Who says that wireless earbud features with noise cancellation have to cost so much? Well, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are here to change our perception on what we should expect from sub-$100 true wireless earbuds — and after checking them out for a bit — it really makes me wonder why so many others often exceed $200.
This ‘Fan Edition’ pair of earbuds are actually packed with premium features at a whole lot less. You could choose to buy either the current Galaxy Buds 2 or Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, which are priced respectively at $150 and $230, but the Galaxy Buds FE gets discounted down to $99.99. It might be the least expensive option in Samsung’s lineup, but don’t think for a second there are lots of compromises.
As you’ll see in my Samsung Galaxy Buds FE hands-on, it’s chock full surprises that left me impressed. It's making a good case for itself in being the best wireless earbuds released this year.
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE hands-on: Price and availability
Normally I don’t see noise canceling earbuds from established audio brands at under $100, which is exactly why the Galaxy Buds FE gets my attention. I’ve been using the Sony LinkBuds S for the last year as my go-to pair, but when I think about its $200 against the Galaxy Buds FE, it feels overpriced knowing that Samsung’s offering also packages in ambient sound amplification, IPX2 water resistant rating and 8.5 hours of music playback.
It’s going to go on sale starting on October 10 for $99.99, and will be available in graphite and white.
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE hands-on: Design
Right off the bat, the first thing I instantly notice about the Galaxy Buds FE’s design are the subtle eartips on the ends of each earbud. They’re not obnoxiously large to the point they would cause discomfort, but I’m a fan of these winged eartips because they’re helpful with keeping them snug while exercising or doing physical activities.
Another interesting quality about the Galaxy Buds FE’s design is that it features an IPX2 rating, which offers enough protection against minor water splashes. No, it’s not to be submerged, but the occasional use in the rain shouldn’t compromise it. As for the overall design? It clearly doesn’t stray far from the aesthetics of the Galaxy Buds 2 and Buds 2 Pro, but at least it doesn’t feel cheap either.
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE hands-on: Charging case
Similarly, the case looks familiar, too — doing double duty of charging the earbuds while they’re cradled in. What actually surprised me more was how intuitive it was to set up and pair with another Samsung Galaxy phone.
In fact, the Buds FE remind me a lot of the AirPods because the phone was able to instantly recognize the Samsung buds were nearby and asked me if I wanted to proceed with pairing — which is a much more intuitive experience than having to navigate the settings menu. The only thing missing here is a wireless charging option with the case itself.
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE hands-on: Audio
Features such as noise cancellation and ambient sound amplification are usually reserved for pricier options, so I’m taken by surprise that these two premium features are available with the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE. I’m curious if the ANC performance can match the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, so if it ends up that way, it would bolster the Galaxy Buds FE’s value over its peers.
Beyond noise cancellation, the option to amplify ambient noise for that “pass through” audio experience should come in handy if someone ends up talking to you — or trying to get your attention. I’ve often found this to be a tremendous feature while working on stories in the office because I can still hear my surroundings while typing.
While premium features such as these are always delightful to find in a sub-$100 package, its true worth boils down to its audio quality. Samsung claims exceptional performance out of its new 1-way speaker design, but a proper audio test will determine if it’s any good against its rivals.
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE hands-on: Battery
With ANC turned off, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are rated for 9 hours of battery life — or 6 hours with it on. The included battery charging case adds another 21 hours to its ANC on tally, while those who can live without it can expect that time extended to 30 hours. Interestingly enough, these ratings are actually better than the Galaxy Buds 2 and Buds 2 Pro. This is probably attributed to the slightly larger 60 mAh batteries in each earbud, versus the 53 mAh ones in the Buds 2 and Buds 2 Pro.
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE hands-on: Outlook
You might be happy with your existing pair of true wireless earbuds, but if you’re looking to replace them without spending a fortune, I think the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are worth a look. Frankly, it undercuts the AirPods Pro 2 in price, while also trumping the 3rd Gen AirPods with its included noise cancellation.
Other similar offerings easily cost almost double, like my favorite Sony LinkBuds S and Google Pixel Buds Pro. The only direct rival that challenges them are the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC from Anker, which are also priced at $100. Samsung undoubtedly has the better brand recognition, but ultimately needs to blow it out of the water to reign at the $100 price range.