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Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Review

Last updated: 3 months ago
7 min read
Editor
rating
3.4
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live on a concrete

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are one of the most unique-looking true wireless earbuds out there. Their kidney-bean-shape design is instantly recognizable. It fuels people’s curiosity about what you’re wearing.

Buds Live are also Samsung’s first true wireless headphones with active noise cancelling technology. Since the brand owns Harman Kardon, AKG, and JBL, you would expect these earbuds to perform amazingly.

However, a unique design isn’t the most important part of headphones. And, sadly, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbuds don’t deliver on all the promises. Even after few firmware updates.

While they offer good sound quality with a respectable bass punch, things like noise cancellation simply doesn’t work as intended.

Of course, there are quite a few things to talk about in this Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review, so let us go step by step.

  • Surprisingly comfortable
  • Stable Bluetooth connection
  • Quick pairing with Samsung devices
  • Good sound quality (after some tweaks)
  • Low audio latency for videos and gaming
  • Good battery life
  • Small, pocketable charging case
  • Only IPX2 water resistance rating
  • Poor active noise cancellation performance
  • Glossy design is a fingerprint magnet
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By HeadphonesAddict
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Table of Contents

    What’s in the Box?

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live accessories
    • Samsung Galaxy Buds Live true wireless earbuds
    • Charging case
    • USB-C charging cable
    • 2 pairs of wingtips (S, L)
    • User guide

    Comfort & Fit

    Star Rating
    4.0 Great

    Unless you have tiny ears, Samsung Galaxy Buds Live should fit you comfortably. The only problem is the insertion procedure.

    After successful pairing, the first thing you see is an animation showing how to insert the beans into your ears properly.

    That’s very helpful since instinct tells you to shove them into your ears. It’s quite the opposite; the front end should sit right in front of the canal.

    However, that is easier said than done, especially if you have big ears (like mine, apparently).

    In the box, you get 2 sizes of wingtips that latch to your earlobe to ensure stability. But since the earbuds’ design is fairly flush, you might have some difficulty adjusting them with your fingers.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live back side
    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live use little flaps instead of silicone ear tips to fit into ears.

    Of course, proper adjustment is vital to get the best sound out of these. Getting perfect insertion on a first try is a challenge that you master over time, but it can be frustrating for a new owner.

    Proper position also ensures stability. Otherwise, you can be sure to lose them as soon as you twist your head. We suggest you to lean your head left and right to check if both earbuds are stable before going outside.

    Noise Isolation

    Star Rating
    2.0 Okay

    We’re talking about open-air earbuds, which is why passive isolation is nearly non-existing.

    Much like Apple AirPods, Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are also classic earphones. Because they lack ear tips, you can’t expect them to block the ear canal.

    Therefore, you can hear everything around with minimal isolation effect.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live air vent for bass.
    Bass port on the outer side of Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

    Noise Cancellation

    Star Rating
    1.5 Meh

    Similar to passive isolation, active noise cancellation seems to do no work at all.

    It’s kind of a head-scratcher to why Samsung equipped their open-air earbuds with ANC technology since even in theory, this combo cannot work.

    The overall result is even worse than expected. Maybe we got a defective product, but there is almost no difference in ambient noise when the noise cancelling is activated.

    It’s especially hard to evaluate the difference since every time you enable noise cancellation, a melody plays through earbuds.

    At least the sound doesn’t change if you leave cancellation active. However, we don’t see a reason why you would do that.

    Bluetooth

    Star Rating
    4.5 Almost Perfect

    The connection is stable and pairing fast, especially if you own a Samsung smartphone. Thankfully, you don’t lose as many features if you own some other brand since the companion app is available on both Android and iOS.

    We experienced no problems whatsoever with our pair of earbuds. There were zero stutters and disconnections.

    Coverage is about what you can expect from Bluetooth 5.0, passing at least 2 brick walls. If you like to use only one earbud, Samsung Galaxy Buds Live offers mono mode on either side.

