Samsung Galaxy Unpacked is underway and the focus is naturally on the new Galaxy phones and Watch 4. However, Samsung has also slipped out details of their latest, fruitless effort to dethrone Apple AirPods. Seriously, I used to think Samsung earbuds were just rubbish, but then I used them and they turned out to be very good. They are never going to outdo AirPods for profile or success, but I'm glad they keep trying.
The imaginatively named Galaxy Buds 2 lose some of the overt innovation of Galaxy Buds+ and Buds Live but they boast noise cancelling that removes 'up to 98%' of background noise, should sound very good, thanks to sound design by headphone experts and Samsung subsidiary AKG and they look… okay.
- Pre-order Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
- Reserve your new Galaxy phone from Samsung Unpacked here
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review
Galaxy Buds 2 are Samsung's smallest and lightest true wireless effort to date – just 10g in total. The problem with that claim is that nobody is walking around saying, 'Oh my god, these earbuds are so heavy, I am worried my ears will fall off, or I will collapse under the sheer weight of these heavy bastards.' Nonetheless: good work.
More usefully, the Ambient Sound mode now offers three adjustable sound levels, so you can completely cut out reality or allow a fairly substantial amount of it to bleed through. Three mics per earbud with 'significantly reduced latency' should mean better voice call quality too.
The noise cancelling on the most recent best true wireless earbuds – most notably the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds – is absolutely uncanny, and I'd expect Samsung's new buds to be no exception. At $149.99 / £139 / AU$219 they're not cheap but they're certainly not overpriced either.
There's a choice of four colours: graphite, white, olive or lavender and they look pleasant enough. Battery life is said to be up to five hours with noise cancelling on, which again is… fine. An extra 15 hours is provided by the charging case, which recharges itself via USB-C or wireless Qi, as you'd expect in 2021.
Connectivity is Bluetooth 5.2 with an Samsung overlay that promises stronger signal strength and audio quality when they're used with Galaxy phones and tablet. IPX2 means you could probably use them for light exercise.
If you are totally living la vida Galaxy, the Galaxy Buds 2 will let you flip between them with ease, so you can go from streaming music on your Galaxy Tab to picking up a phone call on your Flip 3 with no delay. As usual, the Galaxy app lets you change noise cancelling and EQ settings. There's also a fit test that blasts your inner ear with frequencies to map its shape and efficiency, and adjusts the sound accordingly. This again isn't exactly a new idea either but Samsung will no doubt have implemented it proficiently.
Of course, there is a massive elephant in the room here and it's Apple AirPods and, more particularly, AirPods Pro. Judging by the look and feature set of the Galaxy Buds 2, Samsung has given up trying to out-innovate Apple and has settled for having a newer and very proficient earbud that it can sell to its core fans. The Galaxy Buds Live were way more interesting but it seems they are now to be phased out.
Galaxy Buds 2: price and availability
Galaxy Buds 2 are available from August 27 for $149.99 / £139 / AU$219. You can pre-order them right now.