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The packaging contents of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
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Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review

For the casual commuter, these are a bargain.
By

Published onNovember 6, 2023

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7.1
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE
The bottom line
As far as sub-$100 earbuds go, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are about as sure a bet as it gets, well-suited as commuter buddies on the train or in an airplane.
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Samsung Galaxy Buds FE

As far as sub-$100 earbuds go, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are about as sure a bet as it gets, well-suited as commuter buddies on the train or in an airplane.
Product release date
2023
Price
$99.99
Dimensions
Case: 50 x 50 x 28 mm
Earbuds: 19 x 17 x 22 mm
Ear tip diameter: 4 mm
Weight
5.6 g
Model Number
SM-R400NZAAXAR
Waterproof
IPX2
What we like
Price
Small case
Good ANC
What we don't like
Minimal moisture resistance
Information-hungry app
Too bassy
7.1
SoundGuys Rating
7.2
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Isolation / Attenuation
5.9
7.2
7.0
Active Noise Cancelling
8.4
8.0
8.0
Durability / Build Quality
7.0
6.6
7.0
Value
8.2
7.5
8.0
Design
7.0
7.7
8.0
Connectivity
5.0
6.8
7.0
Portability
9.7
7.6
8.0
Battery Life
5.4
7.4
7.0
Feature
6.0
6.4
6.0
Comfort
8.0
7.1
7.0

Wireless earbuds are everywhere, and it can be a bit much to separate the wheat from the chaff with so many models on the market. However, Samsung has had a few hits ever since acquiring the portfolio of the Harman brands in 2017. Are the new Samsung Galaxy Buds FE up to snuff? Let’s listen to find out.

Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

About this Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: We tested the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE over four days. The earbuds firmware version was not listed, and the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app ran version 2.2.56. The company provided the unit for this review.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are well-suited for those looking for small, affordable earbuds

What’s it like to use Samsung Galaxy Buds FE?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are fairly nondescript earbuds with a tiny charging case — a big plus if you don’t have spacious pockets. The diminutive charging case gets juiced up via USB-C, and there’s no wireless charging available. It’s quite glossy, so it should slide into your pocket well enough. However, that very sheen may lead to some fumbles if you’re not careful.

The packaging contents of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE package is pretty spartan, including three ear tip sizes and a charging cable.

Each earbud has a slight concha fin to hold the earbud against your outer ear, which will increase pressure the more you twist it into your canal. The earbud nozzle is quite wide, with a grille that should keep out earwax and other gunk. These earbuds have an ingress protection rating of IPX2, which means they’re only rated to protect against rain every so often. These are not waterproof earbuds.

Earphones require a good fit to perform at their best, so it’s good that the packaging includes small, medium, and large ear tips. However, if these are too small for you, after-market ear tips may be in your future. Memory foam ear tips are easy to find, but be sure the ones you pick up are compatible with the earphones first.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE being worn by a man with longer hair.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
A stabilizer fin helps keep the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE secure.

Though I’m not a big fan of the nozzle design, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are relatively comfortable for in-ears. There is a limited amount of mass, which means better comfort. If you have smaller ear canals, you may find the fit unappealing. The likely culprit is the large nozzle, which can’t be fixed, so call it quits early if you can’t get a good fit. Aside from that, though, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE make many of the right choices here.

How do you control the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE, as held in front of a table top.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Buds FE are controlled mainly through touches.

Controlling the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE is straightforward, without complicated gestures or buttons to press. Instead, two flat surfaces on the back of each earbud respond to pressure from your finger. While more manageable than buttons, you may find that engaging with these pads sometimes lead to accidental shifting of your earbuds. That, or causing an annoying thumping sound. Controls are generally limited to the following:

GestureLeft earbudRight earbud
Gesture
Single tap
Left earbud
Play / pause / answer call / end call
Right earbud
Play / pause / answer call / end call
Gesture
Double tap
Left earbud
N/A
Right earbud
N/A
Gesture
Long press
Left earbud
Toggle ANC / Ambient
Right earbud
Toggle ANC / Ambient
Gesture
Triple tap
Left earbud
N/A
Right earbud
N/A

You can customize this in the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app to some extent, but the basics are above. With the app, you can enable and then define the double-tap, triple tap, and touch-and-hold behavior. Just enable the switch in the “touch controls” option next to the gesture you would like to enable, and then tap the menu text. You can then change the touch and hold gesture to either switch noise control (default), Bixby, Volume up/down, or Spotify.

