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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
August 28, 2021
Earbud: 17 x 20.9 mm
Case: 50.2 x 50 x 27.8 mm
Mobile tech powerhouse Samsung often keeps pace with Apple, its main competitor. Unlike Apple and other audio companies, Samsung has a midrange set of active noise canceling (ANC) earphones that appeal to consumers. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is another pair of noise canceling wireless earbuds in Samsung’s confusing portfolio. While there’s plenty to like about these wireless earphones, the Galaxy Buds 2 may get lost among its siblings.
Time to break down the Samsung Galaxy Buds line to see how the Galaxy Buds 2 stacks up against the rest. We spent one week with the Galaxy Buds 2 and are ready to share everything you need to know about these round buds.
Editor’s note: this Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review was updated on August 22, 2023, to update some charts, and to add the Beats Studio Buds Plus to the Alternatives.
Samsung smartphone owners can take full advantage of the Buds 2 and its software features. It’s also great for commuters as its ANC outperforms the Beats Studio Buds and pricier Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation). As far as wireless earbuds under $200 are concerned, the Galaxy Buds 2 is feature packed. You can enjoy things like the auto-pause function, direct Spotify access (Android only), and excellent sound quality.
Who shouldn’t get the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
Those with significant nickel, acrylate sensitivities or allergies will potentially be exposed to the materials via the earbuds — however unlikely. Some users have reported discomfort and reactions to recent Samsung earphones with these materials. Reportedly, Samsung has been investigating the matter and assisting customers who report troubles to them directly. However, the earphones in question aren’t the only ones with this exposure potential. If you’re sensitive to these materials, please be mindful of your return policy no matter what you buy.
What’s it like to use Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
Those who already own a pair of Galaxy Buds will feel at home with the Galaxy Buds 2, from the hardware to the software. The Galaxy Buds 2 has a playful, rounded design that shapes the earbuds and USB-C case. It’s a shame that Samsung omits detachable wing tips from this model, making the fit less secure than the cheaper Galaxy Buds Plus. Those who dare can use these as workout earbuds, as they merit an IPX2 rating. Just be sure not to jostle your head too much, doing so will shake the earbuds loose.
Samsung always packs its headsets with plenty of advanced technology and sensors, and we see the same thing here. A reliable proximity sensor enables automatic play/pause when removing the buds. Playback doesn’t resume when reinserting the earbuds. Instead, you need to tap either touch panel. As with older Samsung earphones, the touch controls are both intuitive and hypersensitive. The Galaxy Buds 2 often registers accidental taps when adjusting the earbuds, which sends media into a syncopated frenzy of skips and pauses. To avoid this, your only option is to turn off touch controls altogether.
Samsung doesn’t reinvent its charging case, as it has the same shape as the Galaxy Buds Pro and less popular Galaxy Buds Live. It looks great and is easy to open with one hand, thanks to the clearly defined lip that separates the lid from the base. Internal magnets keep the lid closed, and they work faithfully. Anytime I drop the case, the lid stays shut and prevents the earbuds from flying to the not-so-far corners of my living room.
Two LEDs sit on the case, one on the outside and one on the inside. The outer LED communicates how much battery life is left in the case, while the inner LED indicates the earbuds’ battery.
How do you control the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
Controlling the earphones isn’t all that complicated, and you can find the rundown of common operations below. Be aware that you can change the function of the touch controls by opening the Galaxy Wearable app, and navigating to the “Touch controls” menu. You can alter the voice assistant controls, ANC controls, and music playback controls to a point.
Next track; answer/end call
Previous track; custom option; decline call
Most commands you can’t reassign without it reassigning the other bud to match the same “type” of command. In this way, the chart above shows you what the commands will probably look like and stay for the majority of users.
Should you download the Galaxy Wearable app?
If you have an Android phone, you should get the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app. iPhone owners, you can try, but there’s no Galaxy Buds 2 support on iOS. That’s right, more and more companies are reading from Apple’s playbook and creating their own walled gardens, which just hurts the consumer.
Those who can access the Buds 2 software features can toggle between ANC and ambient sound mode, the latter of which transmits background noise through the earbuds to keep you aware of the environment. Kudos to Samsung for rolling out a pleasant environmental passthrough that doesn’t sound robotic. For those who find this feature to sound too synthetic, you can decrease the intensity from the app.
Like the Sony WF-1000XM4, Samsung’s app includes an ear tip fit test to confirm that you’ve selected the appropriate ear tips. Not only does this ensure a comfortable fit, but it also improves sound quality by blocking out the most amount of background noise. The right fit is key to active noise canceling earphones, and this test gives you immediate feedback.
