Samsung Galaxy Buds Stay Check: One Step Again

“Samsung took a risk with Buds Live, but not all risks pay off.”

Unique, comfortable design

Good battery life

Good call quality

Overall poor audio quality

Ineffective noise cancellation

Lack of physical adjustment

No noise isolation

The most useful product review isn’t necessarily the first, nor is it the longest. It’s the most honest and thorough – and quality can take time, especially in the audio world. To review such products, we examine their sound quality with an experienced ear and reconsider the execution of the promised functions. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype about the newest, shiniest product. But does it do what it says it does? And does it do well?

We went one step further with the Galaxy Buds Live and tested it with a group of editors. We talked together about expectations and performance and tormented each other over the details. We know these buds will polarize because they are so different. Samsung took some serious risks here, deviated from their very good Galaxy Buds +, and given us something completely new. The Galaxy Buds Live have a unique shape and the promise of a more comfortable fit. I went into my time with Buds Live openly and ready to switch to outer ear design.

With a long list of specs that offer formidable features for their $ 170 price tag, the Galaxy Buds Live are a fascinating option in the highly competitive personal audio space. How are you? Let’s get into that.

What’s in the box?

Similar to the Apple AirPods Pro, the Galaxy Buds Live are packaged very simply. You get the buds, the charging case, a charging cable, a pair of earplugs, and some literature. It is, and that feels especially weird in a segment that has more materials with earphones, not less.

samsung galaxy buds live review 2 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

samsung galaxy buds live review 1 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

As a result, no adjustment is offered for these buds, but it is purely by design. Instead of including a set of earbuds like all earbuds these days, the design of the buds is specifically designed for use with each ear. We will go into this further below.

Aside from a few small strips of clear plastic, the box and contents appear to be completely recyclable. I don’t know the little plastic strips were necessary, but they seem to be in almost every high-end product these days. We want these to go away.

Design and fit

Let’s talk about the design of these buds as it is very different from almost everything else on the market.

After some adjustment and time, I found them to be quite comfortable.

Instead of sitting in your ear canal, the Galaxy Buds Live rest outside of the canal and on the inside of your concha. For those who find it uncomfortable to have silicone earplugs in your ear canal, the Buds Live are a great alternative.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

The way the buds sit in your ear is strange at first and takes some getting used to. But after some adjustment and time, I found them to be quite comfortable.

It’s hard to say whether this overall design choice is more or less comfortable than a traditional earbud shape. In some ways, it’s certainly less stressful on your ear canal since it’s not used at all. However, it still puts pressure on your ear, just in a different place. For me, I could wear these for about as long as I can wear the AirPods Pro before I feel a little tired. It’s not the same tiredness, but it’s still there.

As mentioned earlier, the Buds Live cannot be customized for your particular ear as Samsung designed it to work with any ear. This was a risky move, and while they seem to work for everyone I know who have tried them so far, I have to think that there is no way they will work for everyone. Until then, this particular risk will likely pay off.

The touch-sensitive area is located directly around this small point. Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

The Buds Live has a touch sensitive area where you can play / pause / skip music, adjust the volume, call a voice assistant, and take and hang up calls. You can customize the functionality of the touch controls through the Galaxy Wear app on Samsung devices and the Galaxy Buds app on iOS. More on that in a moment.

Unfortunately, the tiny size of the buds makes it very easy to accidentally hit this touch-sensitive area as it takes up a large chunk of the outside surface. If you ever need to adjust them while listening to music, rest assured that you will accidentally pause the sound. If you put them in your ear, the chances are good that you will start the game while you are getting them into position. You can of course turn off the touch controls via the app. However, you don’t have to turn them back on until later, when you want to use the earbuds to control what you’re hearing (what you want to be, to be honest).


What should be the Galaxy Buds Live’s standout feature on paper is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). The Buds Live’s biggest competitor is the Apple AirPods Pro, and the ANC in those buds is our favorite on the market right now. If Samsung is looking to turn customers away from Apple, adding ANC was an absolute must. So it was extremely important that it be included in Live.

Unfortunately, the ANC on Galaxy Buds Live is a crushing disappointment. Since the buds don’t isolate the sound very well – since the design doesn’t seal in your ear canal – it means any ANC technician is in a losing battle with sounds simply going around the buds bypassing any work they would do. The result is ANC which in many situations will make you wonder if it’s working at all.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Review 4 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

samsung galaxy buds live review 3 Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

In some cases, the noise at the bottom is slightly reduced, but running water, the noise a car makes on the highway, or a fan or air conditioner is not reduced at all. Compared to the worst noise cancellation we’ve tested in other earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live offers even less performance: this is the new low.

On the positive side, Buds Live, as mentioned earlier, has app support for iOS and Android. You can use this app to make minor adjustments to the sound of the Buds Live project. There are six equalizer options: Normal, Bass Boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear and Treble Boost. I’ve tried all six and Dynamic was my personal favorite.

