Samsung Galaxy Buds+

True Wireless In-Ears with "Sound by AKG"

After the Samsung Galaxy Buds achieved a respectable score of 3.9 in our test, now the South Korean mega-corporation have sent their successor, the Galaxy Buds+, into the fray.
The Plus version aims to score with a longer battery life and better sound using the expertise of acoustics specialists AKG. Can these new Tru Wireless In-Ears outperform their predecessors?

Galaxy Buds+, which are available in black, white and blue, are perfectly finished, as is their charging case. The headphones themselves and the charging case are both made from plastic – so far it’s standard and nothing unusual. The case (in our test, lacquer-black) is rather vulnerable to finger marks, but it can be carried inconspicuously in the pockets thanks to its compact size and a weight of just 40 grams. The two in-ears, weighing about 5 grams each, are hardly noticeable when in the ears – and their small size makes them almost imperceptible when worn. This is an advantage for anyone who likes to wear a hat: these in-ears protrude only slightly from the ears, making them hardly noticeable under your favourite knitted beanie. This means that the Buds+ are also suitable for sports activities, but the IPX2 certification specified by the manufacturer only means protection against a few drops of water – endurance sports in the pouring rain or swimming training are out of the question.

Features

Arriving in the small white cardboard box are the headphones themselves, the charging case, three pairs of stabilisation attachments as well as three pairs of silicone ear pads (each in the sizes S, M, L), a charging cable from USB-C to -A and the necessary collection of short instructions and warranty conditions. The medium-sized ear tips are pre-installed along with stabilisation tips, but we noticed that they are a good deal shorter than the earpieces of the Sony WF-1000XM3. This means that the attachments do not reach quite as deep into the ear canal, which may mean some people have a looser fit. But fortunately, there are numerous replacement fittings available from other manufacturers.

Battery life

You may not be able to tell by looking at them, but the Buds+ have one of the most enduring battery lives of True Wireless In-Ears, with a full eleven hours (according to the manufacturer’s specifications) which makes them among the most long-lasting of the current batch of mini headphones. Only the Creative Outlier Gold outperform them with 14 hours. In our practical test, the headphones lasted even longer: they played for a whole eleven hours and 22 minutes on just one battery charge. This, of course, depends on several factors, such as volume, signal strength and temperature – but this endurance is outstanding! Afterwards, the Buds+ need to go back to their small black case to refuel. The case can only do this once so, all in all, you get about 22 hours of battery life, but Samsung has also come up with a quick charge function: just insert in the case for three minutes and you get another hour to listen to your favourite podcasts. Another thing about the case: it can be powered either via USB or wirelessly, and according to the manufacturer, the quick charge via Qi takes a little longer. And thanks to Wireless PowerShare, compatible smartphones can also be used as charging stations.

Bluetooth pairing

As with Apple’s AirPods , Galaxy Buds+ can be coupled with ease. Prerequisites are that your smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+ or S20 Ultra 5G with a reasonably up-to-date Android operating system (7.1.1 or higher) with the “SmartThings” app installed. Then – and only then – a pop-up window will appear, which will guide you through the initial setup.

For all other phones, the connection works in the classic way: remove the headphones from the case, then access the phone’s Bluetooth menu and select “Galaxy Buds+”.

These in-ears use Bluetooth 5.0 and in our test reached a wireless range of almost 34 metres (in an open space), inside an apartment it was more like about 9 metres. In terms of codecs, we would have hoped for more, though. The Buds+ support the same codecs as the previous model: SBC, AAC and the in-house Samsung Scalable Codec. Due to the lack of a Samsung smartphone, unfortunately, we could not include it in this test.

It is also a shame that Galaxy Buds+ are not multipoint capable, in spite of Samsung’s original claim.

App connection via iOS and Android

In today’s world, the fact that smart devices need adequate control panels is now taken as a given. But it’s extremely gratifying when the manufacturer also thinks about users of other brands, in this case Samsung offers a suitable app for the Galaxy Buds+ that can be used with Apple products. The functionalities are almost the same on both systems: the iOS app lacks the “notifications” function, which allows content from various apps to be read aloud. And missing from both iOS and all Android devices that are not from Samsung is the special Game Mode, which should reduce latencies to such an extent that the delay between picture and sound is removed or becomes hardly noticeable. A Spotify shortcut is reserved for Samsung Galaxy S20 users. This can be activated via the Lab function, and you can open the app simply by pressing the touch-sensitive surface of the in-ears. We can only hope that Samsung will unlock both functions for all other devices in the near future. Apart from that, there’s a find my headphones function and an EQ wheel that includes six equalizer presets – from “Normal” to “Bass Boost”. Unfortunately, you cannot create your own presets.