Should you use the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app for the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE?

The Samsung Galaxy Wearable app adds a lot of good functionality, like control customization and equalizer adjustments. However, this is one of the most data-hungry apps I’ve encountered — and it’s frustratingly so. Usually, in Android, you can turn off individual permissions that apps ask for. Not only is that impossible with the Wearable app, but it will not let you proceed without coughing up your call history, access to your SMS, and some other permissions needed for essential functions.

Though in your day-to-day use, this may not be an issue for you — you’re using your earbuds with your phone to use it — it’s still unnerving to give an app that much access. If you’re worried about privacy, these earbuds may not be for you.

How do the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE connect?

Like other Samsung earbuds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE connects to your phone, computer, or other source device over Bluetooth via the SBC, AAC, or Samsung Scalable codecs.  Samsung phone owners will be the only people able to use the Samsung Scalable Codec, the Korean company’s proprietary connection method. Your phone and earbuds will automatically default to the best connection method available, though, so if you haven’t thought much about which codec to use, chances are you haven’t enabled it in the developer’s settings either. You shouldn’t worry about it too much unless you notice unreasonable latency.

To pair your earbuds, you’re going to have to pair them manually first. That’s okay, as the process is intuitive. You can follow the steps here or allow the Samsung Wearable app to guide you.

  1. Open the lid of the charging case and hold down the two back buttons of the earbuds. This puts them in pairing mode.
  2. On your phone or computer, open the Bluetooth menu and scan for new devices if it doesn’t do so automatically.
  3. Select the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE in the list. The device will handle the rest.
  4. (Optional) Open the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app and follow the steps to connect the earbuds with a Samsung account to unlock the advanced features.

How long does the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE battery last?

The USB-C charging port of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE charge via USB-C.

Using our standardized test with constant playback of real music peaking at 75dB SPL, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE lasts 4 hours and 38 minutes. This is a bit low, but it should still last you most of the day. Remember that your commute is likely to be longer than this each way, so you should experience no dead buds in your everyday use of this product. Still, try to avoid running these down to 0% to preserve your batteries.

Fast charging is not advertised, but given the tiny cell sizes of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE, you should get an hour’s worth of listening time with several minutes of charge time.

How well do the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE cancel noise?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE block out noise reasonably well, and the ANC is surprisingly good. On my trips into the office on the train, I could only hear a little noise through the earbuds. The earbuds are very good at isolating your ear canal from the outside world, and the ANC can cancel up to 30dB of outside noise (frequency depending). This is excellent for commutes and flights.

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Of course, this comes with the caveat that ANC and isolation performance are heavily dependent on fit, and if yours isn’t rock-solid, you’ll notice poorer performance than we measured here. Key tells for a broken fit include quiet bass, lots of noise getting in, or trouble getting your earbuds to stay in place. I will point out that these earbuds aren’t going to offer the same kind of ANC as something higher-end like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, but this is definitely among the best ANC earbuds under $100.

Yes. If you tap the back of the earbuds, you’ll discover three ANC modes: On, off, and passthrough. This mode uses the external microphones of the earbuds to pass sound from your surroundings to your ears.

How do the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE sound?

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Given the price point, we shouldn’t be too harsh on the earbuds deviating from our headphone preference curve. Most people will probably enjoy the boosted bass when they’re out in the noisy world — it helps make sounds in your music that can sometimes get drowned out much easier to hear.

This sound isn’t for me, but fans of older tracks like Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” will appreciate the tilt towards bass emphasis over treble, as songs from the tape and vinyl era can sometimes sound a bit too treble-heavy with modern equipment due to some of the mastering preferences of the era. However, if you listen to a lot of 2000s-to-2010s-era rock, rap, or electronic music, you may want to tinker with the EQ presets to reduce the bass or boost the treble somewhat. In my listening, the default settings of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE made Tsuruda’s “Fubar” challenging to listen to, mainly because of the bass overemphasis.

