The Galaxy Buds 2 Are An Excellent Pair Of $149 Earbuds — With A Few Caveats

The Galaxy Buds 2 Are An Excellent Pair Of $149 Earbuds — With A Few Caveats

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CNN —  

Few things in life are certain, but you can always count on Samsung to pump out new wireless earbuds every few months. After dropping the excellent $199 Galaxy Buds Pro earlier this year, the company is back with the $149 Galaxy Buds 2, which are available for preorder now and land on August 27. They’re the most affordable earbuds in Samsung’s current arsenal — and pretty damn compelling for the price.

The Galaxy Buds 2 sound great, last long on a charge and are some of the coolest-looking and most comfortable buds we’ve put in our ears yet. They also offer an intriguing set of features (including active noise cancellation and ambient sound), but you’ll need to be on an Android phone to utilize most of them.

So as impressive as they are, the Buds 2 are entering an increasingly crowded arena of great wireless earbuds that aren’t crazy expensive — including those from Samsung’s own lineup. Can they stand out? Here’s what we think after nearly a week of living with them.

Who it’s for: The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are ideal for Android users that want a relatively inexpensive set of earbuds that look great, sound great and have lots of special features. They’ll still work on your iPhone, but you’ll be missing out on many of their extras.

What you need to know: Samsung’s latest earbuds offer excellent comfort, sound quality and battery life for the price, and are some of the most attractive buds we’ve tested yet. But their Android-only features, overly sensitive controls and weak noise cancellation hold them back from being a top-pick.

How it compares: The Galaxy Buds 2 are some of the best-looking and most comfortable earbuds we’ve tested, and are largely on par with the base $159 AirPods and $179 Jabra Elite Active 75t in terms of sound quality. However, you’ll find much more reliable controls and better active noise cancellation on most competitors, and rivals such as the Active 75t and Beats Studio Buds (both of which often drop below $149 in price) do a better job serving iOS and Android users equally well.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Galaxy Buds 2 just might be Samsung’s most attractive earbuds yet — and that’s saying something. These ovular earbuds have a clean, rounded look that’s more compact than the Galaxy Buds Pro and more subtle than the bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live. They kind of resemble a tiny pair of eggs or peanut M&Ms when resting in our ears — but not in a way that got us any strange looks on the subway.

The Buds 2 look especially gorgeous in the lavender color option we tested, though you can also nab them in white, graphite or olive. And while the Galaxy Buds 2’s compact charging case is nearly identical to that of the Buds Pro and Buds Live, it sports a new two-tone color scheme internally (in our case, white and lavender) that we find to be a really nice touch.

Plus: Check out Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Fold 3, Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Watch 4

As is the case with all of Samsung’s recent earbuds, the Galaxy Buds 2 feel as great as they look. We constantly forgot these buds were even in our ears throughout long hours of working, commuting, walking and doing some household chores, thanks to a design that weighs an airy 5 grams per bud and a set of silicone eartips that fit comfortably and securely. And if the Buds 2 don’t feel quite right to you out of the box, Samsung’s thrown in two alternate sets of tips for folks with bigger or smaller ears.

Mike Andronico/CNN

But while the Galaxy Buds 2 retain most of what we love about the design of the Galaxy Buds series, they also carry over the same finicky controls. We didn’t have too much of an issue playing, pausing and skipping songs with a few quick finger taps, but like the Galaxy Buds+, Samsung’s new earbuds are just a bit too sensitive to touch.

There were multiple occasions in which we accidentally paused a track while simply trying to adjust the Buds 2 in our ears, and other times when the buds registered a single tap as a double tap, skipping a song that we meant to pause. This grew to be a pretty notable annoyance during the few days we’ve spent with the Buds 2 so far, and made us miss the far more reliable controls on the Jabra Elite Active 75t, AirPods Pro and even the base AirPods. There’s no option to adjust the buds’ sensitivity via the Galaxy Wearable app, but you can disable them entirely if they become too much of a pain.

Mike Andronico/CNN

We’ve been using the Galaxy Buds 2 as our main music headphones for close to a week now, and we’d be happy to keep doing so for much longer. Samsung’s latest buds sound great across the board, delivering bright and balanced audio that made it easy to get lost in any type of music we threw at them.

In the vibrant rock of “Can’t Wait Forever” by Tigers Jaw, the crunchy guitars, snappy drums and smooth synthesizers all came through clearly without overpowering one another. Samsung’s Buds handled the buzzsaw guitars and guttural yells of Underoath’s “Damn Excuses” similarly well, though things sounded a little bit muddy when the song exploded into a full-band breakdown.

The snare drum really crackled during the somber hip-hop of Kid Cudi’s “Lovin’ Me,” and the alternating croons of Cudi and Phoebe Bridgers soared over the beat in all their spacey glory. We found Apple’s AirPods to offer a slightly better balance between various instruments on both the high and low-end, but the Buds 2’s generally crisp and warm sound output — complete with plenty of bass — made listening to music a delight.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Galaxy Buds 2 technically offer active noise cancellation, but it’s pretty subtle. While Samsung’s buds were able to slightly dampen the sounds coming from our noisy air conditioner, our Jabra Elite Active 75t all but silenced them by comparison. It was the same story when we went outside, as the Buds 2 failed to significantly quiet down the swooshing car noises and blaring sirens coming from our busy Queens street. The lack of truly suppressive ANC wasn’t as big of a deal when we had music playing, but it was still pretty underwhelming — especially compared to similarly priced rivals like the Active 75t and Beats Studio Buds.

But while the Buds 2 aren’t great at blocking out noise, they do a pretty solid job letting in external sound when you need it. The Ambient Noise feature from previous Galaxy Buds returns, using the earbuds’ three microphones to amplify the world around you so you can better hear things like cars and train announcements when you’re out and about. It worked well in our testing, allowing us to better hear nearby construction and cars when we hung out on our balcony. We also like that you can choose between

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The Galaxy Buds 2 are an excellent pair of $149 earbuds — with a few caveats

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