Boldly going where no TWS earbuds have gone before.
Galaxy Buds Live are Samsung’s first truly wireless earbuds with ANC. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
In the world of tech, it is not everyday you come across a product that works as advertised to a T. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live do, which is to say, they’re a breath of fresh air—literally and figuratively. I am still not totally convinced with how Samsung has named them (for obvious reasons that I wouldn’t go into now that they’ve been around for a while) but everything else about them is so bang on point, you know, it doesn’t even matter.
It took me a while to understand them though, so it’s fair to say, the Galaxy Buds Live don’t make the best first impressions. Or even the best second, third, fourth or fifth. You would have to give them more time. Eventually, you’d either grow to love and appreciate them or you’d move on to something more ‘conventional,’ run-of-the-mill if you will and that’s fine too. The Galaxy Buds Live aren’t meant for everybody anyway, something that Samsung is probably aware about as well. Same reason why it probably never went all gung-ho about them, the way it did with the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds Plus.
Technically, the Galaxy Buds Live are Samsung’s first truly wireless earbuds with active noise cancelation or ANC. Now usually when brands do TWS earbuds with ANC—especially the first time—they make a lot of noise about that noise cancelation bit (no pun intended). But here’s how Samsung describes the Galaxy Buds Live: “earphones that offer a reasonable level of noise cancelation, allowing you to stay aware of the world around you.” Not good, not great, but reasonable.
Here’s why that is. There’s no way the Galaxy Buds Live’s open-type design can offer best-in-class ANC. But what they do offer is some level of ANC with a healthy dose of ‘essentials’ and a couple of more things that might—just might—convince you to pick them over the Galaxy Buds Plus. For the record, the Galaxy Buds Plus have a better shot at cancelling out noise ‘passively’ owing to their canal-type design. They sound a little better and have better battery life too.
And yet, the Galaxy Buds Live stand out. The biggest reason to consider them over the Galaxy Buds Plus—or any other TWS earbuds in their price range—is their design.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t even sure how the whole kidney bean aesthetic made it past the drawing board at Samsung, the first time I took them out of their box. The bigger concern was, how do I put them on. Little did I know, the Galaxy Buds Live fit ‘naturally’ in the concha of my ears. They just lock into place and stay in the ears even though there are no silicon tips so to say. The speaker fires directly into the ear canal. That’s not to say there are no cushions though and it certainly doesn’t mean the Galaxy Buds Live are one-size-fits-all. Each earbud has one at the top end and Samsung bundles an additional bigger cushion in the box.
I have been very impressed with the fit and finish of the Galaxy Buds Live and how they sit securely inside my ears. While I can’t compare them with anything else at this point of time, the Galaxy Buds Live have become my go-to choice for running and cycling—which is to say they are very, very good. But your experience may vary so it is highly advisable you try them in person before buying them.
Like the AirPods Pro, the Galaxy Buds Live also feature air vents to reduce instances of “earplug effect” or occlusion so you can have them on comfortably for longer duration.
The same level of originality extends to the charging case as well. It’s a lot more squared out so unlike the pill shape of the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds Plus. Its real USP is its size though. It is so small, press renders don’t do enough justice to it. The thing just fits practically anywhere. Rounding off the package is fast Type-C wired and wireless charging.
As much as I like the design and build quality of the Galaxy Buds Live, there are two areas where Samsung could have done better. The cavity that holds the earbuds inside the case is not very deep which means they will definitely fly off should you drop it. The earbuds themselves are only IPX2-certified or sweat resistant.
Pairing is fast, across Android and iPhones and connectivity is generally rock-solid. You can only connect to a single device at any given time, a lot like many other TWS earbuds—which is still a bummer. The buds have touch controls. These work well. You can choose to use one bud for audio while the other is charging. Speaking of which, the Galaxy Buds Live are claimed to last for up to 6 hours with ANC on and real-world data is close which is to say, they have good battery life. The case carries enough charge for three cycles and Samsung touts a five-minute charge can lend 60 minutes of playtime.
The Galaxy Buds Live have 12mm drivers and sound tuned by AKG. This sound is nice and full, feels warmer and inviting for all, rather than focusing on one element. They’re not bass-heavy in case you’re wondering so those looking for chest-thumping bass should definitely look elsewhere. The Galaxy Buds Live instead focus on delivering more balanced audio and just work well enough for most music—even movies—right out of the box even without any manual EQ tinkering.
Coming to their highlight feature, which is ANC, Samsung makes it clear that the Galaxy Buds Live “keep the noise out, but let the world in,” and while that description in itself doesn’t mean much, here’s a more technical explanation to what they are designed for: they are designed to cancel out/limit low frequencies—only. For some reason, Samsung believes the Galaxy Buds Live make more sense for outdoorsy conditions (fair enough) for people who would rather prefer personal safety over complete sense of isolation. The obvious question is why not build something more ‘regular’ and give your users a transparency mode or something, you know, just in case. The answer is simple. Then they would be just regular while Samsung was gunning for something more ‘iconic.’
Nitty-gritties aside, at least Samsung isn’t overselling you something. Well within their confines, the Galaxy Buds Live work like a charm. You will always here some ambient sound when you’re out and about but that is by design. It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature. There is a silver lining too. Unlike majority of other TWS earbuds with ANC, the Galaxy Buds Live have almost zero instances of persistence ‘artificial’ humming in the background when music is on pause or when you switch to a phone call.
That last bit is where I believe the Galaxy Buds really shine. Phone calls made and received through them are just great. Each bud has three mics, two on the outside and another on the inside. I’d go so far to say at times, I feel the Galaxy Buds Live do even better than the AirPods Pro in this regard.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live?
With the Galaxy Buds Live, Samsung chose a road less travelled. Even though they came hot on the heels of the Galaxy Buds Plus, the Galaxy Buds Live are not necessarily a successor or even a follow up. They stand out on their own and they stand out well.
The Galaxy Buds Live are highly underrated not because there’s something better—like say the Galaxy Buds Plus—out there taking away all the laurels but because they have no competition and that can also be stifling sometimes. Because then, it’s very easy to just write you off saying, this product isn’t meant for everybody. I happen to be part of the same crowd. But I have also grown to be very fond of them over time. At a time when every other brand—Samsung included—can’t get enough of throwing the kitchen sink at you, here is a product that is so very unique and yet far from any noticeable compromise. That’s rare.
Though they were launched at a price of Rs 14,990, they are currently selling for Rs 11,990. That’s a steal deal if you ask me. Just don’t get them for ANC and you’d be amazed how highly underrated these Samsung Galaxy ‘Beans’ are.