The idea of a product ‘ecosystem’ isn’t a new one, but few have truly succeeded in building a platform that achieves the intended goals. Samsung has been working on this for a while now, with its Galaxy Buds range of true wireless earphones that are designed to work best with the company’s own smartphones and tablets. The latest in the product range is the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, the successor to the Galaxy Buds Pro headset which was released in 2021.
Priced at Rs. 17,999 in India, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is the company’s newest and most advanced true wireless headset in India. With promised improvements in active noise cancellation and sound quality thanks to the new 24-bit Samsung Seamless Codec, is this the ideal companion to your Samsung smartphone? Find out in this review.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro design and features
Samsung’s colour choices for its product range have always been a bit adventurous, including for its true wireless earphones. There are currently three colour options available for the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, chosen to match with the company’s smartphone range — white, graphite, and bora purple. I quite like the bora purple variant sent to me for review, but many might want to match the colour to that of their smartphone.
In terms of design, there are some notable changes as compared to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. The charging case looks similar in shape and size but has a nicer looking matte finish, while the earpieces see some important improvements in design which make them a lot more comfortable to wear. The fit of the Buds 2 Pro remains secure and suitably noise isolating, aiding the active noise cancellation’s effectiveness.
The earpieces are smaller and a bit lighter than before, with microphones on both the inside and outside for ANC and voice functionality, along with a wear-detection sensor on the inside. The earpieces are usefully IPX7 rated for water resistance, and should therefore be able to handle significant levels of water exposure. There are three pairs of silicone ear tips in the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s box for a customisable fit, along with a USB Type-C to Type-C cable for charging.
There are touch controls on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro which are customisable through the companion app, and can even be deactivated entirely if needed. You can control playback, active noise cancellation and transparency mode, and answering or declining calls through the touch controls ordinarily, but a ‘Labs’ experimental feature in the app also lets you control the volume by double-tapping the edge of the earpieces.
Some additional features on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro include 360 Audio with head tracking (for a virtualised surround sound effect), quick pop-up pairing with Samsung devices, a voice detect feature that reduces the volume and activates transparency when the user speakers, and support for the Samsung SmartThings app and system to locate the earpieces, similar to Apple’s Find My app. The Bixby voice assistant is also supported on the earphones natively, but there’s no way to invoke any other voice assistants directly from the earphones.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro app and specifications
Samsung’s app experience for the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is a bit confusing, and it all depends on the source device you’ll use the headset with. On a Samsung device, I had to install the Galaxy Wearable app, while on a non-Samsung device, I had to additionally install the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro Manager app, which then enabled the earphones to be used by the Galaxy Wearable app.
Once done, the app experience was the same regardless of whether I used a Samsung smartphone or any another Android smartphone. There is no companion app for iOS unfortunately, but you can still use the earphones with an iPhone thanks to universal Bluetooth connectivity.
The app offers a graphical view of the battery level of both the earpieces and the charging case at the top, with a large section dedicated to switching between ANC and ambient sound modes, right below. Other features that can be toggled and customised are voice detect, 360 audio, and touch controls. A menu called ‘earbuds settings’ lets you further control things such as the equaliser, Bixby, in-ear detection for calls, and firmware updates. You can also add a widget to quickly toggle between the ANC and transparency modes on the home screen.
Notably, there is no toggle for in-ear detection for playback. Removing both earpieces does pause music automatically, but this doesn’t work if you only remove one earpiece, as with many other headsets. ANC does automatically turn off when you remove even a single earpiece, so the shortcoming here can potentially be fixed with a software update, since the hardware is already in place and works fine.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro use Bluetooth 5.3 for connectivity, with the SBC, AAC, and SSC HiFi 24-bit Bluetooth codecs supported. The use of Bluetooth 5.3 also suggests that the Bluetooth LE Audio codec could be supported in due course. It’s worth mentioning here that the SSC Hi Fi codec is the same as the Scalable codec (and even reflects as such on a Samsung smartphone), with the notable difference being an increase in bits per sample, up from 16-bit to 24-bit.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro performance and battery life
Samsung’s ‘ecosystem’ play is a bit different from that of Apple, primarily because of the Bluetooth codec in use. This naturally makes it enticing to use the earphones with a compatible Samsung smartphone or tablet, with the Scalable codec unlocking better sound quality. With the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, Samsung has gone a step further with its codec, promising better audio quality than even competing options such as LDAC and Qualcomm aptX.
Although termed as ‘Samsung Seamless Hi-Fi Codec’, you’ll still see ‘Scalable’ as the codec in operation on the device itself (requires OneUI 4.0 or higher). However, things are a bit different, in that the bits per sample and sample rate register at 24 bits and 48kHz respectively, up from 16-bit and 44.1kHz as seen on earlier Samsung true wireless headsets such as the Galaxy Buds 2. This does have a notable effect on sound quality, with the overall sound coming across as a bit more detailed and tonally precise than competing options from Sony and Sennheiser.
Listening to club classic Drop The Pressure by Mylo, there was a sense of sharpness and attack in the sound that was refreshing to listen to. The tonality of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro was impressive, particularly when the heavily auto-tuned and progressively rhythmic vocals kicked in. On the whole, this made this synthesised track sound almost orchestral and performed live — a rather good sonic signature and tone to have.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro true wireless earphones are loud, and turning up the volume to around the 70 percent level with the right codec in operation made for an immersive and beautifully detailed soundstage. With Go 2 by Netsky, the melody and thump in the bass seemed to reverberate and pulse through, all while gradually building up the intensity and drive as the track’s tempo increased.
The sonic signature of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has a fair bump in the lows and highs, while the mid-range sees only a slight drop. This makes for a sound that generally goes well with most popular genres, and the codec capabilities and driver tuning help the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro keep pace with the fastest and busiest of tracks.
With non-Samsung devices (I tested with an iPhone and a OnePlus smartphone), the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro uses the AAC Bluetooth codec. While the sound was still pretty decent, there was an audible difference in the level of detail and tonality. This does put the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro at a significant disadvantage, if you don’t have a compatible Samsung smartphone to use it with.
Active noise cancellation on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is excellent, and largely on par with similarly-priced options in the true wireless segment. The headset offers a significant noise reduction both indoors and outdoors, and is particularly effective against wind noise and the typical hum of the urban outdoors. There is no customisation or adaptive control for the ANC though; it’s either on at its full setting, or off.
The ambient sound mode was similarly effective, offering a fairly natural sense of hear-through that was nearly on par with not having the earphones on at all. There wasn’t too much amplification of sound which made it comfortable to use the mode even for long stretches, but it didn’t sound quite as natural as that of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen).
Battery life on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is claimed to be five hours per charge with ANC on, and I was able to match this figure in my testing. The charging case added almost three full charges in addition, for a total battery life of around 18-19 hours per charge cycle. This isn’t exceptional as compared to competing options, but is decent enough given the capabilities of the headset in terms of Bluetooth codecs and ANC quality. It’s quickest to charge the case through the USB Type-C port, while Qi wireless charging is also present.
If you have a Samsung smartphone (or plan to buy one soon) and are looking for premium true wireless earphones, the decision is simple enough — buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. The ecosystem benefits are really evident here, with particular emphasis on sound quality thanks to the improved 24-bit Hi-Fi codec. Add to that the very good active noise cancellation, along with decent design and comfort, makes this a fairly complete pair of earphones.
If you don’t have a Samsung smartphone, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Samsung’s latest true wireless earphones, while excellent, are just not as device-agnostic as competing products from Sony and Sennheiser. Additionally, it might also be worth considering the more affordable (but nearly as good) Samsung Galaxy Buds 2.