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Samsung Galaxy Buds review: These Android-friendly truly wireless headphones don't dazzle, but they're good

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The Good These compact, lightweight noise-isolating true wireless earphones should fit most ears securely. They sound decent, battery life is good (around 6 hours at moderate volume levels) and their compact charging case offers USB-C wired and wireless charging.

The Bad Bass isn't all that deep; charging case only delivers a little more than one full charge; certain features only work with Android phones.

The Bottom Line Although their sound quality doesn't wow, the Galaxy Buds are certainly worth considering if you're a Samsung Galaxy or Android phone owner.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 8

Let's start with what's good about the Galaxy Buds ($130, £139 or AU$249), the third iteration of Samsung's Android-leaning answer to Apple's AirPods.

They're lightweight and compact, fit my ears fairly securely, have decent battery life -- 6 hours at moderate volume levels -- and their charging case is relatively small. On top of that, you can charge them via USB-C or wirelessly on any Qi-enabled wireless charging pad or the back of one of Samsung's new Galaxy S10 models, which have a new feature called PowerShare.

Pretty sweet, right? Well, yes, except for the fact that they don't sound quite as good as I hoped they would. Decent enough, but if you didn't get these for free with your Galaxy S10 (those who preordered the Galaxy S10 or Galaxy S10 Plus before March 7 got the Galaxy Buds thrown in as a bonus gift), you might be a tad disappointed.

Read more: The best truly wireless headphones

On the sound front, there's just not a ton of bass and some presence boost in the treble that makes them a little bright, especially at their default "Dynamic" EQ setting in the Galaxy Wear app (not available for iOS users).   

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Well-respected audio company AKG, which Samsung now owns as part of its Harman Kardon acquisition, is tagged as responsible for the sound, but I thought the Jabra Elite 65t (around $140 online) sounded and fit a little better, It also worked a little better as a headset for making calls. This type of noise-isolating in-ear headphone will vary in fit from ear to ear and you might have a better -- or worse -- experience than me.  

Anker's SoundCore Liberty Air, which cost $80, also delivers richer sound with meatier bass. And then there's the more expensive UA True Wireless Flash Engineered by JBL. It's a little bit larger set of buds, but it, too brings fuller, more impressive sound.

CNET's Vanessa Hand Orellana and Lexy Savvides compared the Galaxy Buds to the original AirPods and came away liking the Galaxy Buds better. I agree that the Galaxy Buds sound a little better, especially in noisier environments. But if AirPods fit your ears securely, you could very well prefer them. For some people they'll be more comfortable to wear and arguably better for making calls. Also, the second-gen AirPods feature Apple's new H1 chip, which allows for always-on Siri (you just say "Hey Siri" instead of double tapping on a bud), as well as allegedly faster Bluetooth pairing and more stable wireless connections. If you're an Apple device user, the AirPods are going to be a smoother operating set of true wireless earphones.

The Galaxy Buds are fairly discreet.

Angela Lang/CNET

Compatible with more than just Samsung devices

Although they're called Galaxy Buds, they do work with non-Samsung devices, including other Android and iOS devices as well as Bluetooth-enabled computers. But some of the features, such as Automatic Sync (an easy pairing feature) and Ambient Aware Mode, only work with Android devices running Android 5.0 or higher with 1.5GB of RAM or more.

The Ambient Aware mode allows sound to leak into the earphones so you have a better awareness of what's going on around you. It's becoming a more standard feature on these types of truly wireless earphones and you can set the earphones to amplify voices.

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