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Google Pixel Buds (2020) vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
For Android users, there are several main contenders for the best true wireless earbuds. But the two main contenders for best connected features in earphones are easily the Google Pixel Buds and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live; so which should you get?
Editor’s note: this versus article was updated to address the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, include a contents menu, and expand the list of buying options.
Do the Google Pixel Buds or Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have better hardware?
Both the Google Pixel Buds and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have sleek charging cases. While the Galaxy Buds Live case is shaped like a jewelry box, the Pixel Buds’ case is more oblong. Both cases have LED indicators that show the battery charge of the case itself and the earbuds.
The respective shapes of the earbuds themselves are where things get interesting. The Google Pixel Buds go for a relatively traditional design, with ear tips and wing tips but they’re very compact and don’t stick out of your ears like some other true wireless earbuds do. They come with three sizes for ear tips, and their one downside is that the wing tips can’t be removed, so even if they don’t fit your ears: you’re stuck with them. They have an IPX4 rating, though, so if you find that they are stable in your ears, they’re a great choice for workouts.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are even more sleek, shaped like kidney beans and without ear tips. That’s right: they don’t seal to the ear, but they do come with two sizes of ear stays. The Galaxy Buds Live have a very stable fit, but the one-size-fits-all approach can lead to pain or discomfort for some people if you wear them for too long. Additionally, fewer people will find a good fit here because removing the nozzle also means removing the most reliable way to hold in-ears… in your ears. The Galaxy Buds Live have an IPX2 rating, so they’re fine for some workouts, but you don’t want to drench them.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
The Google Pixel Buds touch controls are responsive and auto-pauses your music when you remove the earbuds from your ear. You can access your Google Assistant via a long press on the earbud but you can’t access any other assistants via the earbuds. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live touch controls allow you to control media playback, volume, and toggle active noise cancelling settings. It also features auto-pause, but the response time is a bit slow. If you use Samsung’s Bixby assistant, you can access it through voice-activation but, just like the Google Pixel Buds, these buds only let you access its own brand’s assistant through its own brand’s phone (Galaxy smartphones).
Google Pixel Buds vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live: Bluetooth connection
Both the Google Pixel Buds and Galaxy Buds Live use Bluetooth 5.0 and support the AAC codec, but the Galaxy Buds Live also support the Samsung Scalable Codec. That being said, you can only use the Samsung Scalable Codec if you have a Samsung phone. You won’t find aptX with either set of earbuds.
Pairing either your Google Pixel Buds or Samsung Galaxy Buds Live with an Android device is just as streamlined as pairing AirPods with an iOS device—just open up the case, and a card will prompt you to pair. Once your Galaxy Buds Live are connected to one Samsung device, they’re connected to all of your Samsung devices through your Samsung account. To pair the Pixel Buds or Galaxy Buds Live with an iOS device, you have to do so manually.
Google and Samsung are getting back at Apple with exclusive features
In the same way that Apple AirPods are only fully functional on iPhone, the Google Pixel Buds are only fully functional on Android, making them a great alternative to AirPods for Android users. If you have an iOS, there is no way to update the firmware of your Google Pixel Buds, and you’re missing out on quite a few features. If your Android is a Google phone, these features can be accessed directly from your phone, but you have to download an app if you have a non-Google Android. The app is not available for iOS.
Along with Google Assistant access, the Pixel Buds have real-time translation. This translates speech from a few languages to English, but it requires you to have the Google Translate app open on your phone, and it often gets confused about if you’re trying to listen from your earbuds or the phone itself. The Pixel Buds also offer a Find My Buds feature, bass boost setting, and an Adaptive Sound feature which automatically adjusts the volume based on the surrounding noise. While this Adaptive Sound feature is neat, it could be dangerous because auditory masking makes us think our music isn’t as deafening as it really is in loud environments, and this could lead you to blast your eardrums out. These features are only available to Android users.
The Pixel Buds support direct voice access to Google Assistant, while the Galaxy Buds Live support direct voice access to Bixby.
Along with voice-activated Bixby, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have one-touch Spotify integration, so long as you enable it through the Galaxy Wearable app on your Android. The app is available for iOS,, but it limits your available features, leaving out the one-touch Spotify integration. Through the app on any device you can update your Galaxy Buds Live firmware and EQ the sound signature to six selectable preset settings.
Within the Galaxy Wearable app you also have access to Galaxy Labs which is where Samsung offers beta versions of experimental features. For example, you can try out Gaming mode, which minimizes audio-visual lag and an ambient sound option.
If you’re an iPhone user, neither the Google Pixel Buds or Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are going to offer you everything they’re capable of, and you’re better off getting a pair of AirPods. If you’re an Android user, however, whether the Google Pixel Buds vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are a better choice depends on what brand of smartphone you have.
