Galaxy Buds Pro review: You can finally have your AirPods Pro for Android

The Galaxy Buds Pro are the biggest update to Samsung’s line of in-ear true wireless headphones since the original Galaxy Buds in 2019. The most notable upgrades? Audio comes via a brand-new dual dynamic driver system in each bud (the Buds Pro sound great), and a return to a sealing eartip design combined with multi-microphone ANC deliver seriously effective noise reduction. If you’ve been waiting for credible noise canceling true wireless earbuds with strong audio chops that aren’t the AirPods Pro, Samsung delivers with its latest Buds.

At $200, the Buds Pro are at the premium end of the TWE market, though still well below the $300 or more of a growing number of ultra-premium options. They’re also $30 more than their predecessors, the Galaxy Buds Live. Compared to those, the Buds Pro are an extremely easy sale given the improved audio and actually-functional ANC.

Now, those with more specific requirements — hard buttons, Google Assistant access, and high-fidelity codecs (LDAC, aptX) — shouldn’t be surprised to learn Samsung isn’t relenting on any of these fronts. But, if you were to ask me today which set of true wireless earbuds you should buy if you own an Android smartphone (where price is an object, just not a very large one), the Galaxy Buds Pro feel like the new default choice. They’re light, they’re comfortable, they sound really nice, and they are surprisingly effective at drowning out the world around you.

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

Like most low-profile true wireless earbuds, the design of the Galaxy Buds Pro is going to be ergonomically polarizing. Samsung, in particular, has really sacrificed the usability of the on-ear controls for the Buds Pro in order to make them as small and light as possible, and it’s probably the single biggest complaint I have about them. It’s not as bad as it sounds: the controls are usable and easy enough to operate, they’re just not great. First, though, let’s talk about my one real subjective gripe, the fit. After going through the three eartip sizes Samsung provides in the box with the Buds Pro, they still constantly wiggle out of my ears and unseal eventually, necessitating little adjustments every so often to reseat them. Fit, though, is very personal, and I spoke to other reviewers who had no real problems (and also to some who did, and fixed them by swapping out the tips — I wasn’t able to find any eartips that easily fit the Buds Pro because they use a rather oblong mount). Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

The oblong mount shape for the Buds Pro’s eartips makes third party options limited

Getting back to the design and the controls, Samsung is doing the best with what it can while maintaining the product concept it’s going for with the Buds Pro: earbuds that look and feel unobtrusive and natural, both in terms of comfort and operation. Touch controls allow for a much gentler interaction than a button — you can just give the earbud a feather-light “tap” to control playback, and the Buds Pro register a gentle boop to confirm your input. The challenges with the controls more stem from unintentional interactions: whenever removing the Buds Pro, adjusting them in my ears, or even placing them in the case, I almost always accidentally trigger them. It’s nearly unavoidable, to the point where I’ve sort of just given up on figuring out a way to pick them up or touch them while avoiding the touch-sensitive surface.

The Buds Pro case features wireless charging, as with previous iterations.

Despite my foibles with the touch controls, they do work, and they do most of the things you’d expect. The short-press actions aren’t customizable, but you can play and pause, answer calls, and skip tracks with various combinations of one, two, or three taps. Because I find the controls a bit inconsistent, I’ve never even bothered with the double or triple tap actions, and so I’ve only used the play and pause controls. You can customize the long-press action, but it’s a pretty short list: toggle between ANC and hear-through (ambient) mode, launch Bixby (no Assistant support here), make each earbud a dedicated volume up or down control, or launch Spotify (???).

In the box, you get a USB cable for charging, the Buds Pro charging case (same design as the Buds Live, including wireless charging), and 3 sets of silicone eartips in 3 sizes (which you can see below, complete with odd oval mount design).

Sound quality, features, battery

The Buds Pro sound great! These are the first true wireless earbuds I’ve really found sound appreciably better than my Jabra Elite 75ts, enough to actually want to wear them more often. Granted, you might find better audio in some of the super high-end TWEs out there, but they’ll almost certainly cost you a hundred dollars more at a minimum. The dual drivers deliver good mid-range punch, solid highs, and bass that is mercifully restrained. You can pump that bass back up in the Galaxy Wearable app (which is a terrible app name, by the way), but the effect that produces is one I find pretty unpalatable — it’s rather boomy. There simply aren’t many wireless earbuds with good bass, because good bass in an earbud requires a fairly large driver housing that tends to be filled up with battery and microchip bits in these sorts of headphones. Overall, though, I really love the Buds Pro for music and podcasts, because vocals have a nice, full sound that I don’t really get on my Jabras.

On calls, I found the Buds Pro received praise from the other end of the line.

