You may recall from Part 1 of this series that I had to resume my hunt for a set of true wireless earbuds that matched or bested the Apple Airpods (preferably bested!) for sound quality, fit and functionality. I thought I had found a winner in the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1. But although they sound great, fit was a huge issue. Meaning that I just could not accept the compromise in comfort. The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze, if you know what I mean…
So then, where to next? I had, as I mentioned in Part 1, read and watched some very positive reviews of the Samsung Buds+. And being a Samsung Galaxy Android phone user, I was keen to assess the additional functionality offered by Samsung’s Wear/Galaxy Buds+ app.
The shape of the charging case is quite distinct from the Airpod’s case or even the Melomania’s. It’s pill shaped, but still relatively small (about 3 inches long). Though I don’t find it as “pocketable” as the Airpods or the Melomanias. Finish and build quality is excellent – but still not quite as excellent as the Airpods.
The earbuds themselves, I am very happy to report, are everything in terms of fit and comfort that the Melomania’s (and the Airpods, for that matter) are not. For a start, their shape and design is a world away – it’s clear that they’ve been designed with a focus on fitting and sitting comfortably in an actual human ear. From the very first they sit and seal nicely in the ear canal with a minimum of fuss even when using the stock ear tips. Small rubber “fins” called Wing Tips by Samsung at the rear of the earbud provides additional security and comfort. Helpfully, Samsung supplies the Buds+ with three different sized Wing Tips to accommodate different sized ears. The Buds+ also come with the usual array of additional tips, but only in silicone.
I have to say that the fit and the ease with which I am able to consistently and rapidly get a good and comfortable fit with the Buds+ has been extraordinary. Apart from my custom IEMs, the Buds+ are the best fitting earbuds I have ever tried. It’s worth emphasising that the most appealing aspect of the Buds+ fit is not so much its quality, but the consistency and ease of achieving it. Almost every time I use the Buds+, I pop them in my ears and voila! Good to go! With almost every other earbud I have to spend a minute or more fiddling around before I am happy with the fit. Samsung has done a great job here, they really have.
Functionality wise, there is nothing to complain about either. The charging case gives 11 hours of battery life and offers wireless charging and (thank goodness) USB-C connection. This is in addition to the claimed 11 hour battery life of the Buds+ themselves, for a total battery life of 22 hours. Although the Buds+ battery life of 11 hours is more than respectable (indeed as the following helpful chart shows, it is market leading – thanks Sound Guys for the chart, you can check out their equally helpful review of the Buds+ here). The cumulative battery time, however, is not great. For instance, it is only roughly half that of the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1’s.
Connection to source devices is via Bluetooth 5, which is good and means that the Buds+ support multi-pairing. So you can connect them to several devices without the need to re-pair every time you switch between those devices. Or at least that would be the case if Samsung had enabled support for this feature. But they have not. Coming “real soon now” apparently…
There is no active noise cancellation, but at the Buds+ price point that’s not really a surprise. If you’re using the Buds+ with the Samsung Wear app, the Buds+ are able to use their internal microphones should you wish to hear more of the ambient noise around you.
What is a little surprising is that the Buds+, at an IPX rating of just 2, don’t feature any degree of water resistance. They are at best, “splash resistant”. So if you’re planning on using them at the gym, that’s something to keep in mind.
Call quality is ok. The Buds+ make use of three internal microphones to support call clarity. Most of the reviews I read claimed better than good call quality and clarity. I can’t say that has been my experience. I have received more than a few complaints from callers that I sound muffled or far away. That may be because I have a tendency to only use a single earbud for calls. Who knows. I thought I should let you know though…
On to the sound. I wish I could report that they sound as good as they fit. But they don’t. So I can’t. It’s not that they sound terrible. In fact, they sound much better than most true wireless earbuds at this price point. Certainly better than the non-Pro AirPods. But they don’t get close to the heights scaled by the Melomanias.
Firstly, the absence of AptX or LDAC support really hurts them. These higher end CODECS are really what gave audio over Bluetooth sufficient quality and depth for me to declare it “listenable”. Sorry if that sounds snobby. The lack of AptX simply means that the Buds+ are stuck in first gear compared to earbuds which can handle higher bit rate and better quality CODECs.
In terms of sound signature, the Buds+ are very treble forward and mid-range heavy. Bass is there, but it is subdued and out of balance. I found them to be excessively bright and not particularly resolving. Sound stage is lacking, but I do think that responsiveness and dynamics are OK, just.
That’s the acid test of comparing the Buds+ ability to reproduce music to that of reference grade in ear monitors over wired connection playing lossless quality music. What I am trying to say here is that these things need to be looked at in perspective. If you are looking for in ears that perform well in a test like that, the Buds+ are not for you. But then I don’t think that the vast majority of people looking for a set of true wireless earbuds are looking for the last word in dynamics or sound stage. I do think that the vast majority will use them to listen to podcasts, YouTube, TikTok and maybe some lossy music streaming over, say, Spotify. And to be candid that’s how I spend the majority of my time with the Buds+. If that is what you’re looking for then the Buds+ won’t let you down. Indeed, they fit this bill admirably and I can’t really fault them.
The Samsung Buds+ app (available for both Android and iOS) offers some useful extended functionality such as control of the ambient sound the earbuds permit you to ear from the internal microphones and an EQ function that offers settings like Bass Boost, Dynamic, Clear etc. I am usually not a big EQ user, but I do find the equaliser settings useful to adjust the sound to take out some of the shortcomings I mentioned above. It works quite well. Also useful is an option to block the operation of touch controls. I know many find the ablility to skip tracks or adjust volume etc by touching the side of the earbuds to be super convenient, but I hate it. It never works correctly and I seem to engage a touch control everytime I touch or bump the earbud. I much prefer them firmly off. The app also has a “Find My Earbuds” function which, when activated, causes the earbuds to chirp at an increasing volume so you can (hopefully) find them.
Bottom line: I really like the Samsung Buds+. They are not going to blow your socks off with super-sweet high-end hi-fi reproduction. But there are other destinations for that. If the destination you’re looking for is a true wireless earbud that does everything well and is designed for great in ear comfort, then pack your bags!