Transparency mode

The “Ambient noise” function, which lets noises from the outside world through to your ears, not only means that you don’t have to fumble the headphones out of your ears in order to make a little small talk, but also ensures your safety in traffic. This function, which can be adjusted in three (via Lab four) levels, does not sound as natural to our ears as it does with Apple’s AirPods Pro. Noises such as the rustling of clothes or your own voice sound unnaturally constricted and distorted in the frequency spectrum, as if the phase between the left and right channel is not quite in order.

Operation

The operation of Galaxy Buds+ is almost self-explanatory: a tap on the touch surface of these tiny headphones starts or pauses playback. A double-tap jumps to the next track and accepts or ends calls. Tap three times to play the previous track, and finally, touch and hold to reject a call or assign a freely assignable action such as “Quieter”, “Louder”, “Ambient Noise” or “Voice Command”. With the Lab function, even the edge of the headphone can be used to change the volume. All this works reliably, even if the commands are executed with a slight delay. But with these headphones, as with other True Wireless In-Ears with touch interfaces, it’s all too easy to catch the touch surface when you’re pressing down and unintentionally trigger an action. Luckily, this can be solved in the app by locking the touchpad.

Sound

The manufacturer promises a “wide, lively sound in the high and bass ranges”, made possible by the acoustic specialists at AKG. Unlike their predecessors, the new Buds+ are equipped with a dual-driver system that delivers the promised sonic aesthetic with one woofer and one tweeter each.

When listening to our Spotify playlist, at first we did not notice any major problems. The Buds+ are rather modest, but this is no shortcoming. The two drivers on each side create a clearer image of the low, mid and high frequencies, which helps the overall clarity.

But let’s start in the lower frequencies: if you expect thumping bass, you might be disappointed, unless you can find an EQ to match the low end. These headphones reproduce this range quite soberly, hardly radiating into the lower mids, while an underlying warmth is always recognisable. “Clarity” is the first quality that comes to mind and this reminded us of some of the sound aesthetics found in other AKG (studio) headphones. Here, nothing is muddy, nothing dominates, and it seems as if the bass range has been deliberately reduced for the sake of the other frequency ranges. That doesn’t mean that the bass is missing, more that the boost is rather moderate. Tracks with a lot of bass such as Moderat’s “Bad Kingdom” are not quite as much fun to listen to as they are with Apple AirPods Pro. If you’re disappointed at first, you might want to experiment with more earpieces, as we put foam earplugs on the Buds+ for a few tests and their bass response was accordingly more voluminous, but with limitations in the treble range.

The mid and high frequency ranges sound present and assert themselves accordingly without being too superficial or annoying – this is a good solution from Samsung, especially as it is extremely beneficial to speech intelligibility when enjoying podcasts or streaming serials. Nevertheless, when listening to our Daily Drive Spotify Playlist, we noticed a certain sharpness in S-sounds in the tones of some newsreaders, not harsh, but still prominent. However, this quality fits some guitar licks really well. For example, the strumming of the acoustic guitar in Seal’s acoustic version of “Crazy” is assertive without pushing itself into the foreground.

In general, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are well suited for guitar-heavy tracks and even classical pieces reveal details in the middle and upper spectrum, but we would have liked the deep and rumbling synthesizer basses of modern club or hip-hop tracks to be more striking.

Samsung also succeeds in resolving the narrow left-right arrangement of instruments in the space quite well, even if the depth of the space is not very impressive.

The middle frequency range, in particular, has a distinctive musicality, and we concluded that the Buds+ invite no complaints about the highs not being “crispy” enough.

We also rate the quality of conversation as good to very good. Depending on the level of ambient noise, the caller always attested to clear speech intelligibility, even if the voice of the buds wearer was sometimes described as “somewhat dull” or “washed out”.

Pete Schloßnagel
5 months ago by Pete Schloßnagel
  • Rating: 4
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

With Galaxy Buds+, Samsung has added an attractive True-Wireless model to its range. Thanks to the long battery life of over eleven hours, you don’t have to worry about empty batteries when travelling, and these tiny in-ears also have a few plus points when it comes to compatibility. The missing functions on iOS and Android, like the quick Spotify connection, the low-latency gaming mode and lack of multipoint, are the only things that cloud an otherwise positive overall impression. In our opinion, their solid and well-structured sound certainly counts in their favour, but it might be a bit too tame, especially for bass-loving young consumers. Listening before you buy is highly recommended.

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingIn-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principledynamic
  • Weight without cableje 6,3 g, Ladeetui: 39,6 g

What's in the box

  • Silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
  • Stabilisation caps (S, M, L)
  • Charging cable USB Type-C
  • Charging case

Special features

  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC, Samsung Scalable Codec
  • BT version: 5.0
  • Loading time: approx. 2.5 hrs.