    The pairing process is quick, with your smartphone leading you through a simple procedure. I have a Samsung phone, so the experience was great. However, you should get the same treatment on other brands, too.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live in the charging case.
    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live sit in front of the ear canal, making the noise cancelling ineffective.

    Multipoint?

    A few days ago, a firmware update made it possible to connect your Samsung Galaxy Buds Live to multiple devices, as long as they’re signed into Samsung’s account.

    What Bluetooth Codecs They Use?

    Apart from a standard SBC Bluetooth codec, you also get an AAC and SSC (Samsung Scalable Codec). The latter can deliver high-quality audio but is only supported by newer Samsung devices.

    Sadly, there’s no aptX, so non-Samsung Android smartphone users don’t get high-quality streaming.

    Is There a Video Lag?

    For watching YouTube, these do a perfect job. They’re suitable for mobile gaming, too. Just make sure you enable Gaming mode in the companion app to reduce latency.

    Battery

    Star Rating
    4.0 Great

    The battery life depends on how many features you leave enabled. In our test with ANC, we got 7 hours and 7 minutes per charge, with another 14 in the Qi-compatible wireless charging case.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live battery comparison

    The more features a product supports, the more battery it drains. That is also true for Samsung Galaxy Buds Live since some features dramatically worsen your playtime.

    At best, earbuds can hold around 8 hours on a single charge, with an additional 21 hours inside the case.

    As soon as you enable noise cancelling or “Bixby voice wake-up,” the earbud’s battery life drops to 7 hours. If you activate both of those features, the runtime drops even lower, at 5.5 hours.

    Nevertheless, the battery is pretty good for the size of these. Especially for the case, which is small and sleek, easily fitting inside the pocket.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Qi wireless charging.
    If you have a Qi-compatible phone, you can charge the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live wirelessly.

    Since most newer Samsung smartphones support reverse wireless charging, Samung Galaxy Buds Live also support Qi charging.

    That way, you can recharge them on a wireless charging pad or by using a supported smartphone.

    Durability

    Star Rating
    3.5 Almost Great

    Both earbuds and the case feel compact and sturdy. And even though they lack a waterproof rating, with IPX2, they should resist a little bit of sweat during workouts.

    The first thing that you notice when you put the case out of the box is their weight. It feels heavier than most other cases, even if they’re twice as big.

    That gives a pleasant sensation of holding something premium and robust, which is always a good thing.

    The case is still made of plastic, so overall build quality and drop resistance may vary, but first impressions are great.

    Earbuds, too, have a good weight, yet you don’t feel them in your ears at all. Samsung seemed to distribute the weight perfectly.

    However, don’t use them near water. With IPX2 water resistance rating they can survive light sweating, but not heavy rain.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live small case.
    The charging case of Samsung Galaxy Buds Live is small and can fit any pocket.

    While the inside of the bud is plastic, the outside part has a shiny chrome finish. It might look cool, but it brings at least 2 problems: scratches and fingerprints.

    Therefore, expect a lot of wiping and polishing if you want them always to be nice and sparkly.

    Features

    Star Rating
    4.0 Great

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live offer many features, but some of them are only half-baked.

    Nowadays, the main selling point of many true wireless earbuds are features. There are quite a few things you can play with inside the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app, but not everything is customizable.

    For example, you can’t remap all touch controls. The app only lets you select what you want for long presses, whereas a tap and a double tap remain fixed.

    Thankfully, commands are responsive, and you hear a short beep after every press to know if you hit the controls correctly.

    There’s also EQ, which is just a selection of 6 different presets that you can’t tweak.

    The active noise cancelling only operates at one setting and is practically unusable. You don’t get any transparency mode since the design already lets you hear environmental sounds.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live back side.
    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have a rather low IP rating of IPX2.

    Of course, there’re some useful features, too. Like Gaming mode, which reduces latency. You can also find the lost earbud if it’s gone missing.

    Bixby is a dedicated smart assistant that follows your commands and can read out your notifications.

    Microphone Quality

    While call quality isn’t bad, I still expected a bit more from Samsung.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live as just okay when you use them in a quiet room. Your voice gets a bit tiny, but clear nevertheless.

