potentially reach 2304 kbps. Hopefully more will follow, but don’t get lost in the numbers: these earbuds really do sound great as long as you have a good seal and tighten them properly. They will also support Bluetooth LE Audio down the line, although Samsung hasn’t specified what benefits that will bring.

The active noise cancellation is satisfactory. When you’re not playing music, you hear what’s happening in a coffee shop; this is the trade-off for those bigger vents and more comfort. But once audio plays, the background fades convincingly, and you’re unlikely to notice any distractions — even with the volume around 30 percent. Transparency mode works well, but still not quite as natural sounding as on the AirPods Pro. I don’t know why it’s so hard for companies other than Apple to do that even now.

Samsung’s head-tracking spatial audio does what you’d expect, shifting the soundscape as you turn from left to right. I’m finding more and more that this is a love-or-hate-type feature for people. Personally, I still like taking advantage of 360 audio when watching video content, but I’m still not convinced it’s some sort of game-changer for music. Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app (available for Android only) allows you to adjust the sound EQ, but noise cancellation is on or off and manual adjustments are not allowed.

Samsung is still lagging behind in some categories. Google has added multi-point Bluetooth connectivity to the Pixel Buds Pro, and the ability to pair with two devices at once is a huge benefit. The best thing Samsung can do is automatically switch between Samsung-branded products, be that laptops, phones, tablets, smartwatches, or even TVs. That might be useful if you live up to your neck in the Samsung world, but I don’t know anyone who does, and it doesn’t offer the same multitasking convenience as true multipoint.

They have larger vents to keep your ears from getting clogged.

Other ideas are shamelessly copied. Samsung’s voice-detection feature works much the same as on Sony headphones: when the earbuds detect that you’re speaking, they automatically go into transparency mode and lower the volume for a selectable amount of time, between five and 15 seconds. Self mumbles will want to avoid these. And then there’s the odd features, like the standard “neck stretch reminders” the earbuds use to detect if you’ve been bent over with bad posture for 10 minutes. When that happens, a voice sounds with a “time to stretch your neck” warning. I ended up leaving this on as I’m about to turn 38 – no more lanky.

Samsung’s tap controls can be a hair over-sensitive at times, so you could pause a song when adjusting an earbud. Surprisingly, there’s no automatic pause here, meaning tunes or podcasts will continue to play if you take one of the Buds 2 Pro out of your ears. That’s an odd omission for $230 earbuds, but not one I’m too frustrated about in practice.

As you can hear in our latest cast microphone test, the Buds 2 Pro wouldn’t be my best choice for voice calls aboard a loud ferry. But in more traditional, everyday use cases, they get the job done. Sony’s LinkBuds and Google’s Pixel Buds Pro both outperform Samsung’s latest flagship earbuds with overall microphone quality.

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are Samsung’s best wireless earbuds yet: the company has found a winning formula in sound quality, noise cancellation and comfort. They are at their best when working in Samsung’s ecosystem, but still good enough with other Android devices. Some will find it frustrating that hi-fi audio is limited to Samsung’s own phones. But here’s a taste of where the tech industry is likely headed: Apple’s next AirPods Pro is rumored to support Apple Lossless wireless display on iPhones. The walls are climbing higher and higher between tech’s biggest players, even if there are still great cross-platform earbuds available from Sony, Sennheiser, Jabra and others. Google’s Pixel Buds Pro are worth checking out if you’re a big believer in multipoint, but the Buds 2 Pro represent Samsung in top form.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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