The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are a new set of true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation from the South Korean firm, launched alongside the new Samsung Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus and the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
As the 'Pro' name suggests, the Galaxy Buds Pro sit at the top of its true wireless, earbuds range as it looks to compete with the Apple AirPods Pro.
Has Samsung overplayed its hand with the Galaxy Buds Pro, or has a new winner arrived in the realm of high-end wireless earbuds? We've already spent a few days with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, so read on for our first impressions – our full review will follow soon.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro price and release date
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro will launch alongside the Galaxy S21 smartphone on January 14, 2021 (that's today) on Samsung's website. That said, you'll see them at every retailer starting on January 15.
They'll set you back $199 / £219 / AU$349. That's pricey but it makes sense that they'd cost a little more than their predecessors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, which cost $169.99 / £179 / AU$319 at launch.
It also makes sense that Samsung would try to undercut the Apple AirPods Pro ($249 / £249 / AU$399), as its buds are often a little cheaper than its biggest rival.
What's strange about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro's release date is that it comes just five short months after the South Korean company launched the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live and less than a year after the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus.
Samsung's putting out earbuds at a neck-breaking pace, and the Galaxy Buds Pro are just the latest stop on the journey.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are available in three colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver and Phantom Violet to match the new Samsung Galaxy S21.
The color of the buds corresponds to the charging case you get with it. The supplied case is similar to that of the Galaxy Buds Live: it's smaller than that of the Buds Plus, but a bit thicker.
That does mean you can see the case in the pocket of skinny jeans, for example, but the compact shape makes it ideal to easily take with you.
The case itself feels solid, and unlike the Buds Plus case, there's no play at the fold-out end. An LED light on the front of the charging case indicates in colors (green, yellow, red) how much battery is left in the case itself.
Round the back there's a USB-C port, which can be used to charged the box, although this can also be done wirelessly is you have a wireless charging pad to hand.
When you open the case, you'll see an additional LED light. The same colors are used here too, but these indicate to what extent the earbuds themselves are charged.
The earbuds are smaller than the Galaxy Buds Plus, and they've dropped the bean-like styling of the Buds Live in favor of this more compact form factor.
Samsung has made the part that sits in your ear canal noticeably more convex with vents to reduce pressure build-up, while the cushions have been adjusted with longer, less rounded caps.
The only part you really see when the Galaxy Buds Pro are in your ear is the glossy, touch-sensitive area of the buds, and you can clearly see the microphones on each earpiece. The rest of the buds have a matte finish for a better fit.
Samsung supplies three different pairs of eartips, from small to large. The medium caps are fitted as standard, and they will fit the best for most users. We've found the Galaxy Buds Pro to be comfortable so far, but in our full review you'll find out whether we still think that after hours of listening.
The Buds Pro are also equipped with an IPX7 certification, the highest rating so far for Samsung earphones.
That means the Buds Pro should be able to cope with heavy rain or intensely sweaty workouts, so you shouldn't have to worry about them breaking due to moisture exposure.
There's good news for anyone who likes to make and take calls via a set of wireless earphones. The Galaxy Buds Pro pack three microphones and an accelerometer in each earpiece, responsible for filtering out unwanted sounds during calls.
One of the microphones on the outside has a high signal to noise ratio, which should further improve audio clarity.
Special technology has also been implemented to ensure that weather conditions have minimal negative consequences for the audio quality of your telephone call, including a more closed fit, mesh, and chamber, which should help to cut down on wind noise during phone calls. We'll be putting these claims to the test in our full Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.
Another useful addition on the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is active noise cancellation (ANC). They're the second set of earphones from Samsung to feature ANC, and they improve on the offering found in the Buds Live.
As well as improved active noise cancelling, you can also adjust the degree of cancellation via the smartphone companion app -–allowing you to crank up the amount of noise cancelling when you're in busy environments.
Ambient mode – which is when the earbuds allow for external sounds to be let in, such as when someone is speaking to you – also benefits from this fine tuning feature. Again from the app, you can choose from four different strengths, depending on how much ambient sound you want filtered through the Galaxy Buds Pro.
However, you may not want to have to keep diving into the app to change the ANC and ambient mode levels, and with the Galaxy Buds Pro you wont have to. They can – if you opt to turn the feature on – automatically adjust these settings based on your actions and environment.
If the earbuds detect you are talking or a car is passing when out exercising, they can switch to ambient mode, while moving from a quiet area to a noisy one can see the buds automatically dial up the noise cancellation.
There's even an Intelligent Active Noise Control feature that detects your voice and vibration to confirm you’re in a conversation and let external sound through.
Once you start talking the Buds Pro will automatically turn your music down and bring it back up to full volume once it detects that you're done with your conversation. There's even a skip-back function in case you miss your favorite part of the song.
We've not spent enough time with the new Galaxy Buds Pro yet to determine how well these extra features work, but we'll be sure to test them extensively in time for our full review.
Battery life and connectivity
Samsung promises five hours of listening pleasure on one cycle, after which the charging case can provide an additional 13 hours before you'll need to find an outlet though that number jumps to 20 hours if you're not using ANC. That sounds reasonable on paper, but it's not as good as the Buds Plus, which manage to reach 11 hours on one charge.
We do like that the Samsung earbuds support fast charging. Within five minutes there should be enough battery available for one hour of playback. Fast charging takes place via the USB-C port, but wireless charging is also possible, although this will be a bit slower.
Connectivity comes courtesy of Bluetooth 5, and the Galaxy Buds Pro are, unsurprisingly, optimized for use with Samsung products.
If you have multiple Galaxy products, you can switch devices seamlessly with the Buds Pro thanks to an Auto Switch feature. Say, for example, you listen to music via your Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and receive calls via your Samsung Galaxy S20 – Auto Switch, means the earphones can be used automatically for the phone call, and connect themselves back to the tablet after the call.
Inside the Galaxy Buds Pro are an 11mm woofer that's responsible for the low frequencies, and a 6.5mm tweeter for high frequencies, with Samsung taking inspiration from Hi-Fi speakers in their design.
In our first listening session, we were particularly pleased with the clarity of the sounds. We get the feeling that we can clearly distinguish the different instruments in bombastic music, and that neither treble nor bass will prevail at any given moment.
With the song Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) everything sounded well balanced, and you can hear, for example, the beat of the drums clearly in your right earpiece, something that is transformed into dull sounds in many other earpieces .
In the Galaxy Wear application you can adjust the sound to your own taste. There is an option to add extra bass, for example, but fans of raw bass may not be fully satisfied.
There's also an AirPods Pro-rivaling 360 Audio feature, which comes with Dolby Head Tracking technology. According to Samsung, this will deliver a more immersive listening experience by allowing you to "stay at the center of the scene". This feature will only work with Galaxy smartphones and tablets, however.
For gamers, there's a Game Mode, which should reduce audio latency when you're gaming with the Galaxy S21. We'll need to spend more time with the Galaxy Buds Pro to give these features our verdict, but we'll be able to provide more detail in our full review.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are more expensive than the firm's previous Buds earphones, but you get a lot in return. The design has been overhauled with a more comfortable and compact finish.
However, the biggest improvements are under the hood. Improved active noise canceling and the smart mode that analyzes whether you need noise reduction or an ambient mode has the potential to be a hugely useful offering.
Our first experiences of audio performance satisfy for now; sound is well-balanced, and the inclusion of 360 Audio is certainly promising, though we'll need to spend more time with them to make a true assessment.