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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Better noise canceling than AirPods Pro

Samsung's next-gen flagship earbuds are their best so far

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro unboxed and displayed atop an exposed brick surface
(Image: © Alex Bracetti/Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro deliver great sound and superb ANC, and are an essential audio companion for Galaxy mobile owners.

Pros

  • +

    Wide soundstage

  • +

    Effective ANC

  • +

    Compact and practical design

  • +

    Easy to use features

  • +

    Excellent connectivity

Cons

  • -

    Disappointing battery life

  • -

    Bixby needs some work

  • -

    Most coveted features are exclusive to Galaxy devices

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Specifications

Price: $229 / £219 / AU$349

Colors: Bora purple; graphite; white

Battery life (rated): 5 hours (ANC on); 8 hours (ANC off); 18 hours (charging case with ANC on); 29 hours (charging case with ANC off)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codecs: AAC, SBC, SSC)

Water resistance: Yes (IPX7 rated)

Size: 0.7 x 0.85 x 0.7 inches (per bud); 1.97 x 1.97 x 1.1 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.19 (per bud); 1.53 ounces (charging case)

Samsung finally unveiled the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro during their summer Unpacked event. This model replaces the critically acclaimed Galaxy Buds Pro as the company’s flagship wireless earbuds and introduces numerous upgrades, while retaining several proprietary technologies that made past Galaxy Buds releases commercial successes.

What’s new? 24-bit HiFi Sound, Bluetooth 5.3, stronger active noise cancellation (ANC), and a pressure-reducing design. What’s restored? 3D sound, Bixby voice activation, customizable sound settings, one-tap pairing with Samsung devices, reverse wireless charging, and lots of smart controls. The result: Samsung’s best true wireless model to date and one of the market’s best noise-cancelling earbuds.

Here’s our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. And for more check out our Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs AirPods Pro face-off and our Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Google Pixel Buds Pro comparison. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Price and availability

  • More affordable than current category leaders
  • Available in three colors
  • Pre-orders get a free wireless charger

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro releases on August 26th for $229 / £219 / AU$349 and are available in Bora purple, graphite, or white. Samsung is offering a $75 credit when you trade-in any Galaxy Buds (opens in new tab) in any condition, along with $30 Samsung credit (opens in new tab) and a free wireless charger with your purchase. Inside the box comes a wireless charging case, USB-C cable, user manual, and three sets of different-sized ear tips.

These buds are more affordable than other flagship competitors like the AirPods Pro ($249), Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 ($249), and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279). At the same time, they’re priced higher than elite-performing models such as the Beats Fit Pro ($199) and Sony LinkBuds S ($199).

If these all seem too expensive, check out the models featured in our best cheap wireless earbuds list, some of which come with ANC and spatial audio.

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Design and comfort

  • Smaller and comfier than the original
  • Chic-looking charging case
  • Adaptive comfort

Samsung claims the design is 15% smaller than the Galaxy Buds Pro but the weight and overall dimensions are pretty similar. They come with an expanded wind shield and wider touch control response, and cosmetic details are limited to a protruding oval shape with a black air vent on the top.

Construction is superior to the Galaxy Buds 2 and slightly better than the Buds Pro. The all-plastic exterior has a nice soft-rubberized finish and feels solid; and even if the design looks a little like a Cadbury Mini Egg (particularly the purple color option) that's been stuffed in your ear, dropping the buds on a hard surface won’t crack the casing. They're also IPX7-rated for waterproofing, meaning they're sweat resistant and can even be momentarily submerged in water.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's wireless earbuds removed from their charging case

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The compact charging case is still the most attractive one out there. It’s a tiny plastic square that’s incredibly light (1.53 ounces), easy to carry around, and displays the buds handsomely when opened. All the magnets are strong, keeping the lid shut tightly and buds docked safely in their charging slots.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's wireless charging case sitting atop a marble counter

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

According to Samsung, the new design creates more effective air flow for reduced pressure and improves on-ear stability. My several hours of testing can attest to those claims. The uncomfortable pressure felt from most noise-cancelling earbuds was not a factor with the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro fitted in my ears. These buds didn’t cause soreness around the concha like past Samsung models either. 