Poke around the app and you’ll find other features like an array of EQ presets (normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear, treble boost), which covers most listeners’ needs. Samsung refrains from handing off the reigns entirely: you can’t make a custom EQ. A small segment of Galaxy Buds 2 owners will rejoice knowing that they can access Bixby with just a voice command. The rest of us can create a custom control to access an alternative assistant like Google or Siri.
You can also enable seamless earbud connection (fast switching) in the app, which works across operating systems. I can quickly switch back and forth between an iPhone and Samsung phone by selecting the “Galaxy Buds 2” from the list of Bluetooth peripherals, without the need to disconnect from the current handset.
Samsung consistently and reliably releases firmware updates for its headsets, which extends the life of your purchase. For instance, version R177XXU0AVC8 of the Galaxy Buds 2 firmware adds 360 Audio to the headset’s repertoire. Even if you don’t care for any of the aforementioned features, the Wearable app is a worthwhile download, just be sure to read the terms and conditions.
How does the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 connect?
The earbuds use Bluetooth 5.2, which leaves an opportunity for LE Audio support and the LC3 codec. You can immediately pair the Galaxy Buds 2 with any Samsung device. When you open the case for the first time near your Samsung phone, a pop-up notification will appear on your phone asking you for permission to pair it with the Galaxy Buds 2. Once you do so, connection stability is reliable, whether inside or outside. If you have a non-Samsung Android phone, you can connect to the Galaxy Buds 2 through the Galaxy Wearable app or your phone’s Bluetooth settings.
Like the rest of Samsung’s earphones, the Galaxy Buds 2 supports a few Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable Codec. The proprietary codec works similarly to aptX Adaptive, constantly balancing connection and sound qualities and dynamically adjusting the bit rate from 88-512kbps. This makes the Galaxy Buds 2 an excellent choice for Samsung smartphone owners and leaves non-Samsung owners holding the short end of the stick. AAC rates are still inconsistent depending on your Android hardware.
Yes, you can connect the Galaxy Buds 2 to an iPhone by following these steps:
- With the earbuds in the case, place the Galaxy Buds 2 case next to the iPhone and open the case.
- Open your iPhone’s Settings app.
- Select the “Bluetooth” menu and turn the Bluetooth toggle on (green).
- Wait for your iPhone to find the “Galaxy Buds2.”
- Click on “Galaxy Buds2” from the Bluetooth menu, and the phone should establish a connection.
Be aware that while you can use the Galaxy Buds 2 on an iPhone for music playback, you can’t access any software features or firmware updates through iOS.
How long does the battery last on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 earbuds have an official battery life of 5 hours with noise canceling on. In our standardized testing, the earbuds lasted 5 hours, 3 minutes. The charging case provides an extra 15 hours of on-the-go playtime. A 5-minute quick charge leaves the earbuds with 60 minutes of battery, so forgetful gym-goers will always have music to underscore their workouts.
You have a few ways to top up the boxy case, with the flashiest option being Wireless Powershare. To do this, enable PowerShare on your Samsung device, and place the case on top of it. That’s all you need to get charged. Alternatively, you can plop it onto a Qi charging mat or go the wired route with the supplied USB-C cable.
Is the Galaxy Buds 2 noise canceling any good?
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The Galaxy Buds 2 has good noise canceling and passive isolation for the price, but it’s not the best pair of noise canceling earbuds. Samsung’s ANC quiets low frequencies and makes them one-quarter as loud as they’d sound without the earbuds in at all. You’ll notice a difference when toggling noise cancelation on and off.
Although most listeners will find something comfortable from one of the three ear tip provisions, not everyone will. This, again, is where it would be nice to have wings that keep the earbuds stable. I don’t experience consistently good ANC, as the chart depicts, because I can’t get the earbuds to stay in place. See, a strong physical seal between the ear tips and your ear canal is required to block out the most amount of noise and let the ANC shine. You may have better luck in this department than I do.
How does the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 sound?
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When you buy the Galaxy Buds 2, you’re investing in a pleasing frequency response that reproduces a variety of music genres well and compares favorably to our headphone preference curve. You’ll notice the relatively boosted sub-bass notes, and appreciate how the mids remain clearly audible — unless it’s a particularly busy song full of bassy instruments. Most listeners will like the greater sense of clarity from strings, small woodwind instruments, and better intelligibility to speech sounds.
In Zac Greer’s song Melatonin, the background guitar strums are hard to hear over the low-pitched electric guitar strikes during the chorus. Similarly, some rasp from Greer’s voice is lost during the chorus when I turn up the volume beyond 50%. You’ll only notice this if you’re listening critically and trying to find fault with the response. When out and about, the Galaxy Buds 2 sound is great.
Can you use the Galaxy Buds 2 for phone calls?
