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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Which noise-cancelling earbuds win?

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

This Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro comparison breaks down the differences between Samsung's newest headphones, and one of the longest-reigning members of our best noise-cancelling earbuds rankings. 

Recently launched, the Galaxy Buds 2 packs hi-quality sound, reliable active noise cancellation (ANC) and special listening modes into a sleek, familiar design. Compatibility with the Galaxy Wearable app and newly announced Galaxy Watch 4 presents multiple ways to personalize and operate these buds. Then there’s what many critics call its greatest feature, competitive pricing, with Samsung listing its newest creation at an attainable $149.

In the opposite corner, we have the market’s top-selling wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro. These tiny porcelain danglers boast many performance hallmarks, including adaptive sound, customized fit, effective ANC, and seamless integration with all Apple devices. 

Both are high-performance in-ear headphones that offer different user experiences. As for which is the better noise-cancelling investment, check out our full Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro breakdown below to find out.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Specs compared

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2AirPods Pro
Price$149$249
Wireless chargingYesYes
ChipNot statedH1
Battery Life (Rated)5 hours with ANC on (20 hours with charging case), 7.5 hours with ANC off (29 hours with charging case)4.5 hours (ANC on), 5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case)
Water ResistanceIPX2IPX4
Case Size1.9 x 2.0 x 1.1 inches1.8 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches
Case WeightNot stated1.6 ounces
Special featuresActive noise cancellation, adjustable transparency mode, Gaming Mode, Galaxy Watch 4 support, Wireless PowerShare supportActive noise cancellation, transparency mode, adaptive EQ, spatial audio, automatic switching, customizable fit, audio sharing, Fast Fuel charging, announced messages with Siri, “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, wireless charging case

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Price

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is cheaper, at $149 brand new. This is the same price as the Galaxy Buds Plus upon its respective debut, and is $50 less than the Galaxy Buds Pro MSRP. It is currently available for pre-order from Samsung. You’ll also receive a $20 discount when recycling a wireless or wired audio headset with the company, and can add a Galaxy SmartTag for $5.

Apple originally launched the AirPods Pro at $249, though we’ve seen some retailers drop the price down to as low as $180. Best Buy has it for $189 at the time of publishing, while a refurbished pair can be had for $159 on Walmart. All of these prices are obviously higher than that of the Galaxy Buds 2, but as we explain below, the few extra bills are worth paying.

For all of the latest Apple and Samsung headphones sales, be sure to bookmark our best cheap AirPods deals and best headphones deals pages.

Winner: Tie

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Design

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The Galaxy Buds 2 is pleasant on the eyes and an upgrade from the bizarre, jellybean-looking Galaxy Buds Live, but also lacks the opulence of the Galaxy Buds Pro. Samsung claims the buds are composed of Post-Consumer Materials (PCM), whatever that means. Essentially, the frame is made up of solid plastic and comes with an IPX2 rating to protect against light water droplets. Color options include Graphite, Lavender, Olive, and White. Each version has a matte finish that gives the buds a nice shine factor.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

We were never fond of the long-stem silhouette of the original Apple AirPods. The AirPods Pro is a notable improvement with smaller stems, black vents to equalize pressure, and IPX4 sweat and water resistance. Build quality isn’t the strongest, so you’ll still want to be careful not to drop the buds from a high distance or step on them.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging case might be the most enticing design trait for each model. Compact, lightweight and with wireless charging support, you’ll have zero issues commuting with either one in your pocket. The Galaxy Buds 2 case is smaller and has a stronger magnet that keeps the lid shut to ensure the buds don’t spill across the floor if dropped onto the ground, a common flaw of the AirPods Pro charging case.

