Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review: True wireless earbuds with a magical bean design


  • Distinctive, eye-catching design
  • Snug ergonomic match
  • Compact charging case with wi-fi charging
  • Open sound with good bass and element
  • Good noise discount when making calls
  • IPX2 water resistant

Do not Like

  • Noise canceling is relatively delicate
  • Open design lets some ambient sound in
  • Little little bit of distortion at excessive quantity

Say what you’ll about Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Dwell bean-shaped design — sure, they’re affectionately often called the Beans — however they could simply be essentially the most modern new true wi-fi earbuds of the 12 months. Accessible in three colours: mystic white, black and bronze, they actually look flashy, with a chrome-like end that you may see your reflection in.

At $170 (£179, AU$319), they price barely greater than the usual Apple AirPods. And just like the AirPods, they’ve an open design — you do not jam an ear tip into your ear — and so they’re fairly comfy to put on. Moreover, they’re actually discreet and principally sit flush along with your ear with out a little white pipe extending out from them. And eventually, they function energetic noise canceling. Extra about that in a minute.

The Galaxy Buds Dwell in mystic bronze.

David Carnoy/CNET

I took one take a look at the bud and my first intuition was to place the half with rubber ring in my ear. However it’s truly the other. You stick the opposite aspect — the one with the little speaker and bass port — in your ear going through downward and wedge the remainder of the bean in your ear at an angle.

Learn extra: Best true wireless noise-canceling earbuds

Samsung exhibits you simply how they’re purported to go in your ears in an animation that you’ll find within the Buds Dwell’s companion apps — it is the Galaxy Buds app for iOS, however Galaxy Put on for Android. The way in which they have been sitting in my ears at much less of an angle than within the animation gave the impression to be mistaken. However that is how they slot in my ears — and so they did match effectively — so I simply left them that means. For higher or worse, I feel you need to go together with what the form of your ear provides you. I did handle to get the speaker aspect of the ear tip to dip into my ear canal, which appeared like a very powerful factor.

That aforementioned rubber ring — small and enormous variations are included within the field — takes the place of wingtips that may ordinarily anchor these kind of earbuds. I used the bigger of the 2, and the earbuds simply nestled properly and securely in my ears with simply sufficient added traction to maintain them in place. That mentioned, I would not have minded if Samsung had included a extra conventional sport wing that may actually lock the buds in your ears.

They did keep in my ears extra securely than the usual AirPods (the usual AirPods slip out of my ears if I run and even stroll briskly with them). I used to be in a position to run and bike with the Galaxy Buds Dwell and whereas they solely have IPX2 water-resistance, which makes them splash-resistant from sure angles, they’re sweat-resistant and you should use them for understanding. The sooner Galaxy Buds Plus are additionally IPX2 water resistant, whereas the AirPods Pro are IPX4 rated (splashproof) and the usual AirPods don’t have any water-resistance ranking although individuals nonetheless run — and sweat — with them.

The flip aspect of the bud appears to be like like a cartoon character.

David Carnoy/CNET

I actually appreciated the Galaxy Buds Plus, which have a noise-isolating design (that means, they push into your ear canal). Additionally they match me effectively and I assumed they sounded actually good for the cash. I figured that when Samsung did noise-canceling earbuds, it might make one thing similar to the Buds Plus and add noise canceling and name them the Buds Professional or one thing like that.

However as an alternative it is these Buds Dwell earbuds which have the energetic noise canceling. Samsung calls it “ANC for Open Kind.” I am unable to say it is all that efficient, nevertheless. There have been a number of earbuds which have an open or semi-open design which have noise canceling however I’ve all the time discovered that you simply want a extremely tight seal to have noise canceling actually work.

They’re IPX2 water resistant, so you’ll be able to work out in them.

David Carnoy/CNET

These are supposed to cut back some noise within the decrease frequencies, and Samsung talks about them blocking sound whereas using on a prepare or bus. However I simply did not really feel they made a huge impact on decreasing ambient noise. It is fairly delicate. They do assist a bit, permitting you to listen to your music and make voice calls a bit higher in noisy environments. However the AirPods Professional, Sony WF-1000XM3, Technics EAH-AZ70W, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and a number of other different noise-isolation true wi-fi earbuds which have energetic noise canceling do a considerably higher job decreasing ambient sound. So do not buy these for noise canceling or it’s possible you’ll be dissatisfied. On the flip aspect, if you happen to’re somebody’s who’s delicate to energetic noise canceling — some of us expertise uncomfortable strain on their eardrums — these should not hassle you.