Active noise cancelation on the Buds Pro is quite good. I’ve heard that competitors from Bose, Sony, and Apple all do a noticeably better job (all, notably, are also significantly more expensive), but I’m pretty satisfied with the way the Buds Pro drown out the world around me. There’s a high setting and a low setting if you want a more subdued effect, as well. In terms of letting the world in, the Buds Pro have an ambient sound mode that is totally fine, but still not as natural-sounding as my Jabras, and in some situations did sound a bit harsh.

On calls, I found the Buds Pro received praise from the other end of the line. Mostly. When I was in relatively quiet places, even outside, the Buds Pro were perfectly audible to the people I spoke to on the other end, though I did have the typically compressed and slightly digital quality you get with any Bluetooth headset that doesn’t extend past your ear canal. When there was strong wind or very loud ambient background noise, the Buds Pro managed to hide it, but my audibility dropped to near zero on the other end of the line. Now, don’t get me wrong here, any headphone would struggle mightily with the conditions I was testing in, as the crew on our weekly editorial call here at AP can attest. It’s just that Samsung handles things a bit differently, and goes with quieting the background at all costs versus letting that noise in on the off chance anyone will actually understand what you’re saying. Samsung’s method, at least, spares more ears unwanted noise. Like most modern premium TWEs, the Buds Pro can also operate independently, allowing you to use either the left or right bud solo, which is particularly useful when you don’t want to be totally dead to the world.

The dual drivers deliver good mid-range punch, solid highs, and bass that is mercifully restrained.

In terms of bespoke features, I am unsurprised to report that things like the 3D audio and a low-latency gaming mode are mostly gimmicks. The 360-degree 3D audio is annoying at best, and actively nauseating at worst, and makes most things sound fairly terrible! The effect is not unlike watching a movie in a giant, empty warehouse. The gaming mode, meanwhile, did nothing to impact audio latency that I could perceive. Both require a Samsung smartphone, and the 360-degree 3D audio specifically requires a Samsung phone with One UI 3.1, which is currently limited to the Galaxy S21 family.

A “voice detect” system turns down the volume of whatever you’re listening to on the Buds Pro if they detect you speaking, which some people seem to really love, but I found thoroughly unsettling and weird and promptly disabled it. Finally, the seamless device switching feature is extremely limited: it only works with Samsung phones and tablets. Not even Samsung’s laptops support it, which to me is sort of the whole point of seamless switching  — going back and forth between your phone and your computer. As for other features you won’t find, the Google Assistant is the one that ranks highest, though even as someone heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, I’ve never enjoyed the Assistant experience through wireles headphones because of the annoying latency.

The seamless device switching feature is extremely limited: it only works with Samsung phones and tablets.

Battery life on the Buds Pro is middling. With ANC turned on, they give up the ghost after around 4 hours in my experience, which leads me to another one of my little issues: the Buds Pro don’t power down automatically if you just leave them sitting around! That means if you take out your earbuds, they’ll stay paired to your phone with an idle Bluetooth connection until they run out of battery. This happened to me several times (sue me, I don’t like looking for the case when I’m in bed at night) before I discovered that the Buds Pro could not be left unattended without running themselves dry, so consider yourself warned. Seating the earbuds in the magnetic charging case is also a bit more fiddly than I’d like, but that’s hardly a big deal.

Should you buy them?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

9/10

Yes. Here’s the thing, you may say “David, you sure had a lot of complaints about these earbuds, what’s with the super high score?” Don’t let my critiques damn my praise. My issues with the Buds Pro mostly exist around the fringes of the product — my ears specifically don’t love the eartip fit, some of the special features are gimmicky, and the touch controls are a bit obnoxious at times. Even if the Buds Pro didn’t sound as good as they do, I’d still probably recommend them in spite of those comparatively minor drawbacks. That’s because the total package on these headphones — strong audio, good value, respectable ANC, modern features, and a very slick design — constitute most of what the core competencies of any TWE are. Substantively, mediocre battery life and kludgy controls are the biggest issues with the Buds Pro, and they’re areas to target for improvement in the next generation.

When it comes to this generation, though? The Galaxy Buds Pro are now my go-to pick in the TWE space if you have an Android smartphone. This is as close to “AirPods Pro, but Android” as we’ve yet come. There are still strides to make in areas like seamless switching, but overall, Samsung has an incredibly strong product here. And while they’re $200 retail, I suspect we’ll see sales knocking 10-20% off that price in fairly short order, as has been the case with all of Samsung’s headphones to date. That means if you’re willing to wait a bit, you’ll probably be able to score an even better deal on a pair a couple of months from now.

Buy them if…

  • You want the closest thing possible to AirPods Pro, but for Android phones
  • Good sound and decent ANC are things you think are worth paying for

Don’t buy them if…

  • You don’t have an Android phone (there is no companion app for iOS for the Buds Pro, or plans for one, which contains some fairly critical controls and things like firmware updates)
  • Getting the very best ANC possible is a major purchase factor for you
  • You demand aptX or LDAC support

Buy: Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy