Audio products that are included with phones usually elicit about as much excitement from me as a spontaneous trip to the DMV, but the AKG earbuds included with the Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphones are a pleasant pair of freebie wired ‘buds. While they lack glitz and glam, they work and work reliably. When it comes to free, it’s hard to ask for much more.
Who are the AKG earbuds for?
Seeing as these are included with the Samsung Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, and Galaxy S10+, the earbuds are for Galaxy owners. Broadly speaking, anyone whose phone has a 3.5mm headphone jack can use them, but actually acquiring them without a new Samsung phone may prove difficult.
Using the earbuds
Although these are a complimentary inclusion with Samsung Galaxy S10 phones, the AKG earbuds build quality is better than expected. The lower half of the cable preceding the Y-splitter is wrapped in cloth to prevent tangling, while the dendritic cables that diverge from it are coated in a rubberized material with a small but functional cable management zip.
Unlike Google’s included Pixel USB earbuds, the AKG branded housings retain a manageable shape with angled nozzles that prevent irritation. The cable descending from either earbud is ergonomically positioned to minimize friction at the ear, which makes wearing them evermore comfortable.
Interrupting the right cable is three-button mic and remote module. This also happens to feel like the most budget component of the headset as it’s unapologetically creaky when clicked. That said, it works and allows for virtual assistant access, more than can be said for the JBL Endurance Peak. Microphone quality is fine: my voice was clearly relayed, but when in louder environments ambient noise is transferred too.
How do the ‘buds sound?
These earbuds do a fine job at combating external noise and insulating the listener from the environment, assuming that properly fitted ear tips are used. So long as you’re able to get a good fit, you’ll hear the exaggerated low-end depicted by the frequency response chart. It’s not so overwhelming as to shake your bones, but it does make it easier to identify the main beat on a noisy bus.
Generally speaking, the AKG earbuds lack clarity. Frequency separation is difficult for the dynamic drivers to parse out, but if you’re an indisciminant listener who just wants to hear the humdrum of anything, these are great. Sure, it’s not studio quality, but that’s to be expected with what’s essentially a freebie for Samsung Galaxy S10 owners.
Lows, mids, and highs
The AKG earbuds place a severe amount of emphasis on the low-end, which masks vocals and midrange frequencies, making things sound unclear. Take, for instance, Avicii’s 2013 radio hit Wake Me Up. The song opens with rapid guitar strums before fading into the background as Aloe Blacc’s vocals take prominence. It’s here that the underlying, low-frequency synth noises remove any perceptible detail from Blacc’s voice aside from the fundamental notes he hits.
At 0:40, a barrage of claps, drums, guitar, and more synchronize and are relayed as unseparated noises that are either masked or are masking one another. This auditory disorientation is only amplified—quite literally—by the fact that there’s a 2.5-7kHz spike in the AKG earbuds’ frequency response. This range can create unwanted resonances within the human ear canal that are only made more palpable when a seal from an earbud is formed, hence why Sennheiser does the opposite and tunes a dip at this frequency range.
Even though it seems I’m nitpicking the AKG Samsung Galaxy S10 earbuds for any potential flaws, it boils down to this: these earbuds sound good enough for a majority of casual listeners. Plus, the fact that they passively isolate so well is a huge benefit that could end up protecting your hearing in the long run.
The AKG earbuds are a welcome inclusion
While I recommend that audio enthusiasts who plan to purchase the Samsung Galaxy S10 also have a dedicated pair of higher quality earbuds or headphones on hand, the AKG earbuds do a fine job at relaying sound that should be somewhat pleasing to a swath of listeners. For a pair of free earbuds, there’s not much to complain about. Worst-case scenario, you can just pass them off to a friend.
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