Since introducing the Galaxy Buds back in 2019, Samsung has iterated on the formula with the Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Buds Pro, but is now back with an official successor, the aptly named Galaxy Buds2. The biggest change here is the addition of active noise cancellation (ANC), and at $149.99, it's quite good for the price. The earphones also deliver a powerful, notably bass-forward sound signature with enough brightness to keep things balanced. The on-ear controls can be a little clunky and the earpieces themselves are a bit small and slippery, while a low IP rating means they aren't the best choice for sweaty exercise. For $129.99, Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2 earphones remain our top pick for greater water resistance and slightly better ANC.
Available in black, lavender, olive, or white, the Galaxy Buds2 have a smooth exterior that looks sharp, but can feel slippery. They're also quite small, which when combined with the glossy finish, can make them a little difficult to handle. Although Samsung advertises the size as a selling point, we actually wish the earpieces were a little larger so we could get a better hold on them.Our Experts Have Tested 90 Products in the Headphones Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
That said, once in yours ear and given a slight twist, the fit is quite secure; three pairs of silicone eartips are included to help you find the right size. Internally, dynamic drivers tuned by AKG deliver the audio. The earphones connect via Bluetooth 5.2 and support AAC and SBC codecs, as well as Samsung's proprietary Scalable codec.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Buds2 have the same low water-resistance rating as the originals. IPX2 means the earpieces can withstand dripping water, but nothing like actual water pressure or even a splash. Wearing them in the rain or for sweaty workoouts, therefore, isn't advisable. Most of the competing ANC models in this price range have an IPX4 rating, which we still consider fairly modest—IPX2 is perhaps the lowest rating we've seen in the last year or so.4.0Excellent$79.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro Review 4.0Excellent$189.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Apple AirPods Pro Review 4.5Outstanding$248.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Sony WF-1000XM4 Review 4.0Excellent$219.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Review 4.0Excellent$79.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Anker Soundcore Life P3 Review 4.0Excellent$104.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) Review
Out of the box, the Galaxy Buds2’s touch controls are limited—a single tap handles audio playback and call management, while a touch and hold switches between ANC and Ambient modes. Fortunately, you can use the app to enable additional controls. For instance, double and triple taps can be set for track forward and backward, while touching and holding can be used to control volume or use voice assistants. The controls can be a little annoying to operate, as the surface is exceptionally sensitive (and small), so it’s sometimes difficult to nail the difference between a tap and a press-and-hold. Several times in testing, I meant to activate ANC and instead unintentionally started music playback. Yes, you can assign different functions to the taps and touches, but misfires seem likely regardless.
The included charging case is a rounded square with a flip-top lid and a small status LED on the front. At the back end, there’s a USB-C port for the included charging cable. The case can also charge on wireless Qi-enabled pads.
Samsung estimates the Galaxy Buds2’s battery life to be roughly five hours, with another 15 hours in the charging case with ANC on, or 7.5 hours, with 21.5 hours in the charging case with ANC off. These numbers are pretty average for true wireless in-ears, and your results will vary with your volume levels and ANC usage.
The Samsung Galaxy Wearable app for Android has useful controls for the Galaxy Buds2, including the aforementioned touch control management as well as ambient listening mode controls. There’s adjustable EQ, though it’s just a list of presets (Bass Boost, Treble Boost, Clear, etc.), which feels like a missed opportunity given the bass-heavy tuning of the drivers. There’s also an Earbud Fit Test that plays a little jingle and uses this to determine whether the in-canal fit is ideal.
While designed to complement Galaxy phones, the Galaxy Buds2 can work with other Android phones as well as iOS devices, though the Galaxy Wearable app is only available on Android.
We checked the fit of the earphones using the app’s Earbud Fit Test to make sure we had an optimal in-ear seal before testing the ANC and audio performance.
The Galaxy Buds2 offer solid noise cancellation for the price. Powerful low-frequency rumble like you hear on a plane is tamped down significantly by the earbuds. For mids and highs, one of the tests we run is playing a recording of a busy restaurant (with dishes and silverware clanging, lively conversations, etc.) at a high volume through near-field monitors. The Galaxy Buds2 dialed back the mids quite a bit, while the highs were more of a challenge. This is normal for noise cancellation in this price range, as only the top models tend to successfully eliminate higher frequencies, especially those that vary dramatically.
Compared with the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, the Galaxy Buds2 are a little less effective at dialing back powerful lows, and similar in terms of highs. The Galaxy Buds2 also tend to have an audible hiss when ANC is activated—it’s not unpleasant, but it’s the mark of affordable noise cancellation that can’t quite wipe out the surrounding high-mids and highs. Still, for the price, this is above-average noise cancellation.
When it comes to audio, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Galaxy Buds2 deliver a powerful low-frequency response. At top, unwise listening levels, the drivers don’t distort, and at moderate volumes the bass still feels fairly intense. The DSP (digital signal processing) ensures that even at low volume levels, there’s always some solid thump in the mix.
See How We Test Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Galaxy Buds2’s general sound signature. The drums on this track get some seriously boosted bass depth—they sound almost thunderous, but stop short of going over the top. Callahan’s baritone vocals get plenty of low-mid richness, and the high-mids and highs are present enough to lend the percussive hits some solid snap and the acoustic strum a bright-enough attack. This is, however, a bass-forward sound signature through and through. It’s not deprived of treble/high-frequency presence, but the brightness often takes a backseat to the low-frequency richness. If you use the app, you can try the various EQ presets to get a different level of bass depth, but it's always going to lean toward the lows.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for the attack to retain its punchiness in the mix. But the highest frequencies stand out more here—we hear the hiss and crackle of the vinyl that’s usually in the background take a step forward. This means there’s some sculpting, as the highest frequencies get some boosting, while the high-mids are a little less boosted. The sub-bass synth that punctuates the beat is delivered with gusto, while the drum loop also gets some added deep bass thump. The vocals are delivered cleanly and clearly, with no real added sibilance. At some higher volume levels, the vocals can feel like they’re doing battle with the pumped-up bass depth, but at moderate listening levels, things feel a bit more balanced.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound crisp, with some solid low-frequency anchoring for the lower-register instrumentation. The bass doesn’t sound overdone here, and the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals have a bright, defined presence. So depending on the genre, the Galaxy Buds2 can sound a little more natural, but no matter what, this is a sound signature for bass lovers rather than audio purists.
The three-mic array offers strong intelligibility. Using a voice recording app, we were able to understand every word we recorded. Background noise is tamped down nicely, and even with a smidge of Bluetooth distortion in the mix, the overall clarity is solid. Callers should have no issue understanding you, even in louder environments.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds2 deliver solid noise cancellation and audio performance for the price, edging out the more expensive Galaxy Buds Pro. That said, the earpieces could be easier to handle, we'd like to see more granular EQ controls, and the low water-resistance rating is disappointing. For the best in true wireless noise cancellation, you'll have to spend more on the $280 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM4. For under $200, Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro earphones deliver the best mix of sound quality and noise cancellation, along with better water resistance, earning our Editors' Choice award.3.5See It$149.99 at SamsungMSRP $149.99
Samsung's true wireless Galaxy Buds2 earphones improve upon the originals with the addition of active noise cancellation, but still carry the same low water-resistance rating.
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