    However, earbuds start to struggle when you introduce some noise. They simply can’t eliminate ambience and keep your voice clean at the same time.

    You start to sound a bit artificial and overly processed. To avoid awkward phone calls, better use these only in more quiet areas.

    Sound

    Star Rating
    3.5 Almost Great

    Earbuds have a good sound quality, with natural vocals and surprisingly pleasant bass response. But they lack the refinement and fullness of even some cheaper models.

    Samsung, or AKG, tuned these quite well. You don’t hear any harshness or sibilance, and the vocals have a good texture.

    Starting with the bass, it’s nicely balanced with the rest of the frequency response. It’s boosted only by a smidge to make the sound slightly warm.

    Low-end is surprisingly well controlled and present, despite the open-air design. Bass on Samsung Galaxy Buds Live works great with all music genres, from pop, hip hop to rock and metal.

    Sadly, it does lose quite a bit of power once you take the earbuds outdoor. However, there is a quick solution for that.

    In the app, under the Labs tab, you can enable “Relieve pressure with ambient sound,” which boosts the bass significantly. Bass lovers will find this setting useful, even though it does make the audio quality more muffled.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Live in the charging case.
    Overall, Samsung Galaxy Buds Live provide good user experience.

    The midrange sounds natural and balanced, with crunchy guitars and lovely vocals. It’s slightly less detailed and refined than we would like.

    The high-end of the spectrum keeps the presentation nice and airy without being too hot. Again, the detail level is somewhat lacking, but it’s okay for casual movie and music listening sessions.

    While the imaging isn’t these earbud’s biggest strength, the soundstage is relatively wide (for an in-ear headphone).

    Should You Buy Samsung Galaxy Buds Live?

    The biggest problem with these true wireless earbuds is that they’re only okay. Besides attractive design, you don’t get any other compelling feature that would draw you to them.

    The active noise reduction is definitely the worse of the bunch, despite being a selling point. It is practically useless as it makes no difference at all.

    Also, some things are inaccessible to the end-user, like custom EQ and touch controls.

    Of course, there are positive sides as well. Comfort and Bluetooth stability are excellent, and the battery can easily get you through a day.

    Microphones are also doing a great job at keeping your voice clear and understandable.

    All in all, the asking price point of $140 is still a bit too high to make Samsung Galaxy Buds Live a valuable purchase. If you truly want them but you’re not in a hurry, wait for a few months as the price will undoubtedly drop.

    Comparisons

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

    Since the latter seal your ear canals completely with silicone tips, they of course offer better background noise isolation.

    Galaxy Buds Plus can also have a slightly better sound quality, which is a bit fuller, with a dedicated woofer and tweeter drivers.

    Apart from active noise cancellation, they othwerwise similar to the Galaxy Buds Live.

    Both have IPX2 water resistance, use touch controls and Galaxy Wearable app for various features, use proprietary Samsung Scalable Codec, and have similar microphone quality.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review

    Apple AirPods 2

    The sound quality is noticeably better than on Apple AirPods. The latter lack the bass depth and smoothness of the treble found on Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.

    Many of their features are also restricted to iOS, which makes them a poor choice for someone with Android.

    However, AirPods still beat the Galaxy Buds Live in call quality with better background noise reduction capabilities. The Buds Live do win in universally better fit since the one on AirPods earbuds only fit a certain group of people.

    AirPods Pro are a step up but also cost considerably more.

    Apple AirPods 2 review

    Apple AirPods Pro review

    Specifications

    Type: True wireless
    Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Back design: Closed-back
    Drivers: 12mm, dynamic
    Frequency range: n/a
    Impedance: n/a
    Weight: 5g per earbud
    Mic & Controls: Yes
    Water resistance: IPX2
    Battery life: 8h + 21h in case
    Charging time: Quick charge – USB-C & Qi wireless charging
    Active noise cancelling: Yes
    Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, SSC
    Wireless range: 33ft (10m)
    Microphone: 6 microphones, built-in