Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
21 December 2020 | 0
I will admit to being a wireless earbuds sceptic. Since my first pair of over the ears headphones, I have found them awkward, uncomfortable and completely beyond the ability of my right ear to hold in place. My first impression of Apple’s Ear Pods was that they were an expensive accident waiting to happen. I had filed them away as a contrivance but it appears I was wrong, there is a thriving market for fitness-friendly peripherals and wireless ear buds fit the bill of providing stability, decent sound and the all-important ability to take calls. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live sit at the top end of its offering in this space. Their distinctive kidney bean shape pack as much tech as you’d expect in a fully specced set of headphones or wired earbuds.
The Buds Live come with a fetching ring box-style charging case that charges by USC-C. Between the modest charge held in the case and both ear buds fully charged you can expect 7.5 hours of play time, though this will depend on whether features like noise cancellation are activated. My review set paired with my iPhone over Bluetooth immediately, but Samsung recommends you download a dedicated app to manage installation and custom settings. I’d recommend using the app not as a set up tool but to make sure noise cancellation is actually working (it is an extra drain on the battery) and to get to the EQ control. There are five pre-sets, some music friendly with more bass, some better for conversation with added treble. So far you can’t get in and create your own audio profiles, something I hope will be looked at in future updates.
Each bud has a speaker, microphone (there are three in total), an antenna area, two charging contacts protected by a rubber ‘wing tip’ and a touch sensor. The default touch commands (more like ‘tap’ commands) allow you to play or pause a track, skip forward and back, answer or end a call, refuse a call and activate a pre-set feature, with noise cancellation as the default option. You can change these in the app, if you so wish. However, I did find it prone to crashing, which is a real shame as the out of the box audio doesn’t show off what the Galaxy Buds Live are really capable of. I quickly ditched the default in favour of the ‘soft’ and ‘dynamic’ options for their warmer sound.
The buds stay in place by following the curve of your ear and are slid into the canal. The fit is snug and not uncomfortable over the hour mark. Using the touch/tap controls did create a little discomfort. For what I want I’d definitely change the default to rely on longer longer touches over taps. The lack of a volume control is a major omission.
Call quality was adequate. The sound was clear on both sides of the call, if a little tinny.
But did the Galaxy Buds Live survive the ‘right ear test’? Actually, yes. They also survived a short, high intensity test without losing their grip and did a fine job of not annoying me at rest. They score better on battery life, as well, easily besting Apple’s Ear Pods, though they charge at about the same rate – five minutes of charging delivers one hour of playback.
Overall, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live are good out of the box but much better when used with its app. Unfortunately, the app is unreliable and when you’re spending €180 on a set of buds that need a hint of guidance to get the best out of, that’s not good.
With unbranded competitors selling similar products well under €100, sleek design alone may not be enough to elevate them above the rabble.
Available in ‘mystic bronze’, ‘mystic white’ and ‘mystic black’.