Samsung just released the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and we’re all wondering how they’re going to stack up to big names like the Apple AirPods Pro. Both pairs of true wireless earbuds in question have active noise cancelling and come from well-known product lines: the Galaxy Buds and AirPods. Let’s find out which of these two pairs of earbuds are going to be your next.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on July 23, 2021, to address an FAQ about iOS.
Apple AirPods Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Fit and hardware
The AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro designs differ from one another. The AirPods Pro have an angled stem that ensures easy placement and removal as well as a stable fit, the Galaxy Buds Pro are more compact. The Galaxy Buds Pro still provide a stable and comfortable fit thanks to a slight protrusion from the side of the earbud that serves as a mini wing tip. As long as you use the proper silicone ear tip size, you shouldn’t have issues wearing either of these.
Start here: What makes a good set of true wireless earbuds?
The AirPods Pro have an IPX4 rating, meaning they can withstand sweat with no problems, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro have an IPX7 rating, so you can fully submerge them in water for up to 30 minutes. Though the Galaxy Buds Pro aren’t swimming earbuds, per se, because they lack onboard storage. Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t carry well, or at all really, through water.
Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Bluetooth connection
Connecting to the AirPods Pro if you have an iPhone is very easy thanks to Apple’s H1 chip, which is integrated right into the earbuds. When you open up the case, your iPhone automatically detects that there is an Apple product nearby and prompts you with a pop-up on the screen. Once you’ve connected the AirPods Pro to one of your Apple devices, they will automatically be connected to all your Apple devices through your iCloud account.
Connecting the AirPods Pro to an Android device isn’t exactly rocket science, but it’s not as streamlined as the process with an iPhone. Just go to your Bluetooth menu and pair to the new device. The AirPods Pro support the SBC and AAC codecs and have a generally reliable connection quality on iPhones, but AAC just doesn’t perform all that well on Androids.
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Pairing the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro can be a streamlined process too, but requires you to download the SmartThings and Galaxy Wearable Android apps. When these requirements are met, a notification card will alert you to the Galaxy Buds Pro’s attempt to initiate the pairing process. If you own an iPhone or don’t want to download a few apps, you need to go into your phone’s Bluetooth menu to manually establish a connection. The App Store Galaxy Buds app doesn’t support the Galaxy Buds Pro, though it might in the future.
If you have a bunch of Samsung Galaxy devices, you can seamlessly switch between paired devices, provided all of them are connected to your Samsung account. They support SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable Codec.
The AirPods Pro have more software, but only for iPhone users
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Apple AirPods Pro are both operated via touch controls. To toggle media playback, calls, or voice assistant access on the AirPods Pro, you can press or squeeze on the stem of the earbud. Similarly, to control anything on the Galaxy Buds Pro, you administer a series of taps, though the touchpads can be a bit too sensitive at times.
The AirPods Pro only allow you to control playback volume from the earbuds if you program them to, and this capability is only available for iPhone users. The Galaxy Buds Pro, on the other hand, have the built-in feature of volume control which can be remapped via the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app—available for both Android and iOS, though the app is called Samsung Galaxy Buds in the App Store. The app can also set noise cancelling settings, turn on ambient sound mode, and switch EQ presets. Samsung isn’t totally all-inclusive, though, as app features like automatic device switching and 360 audio are only available for Samsung users.
The AirPods Pro actually have quite a few iOS-only features, like firmware updates. This can be super annoying, especially if you’re struggling with connection problems that could be fixed in an update—you can always borrow a friend’s iPhone to update your firmware. Additional features only available for iPhone users are the ear tip fit test, a battery optimization feature that preserves the earbuds’ long term health, auto-pause, and “Hey, Siri.”
Related: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review
Thankfully the most important features—ANC and transparency mode—are available to all users. That being said, if you do have an iPhone, you’ll have a wide world of cool software features to play around with.
The battery life is similar between both earbuds
Like most things with the Apple AirPods Pro, the battery performance is optimal when paired with an iPhone. When we tested the AirPods Pro with an iPhone, we got 5 hours, 6 minutes of battery life on a single charge with ANC turned on. In addition to this battery capacity, the earbuds’ case provides you with a total of 24 hours of listening time. It is kind of inconvenient that the case charges via Lightning to USB-C, because it’s unlikely you’ll have many of these cables lying around your house—you’ll need to bring your AirPods cord with you anywhere you’ll wish to charge them.
