Audio

Samsung's Galaxy Buds+ sound as good as they look

Launched together with the Samsung Galaxy S20-series smartphones - resulting in their flying under the radar - the Galaxy Buds+ true wireless in-ear headphones are the successors to last year's Buds.

With the "plus" in the name, you can probably guess that the Buds+, which cost $30 more than the original, offer incremental upgrades.

In terms of design, they look exactly like the original Buds. The earbuds still have a minimalist design with a triangular touchpad on their exterior and are housed in the same pillbox-shaped charging case. But Samsung has ditched the Buds' matte texture for a glossy one.

Most of the upgrades are under the shell. First, the Buds+ feature a dual-driver speaker system with a woofer and tweeter, instead of the single driver of the original, for improved audio quality.

The Buds+ also have one more outer microphone than the Buds, which had one outer and one inner microphone. The two outer microphones of the Buds+ work with the inner microphone to block out ambient sound during calls.

Samsung has squeezed in more battery life to nearly double the six hours of the original - the Buds+ last a whopping 11 hours.

The wireless charging case gets a bump up to 270mAh from the original's 252mAh, doubling the new earbuds' battery life to 22 hours.

The Buds+ come with their own dedicated iOS app. The app lacks features such as Spotify launch, but most features - such as firmware upgrades and equaliser settings - found on the Android's Galaxy Wearable app are also available on the iOS app.

The Buds+ also sport a new blue colour in addition to the black and white colour options.

Three pairs of differently sized ear-tips and ear-wings are included. After finding pairs in the right size, the earbuds stayed put in my ears during a jog and even when I shook my head vigorously.

Plus, the Buds+ are lightweight and really comfortable to wear. I wore them all day and forgot I was wearing them. Their slim profile - there is nothing glaring protruding from your ears - and sleek looks are sure to attract admiring glances.

  • FOR

    • Best-in-class battery life

    • Better audio quality than their predecessor

    • Great call quality

    • Comfortable

    • Dedicated iOS app

  • AGAINST

    • No active noise cancellation

    • Cannot be paired with two devices at the same time

    • Low water-resistance rating

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $268

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 5.0

    WATER RESISTANCE: IPX2

    WEIGHT: 6.3g (each earbud), 39.6g (charging case)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 3.5/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

However, the Buds+ have no active noise cancellation (ANC), which is probably their major downer. While the earbuds have a good seal that can block out most of the distractions in the office and in cafes, they are not as sound-proof as ANC-enabled in-ear headphones.

Conversely, however, you can let in even more ambient noise by using the app - useful for when you are jogging outside and want to be alert to your surroundings.

The Buds+ have a water-resistant rating of IPX2, which means they are only sweat-resistant. You probably do not want to wear them in a drizzle.

In terms of audio quality, I found the bass more punchy than the original's. Vocals are sharp, with different instruments of a track sounding distinct and clear. The Buds+ deliver a very balanced audio output that will suit most listeners.

Call quality is crystal clear - I could be heard loud and clear at the other end, whether I was using my iPhone 11 Pro Max or a Samsung Galaxy Note10+.

Probably the best part of the Buds+ is the amazing battery life: 11 hours of music playback, as advertised. The Apple AirPods Pro last 41/2 hours, while the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds can go up to six hours. That said, both of the latter figures were with the ANC function turned on, which uses up more battery.

Even compared with its closest rival, the Jabra Elite 75t, which has no ANC and lasts for around 71/2 hours, the battery life of the Buds+ is still amazing. But the Buds+ lack the Elite 75t's ability to pair with two devices at the same time, which can be convenient - you can connect to your laptop for work and to your smartphone to receive calls.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2020, with the headline Samsung's Galaxy Buds+ sound as good as they look. Subscribe