Our reviewer holding the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro right earbud

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Fit was pleasant. The angled sound port allowed for easy insertion in the ear and the tips formed a tight seal around the canal. Samsung’s earbud fit test produced accurate results for optimal fit. There’s also a Neck Stretch mode that calibrates the buds to remind listeners when they’re practicing poor listening posture.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Controls and digital assistant

  • Awesome touch controls
  • Serviceable voice-activated features
  • Can’t customize tap gestures

Samsung’s touch panels activate numerous functions and register input methods with precision. Rarely do the buds misinterpret single/double/triple taps. The touch-and-hold gesture is the only control that can be customized, letting users assign the digital assistant, Spotify Connect or volume to either bud. I advise skipping the latter since there’s a feature in the Labs section of the app called Double Tap Earbud Edge to lower (left ear) or raise (right ear) volume by performing the action on top of your ear — not the actual earbud. And it operates flawlessly.

Demonstrating the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's Double Tap Earbud Edge feature

(Image credit: Alex Bracett/Future)

Wear detection is odd on the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. Auto-pause is enabled when not one, but both buds are removed from your ears, and there’s a 2-second delay before the command is executed. Auto-play isn’t available when placing the buds back on your ears — once inserted you need to tap either the left or right earbud to resume playback.

Siri and Google Assistant are compatible and work well, granted Bixby is the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s primary voice assistant. The feature doesn’t operate as well as it has on past Galaxy Buds, requiring multiple tries before answering simple inquiries like “when is my next event?” More concerning is “Hi Bixby” voice activation; the feature doesn’t always activate when saying the wake phrase.

Testing "Hi Siri" voice activation on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Fortunately, the mics and sensors work better for other features. Voice Detection drops volume down to 15% when hearing your voice, so you can chat without pausing music or taking off the buds. Samsung offers “in-ear detection for calls,” directing calls to the buds when worn or through your phone’s speaker when taken off. ANC mode will also turn off automatically when using the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in mono mode.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Sound quality

  • Stacked with audio tech
  • Terrific sound on Galaxy devices
  • ANC doesn’t compromise quality

Samsung has equipped the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with prime audio technologies. These include 360 Audio, 24-bit HiFi Sound, Bluetooth 5.3 (LE Audio-Ready), Samsung Scalable Codec (SSC), which adjusts the bitrate dynamically from 88kbps to 512kbps, and a custom coaxial 2-way speaker (dedicated tweeter and woofer drivers) tuned by Samsung-owned audio specialist AKG. Other high-end wireless earbuds don’t carry such a broad combination of audio specs, and you get a rich, wide sound that’s enhanced when listening on Galaxy devices.

Everything that played on my MacBook Pro (AAC) and Google Pixel 6 Pro (SBC) was satisfying, though the difference in quality between Samsung and non-Samsung devices was significant. Using my Samsung Galaxy Note S22 Ultra, the SSC codec made music sound fuller, louder, and more vibrant. The main test tracks were played on Apple Music and Spotify during this review, although additional listening was carried out via Tidal HiFi.

Playing Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse's "Valerie" on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The boppy production on Mark Ronson’s “Valerie” (feat. Amy Winehouse) had some nice oomph to it, courtesy of the emphasized kicks and snares. Even the jingly cymbals sounded prominent and consistent. What caught my ears most was the clean midrange, which brought Winehouse’s soulful vocals to life.

Funkier jams like Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” performed better than I anticipated. The drum loop knocked hard without coming on too aggressive and the high-pitched synths were reproduced well, keeping distortion to a minimum. Jazz classics like Dexter Gordon & Slide Hampton’s “The Shadow of Your Smile” showed me the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro had potent frequency range. Every pluck from the double bass tickled my ear, cymbals were tinging, and the piano notes were layered exceptionally well. 