The Galaxy Buds Pro lasted 4 hours, 48 minutes on a single charge with ANC turned on, and their case holds approximately 13 additional hours of battery juice. The Samsung Buds charge via USB-C which is definitely a more universal method of charging than what the AirPods Pro offer, and it also supports wireless charging.
Which pair of earbuds has better active noise cancelling?
The AirPods Pro were the first true wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling that really made a name for themselves, but how do they compare to the latest release, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro? The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro have two selectable active noise cancelling settings: low and high. Both settings work quite well considering these are true wireless earbuds. If you want to attenuate more low-end noise, such as airplane rumbles or the sound of your dishwasher, you should go with the high setting. On the other hand, if you want to block out more mid-range noise, such as people talking, go with the low setting, though it won’t completely cancel out human speech.
The noise cancelling on the AirPods Pro is also very good, but the Galaxy Buds Pro definitely outperforms it in terms of low-end attenuation. If you’re choosing between these two earbuds for long bus commutes, you should go with the Galaxy Buds Pro. As for high-frequency cancellation, the effectiveness depends on how well your earbuds isolate, which is a product of how well they fit in your ears. Assuming you get a perfect fit, the Galaxy Buds Pro will probably do a better job at isolating than the AirPods Pro.
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Do the AirPods Pro or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro sound better?
Both the Apple AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro closely follow our house curve, but most accurate frequency ranges vary slightly. The Apple AirPods Pro don’t emphasize bass notes quite as much as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, but you’re more likely to encounter some degree of auditory masking with Samsung’s buds because of the relative difference in bass and upper-midrange frequency reproduction. This can make it hard to your favorite harmonies with the Galaxy Buds Pro, but you can easily adjust this through the in-app EQ profiles (Android only). Whereas with the AirPods Pro, what you see is what you get, though there are some live adjustments that Apple makes with its Adaptive EQ software.
If you want a more accurate sound right out of the box with no tinkering required, the Apple AirPods Pro are the better earphones. However, if you like to adjust the sound quality depending on your media, the Galaxy Buds Pro will give you a more pleasant, adjustable listening experience.
Are the AirPods Pro or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro better for phone calls?
Have you ever walked down the street and every other person you walked by was talking to someone through their AirPods Pro? We all have. Thankfully, the AirPods Pro has a pretty decent microphone, which accurately reproduces the human vocal frequencies. There aren’t real differences in quality between low-toned voices and high-pitched ones, so everyone should come out sounding pretty good over the AirPods Pro.
It’s rare that you get two pairs of true wireless earbuds with good microphones, but lo and behold, the Galaxy Buds Pro have a nice mic as well. The output is similarly accurate across all ranges and the slight bass boost can help maintain the “fullness” of your voice. The mic might sound slightly muffled, but overall its quality is quite good and it rejects ambient sound decently. Don’t take my word for it, though: check out these mic demos for yourself.
Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro microphone demo:
Should you buy the Apple AirPods Pro or the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro?
As is the case whenever we discuss the AirPods Pro, I implore you to only buy them if you have an iPhone. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on a lot of the features that make these pricey buds worth over $200. They are a very good pair of true wireless noise cancelling earbuds with nice sound quality and effective ANC, but so are the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
If you like the sound of all the bells and whistles of the AirPods Pro but are looking for a pair of over-ear headphones, check out the Apple AirPods Max. These headphones are pricey but they have very good sound quality and the best active noise cancelling in the business.
Similar to how the AirPods Pro are only really suited to iPhone users, the Galaxy Buds Pro are only fully suited to those with Samsung Galaxy devices. Their exclusivity is slightly less extreme, however, because their companion app provides access to the majority of its features to anybody with a smartphone.
Read next: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
Frequently Asked Questions
While the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app is only available for Android, Samsung offers the Samsung Buds app to iPhone users. This app affords essentially all the same functions as the Galaxy Wearable app.
Up until recently SoundGuys workers have been located all over North America, so our testing was conducted in multiple places by different people. This year, however, we relocated most of our staff to Vancouver, BC, and that is where objective testing will take place from here on out. This will make things like microphone demos more uniform across the board.
In order to demonstrate actual use, we record the demos all the same way. This means that you're noticing that the Apple AirPods Pro are louder in those frequencies than the Galaxy Buds Pro. If we turned up the Galaxy Buds Pro to the same level then you wouldn't know that. I would hesitate to call loudness a default win, because it depends on your individual priorities. If you prize loudness above all else, then yes the AirPods Pro are better, but if you prize other features more than loudness, such as accurate sound reproduction or noise rejection, maybe it is not as clearly obvious which is the winner.