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Samsung Galaxy Buds+ review: Are they worth the upgrade?

The Samsung Galaxy Buds were a little bit of a mixed bag for me. While I liked that it wasn’t quite as expensive as its thousand ringgit rivals from Apple and Sony, they also didn’t sound nearly as good. In fact, my main issue with those headphones was the fact that they sounded really muddy to me. Well, that and the below-average battery life.

So, when I saw the leaked specs of the updated Galaxy Buds+, it’s safe to say that I was really stoked. And, after spending about a week with them in my ears, I have some thoughts.

Let’s kick this off with a look at what makes these headphones the Buds+. Like, what did Samsung do to these new headphones to justify the plus moniker. In short, they addressed two of my biggest complaints with the old Buds, which were sound quality and battery life. And we’ll start with the former.

Earning the Plus

L-R: Galaxy Buds, Galaxy Buds+

While the original Galaxy Buds always sounded a little muddy and underwhelming to me, these new Buds+ have a very different sound signature. This comes from the fact that the Buds+ now features a two-way dynamic speaker system built into each earbud. Somehow, Samsung says that they’ve managed to cram a tweeter and a woofer setup with a boosted driver into these headphones which are identical in size.

Samsung claims that you’ll get powerful bass and crisp high notes with these new Buds+, and I mean I can vouch for at least one of those claims. The new Buds+ certainly sound crisper and brighter than the regular Buds. If the old ones felt a little uncertain, these have pretty much eradicated all of that.

However, depending on the music and volume that you listen at, these headphones can sound harsh. In fact, quite a few of my colleagues here in SoyaCincau actually prefer the sound of the original Buds because of this. I don’t agree, of course, because I prefer the Buds+, but that’s the beauty of headphones.

But, the one thing we all agreed on was that the Galaxy Buds+ definitely left a lot to be desired in the low end. In fact, I found the bass to be the weakest characteristic of these headphones’ sound. It’s not nearly as warm, nor do they sound as full-bodied as the Sony WF-1000XM3.

Wow, it sounds like I’m describing wine or something boujee like that but, you get what I’m saying. This is what reviewing headphones have done to me. Anyway, the point is that I do think the Galaxy Buds+ sound better than the regular Buds. Just, not quite as good as my personal favourites, the Sony WF-1000XM3. Now, I’m not like an audiophile, I mean I listen to music on Spotify. But I do know what I like.

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They last so long

Now, though, it’s time to talk about my other favourite thing about the Galaxy Buds+ and that’s its awesome battery life. While the regular Buds topped out at 7 hours on a single charge, these Buds+ have a stunning battery life of 11 hours continuously on a single charge. That’s better out-of-case battery life than all but one pair of TWS headphones I’ve ever tested.

The only one that has better on-paper battery life are the CreativeLab Outlier Golds. But that review will come a little later.

While I wasn’t able to actually count the number of hours these could actually last in real-life situations, let me just say that I simply could not kill it in a single day. Even when I refused to put them back into the box when I wasn’t using them, these headphones still managed to last all day until I went to bed at night.

And I have headphones in my ears for at least 8 hours a day every weekday. I’m super impressed, and I love that Samsung managed to almost double the battery life, add a new two-way dynamic speaker and yet not change the size of the Buds+.

The only downside is that the case still only holds one extra charge, but now that that charge is 11 hours, a combined playback time of 22 hours is still OK—just below average, but good enough to last a weekend without needing a charge.

Speaking of charging, the Buds+ case also retains wireless charging and charging via USB-C, which is great, plus there’s a new fast-charging tech that can give you an hour playback with just a three minute charge. I never really needed to use this quick charging, because like I said, these last a long time out of the case.

While those were the two biggest updates Samsung made to their new headphones, it feels like they’ve also done a bunch of other little tweaks to improve the overall experience.

I love me some little tweaks

The little tweak that I’m probably most happy about is the Bluetooth connection with these new Buds+. While I almost always had problems with my regular Buds, the Plus has given me no such issues.