You can also use the Find My Earbuds feature, which makes Buds Live chirp out loud, making it a breeze to see if you’ve misplaced them (which is simple: they’re very small).

Audio quality

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m unimpressed with the Galaxy Buds Live when it comes to sound quality. While they have a surprising amount of bass for buds that can’t sit in your ear canal, that’s about all they are reasonably good at. Although you can hear music and movies clearly, the sound reproduction lacks depth and warmth. The soundstage is narrow and flat, so you feel like something is definitely missing in the EQ mix.

I’ve got bad news: the Galaxy Buds Live sounds very similar to the standard speakers on a laptop from 2009.

The buds work best when you are alone in a quiet room. In these cases, you may actually find the music comfortable, especially if your expectations are low. If you were okay with the sound of music coming from the original Apple earbuds or AirPods, then chances are you won’t be shut off from what you’re hearing from Buds Live.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

But if you’re like me and you’ve never liked the flat and hollow music playback on these headphones, I have bad news: the Galaxy Buds Live sounds very similar to the standard speakers on a laptop from 2009.

I mentioned that I stayed with the Dynamic EQ after going through all of the options and that’s because the mix feels particularly empty without the added oomph of bass that you can find there or in Bass Boost. Treble Boost, for example, is almost painful to hear as the entire backbone of the audio is removed.

Aside from the fact that the audio doesn’t sound great, it’s not particularly loud either. You really need to turn up the volume to block out outside noise and when you do you run into another big problem: if you can hear what the Galaxy Buds Live is playing, so can everyone around you.

Another downside to poor isolation is that those buds sound worse than any other earbud I’ve ever come across. I tend to listen to the same songs over and over again through the headphones I’m reviewing, and that’s why my wife is so fed up with the “circles” of Of Monsters and Men. Unfortunately, when rating Buds Live, if the buds were in my ears she could hear every word from the song as clearly as if she were carrying them herself. This has created tension in the “office”.

If you plan to use these in any work environment (home or office), be prepared to share whatever you hear with everyone around you.

Battery life

Battery life can be wild as it can change dramatically if you take advantage of all of the features available. If you go for Bixby Wake Word – and we have no idea why you’d want to – and for noise cancellation, you can expect around 5 hours of battery out of the bud and 19 hours including the charging case.

Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

If you turn both things off, you can get around 8 hours and almost 29 hours total of the case, but with only ANC on you can listen for about 6 hours and 20 minutes or so, and with the case, it’s only 21 hours.

Since the ANC, as mentioned, basically doesn’t do anything and, to be honest, you’re not going to be using Bixby, we recommend turning both features off to get the most miles out of Buds Live.

Call quality

Making calls with the Galaxy Buds Live is a good overall experience. Sound quality isn’t as good as other earbuds like the Apple AirPods Pro, but for $ 80 less, they might not have to be. It is important that those listening on the other end of the line can hear your voice clearly. It may not sound great. One person I spoke to said that my voice sounds more echoing than other headphones I’ve used.

If you hear louder background noise than normal, e.g. For example, if you run a sink while doing the dishes, I can tell you that the person on the other end of the line will not hear anything. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live does an exceptional job eliminating background noise when making calls.

In the end, everything is as clear as it should be. The inclination of the buds towards higher registers actually helps make the vocals clearer. Even in noisy environments, you shouldn’t have trouble hearing conversations.

Our opinion

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live will polarize. There are many people who refer to these as their favorite, or near-favorite, buds on the market. You probably like the look, the small size, the feel of the fit of the buds, and the battery life (especially with the Bixby wake-up word off). If these things are great, that’s all you’re looking for.

But here at Digital Trends, we mostly judge earbuds by audio quality as you will be listening to music. When Buds offer ANC, we expect it to work. Since the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live falls short on both points, I find it hard to love them.

Is there a better alternative?

If you really want solid Samsung integration, I recommend the Samsung Galaxy Buds +. Though they lack ANC, they’re great earbuds that will work just as well with your Galaxy device as they will with the Live, and with even better battery life. If you want the same sleek look as the Buds Live, but want better sound quality, then the Jabra Elite 75t are great. We also recommend Google Pixel Buds 2.

How long will they last?

Samsung grants a standard one-year warranty on the Galaxy Buds Live. The build quality is solid though, so I’m not particularly concerned about these breaks.

Should you buy it?

If you ask me and senior editor Caleb Denison (who made an excellent video comparing Buds Live and AirPods Pro) the answer is no. We just can’t justify the $ 170 price tag when the ANC is worthless and the sound quality lags well behind the cheaper buds. However, if all you’re into is a slim profile, Samsung integration, and long battery life, then you will likely love the Galaxy Buds Live.

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