Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on: Slick and simple, with monster battery life

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Sequels don’t always have to be worse than the original. The Terminator 2 was every bit the blockbuster that its predecessor was, and Red Dead Redemption 2 was a masterpiece. Now, it seems like Samsung’s new true wireless earbuds could be joining the ranks of second-edition success stories.

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+ were unveiled at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event on February 11 and are set to go on sale three days later for $150 through Samsung’s website. Judging by the modest price bump from the original Galaxy Buds ($129), as well as the appearance and features of the new buds, it’s clear Samsung knew it didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. The company just had to make a few improvements, and keep them priced low enough to be a serious competitor to the Apple AirPods.

While we haven’t spent enough time with the G-buds+ to make a final verdict yet, so far, Samsung’s latest are right on the money.

Getting going

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on on table
John Velasco / Digital Trends

As has become the standard for brands like Samsung and Apple, the packaging, accessories, and actual Galaxy Buds+ adhere to a less-is-more aesthetic. Opening the compact white box reveals an even more compact pill-shaped charging case with the buds nestled inside. Also in the package are a USB charging cable, two extra pairs of eartips and sports fins, and a quick-start manual to guide you through setup.

That setup, by the way, is essentially effortless. Most major brands have finally gotten this down to a simple science, and Samsung is no exception. Those not already acquainted with Samsung’s wearables will need to step through a few digital hoops.

First, you’ll want to download the Galaxy Wearable app and allow the app access to the contents of your phone. Next, download the Galaxy Buds+ plug-in, allow a few more permissions for the buds themselves, and then marvel at the buds automatically connecting to your device as you open the charging case.

From there, the next move is pulling the buds out of the case and fitting them in your ear. They’re just as comfortable as their predecessors, with an extremely lightweight build that would almost let you forget they were there, if not for the sound emitting from their dual drivers. One note here: I quickly realized the initial eartips on the buds were a bit small for me, as the seal in my ears didn’t feel as secure as it should have. After swapping in larger tips, the issue was promptly resolved.

Damn, that’s a lotta battery

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on cases
John Velasco / Digital Trends

One of the biggest upgrades Samsung touted about its new buds was the improved battery life, with a claim of 11 hours of playing time between recharges. That’s up from six hours with the original buds, and miles from the company’s first pair of buds, the Gear IconX.

In fact, we’ve yet to try out a pair with more battery life per charge. They more than double up what you’ll get from Apple’s pricier AirPods (including both the second-gen pair and the $250 AirPods Pro). Unlike the AirPods, the Galaxy Buds+ add just a single recharge in the case, but since it’s 11 hours per shot, it adds up to nearly a full day of playback and falls just below Apple.

As to that battery life claim, seeing that these buds are fresh out of the case, we’re still working on our first 11 hours. We can say that after the first hour of listening, the buds dropped between 3 and 5 percent in charge, which seems right on track. The app provides you with charging levels for each bud, as well as the charging case itself.

The Galaxy Buds+ come with standard-programmed gestures for each bud’s touchpads. A single touch will play or pause music, a double-tap skips to the next track or answers/ends calls, and a triple-tap skips backward. We feel obligated to point out that on our first run through with these buds, all these gestures failed. However, after disconnecting and reconnecting, each gesture worked without a glitch. A colleague also had a different pair of Galaxy Buds+ in the office and experienced zero issues with controls.

A few more touch controls are also available. Through the app, you can determine which earbud will control features like voice command, turning ambient sound on and off, switching playlists on Spotify, and turning the volume up or down. In our initial testing, each of these controls worked flawlessly.

Sound and call quality

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ hands-on top of table with case
John Velasco / Digital Trends

With dual dynamic drivers – a woofer and a tweeter – as well as a new speaker and microphone system powered by Samsung subsidiary AKG, the company has dubbed its new buds as capable of producing “studio-quality sound.”

We wouldn’t go that far, and at $150, we wouldn’t expect them to, either. Honestly, studio-quality is a buzz phrase that really shouldn’t be used for wireless earbuds of just about any kind.

What we would say, though, is for the money, the Galaxy Buds+ present a very pleasing soundstage, with decent bass and a clear upper register. The app provides several equalizer presets to adjust the sound however you’d like.

For most tracks, from Blues Traveler’s Hook to Maroon 5’s Girls Like You, the “dynamic” equalizer setting produced the best overall sound, avoiding the sometimes flat-sounding “normal” but offering less brightness than “treble boost.” For us, that dynamic setting was the sweet spot. A few selections sounded slightly unnatural (a couple of classic rock songs come to mind), but for the most part, this setting combined vocal clarity and unmuddied instrumentals best.

We’ll have to listen more for a final judgment, but the Galaxy Buds+ instantly sounded clearer than the AirPods to our ears, though they weren’t as detailed or defined as the lovely AirPods Pro.

As for call quality, following a few test runs, we’re happy to report that, so far, conversations come in clearly, without much distortion from the outside environment. Voices on the other end did sound somewhat distant at a few points, but it was a minimal occurrence.

Conclusion

If the Galaxy Buds+ kept everything the same from the original Galaxy Buds and simply doubled down on battery life, that would still be deemed an improvement worth the cost bump. From our initial listen, it sounds like Samsung has done a good deal more to add to the quality of its true wireless buds.

Of course, we’re still getting acquainted with these new buds, and we’ll report back after we’ve spent more time with them as our daily commuters to see how well these impressions hold up. For now, though, there’s a simple word to describe our takeaway from the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ so far: Impressed.

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