Samsung Galaxy Buds Overview - Which Is For You?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Overview - Which Is For You?


8 minute read

Written by Precogvision

Introduction 

There has always been a divide between wired IEMs and their truly wireless (TWS) counterparts; the latter generally understood to be more so an exercise in convenience. But every once in a while, something comes along that is a challenge of preconceived notions and expectations: the Samsung Galaxy Buds are a prime example. 

Believe it or not, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds are ubiquitous amongst audiophiles for their surprisingly good sound quality and price-to-performance ratio. In fact, they play ball with many of their best wired counterparts! But perhaps it shouldn’t have come as surprising. Samsung owns Harman International which, under researcher Sean Olive, developed the Harman target curve, an aggregate preference curve for sound. 

So this review will attempt to answer what the other guys normally leave out: How do the Galaxy Buds actually sound? And furthermore, between the original Buds (henceforth referred to as “OG Buds”), the Buds+, and the Buds Pro, which is the one for you

Source & Drivability 

All critical listening was done off of an Apple iPhone X. This decision was made for a couple of reasons: 1) To assess the Galaxy Buds’ raw performance, devoid of features that would favor certain demographics of buyers, and 2) because I simply don’t own an Android phone. Ideally, I would assess the Galaxy Buds off of both an iPhone and Android phone. But on the bright side this is a worst-case scenario, so you would expect the Galaxy Buds to perform better than what I’m describing. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Overview | Headphones.com

The Tangibles

As I alluded to earlier, I’m going to keep this section brief. In terms of fit and comfort, my preferences lie with the OG Bud’s design. The notch makes for a secure fit and the way the buds contour to the concha of the ear is very comfortable. If I was sleeping with earbuds (not recommended, by the way!) or working out, I’d gravitate towards the OG Buds or the Buds+. The more bulbous design of the Buds Pro make them a tad uncomfortable; they seem to disengage more easily with sudden movements. 

In terms of feature-set, go with the Buds+ if you want the best battery life (a class-leading 10+ hours), and go for the Buds Pro if you want IPX7 water-resistance. I don’t really consider the ANC on the Pros to be much of an advantage, as it’s decidedly poor even by TWS standards. The OG Buds remain the best value, as you can regularly find them for ~$50 on the secondary market. 

Sound Analysis

Not sure how to read graphs? A frequency response graph depicts relative SPL (sound pressure level, or how loud the IEM is) at each part of the audible frequency range. In this case, at least for humans, that’s from about 20hZ to 20kHz. These measurements were taken off of an IEC-711 coupler and there is a resonance peak at around 8kHz. The coupler is only certified up until around 10kHz and, because of this resonance peak, measurements after this point should not be considered entirely accurate. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Frequency Response | Headphones.com

Both the OG Buds and the Buds+ largely adhere to the aforementioned Harman target. The Harman target is characterized by a clean, sub-200hZ bass shelf which tends to emphasize rumble over punch. By most accounts, both Buds have bass tunings that are within the realm of the “ideal” - even by audiophile standards - with the Buds+ sporting a more incisive shelf, dedicating more energy to this rumble. Really, if all you’re after is bass, the Buds+ have one of the best bass tunings available of any TWS IEM. 

Where we start seeing deviations is in the midrange. The Buds+ are slightly leaner throughout the lower-midrange and sport a more aggressive upper-midrange tilt. This is an oft-cited criticism of Harman tuned IEMs which lends to clarity at the expense of overly thin and shouty notes. Treble, likewise, is more pronounced on the Buds+ which lends to some brightness and timbral issues. The OG Buds tone these qualities back a notch, suffering from these issues to a lesser degree. So although the Buds+ might hit the Harman target more closely? Admittedly, I think the OG Buds are tuned better. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Frequency Response | Headphones.com

As for the Buds Pro, it would be appropriate to treat them as a separate IEM entirely sonic-wise, as they deviate most from the Harman target. They’re a good deal more V-shaped, bassy, and warm. Bass is a tad overly emphasized in the mid-bass lending to slight bloat, and I think the emphasis at 4kHz could have been dialed back a notch. Still, recall that the Harman target is an aggregate curve; it stands that it’s not the ideal curve for many listeners, and it has its flaws. I’d argue the Buds Pro address a number of said flaws for the better. By all accounts this is a very well-tuned IEM - for me, the most pleasing of the Galaxy Buds to listen to - and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it sports the best treble extension too. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Overview | Headphones.com

Technical Performance

Technical performance, or intangible performance, is a reference to characteristics of sound outside of measurable frequency response. In other words, we don’t know how to measure (or interpret from existing measurements) these traits yet. Here’s where more traditional, fancy-schmancy buzzwords like speed, dynamics, and detail retrieval, begin cropping up. 

In general, I would rank the various Galaxy Buds at around the same level of technical performance. They’re not going to match their wired counterparts - particularly the higher-end stuff by a long shot - but they’re competent technical performers within the scope of their price bracket. 

That said, I do find the Buds Pro to have the poorest imaging out of the bunch. This is a term that’s slung around wildly, but in general, I am most closely referencing an IEM’s ability to shape the “walls” of the stage around the listener. For example, if you have two speakers side-by-side, there should be the illusion of a third speaker in the “center” which is most often referred to as the center image; this is where the Buds Pro stumble hard. Sounds that would generally token the center image, such as vocals and drums, have a very in-head quality to them. This is not to suggest that the Buds+ or OG Buds are significantly better, but rather that the Buds Pro are exceptionally poor in this metric.  

For layering - the quantity of space and distinction between instruments - the Buds Pro are also fairly average. I would stipulate that this is largely a product of its tonality more than anything, which lends to more smearing of notes thanks to its warmer nature. To corroborate this, the Buds Pro actually appear to have the best resolution, or clarity with which notes are articulated. But by contrast, the OG Buds and Buds+ sound cleaner, more spacious in their presentation due to their inherently “colder,” more “segmented” tunings, if you will. 

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that for timbre, the Buds Pro are the most pleasant of the three to listen to. Note decay is fairly natural, and the treble extension is a breath of fresh air relative to most TWS IEMs that I’ve heard. Unfortunately, the Buds+ has an unnatural, tinny quality to the decay of notes; I believe some have described this as “bitcrushed” which I think is equally apt. Either way, it sticks out like a sore thumb every time I swap between the Buds; neither the OG Buds nor the Buds Pro exhibit this quality as closely. 

Samsung Galaxy Buds Overview | Headphones.com

The Verdict

If I’ve lost you (sorry!) then here’s a cheat sheet for your convenience: 

TL;DR

#1

#2

#3

Bass

Buds+ 

OG Buds = Pro

N/A

Midrange

Pro

OG Buds

Buds+ 

Treble 

Pro

OG Buds

Buds+

Technicalities

OG Buds = Buds+ = Buds Pro 

In terms of overall sonic preference, mine would go Buds Pro > OG Buds > Buds+. 

If you already own one or the other, then I don’t think there’s really any point in “upgrading,” as they’re all very solid IEMs in their own right when it comes to pure sonic performance! Of course, don’t let me dissuade you otherwise if there’s a specific feature that you’re looking for. And hopefully, at least when it comes to sound, this guide has helped breakdown which one might be for you. 

-Precogvision

Watch the video here: 

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