You can use the Galaxy Buds 2 for phone calls, but keep your expectations realistic: this can’t compare to an external boom mic. Samsung’s triple-microphone system reads as impressive, but as you can tell from the demos below, it’s good, not stellar. The microphones don’t do much to cancel out background noise, which means the person on the other end of the call will hear all of your keyboard clacks.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Office conditions):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2?
The Galaxy Buds 2 is a good buy for listeners who want reasonably priced earphones with solid sound quality and fast charging. Although a greater rating than IPX2 would be nice, the IPX2-rated Galaxy Buds Plus has held up over the years without issue. Ultimately, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 doesn’t break new ground. It simply performs well and has solid noise canceling for the price.
Alternatively, get the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro instead if you want a more attractive earbud design with a few more software features and much better noise canceling.
What’s the difference between the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro improves upon the Galaxy Buds 2 in every way, particularly with noise cancelation. Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds 2 article for a detailed look. The Buds 2 Pro cancels out up to 50dB of low-frequency noise, blowing the Galaxy Buds 2 and other Galaxy Buds out of the water. Speaking of water, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro can actually survive a dip in the pool with its IPX7 rating.
This time around, the touch controls have a measured degree of sensitivity. You can adjust the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro earbuds in your ears without worrying about constant misfires. Sweat droplets won’t accidentally trigger commands, either. Samsung keeps the spirit of the Galaxy Buds 2 design on the Buds 2 Pro, but the newer earphones (and case) have a grippier rubberized texture.
Price is the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s biggest con. At $179 at Amazon, Samsung is ready to play hardball with the best of them, and the South Korean-based company has some stiff competition from the new Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
If you’re looking to open up your wallet and grab a high-end set of earphones, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) tends to suck all the air out of the room in these discussions. The second version of the AirPods Pro has a lot to offer, but at a high price. Feature-wise, the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) has better moisture resistance (IPX4 buds and case), better ANC, spatial audio, and slightly better sound than the Galaxy Buds 2. However, not all of these features are available on Android.
If you have an Android or Samsung phone, the lack of cross-compatibility with Apple’s features baked into iOS is a big hurdle. This difficulty erases many of the reasons you’d want to buy the AirPods over the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, save for ANC performance and moisture resistance. Unless you have an iPhone, we’d suggest saving money and grabbing the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 instead.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: Which should you buy?
Initially, the $279 price is what held the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds back from being a ubiquitous pair of earphones. With the release of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, however, you can snag the original QC Earbuds for less than the original price now for $169 at Amazon. At that price, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is worth the hype for listeners who value ANC performance and comfort more than anything else. Bose’s noise canceling edges out the famed Sony WF-1000XM4 when it comes to the attenuation of certain frequencies, and features pretty good passive isolation too.
Unlike the Galaxy Buds 2, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is OS-agnostic and a better pick for those who often switch between Apple and Android hardware. With the Bose Music app, you can create a custom EQ from any device. To create a custom EQ for the Galaxy Buds 2 on an iPhone, you’ll need a dedicated EQ app.
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Athletes will be drawn to the Bose earbuds’ IPX4 rating, which is more durable than the IPX2 rating of the Galaxy Buds 2. Bose’s proprietary ear tips also make the QuietComfort Earbuds a better workout pick, because they have integrated wing tips that secure the buds to your ears. Alternatively, you can even grab Bose’s dedicated workout earbuds.
While it seems the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is superior to the Galaxy Buds 2, the Galaxy Buds 2 is the better pick for most because it’s a better value, unless you have an iPhone and can’t access the majority of the features on the Galaxy 2 Buds.
Microphone quality is okay but not the best we’ve heard from an embedded system.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds microphone demo (Office conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Samsung Galaxy Buds guide: What’s the difference between the Galaxy Buds Plus, Live, Buds 2, and Buds 2 Pro?
If you want to be sure you’re making the right decision before you commit to the Galaxy Buds 2, let’s do a brief rundown on the Samsung Galaxy Buds line of earbuds. First, the similarities: all models have touch controls; an IP rating (IPX2 to IPX7); support for the SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable Codec or Samsung Seamless Codec; and all include a USB-C case with wireless charging and Wireless PowerShare functionalities.
Onto the differences:
Samsung discontinued the original Galaxy Buds when it announced the Buds 2. You can learn all about this in our full review, and if you can find them: you’ll enjoy the Bluetooth 5.0 firmware, IPX2 build, and 6 hours of battery life.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus is the most comfortable pair of earbuds you’ll wear, or at least that’s what many of the user reviews say. This is a great value as it has the same IPX2 rating as the Buds 2, a nearly 12-hour battery life, and wing tips that stabilize the earbuds. We have a complete comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus vs the Galaxy Buds 2. It has been discontinued, so you may want to look at other Samsung Galaxy models.