Playing with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's EQ and presets

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Fresh out of the box, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro’s sound profile is set to normal and delivers a rich and detailed sound that's instantly engaging when connected to a Galaxy playback device. The EQ can be tweaked in the Galaxy Wearable companion app through the Equalizer setting where you'll find six presets — Normal (default), Bass Boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear, and Treble Boost — that offer mostly subtle frequency balance adjustments tailored to a particular style of music or whatever works best for what you're listening to. 

Highs are noticeably more detailed when switching to Dynamic, Bass Boost adds greater punch to the low end, and Clear increases vocal presence (consider this for eBooks and podcasts perhaps). There doesn't appear to be a way to customize the EQ bands to your own preferences, although arguably this can be done withing the sound menu of your device's system settings.   

Listening with ANC does change the frequency balance quite a bit, and raises both the low end and volume slightly.

Testing Samsung's 360 Audio platform on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

This is my first experience with Samsung’s 360 Audio platform and happy to say it’s a must for live performances and movies. Live recordings like the Fania All Stars’ “Descarga Fania” threw me into the audience. The clap-alongs during the bridge felt more impactful and enabling head-tracking made the crowd interaction more engrossing. Action films had a similar effect. It was cool hearing cosmic weapon fire soar from the right to left channel during the final battle in Avengers: Endgame.

I spent little time toying with Samsung’s Game Mode, which was designed to lower latency when gaming on mobile devices. Any improvements in audio synchronization must have past my ears because I couldn’t hear any difference in performance when turning it on.

Samsung confirmed that Bluetooth LE Audio support will come “later this year.”

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Active noise cancellation

  • Better noise cancellation than the AirPods Pro
  • Effectively softens wind noise
  • Multi-purpose ambient listening mode

These buds supposedly filter 40% more external sound than their predecessors, though it’s very hard to tell. In any case, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is a fine noise-canceller that minimizes background interference better than most ANC earbuds, including the AirPods Pro.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's active noise cancellation being tested outside in West Palm Beach, FL

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Each earbud houses three mics to block out external sounds at the highest level and soften wind presence, which the mic array does extremely well in combination with the wind shield. Whisking effects created by drafty winds are less harsh on your hearing, although not totally absent as with Anti Wind mode enabled on the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3.

ANC mode placed me in a soundproof bubble most of the time. Common distractions like chatty pedestrians, kitchen appliances, loud TVs, and airplanes flying over the house were completely silenced. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro did a noteworthy job of shushing my toddler’s whines and loud cries. Occasionally, a loud yell would enter the soundscape, but nothing that broke my concentration. Although, other high-frequency sounds like sirens were audible and pulled me away from whatever was playing at the time.

The Accessibility setting in the Galaxy Wearable app

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Ambient Sound remains clutch for increasing your awareness of surroundings. I felt safe taking my little boy for strolls around the neighborhood, picking up on bicyclists that were about to pass the stroller and cars coming from up the block. The feature was most useful when sharing parenting duties with my wife; having clear-sounding conversations without removing the buds was gratifying. Samsung also makes this feature available for phone calls, opening the mics up wider to hear your own voice clearer.

Accessibility is another feature worth exploring if you suffer from a hearing impairment. You adjust sound and noise cancellation on each bud to your hearing preferences.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Special features and app

  • Has a long and useful list of special features
  • Functionality extends to other Samsung devices

The hub for all things Samsung wearable-related (e.g., earbuds, smartwatches) runs through the Galaxy Wearable app. You get access to essential features, several of which I’ve already touched on: 360 Audio, Accessibility, Bixby voice wake-up, control customization, Earbud fit test, Equalizer, Gaming Mode, Neck Stretch, Noise Controls (ANC/Ambient), and Voice Detect.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro connected to the Galaxy Wearable app

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Other notables features include battery level indicators, firmware updates, read notifications, Find My Earbuds, and a homescreen widget to enable ANC mode and touch control functionality.