Sony WF-1000XM4 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

As for comfort, the AirPods Pro can be worn for about 2 hours straight before fatigue sets in, and remains stable thanks to the installed ear tips. Samsung implemented minor changes to the Galaxy Buds 2’s design that allows the buds to rest gently on the concha and slide easily into the canal. We’ve found them extremely comfortable for several hours of wear throughout the day.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The AirPods Pro’s Ear Tip Fit Test performs much better than the Galaxy Buds 2’s version. Running an analysis on the Galaxy Buds 2 seemed suspiciously quick and gave us the same results no matter what ear tip size we installed.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Controls

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Nothing beats the AirPods Pro’s control scheme. The combination of “Hey Siri” voice activation, which operates flawlessly, and the Force Sensor for accurate input is a knockout. Apple’s mics pick up every syllable and voice commands with precision, while every press produces great tactility to offer peace of mind when enabling functions. It’s also helpful that Siri can announce incoming messages via Announce Messages.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The Galaxy Buds 2 comes with responsive touch controls and Bixby voice activation. You can even assign access to Spotify directly on the buds and enable the Read Notifications setting to hear incoming notifications (like your alarm, messages and schedule). However, not everything runs smoothly on the user end. Having to enable the multi-tap features through the companion app seems unnecessary, but it’s the subpar on-ear detection that doesn’t sit well with us. Not only must you take off both earbuds to auto-pause, but the feature runs on a 2-second delay, and there is no auto-play when placing the buds back on your ears. 

Apple and Samsung extend functionality to their respective smartwatches. You can control playback and other functions when connected to either the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch 4. 

Winner: AirPods Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Sound quality

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The Buds series has always delivered stellar audio and the Galaxy Buds 2 doesn’t deviate from the pack. At the helm are AKG-tuned drivers that pump out clean, vibrant sound. There is also an Equalizer in the app to customize sound. Six presets are selectable – Normal (the default), Bass Boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear, and Treble Boost – each one well-engineered for specific music genres. We recommend sticking with Normal for its well-balanced frequency range, that way you enjoy a full taste of lows, mids, and highs. Sound is even better when listening on current Galaxy smartphones, as the Samsung Scalable Codec enhances quality and makes low-fi recordings sound clearer.

Apple’s adaptive EQ is impressive and gives the AirPods Pro much better sound than the previous AirPods. The low end is emphasized, so you’ll get some nice punchy bass, along with solid midrange that produces crisp vocals and percussion. Highs are veiled on most recordings, though on occasion they’ll have some presence on up-tempo productions. If you’re a critical listener who demands more detail from the soundstage, feel free to change up the EQ by selecting from over 20 presets in the iPhone settings.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The AirPods Pro makes up for its sonic shortcomings with different listening modes. Spatial audio is the headliner and brings 360-degree effects to video calls, movies, and select songs on Apple Music. Headphones Accommodations is another mode that tailors sound to your hearing. You can also share audio between two pairs of Apple or Beats headphones.

Samsung keeps spatial audio exclusive to the Galaxy Buds Pro. As a consolation prize, they offer Gaming Mode, which is designed to decrease latency for synchronized gaming sound. Keep in mind this is exclusive to Samsung smartphones. Play around with the companion app and you’ll find a sound balance slider in the Accessibility setting that lets you increase sound output on either bud or leave it in the middle for balanced results.

Winner: Tie

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Active noise cancellation

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

We’ve hailed the AirPods Pro for its effective noise neutralization, but the Galaxy Buds 2 is just as good. Each model works well indoors to block out standard noises like loud televisions, talkative residents, specific kitchen appliances (dishwashers, microwaves), and the humming noise from a centralized AC. You can expect much of the same outdoors.

The Galaxy Buds 2 more effectively  tames low-frequency sounds like engines, and lets you assign ANC to one earbud for less discomfort, while the AirPods Pro has stronger wind resistance to make whooshing effects less harmful on your hearing. High-frequency sounds aren’t completely phased out and do grab your attention when occurring nearby. That means to expect baby cries and fire truck sirens to creep onto the soundscape when listening to music.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Apple’s Transparency mode is superior and is the differentiator in this round. You’ll hear voices and other incidental sounds more clearly, which is ideal for when you go on walks or late-night jogs. Samsung gave the Galaxy Buds 2 a three-level Ambient Sound mode that works best when set to High. Also, volume must be lowered to about 50& to communicate clearly with people and gain some awareness of your surroundings.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Special features and apps

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The AirPods Pro offers more functionality perks, and that is without a companion app. Everything is tied to the H1 chip, including aforementioned features such as audio sharing, spatial audio, Ear Tip Fit test, “Hey Siri” voice integration, Headphone Accommodations, and Announce Messages. 

