The true wireless in-ear headphones market is getting boring in design. These days, regardless of brand, you expect to get two bulbous earbuds with a short or long stem and a pill-box charging case.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live bucks this trend. In fact, I am both amazed and puzzled when I unbox it and am greeted by two shiny "kidney beans".
The earbuds come in black, white and bronze (version tested), with a matching charging case that looks like a wedding ring box. The case has a USB-C charging port and supports wireless charging.
The shiny touch-sensitive outer side of the earbuds, which looks rose gold from certain angles, will melt the hearts of fashionistas and turn some heads when you wear them.
On the non-shiny inner side of each earbud are two charging pins and a small grille. To wear the earbuds, insert the grille end into your ears.
Without ear tips, I am worried the earbuds would not fit my ears. But they lock in nicely.
Even when I try to dislodge them by shaking my head vigorously, they stay snugly in place. They are also comfortable to wear for long periods.
However, they have a water-resistance rating of only IPX2, which means they cannot withstand a lot of sweat or even passing showers. So I will not recommend wearing them for workouts.
In each earbud is a 12mm dynamic driver with a bass duct for enhancing lower-frequency sound and air vents to reduce echoes. Three built-in microphones help pick up your voice clearly. The Buds Live also features active noise cancellation (ANC).
While it can be paired with more than one device, it does not support Bluetooth multipoint. In other words, you have to manually switch from one paired device to another.
•Innovative and exquisite design
•Great audio output
•Comfortable to wear
•Active noise cancellation can be better
•Only IPX2 water-resistant
DRIVERS: 12mm dynamic
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 5.0
WEIGHT: 5.6g (each earbud), 42.2g (charging case)
BATTERY LIFE: 5/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
You can use the Galaxy Wearable (Android) or Galaxy Buds (iOS) app to configure the Buds Live - from selecting the equaliser (EQ) preset to customising the tap controls.
By default, a single tap on either earbud pauses or plays a track, while a double tap skips a track and a triple tap returns to the previous track. A long press turns the ANC on or off. This control scheme is more intuitive than some true wireless in-ear headphones, which might need you to remember which earbud to tap for certain functions.
I find myself using the Dynamic EQ preset when listening to music. With this preset, the bass is punchy, with clear vocals and a relaxed treble. If you prefer a more balanced soundscape, you can opt for the Normal EQ preset.
Call quality is crystal clear - I can be heard loud and clear at the other end, whether I am using my iPhone 11 Pro Max or a Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra.
On the downside, due to the relatively open design of the Buds Live, the ANC is not as effective as that of a Sennheiser Momentum TW2 or a Sony WF-1000XM3, both of which form a seal to the ear canal with their ear tips.
But the Buds Live does have a long battery life - up to six hours of music playback with ANC turned on. This is on a par with the WF-1000XM3 and better than the Apple AirPods Pro, which lasts about 41/2 hours.
Not to mention, at $288, the Buds Live is much cheaper than both genre leaders - the WF-1000XM3 is priced at $349 and the AirPods Pro at $379.