Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review

Early Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live deliver a well-balanced sound and active noise cancellation, wrapped up in a unique bean-shaped design that we haven’t seen in a pair of true wireless earbuds before.

For

  • Great-sounding
  • Packed with features
  • Active noise cancellation

Samsung Unpacked 2020 brought in a bevy of new products, and among the most hotly-anticipated are the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live true wireless earbuds

While Samsung is no stranger to this category, with previous earbuds like the Samsung Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds Plus, the kidney bean shape of these buds is very different to what we’ve seen from rival brands, with most other wireless earbuds on the market basically plugging into your ear canals. 

Samsung has packed at lot of tech into these little buds, but what interested us the most was how that unique design affects the comfort, sound, and noise isolation offered by the Galaxy Buds Live. 

samsung galaxy buds live

(Image credit: Future)

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Buds will set you back $169.99 / £179, which works out at roughly AU$325.

That’s significantly less expensive than the AirPods Pro, which come in at $249 / £249 / AU$399, meaning the Galaxy Buds Live could prove to be a compelling cheaper alternative to Apple’s noise-cancelling earbuds.

They’ll be available to preorder from August 6, and if you order early you’ll get a free wireless charging pad thrown in, so you can top up the buds’ charging case cable-free.

Design

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are set to be released in three colors – black, white and bronze – and come with a matching charging case that’ll slip into your pockets. Though the case is small, it is on the thicker side which could be problematic with skinny jeans.

There is a USB-C port on the back of the case for charging, or alternatively, you can also charge it wirelessly. An LED is present both inside and outside the case to let you know about the charging status of the case as well as of the earbuds.

samsung galaxy buds live

(Image credit: Future)

Where other wireless earbuds manufacturers are still copying the design of Apple’s AirPods, Samsung’s design team is clearly at work to create something original. 

These kidney bean-shaped buds definitely don’t look anything like other wireless buds. Each of the buds have touch sensors that can register a single, double or triple tap that serves the expected actions of playing / pausing as well as skipping tracks backwards and forwards. A tap and hold action is also available and is customizable for each bud separately; you can set it to increase/decrease the volume, launch Bixby on Samsung devices or Spotify – the latter only working with Android phones.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

(Editor’s note: Oops, our photo model (not the reviewer) had been wearing the buds wrong for a prior photo. We’ve replaced that with a photo of how they should be worn.) (Image credit: Future)

It’s impressive how much tech Samsung has packed into the Galaxy Buds Live. On each of the earbuds there are three microphones along with an additional voice pickup unit, the speaker with a bass duct and a bunch of sensors such as an accelerometer, IR and  a touch sensor. 

Disappointingly, these buds come with only an IPX2 water resistant rating. They might be okay to use while working out if you typically sweat very lightly, but we’d be hesitant to put them through anything too strenuous.

Features

There’s also support for Active Noise Cancellation, like the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3.

Unusually, there are no silicone eartips to create a physical seal against your ear canal and physically block out environmental sound. Samsung has thus developed ANC for what it calls an ‘open type’, which according to Samsung, reduces low-band background noise under 700Hz, such as trains and buses, up to 97% while still being able to hear voices and announcements. 

Another area where the Galaxy Buds Live should work very well is with calls. There are three microphones (one inner mic plus two outer beam-forming mics on each side) along with a Voice Pickup Unit that uses the accelerometer to sense the movement of your jaw. 

Using bone conduction vibration, it converts them into voice signals which should allow you to be heard better on the other end of the call, even in noisy environments. 

samsung galaxy buds live

(Image credit: Future)

Audio quality

Samsung has implemented a multitude of features for keeping the Buds Live connected and in sync with your device – starting off with Bluetooth 5. To keep a reliable audio stream, the Galaxy Buds Live feature Samsung’s proprietary Scalable Codec which prevents audio chopping by changing the bit-rate according to the strength of the Bluetooth connection. 

When the wireless connection is weak, Scalable Codec automatically encodes the audio information with a higher compression ratio, allowing the earbuds to receive data without interruptions. 

Audio quality sounded fine in in our initial tests; neither the bass nor the treble felt  overpowering or overly shallow. The AKG powered 12mm speaker along with a bass duct produced audio that sounded both crisp and deep for a well-balanced output. 

Samsung has added an air vent on the Galaxy Live Buds for ventilation which should help minimize the stuffy, suction-like feeling you can get after a long sessions of listening to music with in-ear headphones.

samsung galaxy buds live

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live (left) next to the Apple AirPods Pro. (Image credit: Future)

Battery life

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live support quick-charging which can provide about an hour of playtime with just five minutes of charging. At a full charge, the earbuds are expected to last for six hours and the battery case cover can provide over two full charges meaning you can expect close to 20 hours of playback with the Buds Live and the case fully charged. 

Those numbers are comparable to what Apple offers on the AirPods Pro – though many cheaper models, like the Lypertek Tevi, offer far more impressive battery lives.

Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are a seriously good pair of buds for Android users. While they work with iOS as well, you may be better off with AirPods if you own an iPhone due to better integration within Apple’s ecosystem. 

They offer a well-balanced sound that can be tuned by the Galaxy Wearable app and maintained a strong wireless connection with our phone, thanks to Bluetooth 5. We’ll continue to test them over the coming week before posting our final thoughts.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews’ are a journalist’s first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it’s like to use, even if it’s only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar’s Reviews Guarantee.

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