That’s not all. There's also automatic switching and the ability to control the buds from a MacBook, along with numerous other AirPods Pro tricks worth checking out. Furthermore, Apple announced several features that are set to debut in the upcoming iOS 15 update. On the list are Announce Notifications for audible reminders, Conversation Boost to hear voices better during chats, extended spatial audio support for Apple TV and Mac, and true Find My support for lost AirPods.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Samsung’s feature set is mostly accessible through the Galaxy Wearable app. We already touched on Bixby voice wake-up function, control customization, Equalizer, Earbuds Fit Test, Gaming Mode, and Accessibility. What else is there? A battery level indicator for the buds, user manual, toggle controls, and a Find My Buds mode.

Any extra Samsung features are found outside of the app. There’s a resizable widget that can be placed on your smartphone home screen (Galaxy phones only) to enable the listening modes and touch controls. Also, you can use Samsung’s PowerShare system to wirelessly power up the charging case by placing it on the back of a compatible Galaxy smartphone.

Connectivity goes to the AirPods Pro. The H1 chip provides seamless connectivity to all iOS/macOS devices and steady range (35 feet) for wireless listening. The Galaxy Buds Pro is no slouch either, with great auto-connect capabilities and longer range (40 feet). 

Wireless features like Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology aren’t available for either model.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Call quality

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Apple continues to nail call quality, as the AirPods Pro stands out as one of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. The beam-forming mic unit is a workhorse that keeps background interference to a minimum for clear-sounding conversations. You’ll find performance equally great on phone and video calls. Having the H1 chip gives you 50% more talk time than the original AirPods as well.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The Galaxy Buds 2 are mostly serviceable for video calls. Samsung claims that the product has a “new, machine learning-based solution that filters out” background noises for clearer calls, but that is far from the case. The mics pick up too much ambient noise, especially wind. Muffling is another serious issue.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Battery life

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Battery life is disappointing on both products. The Galaxy Buds 2 comes with 5 hours of ANC playtime that can be extended to 7.5 hours when disabling the feature, while the AirPods Pro is rated at 4.5 hours with ANC on and 5 hours with ANC off. Neither offers much to work with if you’re someone who uses their buds multiple times a day for noise neutralization. One positive is that Apple and Samsung have enhanced battery optimization, squeezing out as much juice as possible from their batteries for optimal use.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The AirPods Pro charging case is capped at 24 hours, whereas the Galaxy Buds 2 charging case holds between 20 to 29 hours, depending on how you use the buds. Quick charging is the same with a 5-minute charge generating 1 hour of playtime. Something else these two models have in common is wireless charging, though the Galaxy Buds 2 has an extra way to wirelessly power up via PowerShare.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Verdict

When talking overall performance, this is a no-contest. The winner: the AirPods Pro. Apple hits nearly every mark and continues to extend the AirPods Pro’s lifespan by adding more innovative features with every iOS update. The inclusion of spatial audio is huge, and ANC does a satisfying job of cancelling out a vast number of ambient noises. Fun features like “Hey Siri” and audio sharing make the buds stand out from a functional perspective. Also, the fact that you can score the AirPods Pro on sale more often these days should make you seriously consider owning a pair.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2AirPods Pro
Price and value (5)44
Design (15)1211
Controls (10)710
Audio quality (20)1717
Active noise cancellation(20)1517
Special features and apps (15)1113
Call quality (5)25
Battery life (10)75
Total score (100)7582

If we’re comparing the Galaxy Buds 2 to the original, then, yes, this newest iteration in the Buds line-up is a huge upgrade. Unfortunately, it’s also a downgrade from the excellent and more premium Galaxy Buds Pro, which it shares numerous traits with, but not all. This is still good news, especially if you’re seeking buds with superb sound and noise cancellation in a more affordable package. You’re just going to have to deal with some of the series’ lingering flaws like middling battery life and restrictive features, the latter being a huge differentiator for non-Galaxy-smartphone owners.

Alex Bracetti

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.