Showing the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's settings in the Galaxy Wearable app

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Features also extend outside of the app. Samsung signatures like SSC and Wireless PowerShare (more on this later) are accounted for, as well as Samsung TV connectivity with 2022 models. The latter supports previously mentioned features like Bixby voice command and more.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Battery life and charging case

  • Short playtime with ANC enabled
  • Reverse wireless charging

It’s disappointing to see Samsung’s noise-cancelling models provide short ANC playtime. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are rated at 5 hours with ANC on, which is only 30 minutes longer than the AirPods Pro. Turning off ANC extends battery life to 8 hours. However, high volume and special features drop these playtimes by 1 to 2 hours. You’d be lucky to get 2 days of moderate use (2 hours daily). Rivals like the Sony WF-1000XM4 give 8 to 12 hours, and even inexpensive options like the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC get you more juice per charge at around 11 to 15 hours.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro's charging case being wireless charged on a Qi-enabled charging pad

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The wireless charging case holds between 18 to 29 hours, depending how you use the buds. This isn’t too far off from the AirPods Pro case (24 hours).

On the plus side, Samsung’s quick charging technology is on point, generating 1 hour of use in 5 minutes and up to 2.5 hours in 10 minutes. Galaxy users also have the luxury of charging the case by placing it on the back of a compatible Galaxy smartphone via Wireless PowerShare.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Call quality and connectivity

  • Great for voice and video calls
  • Automatic switching between Samsung devices
  • No multipoint technology

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are a worthy addition to our best headphones with mic for voice and video calls. Samsung’s three-mic array produces loud, clear-sounding calls with minimal background interference. Whisking effects were reduced heavily when chatting with the missus outside. There was mention of minor muffle, which occurred in all settings, but nothing too worrisome. The buds were also reliable for video conferencing, with several clients complimenting the loudness and clarity on my end. 

Our reviewer using the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro to take a video call

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

These are the first wireless earbuds I’ve seen that use Bluetooth 5.3, and it performed up to par. Range extended up to 70 feet in open spaces, which was enough length to leave my smartphone charging in doors while wondering off to collect the mail from the mailbox.

Samsung;'s Easy Pairing mode enabled on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Connecting to Galaxy devices was instantaneous with one-tap Easy Pairing. Auto switch was just as impressive and made transitioning from one device to another a breeze, no matter the platform (iOS/Android, Windows).

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review: Verdict

It took several attempts, but Samsung finally has a serious AirPods Pro rival, at least for Galaxy owners. Sound alone makes the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro worth the investment, giving you a high quality audio experience and compelling 3D sound with precise head tracking. Samsung’s ANC holds its own against the category best and blocks out close to 90% of ambient noise. The updated design also provides improved comfort and noise isolation.

These buds operate well across all Bluetooth-enabled devices, but Galaxy smartphone owners get to enjoy cool features like Easy Pairing and compatibility with Samsung's Scalable Codec. It’s upsetting that Bixby doesn’t perform up to its potential, though the mediocre battery life with ANC on is a greater disappointment.

If you can live with similar playtimes as the AirPods Pro and have little need for voice activation, then the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are a stellar option to consider for your next true wireless splurge.

Next: The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are rumored to arrive soon — here's everything we know.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.

  • Greygeek
    I would MUCH prefer a headphone jack on my new Samsung phone as I own numerous high-quality headphones I could use. I got a pair of these new buds on promo when I bought my S21, so I've tried them out. They're fine for use around the house when you're less likely to lose one when it (inevitably) falls out of your ear, but for use on public transportation (where ANC would be nice), you won't have them for long unless you use some duct tape to keep them in your ears.
    Then you've got to carry the case and your charger to work with you so you can use them on the commute home. I've stopped using them on the train after nearly losing one as I got up to disembark. I'd forgotten my duct tape that day. ;-)

    The sound isn't bad for a bluetooth connection. Pairing them with my laptop was a chore. Basically have to reset the buds to default configuration, and then re-set them up once I pair with my S21 and want to turn on features like equalization profiles.

    It's a lot of expense and fussing for very little (if any) added value over wired headphones. Not unique to these Samsung buds, but a characteristic of all wireless ear buds that don't have a tether of some kind. Headphone jacks work much better for most situations.
    Reply