Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Buds Live vs. Buds+

After the release of the Galaxy Buds Pro, Samsung’s newest true wireless earbuds, you may be wondering if it is worth spending $ 200 on a pair as you get older Galaxy Buds + for just $ 110or the unusual Galaxy Buds Live for $ 130.

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Since my Galaxy S21 Ultra arrived, I’ve been switching between all three true wireless earbuds for my daily activities to see if the Buds Pro are really the choice or if I would get one of the cheaper, older devices, it would be the smarter buy . It also gave me a chance to see Samsung’s earbuds connect and interact with its latest flagship phone.

Before we begin, we’ve already fully tested the Galaxy Buds Pro here, and we’ve done the same for the Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds + if you want to dig deeper into each set.

Technical data and app

The $ 200 Galaxy Buds Pro comes with a 2-way AKG driver that has an 11mm woofer and 6.5mm tweeter. They come with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), ambient noise mode, IPX7 water resistance, and a claimed eight hour battery life for the earbuds and seven hours in addition to the case for a total of 18 hours.

The $ 170 (to start) Galaxy Buds Live has a 12mm AKG driver that comes with a dedicated bass channel. They also have ANC and an ambient noise mode, while the battery in the earbuds should last around six hours and 15 hours should be added with the case, making a claimed total of around 21 hours.

Finally, for $ 150 (at launch), the Galaxy Buds + has a two-way driver, ambient noise mode, but no noise cancellation feature. The earbuds last for 11 hours when charged, with an additional 11 hours available for a total of 22 hours after the case.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro versus Live Plus Wear App

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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro versus Live Plus Wear app devices

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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro versus Live Plus Wear App Controls

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All three pairs use touch controls and connect to the Samsung Galaxy Wear app on your phone. The app is available through Google Play, so most Android phones will support the earbuds. If you have an iPhone, Samsung offers the Galaxy Buds app, which supports Buds + and Buds Live, but not Buds Pro. This means that the Buds Pro will connect to an iPhone, but will not be able to use many of the features or update the firmware. Samsung may release a special app for iOS in the future.

Using the three pairs with the Galaxy S21 Ultra showed that Samsung has worked hard on connectivity. All were quick and painless to pair and set up, with the phone recognizing the headphones every time the case was opened. Switching between sets was also easy without opening the app or going into Bluetooth settings. It’s similar to Apple’s seamless AirPod pairing and switching with iOS and MacOS, and it’s just as effective.

Wear, comfort and control

The Galaxy Buds Live are the ones we need to address first as they are fundamentally different from almost any other true wireless headphones that you will be wearing. Known for their bean-like shape, they fit your outer ear rather than your ear canal, like the Buds + and Buds Pro. I find them comfortable, safe, and practically unnoticed once I put them on, but this will almost certainly not be the same for everyone as the inner ear shape will be very different between people.

The Buds + are more conventional, with silicone wings to keep them securely in the ear and a choice of different sized earplugs. I find it very comfortable, but after more than an hour I got pain. The Buds Pro do not have wings, and this seems to take away the fatigue felt when wearing the Buds + for long periods of time. However, it does not affect how secure the Buds Pro will feel in the ear.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Galaxy Buds Pro Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Rating 8

Galaxy Buds Live Jaron Schneider / Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy Buds plus rating Ry 4

Galaxy Buds + Riley Young / Digital Trends

All three couples are very comfortable and look decent too. Nobody stands out much – the Buds Live are particularly elegant – and due to the selection of colors, neat designs and the pearl-like surface of the Buds +, they look classy and stylish and should suit everyone. The Buds + lose easily because they get a little tired, but that doesn’t affect everyone. Overall, Samsung did an excellent job with the design, fit, and comfort.

The touch controls are identical across the range, including a single touch to play / pause and a touch-and-hold gesture to activate features like ANC or ambient sound mode. The touch and hold control can also be adjusted if you want to call Bixby or adjust the volume. While touch controls on headphones can be frustrating because you can’t see what you’re doing, they’ll work fine once you get used to them here.

sound

I listened to all three pairs with the equalizer set to normal and mostly streamed from YouTube Music. Using the example of Boku wa Boku o Suki ni Naru from Nogizaka46, it is clear that the Buds Pro are much better and are better suited for everyone who is interested in details. Why this song? Japanese pop music is often mixed very clearly, with multiple vocal tracks and a vocal-forward soundstage that really shines when played over neutrally tuned headphones. Bass-tuned headphones rarely do him favors.

