Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Great ANC and app but limited to Android devotees

Ideal for Samsung owners alone

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE in charging case
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE not only sound good but offer great active noise cancellation. However, you'll need the right hardware to reap the benefits, making these a tricky recommendation for anyone not part of the Samsung Galaxy family.

Pros

  • +

    Great ANC

  • +

    Snug fit

  • +

    Good audio

Cons

  • -

    No wireless charging

  • -

    Only much good for Samsung owners

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Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Two-minute review

Think of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE as the Samsung equivalent of the Apple AirPods and you're not far off. Keenly priced, they're immediately no good for iPhone owners due to the lack of iOS app. However, if you have a Samsung or other Android phone, things get more tempting for those on a budget.

The earbuds themselves are small and comfy to wear, albeit lacking potent protection from water or dust. While small, they have respectable battery life of up to nine hours with active noise cancellation switched off or about six with it switched on. Throw in the 21 hours from the charging case and these are some buds that won't need charging too often throughout the week, no matter how busy things get. That's fortunate given the lack of wireless charging is one that bothers you just a tiny bit more than it probably should.

Still, at $99 / £99, concessions need to be made and that's not a bad loss. Elsewhere, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE sound reasonably good for the price. They're able to rival the best budget wireless earbuds, thanks to their reasonably clear sound. There are occasional wobbles – for instance, they're not great for bass fans – but for a standard listening experience, you can't fault them.

The highlight is the ANC, which is great. Switch it on and the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE will block out all those pesky surrounding noises like a dehumidifier, neighbours doing construction work and so forth. Skip the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE if you're an Apple user but for everyone else, there's a decent amount of value to them. They look good, feel good, and they're simple to use.

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Price and release date

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE case

(Image credit: Future)
  • Released in September 2023
  • Price: $99 / £99 / AU$149

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE was released in September 2023 in the US, UK and Australia. Priced at $99 / £99 / AU$149, they've already seen price drops around Black Friday, bringing them down to $70 / £75 / AU$135. There's also no difference in price between the two colors available – white and graphite, with graphite being a fancy name for black. 

Such a price puts them alongside earbuds like the Sony WF-C700N in terms of value and slightly pricier than something like the EarFun Air Pro 3 – both of which we rate among the best noise cancelling earbuds. It's a busy field with many budget earbuds available around this price range.

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TypeWireless in-ear
Weight5.6g per earbud
Drivers 6.5mm
Battery lifeUp to 9 hours (ANC off) or 6 hours with ANC on. Up to 21 hours from charging case
BluetoothBluetooth 5.2
WaterproofingIPX2

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Features

Samsung Wearables App

(Image credit: Future)
  • Patchy wear detection 
  • Useful Lost mode but no iOS app 
  • Up to 9 hours with ANC off or 6 hours with ANC on 

The amount of features you get from the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE truly depends on your phone or tablet choice. There's no iOS app so iPhone and iPad owners need to give these a miss, no question about it. Without the app, there's no way to adjust the ANC, the equalizer, or benefit from voice assistant support. The ideal scenario is you having a Samsung Galaxy phone or tablet.

Have the right hardware and you'll be happy with the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE for the price. They lack some finer details. For instance, there's no true Multipoint. Also, wear detection is there but it's pretty patchy and temperamental. I never felt entirely confident when pulling the buds out that my music would pause.

However, the app is easy to use and allows you to switch between ANC, transparency and disabled. There are EQ options too although you can't adjust things to a custom setting. 

Another neat feature is the Lost mode that helps you track down your earbuds if they happen to go missing, as well as setting off an alarm if you make the mistake of wandering off without them. 

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE has respectable battery life. It's right in the middle of what's expected of ANC-based earbuds these days. Not too little and not so much that I'm excited at never needing to find a cable again. 

With mixed usage, I found they lasted about the length of time that Samsung states and there's the usual advantage of bunging them in the charging case to do their thing before you grab them once more. 

The only true downside is the lack of wireless charging which is understandable at this price but it's always good to not need to dig a cable out.

Features score: 3/5 

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Design

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE ear bud close up

(Image credit: Future)
  • Snug fit
  • Touch controls on earbud 
  • Small case 

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are pretty small in every way. With my small ears, they provided a neat and snug fit, never feeling like they'd fall out too easily. That goes for when I wore them while working out too seeing if a plethora of half-hearted burpees would ruin everything. It didn't. 

Similarly, the case is lovely and neat. It isn't as small as the JLab JBuds Mini (is anything?) but it's easily dainty enough for putting in your pocket without really noticing.

There's no wireless charging support, frustratingly, so you're dependent on the USB-C port on the pack. Also, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE have a barely worth mentioning IPX2 rating meaning you may get nervous during a rainy day. 

Still, they look and feel good with touch controls being easily accessible at all times.

