Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds 2 are here and they are great. The problem is, they’re also the fourth set of wireless earbuds Samsung released in less than two years, alongside the Galaxy Buds +, Galaxy Buds Live, and Galaxy Buds Pro.
Confused? We don’t blame you. Let us help
We’ve loved pretty much every incarnation of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, but they all have some key differences – some have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), some don’t, and only certain Buds work well with an iPhone, to name a few. So if you’re trying to figure out the difference between a plus and a pro (or just wondering which buds look like beans), we’ve got you covered below.
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You want the cheapest Galaxy Buds out there. The Galaxy Buds + are technically being replaced by the Galaxy Buds 2 in the current Samsung lineup, but they’re only about a year and a half old – and are still a pretty great set of earbuds. They sound good, are very comfortable and, like the more expensive headphones from Samsung, have an ambient noise mode so that you can better hear your surroundings while jamming music. And since they’re on their way out, you can usually get them super cheap (they are only $ 99 at the time of writing).
You want something that works equally well on iOS and Android. Unlike the newer Galaxy Buds from Samsung, the Galaxy Buds + offer full app support on both iOS (via the Galaxy Buds app) and Android (via the Galaxy Wearable app). This means that you can switch between different sound presets, adjust the controls and switch the ambient noise function, regardless of whether you are using an iPhone or an Android device.
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You want the best looking (and most comfortable) Galaxy Buds. Samsung has a knack for making beautiful, ear-friendly buds, but the Galaxy Buds 2 stand above the rest in the design department. These oval-shaped earbuds are the perfect mix of stylish and understated, with a rounded design that’s slimmer than the Buds Pro and less noticeable than the bean-shaped Buds Live. They come in some lovely colors including lavender and olive over the more traditional white and graphite. They’re also Samsung’s lightest earbuds to date, complete with silicone earbuds that are comfortable to wear for hours.
You are an Android user who wants a lot of features at a reasonable price. The Galaxy Buds 2 are especially great for people with an Android phone that you’ll need to use Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app. This software allows you to take advantage of some of the Buds 2’s most useful features, including the ability to customize controls, run a leak test, and tweak ambient noise and ANC modes. (Yes, those $ 149 Buds have ANC, but it doesn’t stand out.) While the Buds 2 pairs well with an iPhone via Bluetooth (and lets you toggle between ANC and ambient noise using the built-in controls), you need an android phone to get it most of them.
Jacob Krol / CNN
You want a pair of earbuds that look really unique. The bean-shaped design of the Galaxy Buds Live became the subject of many internet memes when it was first revealed, but it has a certain charm about it. These unique buds are some of the most comfortable from Samsung and don’t look quite as intrusive when you stick them in your ears. They are also the only Galaxy Buds that are available in an attractive Mystic Bronze (similar to last year’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra) in addition to black, red and white.
You want cheap, platform-independent buds. Like the Galaxy Buds +, the Galaxy Buds Live can be used on both iPhones and Android devices with a companion app. Just keep in mind that the ANC on these buds is barely noticeable and there is no ambient noise feature like the rest of the range.
Michael Andronico / CNN
You’re ready to pay for ANC and many features. At $ 199 (but often available for less), the Galaxy Buds Pro are the premium member of the Buds family, and you get what you pay for. These buds have the most nifty ANC and ambient sound modes in the entire lineup, making both blocking and letting sound solid, while also offering multiple levels of intensity for everyone. In addition, there are the usual software functions from Samsung, including a sound equalizer, adjustable controls and a hands-free Bixby control (sorry, no exchange for Google Assistant here) for calling up the virtual assistant from Samsung.
You are using an Android phone. As with the Galaxy Buds 2, the many useful software functions of the Buds Pro are limited to the exclusively Android app Galaxy Wearable. You can still toggle between ANC and ambient noise modes by using the on-ear controls when paired with an iPhone, but you won’t be able to customize the headphones in any way.
You are interested in the on-ear controls (and the color purple). We found that the Galaxy Buds range has pretty tricky touch controls across the board, with some models being too sensitive to touch and others not being receptive enough. The Buds Pro mostly get things right and respond well to various combinations of taps used to control music playback and activate noise cancellation. And if color options are in the foreground, the Buds Pro is available in an attractive phantom violet in addition to black and white. And yes, it fits the Galaxy S21 and S21 +.
It’s hard to go wrong with either version of the Galaxy Buds – they all sound great, are super comfortable, and deliver pretty long battery life. People looking for the cheapest options should go for the Buds + or Buds Live, which are also your best choices if you are using an iPhone. The $ 149 Galaxy Buds 2 is the sweet spot for most Android users, while the $ 199 Buds Pro has slightly better features for those willing to pay.