(Pocket-lint) - Samsung was one of the first companies to launch true wireless earphones. Initially, that was with the fairly pricey Gear Icon X. Those earbuds were supposed to be hi-tech earphones with fitness tracking capabilities. But sadly, the performance and reliability didn't quite match what was offered by its competitors.
After Apple's AirPods became popular, Samsung rejigged its approach and came back with the Galaxy Buds: a competitor that was more affordable, with the fitness tracking shenanigans taken out. Sadly, those weren't the best either.
Third time's a charm, so the expression goes, so has Samsung cracked the formula with the Galaxy Buds+?
What's different about the Buds+?
- Buds: 17.5 x 22.5 x 19.2mm; 6.3g each
- Case: 38.8 x 70 x 26.5mm
Appearance wise, not a lot has changed between the first-generation Galaxy Buds and the Buds+. That rounded triangle shape carries a subtle fin, which offers just enough grip to keep the Buds+ secure inside the ear without stretching or causing discomfort.
Saying that, we did find the design of the silicone tip a tad invasive. The tips do tend to leave the entrance to the ear canal feeling quite sensitive after an hour or two of listening, so we wouldn't recommend wearing them for extended listening sessions.
The outer triangle surface is actually touch-sensitive, which - as always with this method of control - we find fiddly. You can easily play and pause by just touching the surface once, but it's easy to touch it accidentally when putting glasses on or brushing hair behind the ear. Thankfully, the app does let you lock the touchpad so it doesn't do anything, if you decide it's easier not to fuss with a touch-sensitive control.
Even the case looks similar to the previous model. Arguably any changes here are for the worse: rather than a fingerprint-resistant matte finish, the plastic is glossy and shiny, so attracts fingerprints all too easily.
What's the Buds+ battery life like?
- Find my earbuds and ambient noise control
- 85mAh battery - 11 hours playback
One of the big draws of using the Galaxy Buds+ is the Gear wearable app you download from the Play Store. It's essentially your control centre for the earbuds; offering a look at each earbud's battery level, as well as adjusting ambient noise and the sound profile.
For the average listener, the layout of the app is quite user friendly, with well separated features indicated with clear visuals and labels. Changing the equaliser (EQ), for instance, is as easy as just turning a dial to choose between different sounds. So if you want more treble then that's no problem; likewise, bass-heads can use the bass-boost setting; while there are plenty of other clearly labelled profiles too.
You can also adjust the level of ambient noise you want to be able to hear. There are three levels: low, medium and high. Again, easily labelled so you know exactly what you're adjusting.
The Buds+ use external microphones on the earbuds to pick up any noise around you and then amplify it through the drivers into your ears. It can be really useful if you need to hear an announcement on a train platform, or would like to hear traffic on the road while you're out for a run. It's surprising how effective it can be, moving from barely able to hear any cars on the road, to hearing everything really clearly.
Of course, the big improvement to the Buds+ is the battery life. At 11 hours of playback, these in-ears are among the longest-lasting true wireless earphones on the market (at time of writing). To clarify: that's 11 hours outside the case in one go, before they need to be docked to charge again.
At least that's the claim. In real-world daily testing, with our typical use of around two hours per day, we didn't get close to draining the battery during a work week. So certainly on the 10 hour mark. We have no doubt that - if you wanted to - you could easily listen to music through an entire working day without needing to pop the Buds+ back into the case for charging.
The only downside to the battery is that the case only gives one extra full charge, so total battery life tops out at 22 hours. That's not terrible, not by any means, but it's far from being the longest-lasting case on the market. It's nothing close to the 40 hours from Master & Dynamic's MW07 Plus, or the 36 hours from Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1.
There is convenience in refilling the case though. You can use a Type-C cable, like the one that comes with your Samsung (or Android) smartphone. Or there's wireless charging, so simply pop the case on a wireless charging pad and it fills up again.
Do the Buds+ sound any good?
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Adjustable sound profile in app
The first Galaxy Buds weren't the best sounding earphones we've ever heard, and given those buds were launched primarily to compete with Apple's AirPods, that didn't matter all that much. For the '+' model, Samsung has improved overall quality for both voice and music.
Bass is very present, which wasn't something that was all that prominent in the first pair. With the Buds+ in 'normal', you get a lot of that bass, without really losing anything in the way of high- and mid-level frequencies. Listen to some good old rock from the earlier 00's and you'll get plenty of that bass drum kick presence in the ears.
The only issue is that while the Buds+ offer all the bass, treble and mid you'll need, it doesn't seem to control that sound all that well. Crank the volume up a little and the sounds starts to break up, or compare against other earphones and it just seems to lack a little in the way of detail. Almost feeling rough and a tad harsh compared to the MW07 Go or the AirPods Pro. The Buds+ go loud, but the quality of the sound could be better.
With that being said, Samsung does offer a great deal of versatility in the sound. If you want to have a flatter, more vocal-focused sound then you can switch to either 'clear' or 'treble boost' and it'll strip out a lot of the bass, leaving details that are easier to hear for certain tracks or podcasts, for example.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ is a solid pair of wireless in-ears. Sound and battery life is improved compared to the generation-old Buds model. And with features like the easy-to-control app for managing settings and features, Samsung certainly has its positives.
The Buds+ only real problem is that for a tiny bit more money you could buy the Master & Dynamic MW07 Go, which sound and feel better, or you could spend less and get almost as good battery life with the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1, which also sounds great.
The Galaxy Buds+ is a solid innings for Samsung's revamped wireless in-ears. Just don't disregard other brands at this price point, as the competition is tough.
Alternatives to consider
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
The undisputed king of battery life: Cambridge Audio's first pair of wire-free earbuds can go to 45 hours total battery usage (including the case). These buds sound pretty good too.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go
Of all the true wireless in-ears offered by well known audio brands, the Master & Dynamic MW07 Go is closest to Samsung's latest offering. These buds don't come with wireless charging, but overall battery life is similar and the sound quality is noticeably better to our ears. Plus, this pair has physical buttons, not touch-sensitive controls.