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There’s a significant difference between the three headphones, with the Galaxy Buds Pro way ahead of the other two models in terms of detail, warmth, and control. In comparison, the Buds + can sound harsh and lack a noticeable bass kick. Although the mids and vocals often sparkle, overall they didn’t have the detail to really let the song’s emotions through.

The Buds Live have a rounder, warmer sound than the Buds +, but even in normal mode the bass is considerably stronger. There’s definitely a special tuning from Samsung and AKG to compensate for the open-ear design at work, and while it’s not uncomfortable, it tarnishes the glint that should be the defining feature of the track. The Buds Pro’s dual driver system makes a huge difference here. It separates the various vocals and the busy backing track very effectively and makes for a much more enjoyable overall sound, with each singer’s voice remaining distinctive and recognizable like they often don’t in the other two couples.

The Galaxy Buds Pro sounds better than the other pairs.

The JAMS’s It’s Grim up North from the newly released Solid State Logic album goes on to something more challenging in a different way. As a serious bass test, headphones must effectively separate the spoken vocals from the bass line and synthesized pull sounds and then take on the crescendo of the Jerusalem on the Moors closure.

Once again, the Buds Pro leagues are better than any of the other pairs, with stronger bass and a lot more control. Surprisingly, the Buds Live handle the track far better than the emotionless Buds +, who just don’t have the courage to face the monstrous bass line. This trend is repeated in all types of music. The bright, sometimes hard Buds + are not pleasant to hear for long periods of time, the Buds Live have a fuller, more bassy sound, and the Buds Pro balance the bass with better control and more detail.

Call performance

Do you expect the Buds Pro to come out on top here too? Surprisingly, they don’t, and the best couple when calls matter to you may depend on whether you are the caller or the person called. Personally, I find the Buds Live extremely comfortable and easy to carry, and the sound it makes for me when I call is excellent, and the ANC works effectively too. However, some people I called complained that the sound was less clear and a little muffled for them.

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The sound of the Buds + was widely considered to be the best, although there appeared to be little difference between them and the Buds Pro. All three use multiple microphones and voice pickups, so the differences between them must be due to their design and in-ear fit. To me, the Buds Live were the most comfortable, sounded good, and had ANC, but it seems they are not the best for the person you are calling.

Noise cancellation and ambient noise mode

Buds Pro and Buds Live have active noise cancellation. I was pleased to hear little difference in musical sound when using ANC as the earbuds provide a smooth listening experience regardless of the mode. While the Buds Pro are far more isolating than the Buds Live due to the in-ear design, the Buds Live do a good job of removing ambient noise such as traffic or background conversations at low levels, provided nothing is too loud.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Buds + have an ambient sound mode, but no ANC. There are three levels of sensitivity and your ability to hear conversations and voices with active behavior increases noticeably. Plus, it doesn’t sound too artificial. The Galaxy Buds Pro also has an ambient sound mode, but it is smarter. It will decrease the volume of your music when it understands that someone is speaking to you directly.

I preferred the combination of ANC and ambient noise from the Galaxy Buds Pro, but was also surprised at how the Buds Live isolated me from general audio annoyance even though I didn’t seal my ears. The Buds + have an excellent fit and minimize the sound around me while listening, even without ANC. If ANC is important to you, the Buds Pro really are your only choice here, but don’t fire the other pairs if that’s not a top requirement.

Which one to buy?

My choice would be this Galaxy Buds Pro. Not only do they sound the best, they also contain an effective ANC and are comfortable to wear for long periods of time. I like the Galaxy Buds Live, and while the fit doesn’t fit everyone, I personally found it the easiest to wear and extremely comfortable. The Buds + are a bit of a let down, with the least impressive sound and some comfort issues over time. The true wireless world has evolved a lot since the Buds + came out.

If you own a Samsung phone, the seamless connection system is a definite bonus. The Galaxy Wear app is easy to use and also provides quick firmware updates. I found that the experience was the same for all three pairs in conjunction with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

If the $ 200 price point for the Galaxy Buds Pro is too expensive, here we have many other real recommendations for cheap wireless headphones, but I’d also recommend checking out the excellent Melomania Touch from Cambridge Audio for $ 150 or check out the Jabra Elite 75t if you want to pay less. If you own an iPhone and are considering the Galaxy Buds Pro due to the lack of official app support, we recommend using the AirPods Pro instead.

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