Related: Apple AirPods vs. Google Pixel Buds
Google Pixel Buds vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live: Isolation and noise cancelling
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live offer active noise cancelling, which you’d think would give them a huge leg up from the Pixel Buds. Unfortunately for the Galaxy Buds Live, their lack of sealing ear tips makes their isolation effectively null, and this makes for unpredictable ANC performance. Both the Pixel Buds and the Galaxy Buds Live scored extremely poorly for isolation, and the Galaxy Buds Live scored a 1.3 for active noise cancellation (barely worth mentioning). However, the Pixel Buds block out almost zero low-end noise whereas the ANC of the Galaxy Buds Live tend to attenuate at least some low-end noise. Because of this, they win this round. It’s our recommendation, though, that if you’re looking for really high quality ANC true wireless earbuds, you go with the AirPods Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM3.
The Google Pixel Buds (2020) have better battery life than the Galaxy Buds Live
The Pixel Buds have a longer battery life than the Galaxy Buds Live, which is to be expected with a pair of non-ANC and a pair of ANC earbuds. The Pixel Buds top out at 6 hours, 8 minutes and the Galaxy Buds Live top out at 5 hours, 15 minutes with ANC enabled. However, if you don’t enable ANC, the Galaxy Buds Live last a whole 8 hours.
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The Pixel Buds case holds 24 hours of charge time, and the Galaxy Buds Live case holds 13.5 hours if you’re exclusively using them with ANC on. Both the Galaxy Buds Live and Pixel Buds charge via USB-C, which means they support fast charging. Five minutes of charging the Galaxy Buds Live affords one hour of playback, and ten minutes of charging the Pixel Buds affords two hours of playback.
Both the Galaxy Buds Live and Google Pixel Buds support Qi wireless charging. You can also charge the Galaxy Buds Live via Wireless Powershare by placing them on your Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
Google Pixel Buds vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live: Sound quality
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have 12mm drivers tuned by AKG and its sound signature is consumer-friendly with a highly emphasized bass response. However, due to the lack of sealing ear tips, sound quality will vary depending heavily on the amount and type of outside noise you’re around. The amplified bass frequencies can help to drown out some of that ambient noise, but your brain will delete sounds similar in frequency to the noise you hear—strongly (negatively) affecting sound quality. In addition, the heavy bass response will destroy some of the clarity and detail of midrange and high frequencies, but if you’re a real basshead this shouldn’t be too big of a drawback. You can also EQ the sound signature via the Galaxy Wearable app.
The Google Pixel Buds have a more neutral-leaning frequency response, but, again, the lack of passive isolation can cause auditory masking. If you are in a quiet environment, though, your music will sound similar to how it was mixed, but with some slight emphasis on low and high frequencies. The emphasis on the high frequencies allows for better vocal clarity. The only EQ settings available for the Pixel Buds is a bass boost that can be enabled via the Pixel Buds app.
Are the Google Pixel Buds or Samsung Galaxy Buds Live better for phone calls?
The Google Pixel Buds’ mic does a great job with speech intelligibility and generally sounds pretty good. The Galaxy Buds Live mic is also great and even uses bone conduction to transmit your voice while rejecting background noise.
Both mics are pretty good, but don’t take my word for it; here are some microphone demos.
Google Pixel Buds mic demo:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live mic demo:
Which microphone sounds better to you?
Google Pixel Buds (2020) vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live: Which should you buy?
There is no clear winner between the Google Pixel Buds and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. Essentially, whether you should get one or the other depends entirely on what you value most in a set of earbuds. If you’re looking for active noise cancelling, you’ll only find it with the Galaxy Buds Live, but it’s honestly not a feature I would recommend these earbuds for, due to its inconsistent performance. If you’re looking for a more neutral sound, the Pixel Buds are your friend, but if you want a strong bass response, you should get the Galaxy Buds Live.
To me, the biggest reason you should pick one of these earbuds over the other is if you have a Google Pixel smartphone or a Samsung Galaxy smartphone—nothing compares to the performance of compatible products.
What are some good alternatives?
Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners who are drawn to the idea of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live but want something that provides a more stable fit and better isolation should consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Samsung took everything great from its previous Galaxy Buds products and combined it into the Buds Pro: these earbuds are IPX7-rated, support automatic device switching (Samsung hardware), and boast great sound and microphone quality. If you want a compact pair of noise cancelling earbuds that compares favorably to the AirPods Pro, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and Sony WF-1000XM3, get these.
If you like the Samsung Galaxy universe but the poor isolation performance of the Galaxy Buds Live puts you off, go with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. They have better passive isolation and all the features that make the Galaxy Buds Live appealing, like its one-touch Spotify integration and wireless charging. It has a more neutral-leaning frequency response than the Buds Plus, but still a bit of bass boost for you bass-lovers. They’re also $50 cheaper.