Do you like the idea of beans in your ears but don’t want to deal with the mess, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. These earbuds don’t seal to the ear and rely on an ergonomic bean shape to stay in place, along with very small ear stays. This is Samsung’s only open-type fit earbuds, and hopefully its last. We give props to Samsung for braving something new here as the open earbuds also have noise canceling. It actually works a little bit, but at that point, just get any of these other headsets instead.
The Galaxy Buds Live is, however, good for the Android phone owner who wants to be aware of their environment at all times. The fit is more secure in my ears than the AirPods, which isn’t saying much, and this model introduced the jewelry box-inspired case. You can find it for $89 at Amazon.
Samsung’s discontinued flagship headset goes head-to-head against the AirPods Pro (1st generation) and shows that the company learned from the foibles of the Galaxy Buds Live, and returned to a sealed design. The Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds have a pretty standard shape and seal to the ear, blocking out quite a bit of background noise. You get an IPX7 rating and they’re the first earbuds to support 360 Audio (compatible with Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus.). Battery life is okay at 4 hours, 48 minutes and iPhone owners don’t get any app support with this headset either.
Samsung discontinued the Galaxy Buds Pro when it released the Buds 2 Pro, but sometimes you can find it for $139 at Amazon.
Samsung continues the confusingly similar naming with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ()$179 at Amazon, which tries to steal the AirPods Pro (1st generation)’s thunder. These earphones feature the best ANC from Samsung we’ve seen, canceling out more low-frequency noise than non-Samsung options from Bose and Sony too. You get Samsung 360 Audio and Bluetooth 5.3. Debuting with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, Samsung smartphone owners can take advantage of the Samsung Seamless Codec. This Bluetooth codec offers 24-bit audio (OneUI 4.0+ software required).
What should you get instead of the Galaxy Buds 2?
Aside from Samsung’s litany of wireless earphones, there are plenty of suitable alternatives depending on your needs. The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is smart and pretty affordable at $119 at Amazon. Amazon decks its earphones out with a more robust IPX4 rating and direct voice access to Alexa instead of Bixby. You also get an ear tip fit test, and the experience is identical on Android and iOS.
Regardless of whether you have an Android or iOS device, the Beats Studio Buds Plus ($169 at Amazon) are a decent alternative for their comfortable fit and IPX4 rating. They have improved noise canceling and work equally well on iPhones as on Android phones. You’ll have to contend with buttons for functions, however, which are polarizing.
We also like the Jabra Elite 4 Active as it only costs $89.99 at Jabra. You get extreme durability with the IP57, so it’s a good option for rock climbers and runners. You also get Bluetooth 5.2 and support for the SBC and aptX codecs. If you have an Android device, you can enjoy consistent high-quality streaming to your device. iPhone owners may have to pony up ($179 at Amazon) a bit more for the Elite 7 Active and its AAC support.
Frequently asked questions about the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
The Google Pixel Buds Pro is a perfectly fine set of wireless earbuds with noise canceling. However, for most, the cheaper Galaxy Buds 2 will be a smarter purchase. With the Pixel Buds Pro, you get better low-frequency noise cancelation, especially from 150-400Hz. But the passive isolation is better on the Galaxy Buds 2. With the Buds 2, high-pitched unpredictable sounds will be blocked out more. Microphone quality is better in windy conditions with the Galaxy Buds 2, too.
You also get more features and customization with the Galaxy Buds 2 than with Google’s Pixel Buds Pro. While Google will update its earbuds with spatial audio, Samsung has already updated its Pixel Buds 2 with support for Samsung 360 Audio. True, the Pixel Buds Pro has a more durable IPX4 rating and the case has an IPX2 rating, but this may not be worth the extra $70-100 for people. It can be had for $199 at Amazon.
Yes, the Galaxy Buds 2 has a very good ambient sound mode that passes audio through the earbuds in a fairly pleasant manner. Some headsets, especially earlier true wireless models, over-process the audio and make it sound almost robotic, that’s not the case with the Buds 2.
We’ll let you decide that, see the microphone demos for each below:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus microphone demo (Non-standardized):
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro microphone demo (Ideal):
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live microphone demo (Non-standardized):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Ideal):
The Galaxy Buds 2 earbuds do stick out from the ear a tiny bit, but it isn’t comical by any means. For reference, the Panasonic RZ-S500W sticks out quite a bit more than the Buds 2, and Panasonic’s is still a compact pair of earbuds.
Now, if you really want a pair of wireless earbuds that are small, look at the 1More ComfoBuds Mini.