Design score: 4/5

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Sound quality

Samsung Wearables App

(Image credit: Future)
  • Strong ANC 
  • Reasonable quality 
  • Limited EQ options 

For tiny earbuds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE offer some impressively good ANC, especially at this price. They fit snugly so that's sure to help matters but it's a relief to don them and feel the world vanish into the background. You might hear the odd sound but it's far more dampened down than with other earbuds in this price range and all the richer for it. 

Through the app, you can pick between transparency, ANC, or turning it off. Transparency mode isn't as ideal as some competitors like the Apple AirPods Pro 2 but remember the price? Exactly.

Listening to music is also reasonably good for the price. Working my way through a lively playlist, the Katy Perry back catalogue was vibrant enough before switching over to Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name Of and feeling a reasonable amount of punchiness. At times, there's a hint of distortion and not just at high volumes, but it's workable in this price range.

Frustratingly, there's an EQ within the app but one that doesn't allow for custom setups but it's worth experimenting and checking out modes like Bass Boost to find what suits your music taste. 

Ultimately, it's all about tempering your expectations at the $99 / £99 / AU$149 price point with the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE offering better ANC than most.

Sound quality score: 4/5

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Value

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE charging port

(Image credit: Future)
  • Reasonably priced 
  • Discounted already 

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are relatively new but there are already discounts around, so we can only see these getting cheaper over time and potentially becoming part of our pick of the best cheap headphone sales

They're already cheaper than many rivals. When you consider these are basically the earbuds for Samsung owners, they're far more competitively priced than anything AirPods flavored for Apple users.

Value score: 4/5

Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 CommentsScore
Features Temperamental wear detection is annoying but the essentials are here3/5
Design Snug and cute looking, they're comfy to wear4/5
Sound quality Sound quality is above par for the price with some great ANC making up for lack of a customizable EQ4/5

Buy it if...

You have a Samsung phone
Samsung or Android, you'll reap the full benefits of the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE and enjoy some budget priced earbuds with clout.

You want great ANC on a budget
The ANC on the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE is exceptional for the price and the thing that'll make you come back for more.

You lose your earbuds often
The Lost Mode is a must have if you regularly misplace your tech.

Don't buy them if...

You have an iPhone
You can use the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE at their most basic with an iPhone but there's really no point. There are better options out there.

You want adjustable EQ
The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE offers presets for the EQ but you can't make your own adjustments and that's a missed opportunity.

You want reliable wear detection
The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE's wear detection is temperamental to the point we had to double check it was there. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: Also consider

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy Buds FESony WF-C700NEarFun Air Pro 3
Weight 5.6g per earbud4.6g per earbud5.2g per earbud
Drivers 6.5mm 5mmNot listed
Battery life Up to 9 hours (ANC off) or 6 hours with ANC on. Up to 21 hours from charging case7.5 hours (buds) 15 hours total (with case) with ANC onANC off: 9 hours (buds) 36 hours (case); ANC on: 7 hours (buds) 37 hours (case)
BluetoothBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.3
Waterproofing IPX2IPX4IPX5
Image

Sony WF-C700N
Also lacking auto-off wear detection, the Sony WF-C700N sound great and include Sony's 360 Reality Audio which makes them a tad more tempting for those with small ears.

Read our full Sony WF-C700N review

Image

EarFun Air Pro 3
A solid all-rounder that not only sounds great but has great battery life to boot. However, they do lack oomph when it comes to ANC.

Read our full EarFun Air Pro 3 review

How I tested the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE

  • Tested for nine days 
  • With a Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ and iPhone 14 Pro

Used in home office, on regular walks, while working out and running, and near busy traffic. Mostly tested with YouTube Music and Spotify on Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ with brief time on iPhone 14 Pro.

I swapped out my usual earbuds for the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE for nearly 10 days. I used them throughout the day via the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE+ listening to music as I worked. It wasn't quiet during these times with never ending construction work by my neighbours along with a loud dehumidifier running in the background. At other points, I'd listen to music while doing HIIT workouts to test their fit. At other times, I took them with me on walks and while hanging around waiting for someone amongst busy traffic. 

Mostly, I discovered that the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE can be worn for long periods without any issues. I mostly listened to energetic playlists on Spotify and YouTube Music but also switched to watching some YouTube videos and watching some Twitch streams too. There was a bit of gaming too with the latest Asphalt game for Android. 

I've been testing audio products for over 10 years. I love using them during my workouts and walks, but also for blocking out distracting noises. 

First reviewed in December 2023. 

Jennifer Allen

Jennifer is a roving tech freelancer with over 10 years experience. Having graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Media and Communication Studies, and later with a diploma from Staffordshire University with a post graduate diploma in Computer Games Design, she's written for a huge number of publications, including T3, FitandWell, Top Ten Reviews, Eurogamer, NME and many more. 


Her main areas of interest are all things B2B, smart technology, wearables, speakers, headphones, and anything gaming related, and you'll find her writing everything from product reviews to buying guides. In her spare time, she enjoys the cinema, walking, and attempting to train her pet guinea pigs. She is yet to succeed.