Beyond this one issue, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE sound fine. Samsung does a decent job of meeting consumers where they want to be, and the tuning of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE reflect this.

Within the Samsung Galaxy Wearable App, there are several presets that you can choose from, some better than others. Given the relatively extreme bass emphasis of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE, we can only recommend the bass boost EQ when you have a poor fit — in which case, you might need better ear tips or a different product.

Bass Boost EQ:

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If you use this preset, you may need to search for memory foam ear tips or attempt a re-fit.

Clear EQ:

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This EQ preset is much more in line with our expectations of how earbuds should sound, but it still has that roll-off in the highs that can limit high-frequency content.

Dynamic EQ:

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This EQ preset amps up the bass, so it’s another preset that isn’t an improvement over the default sound.

Soft EQ:

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We’re not entirely sure what’s “soft” about this EQ preset, as its reduction of treble sounds means the bass and mids are pretty loud in comparison.

Treble Boost EQ:

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Though the name is “treble boost,” this EQ preset might be more accurately named: “bass reducer.” This preset does a decent job at increasing the perceived loudness of treble by reducing the overall loudness of the bass by anywhere from 10 to 20 dB. That’s a significant amount, but it will mean that many sounds in the mids and highs are easier to hear.

Can you use the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE for phone calls?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE can handle your phone and conference calls as a set of do-everything earbuds. Sure, they’re just earbuds, but you can hear how the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE do in simulated everyday situations below. You’re not going to be recording the next chart-topping banger on these (and if you do, please let us know), but the quality is about what we expect from a set of affordable earbuds.

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE microphone demo (Office conditions):

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE microphone demo (Street conditions):

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE microphone demo (Reverberant space):

How does the microphone sound to you?

2638 votes

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE have a tiny charging case.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
With a tiny charging case, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE can fit into similarly tiny pockets.

As far as sub-$100 earphones go, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are pretty good. It wasn’t all that long ago that you needed to empty the wallet for ANC in your wireless earbuds, and we’re getting pretty good products for the price point. Sure, the sound isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the kind of person who is looking for a dependable commuter buddy probably isn’t looking to replicate a concert hall. Everybody wants a unicorn, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are solidly good earbuds that cost less than $100. Most people should be happy with these, even if they’re not the best choice for audiophiles.

Samsung Galaxy Buds FESamsung Galaxy Buds FE
SG recommended
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE
Up to 6 hours battery • ANC • SmartThings Find
MSRP: $99.99
Comfortable sound at a comfortable price
The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are a capable set of true wireless earbuds. Don't let the small price fool you, these buds are equipped with ANC, Ambient mode, SmartThings tracking, and easy-pair with your Galaxy devices.

The sound might be bassy, but commuters are probably less worried about that than good ANC — which the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE provide. Samsung bills these earbuds as “your everyday audio companion,” which sounds like a good target audience. For the money, it’s tough to do better without some tradeoffs, so be sure to look around if you’re hoping to find something with better audio quality or if you want other features like spatial audio. Truth is: $100 isn’t what it used to be, and sometimes you have to spend more to get more.

What should you get instead of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE?

The Anker Soundcore Space A40's case open with the earbuds inside, resting on a person's hand.
Sam Smart / SoundGuys
The Anker Soundcore Space A40 is an excellent purchase if you’re looking for earbuds around $100.

As I mentioned, there are few options for ANC earbuds under $100 that pass muster. For example, the Anker Soundcore Space A40 ($79 at Amazon) comes close on ANC but doesn’t quite compete in sound quality. Similarly, the 1MORE ComfoBuds Mini ($99 at Amazon) do a decent job canceling noise, but the sound is odd.

You may want to see if you can find the older Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 $99 at Amazon on sale, as those offer better sound quality and features for a modest price bump. There’s a little tradeoff with ANC, but $20 extra for much-improved sound quality and better features isn’t anything to sniff at.

Frequently asked questions

No.

Yes.

Yes, see above for samples.

No.

Yes, see the section above for more details.

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