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Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Which earbuds are best?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Which earbuds are best?
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds Plus, Samsung now has now released two of the best wireless earbuds you can buy within a few short months. But which ones are right for you?

The new Galaxy Buds Live are the higher-end of the two, delivering a sleek and unconventional design, lots of useful features and some subtle active noise cancelling. The cheaper Galaxy Buds Plus go bigger on value, offering some of the best battery life you can find on a pair of wireless earbuds while also packing a unique ambient noise feature.

Wondering which Samsung buds are best for your needs? Read on for our full Galaxy Buds Live vs. Galaxy Buds Plus showdown.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Specs

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
Price $169 $149
Colors Mystic White, Mystic Black, Mystic Copper White, Black, Red, Blue, Cloud Blue
Battery life Up to 8 hours (29 with charging case 11 hours (22 with charging case)
Size0.64 x 1 x 0.58 inches 0.7 x 0.9 x 0.8 inches
Weight 0.19 ounces (earbuds); 1.4 ounces (case) 0.2 ounces (earbuds); 1.4 ounces (case)
Water resistance IPX 2 IPX 2
Compatibility Android, iOS Android, iOS

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Price and value

The Galaxy Buds Plus cost $149, while the Buds Live are $20 more expensive at $169.

If you want the absolute cheapest buds out of the two, the Buds Plus are the way to go. But as we’ll detail below, the Buds Plus’ superior design and sound quality may be worth the premium for some.

Winner: Galaxy Buds Plus

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Design and comfort

The Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds Plus are both attractive-looking earbuds, but the Buds Live win the style contest by a wide margin. The Buds Live’s bean-shaped design is surprisingly sleek, and the earbuds look far less conspicuous in my ears than the comparatively bulky Buds Plus do.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both Buds come in a healthy mix of colors, with the Buds Live available in Mystic White, Mystic Black and an especially gorgeous Mystic Copper. The Buds Plus come in a wider range of hues, including white, red, black, Cloud Blue and Aura Blue. It’s a matter of preference here — the Buds Plus’ colors are more fun, while the Buds Live’s color options exude a more premium look.

The charging cases that come with these buds are both pretty sleek, with the Buds Live utilizing a curved-square case that’s a bit taller than the pill-shaped case the Buds Plus comes in. Both cases support wireless charging, which gives them a nice edge over similarly priced buds such as the base $159 AirPods

Both of Samsung’s earbuds are comfortable to wear, but I prefer the more snug, secure fit of the Buds Live. It’s easy to forget either set of earbuds are even there, with both weighing about 0.2 ounces. But the Buds Plus feel just a bit too loose by comparison. 

Winner: Galaxy Buds Live 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Controls

The Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds Plus both offer a variety of handy touch controls, but both have issues when it comes to actually using them. The Buds Plus controls can be overly sensitive, often registering accidental pauses when my fingers would lightly graze them, and registering single taps as double taps. The Buds Live occasionally have the opposite problem, as I had to give them a fairly firm touch in order for them to register my inputs at all. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Both buds are fairly similar in terms of functionality, allowing you to pause music with a single tap, skip music with a double tap and go back a track with a triple tap. You can also perform various actions with a long press on each set of earbuds, including changing the volume, summoning your voice assistant, or activating ambient sound (Buds Plus) or noise cancelling (Buds Live). The Buds Live have a slight edge here, as you can also activate Bixby hands-free if you’re connected to a Galaxy phone.

Winner: Galaxy Buds Live

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Audio quality

This round is no-contest. The Galaxy Buds Live offer far superior audio out of the two earbuds, delivering deep bass, crisp treble and clear vocals. The Buds Plus offer decent audio in their own right, but music sounds much more distant and lower on bass by comparison.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The soft, bouncy indie rock of Phoebe Bridgers’ “Garden Song” sounded warm and bright on the Buds Live, allowing the singer-songwriter’s somber vocals to soar over the plucky reverberated guitars without drowning them out. By comparison, the backing instrumentals were far less present on the Buds Plus.