Range is still about what you can expect from Bluetooth devices, and it doesn’t penetrate walls that well, but when you have your playback device with you, they don’t randomly drop connection, or suddenly go out of sync like my Buds did.

One caveat though. At this point I’m still not sure if my original Galaxy Buds were just a lemon unit, but the fact that these new Buds+ give me no such problem is encouraging. I always suspected that it was a quality control thing, because of the five or so Buds we have here in the office, only about half of them have this problem.

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Samsung also added a shortcut to Spotify that you can remap to the Galaxy Buds touch and hold command. I mean, it’s convenient when you need it, but you also never have to use it if you for some reason hate Spotify.

Speaking of the touch controls, I have to say that the Galaxy Buds+ have a much more intuitive and reliable interface than my Sony WF-1000XM3s. The controls are still about the same where you can tap, double tap, triple tap and tap and hold, but the feedback and accuracy is much better.

One example, is that if you double or triple tap on the Buds, the headphones will play either two or three beeps in quick succession to let you know which control you’ve inputted. Unlike the Sonys, which play a single beep for every single command so you have no quick way of knowing if you’re doing something wrong.

Again, a little thing, but it makes a difference. Great job.

Now, though, I have to talk about the elephant in the room.

Why don’t these have ANC?

I’ll admit, we were pretty perplexed too. With the direction that Apple went and with Sony showing just how amazing active noise cancellation (ANC) can be even on tiny headphones, it seemed like the obvious step for Samsung to take, yet they didn’t.

Now, I know a lot of staunch Galaxy Buds users will tell me that “With a good fit, you don’t need ANC”. And to those people, all I can say is that you have the right to be wrong too.

But, I have to agree that the Galaxy Buds+ has a fantastic fit. For buds that look this big, they fit really well and sit really comfortably in my ear, and that doesn’t happen super often because I have uneven weird ears. And, I will also agree that by fitting so well, it also gives you a great seal and some really good passive noise cancellation. But a great seal still doesn’t make up for a lack of ANC.

Don’t get me wrong though. I wouldn’t say that it is a massive difference. But, that extra little bit that ANC is able to bring to the table is something you can definitely hear.

Besides that minor criticism, I really don’t have much else to fault the Galaxy Buds+ for. Maybe one other small issue is that the auto play pause when you remove your headphones from your ears could be a little snappier, but that’s honestly such a small problem that I wouldn’t even call it a problem.

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Oh, and like the ambient sound pass through that the Galaxy Buds+ have doesn’t sound quite as realistic as the Sonys or the AirPods Pro. But when it comes to that, I have to ask myself: does it do what it needs to do? Yeah, I can hear people perfectly fine with it, and that makes it OK.

I guess, at this point, there’s really only one question left to answer:

Should you pick these up?

For RM599, if you’re deciding between these and the regular Galaxy Buds, I would still pick up the Galaxy Buds+. Yes, the original Galaxy Buds just got a price cut recently and they’re RM350 now, and that honestly just means you can’t go wrong when choosing between these two. Personally, I like the sound and battery life on the Buds+ too much to give it up over the original Buds.

But, if you start comparing it with the Sony WF-1000XM3 it gets a little tricky. On paper, the Galaxy Buds should have a big edge in the price department because it’s nearly half of the Sony’s RRP of RM949. But if you search for the Sonys online, you will be able to see that these headphones can be yours for under RM650. So, if you can get the Sonys for like RM650 or RM620, I would definitely recommend that you get that instead.

I think they sound way better, are built better, have a better total battery life with the case and ANC. Unless you really need a smaller case, wireless charging and a Samsung badge, it’s just really hard for me to see why you’d pick the Galaxy Buds.

So, yeah, I have to commend Samsung on their new headphones. I think they did a great job with listening to feedback and improving what they needed to improve on and I hope they keep doing that. But sometimes, your competitors just don’t play fair. And when that happens, well, there’s not much you can do there.

At least, that’s what I think. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you think I’m wrong and you think the Galaxy Buds+ are just way better, I want to see a 35 mark essay detailing why.

Photograph by Zachary Yoong with the Sony A7 III.

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