Just like the Galaxy Buds Plus, I did like how these sounded. No shock, they do sound open — and that is the place the Dwell title comes from (it is purported to provide the really feel of a reside live performance, Samsung says). Their open, ethereal sound does not really feel prefer it’s caught in your head. They have 12mm drivers and a giant bass port. The bass is plump but punchy, which is how I prefer it — and there is good element within the mids and highs. They’re actually lively-sounding. Dynamic is the phrase I often use to explain headphones like these.

The three colour choices.


Soundwise, these aren’t fairly there with the best-sounding true wi-fi earbuds like Sennheiser‘s Momentum True Wi-fi 2 or Sony‘s WF-1000XM3. However they’re actually strong and nice to hearken to. And you may make some sound tweaks within the Galaxy Buds companion app for iOS and Android utilizing the preset EQ settings. I primarily caught to the default “Regular” mode.

I did discover that the bass rolls off a bit bit at greater volumes and issues do not sound fairly as effectively outlined whenever you push the amount all the best way up, particularly if you happen to’re listening to a observe with loads of devices taking part in directly. Whereas that tends to be par for the course for Bluetooth earbuds, with most noise-isolating earbuds you’ll be able to preserve the amount at 80% or much less. However as a result of these are open, I had a bent to push the amount to compete with any ambient sound.

They barely stick out of your ears although they’re flashy.

David Carnoy/CNET

As for additional options, Galaxy gadget homeowners get a number of choices not out there to Apple and non-Samsung Android customers. That is not shocking since AirPods partially exist to assist promote extra iPhones. So it should not shock anybody that Samsung would have some particular options for its customers.

If you happen to personal a Galaxy cellphone or pill, you get a few additional options, together with a low-latency gaming mode. That was out there for the Galaxy Buds Plus underneath the “Labs” part of the app but it surely’s been improved, in line with a Samsung spokesperson, and can turn out to be useful for Galaxy Note 20 customers who need to play Xbox games from the cloud. Galaxy homeowners may use Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant, hands-free with out utilizing the Buds’ contact controls, which do work effectively and are responsive. Activate it by saying, “Hello, Bixby.” That is just like the hands-free choice for Siri for AirPods.

If you happen to use hands-free Bixby, you lose a bit little bit of battery life. These are rated at as much as eight hours with noise canceling off and 6 hours with it on. It drops to five.5 with noise canceling with Bixby all the time there, ready so that you can wake it up. The compact case fees wirelessly or through USB-C and provides you about 2.5 additional fees.

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Bluetooth pairing is pretty flexible, depending on which devices you’re using. If you have multiple Galaxy devices, you can pair them all to the buds and automatically switch between devices as long as they all are under the same Samsung account. iOS and Android users can pair the buds to multiple devices but you have to manually switch between them. They don’t seem to pair simultaneously to two devices, but one of the newer Galaxy devices can simultaneously pair with two pairs of Buds Live. Windows 10 users can use Microsoft Swift pair to link these to their PCs. Mac users just have to put the buds into pairing mode to do the same (you tap and hold each bud simultaneously for a few seconds to go into pairing mode). 

The Galaxy Buds Plus did a good job of reducing background noise when I was making calls with them and these do, too. There are two microphones on the outside of each bud and one on the inside and while the buds don’t completely muffle sound around you, they do a good job of tamping down ambient noise and also picking up your voice. People I spoke with said they could hear me well even when I had street noise playing pretty loudly in the background from a YouTube feed (I’m not in New York City these days so I have to simulate street noise). You can use a single bud for making calls.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the sound and the features of these earbuds, but it’s really their design that’s the standout feature. I get a lot of these types of earbuds in for review and this is the first one in a while that I thought was really innovative and different. They’re pretty unique-looking, discreet and not only do they fit securely but they’re comfortable to wear for long periods. Alas, the noise canceling isn’t what I hoped it would be, but it is a challenge to do with open earbuds like these. Even so, they’re easily among the best earbuds of 2020.

Originally published Aug. 6

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David Carnoy