The emotional hip-hop of Juice WRLD’s “Wishing Well” sounded similarly urgent on the Buds Live, which allowed the spacey vocals, shiny guitars and snappy drum beat to shine equally. Again, the bass and guitars were harder to pick out in the mix on the Buds Plus. 

Winner: Galaxy Buds Live

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Battery life

Here’s where the Galaxy Buds Plus beat the Buds Live — and nearly all other wireless earbuds. The Buds Plus have a stellar battery life rating of 11 hours (and 22 from the case), which largely held up in our real world testing. When I reviewed them earlier this year, the Buds Plus endured a long two-day journey that included long walks and a 6-hour flight without me ever having to charge the case.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Buds Live are no slouch either, as they’re rated for up to 8 hours of juice and 29 from the case with ANC and Bixby voice wake-up off. You’ll get about 6 hours/21 hours with ANC and Bixby on, and 5.5 hours/20 hours with just ANC on.

Again, this was in line with my testing, as I was able to go through two days of heavy use with a mix of ANC on and off before I had to juice up the case. But when it comes to actual earbud endurance, the Buds Plus can go way longer before you have to put them in their case to begin with. 

Winner: Galaxy Buds Plus

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Noise cancellation and ambient listening

One of the Galaxy Buds Live’s marquee features is active noise cancelling, though it’s not the same high-end experience you’ll get on the likes of the Sony WF-1000xM3 or Apple AirPods Pro. Instead, the Buds Live offers a more subtle ANC effect that’ll drown out some low frequency noises and make your podcasts come through just a bit clearer. But based on our testing, the Buds Live won’t drown out loud noises such as construction or nearby chatter, making options like the AirPods Pro far better for those with noisy households or work areas.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (Image credit: Samsung)

The Buds Plus take the opposite route, offering an ambient noise feature that lets in more of the outside world in so that you can be aware of nearby cars and pedestrians when walking around listening to tunes. The feature works reliably, though it can sometimes amplify unwanted sounds such as wind just a bit too loudly. 

Winner: Galaxy Buds Plus

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: EQ and special features

The Buds Live and Buds Plus share many of the same software perks thanks to Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app for iOS and Android. You can fine-tune each buds’ sound with six EQ settings (normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear, treble boost), and both buds can activate Spotify with a single touch.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (Image credit: Samsung)

You can also use the Find My Earbuds feature to track down your missing Buds Live or Buds Plus. The Buds Live have a few extra Galaxy-exclusive perks when it comes to the app, including a special gaming mode that reduces audio latency when playing games, and an option to summon Bixby hands-free. 

Winner: Draw

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Call quality

Both of these earbuds offer a triple-microphone array for clear calls, but Samsung’s cheaper buds actually delivered better call quality in my tests. While those I spoke to on the phone using the Buds Plus reported no issues hearing me, several friends and colleagues occasionally noted that I sounded muted and distant when using the Buds Live.

Winner: Galaxy Buds Plus

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: Verdict

Samsung released a heck of a one-two punch with the Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds Plus, but the Buds Live have a slight edge. Samsung’s higher-end earbuds offer superb sound quality, strong battery life and an impressive feature set, making them some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy if you’re willing to spend $169.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
Price and value (10)810
Design (15)1510
Controls (10)75
Audio quality (20)2015
Battery life (20)1720
ANC and ambient noise (10)58
Special features (5)55
Call quality (10)57
Overall8280

However, the Galaxy Buds Plus remain a tremendous value, especially if you’re looking for the best battery life out there. And while the Buds Live offer disappointing noise cancellation, the Buds Plus serve up a highly useful ambient noise mode that lets you stay aware when walking around in public.

Still, if you’re looking for the best-sounding, best-looking and most feature-rich earbuds in Samsung’s lineup, the Galaxy Buds Live are the way to go.