Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Review: Magical Beans May Be Hinting At Wireless Earbuds Of The Future
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live add a fourth design dimension to wireless earbuds. Till now, we had the Apple AirPods and OnePlus Buds with the extended stem, the conventional in-ear style that the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Jabra Elite 75t have and the clip-on style of Beats Powerbeats Pro.
- Last Updated: September 22, 2020, 12:30 IST
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They have a rather unconventional design. Some may call it downright weird. Some may feel these are too outlandish to be mainstream wireless earbuds. But I have come to like them. Really like them. That’s what the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are. An invitation to try what could very well be the future of true wireless earbuds. Or maybe not. But either way, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Samsung have tried something radical in a gadget and accessories category where it was perhaps least expected. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are priced at Rs 14,990 and are available in three colours at this time—Mystic Black, Mystic Bronze and Mystic White. In essence, you can select the colour that best matches your Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra or your Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+, for instance. And at this price, there is competition galore. The Apple AirPods, the Jabra Elite 75t and the Sony WFG-SP800N, to name a few.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, in a way, add a fourth design dimension to the wireless earbuds space. Till now, we had the Apple AirPods and the OnePlus Buds with the extended stem as one style. Then there is the conventional in-ear style that the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Jabra Elite 75t have. And then there is admittedly much less common clip-on style that the Beats Powerbeats Pro brings to the table. The fourth, which the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live adds, is the bean style. It is designed in a way according to the curve of your inner ear and is supposed to fit in like a piece of a puzzle. There is no in-ear extension either. Theoretical advantages include better noise isolation as well as a more comfortable snug-er fit. The latter because there is no in-ear component, no experimenting (often painfully) with the ear tip size and less of a sealed-off feeling, which is great news for climates like ours.
A Design From The Future?
The way this fits into the contours of your ear is that it snuggles in the region of the ear known as the Concha, while also gently leaning up against the Inferior Crus at one end and the inner of the Antitragus and the Tragus on the other. There are no silicone tips to fiddle around with, and the speaker in each of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live points directly towards your ear canal. One thing is for sure, it doesn’t feel hemmed in like a lot of earbuds. Not that they are a problem to wear, but after experiencing the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, one realizes how much of an upgrade this is, at least on the comfort front. That being said, it’ll also be a bit subjective depending on the size and shape of every individual’s ear.
Everything about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live is glossy, the case and the buds themselves. The review sample that I have is the Mystic Black version, at least from the personality of the charging case. Samsung says the case is inspired by the design of a jewelry box. The buds themselves have a mirror finish on the outside, which adds a dash of silver to the overall look. This finish does catch a lot of fingerprints, so you’ll have to be careful about cleaning these regularly. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have the IPX2 rating for water and sweat resistance, which means you should be a tad careful about packing this back in the charging case and sliding them inside your bag, if you get caught in a sharp shower.
The Sound Is All About Space
In each ear are 12mm audio drivers, and these have been tuned by AKG. Helping these are design integrations that include a bass duct for lower frequencies and an air vent on the outer shell of each bud to add to the sense of space. And even though these are pretty big audio drivers in each ear, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live do not peek out of your ear and will only be visible to someone who sees you from side-on. Not many wireless earbuds can claim that to be honest, and for Samsung to be able to do that without compromising on the audio hardware, must be appreciated. To be honest, I was initially quite apprehensive about the audio quality streaming through into my ears—and that stemmed from the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live aren’t in-ears. How would the new fit work out? Will I get the full impact of the bass? Will there be gaps that allow ambient noise to stream in ruining the experience?
For starters, I have to say that the spaciousness aspect is nicely ticked off. That helps you feel a wider and more dynamic sound experience, irrespective of content. It doesn’t feel limited by virtual boundaries, and that has a positive impact on the overall sound as well. Not many earbuds can replicate this, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live manage to give you the feeling that the sound is coming from further away and has a much wider coverage area. I haven’t still experienced the Apple AirPods Pro with the Spatial Audio in detail just yet, but I have to say that the Galaxy Buds Live are among the ‘widest’ sounding wireless earbuds out there. Spaciousness has never really bothered anyone, has it?
On to my other apprehension about detailing and intrusions, the trick is to make the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live fit properly in your ear. You may not realize this, but wear them, start playing some music and attempt to reposition these better inside your ears. Believe me, you’ll find that extra adjustment which immediately reflects on the audio experience too. The sound, I was expecting will be as warm as the Samsung Galaxy Buds+, but there is a very subtle change here—there is a slight emphasis in highlighting the higher frequencies. That means vocals are crisper, podcasts will sound pristine and your Netflix binge watching will get you even better dialogue delivery. Remember, it is important to ensure that the Galaxy Buds Live sit properly in your ear.
What about bass? Positioned properly and snugly, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live deliver pretty powerful lower frequencies as well. These perhaps aren’t at the Sony WF-1000XM3 level in terms of the power of the bass response, but then again, most users wouldn’t need that anyway.
Be Careful Of The Touch
Mind you, every single time I mention the need to ensure that you have adjusted the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live properly, be careful while doing so. At least for me, every time I touched either bud for fitting it in properly, it activated the touch controls. Perhaps Samsung could tweak the sensitivity of touch for triggering the touch controls—perhaps demanding a slightly heavier touch than the light brush as your fingers reach for the outer boundaries of each bud to grip them.
ANC Is Not Very Powerful, But It'll Work For Most
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live also have active noise cancellation. Now, that must have been a challenge, considering these are open-type earbuds and that by definition are designed to let you feel the outside world (sometimes more often than you may want, as a general rule). With the ANC switched on, I could still hear a distinct hum of the air conditioner working indoors (Hitachi ACs are incredibly noisy, mind you) and the sound of traffic when outdoors. Mind you, the cancellation is blocking out a lot of noise, but because of physical limitations, there isn’t complete isolation from your ambient surroundings.
Zoom Calls? Phone Calls? No Problem
What about the endless voice and video calls that you are on these days? The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have three beamforming microphones, two on the outside and one on the inner side, to pick up your voice. There is also a Voice Pickup Unit near the mic on the inner side of each Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbud, which in addition to the microphones doing what they are supposed to, understands your jaw movement, the vibrations and further tries to convert that vibration data into voice. Whatever the sorcery there is, what I experienced were very good quality voice quality on video meetings while using the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.
Battery life that the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live deliver is quite robust. I got a bit more than 6 hours of usage on a single charge, which included a mix of music playback at 40% volume and listening to some online briefing sessions for about an hour, at 80% volume. With the charging case to top this up, you can stretch this up to 21 hours before you need to reach out for the charger again to juice up the case and the buds. Each bud has a 60 mAh battery while the charging case has a 472 mAh battery.
The Last Word: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Have A Right Mix Of Style & Substance
What started out as a journey filled with some amount of trepidation about the design, the bean shape and what it meant for comfort and sound quality, I have to say that all those fears were as unfounded as they could have been. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live sound really good, and the attempts at making a wider sound experience have worked. These fit well, sit comfortably in the ear for hours on end and deliver pretty good battery life as well. That being said, if you want the most powerful of noise cancellations to isolate yourself from a shouty workplace or lots of noise at home, these will not deliver that—the physics of design mean ANC is quite usable for the rest of us, but not for those who are after a no-compromise ANC. There is no denying the innovation. There is no denying the quirkiness. There is no denying the style.