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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: which are better?

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: which are better?
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to true wireless earbuds, Samsung hasn't had a great run. It's not that its models have been particularly bad, it's just that the competition has been particularly good. Even 80mph will feel slow when you're in the next lane to a Formula One racer.

But this could all change, thanks to a new model: the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. On offer is a new design, 24-bit high resolution playback (of sorts), 360 audio with dynamic head tracking, and more. Can they improve on the original Galaxy Buds Pro? Or will they be another so-so effort from Samsung? Let's find out.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: price

The original Galaxy Buds Pro touched down at £219 /$199 / AU$349, but have since dropped to £139 / $169 / AU$319, which is very affordable for a supposedly 'Pro' model. And now they can be picked up for even less – in the UK, the price has dipped below £100.

However, the sequel are considerably more expensive, in the UK and US at least: they cost £219 / $229 / AU$349, which is much closer to their predecessor's launch price.

What does your extra money get you? Let's see...

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: design

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: design

(Image credit: Future)

A lot of wireless earbuds look the same. Which is why we were thrilled by the launch of another pair of Samsung buds, the Galaxy Buds Live. We'll be the first to admit they weren't the finest-sounding earbuds around, but at least their kidney bean-inspired design stood out.

No such luck with the Galaxy Buds Pro. They're your standard ‘twist-to-fit’ arrangement – although at a shade less than 2.1cm long, they’re a little more ostentatious in situ than quite a few alternatives. But they're well made, with a glossy finish that comes in the same colours as the Galaxy S21 smartphone: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver and Phantom Violet.

They come with three pairs of silicone ear tips, which makes finding a good fit pretty straightforward. Though because of the buds' size, they do move around a little more than most. Chances are you’ll find yourself repositioning these earbuds a bit more regularly than you would any number of alternative designs.

The Buds 2 Pro eschew this glossiness in favour of an all-matte finish that looks and feels more elegant. The matching charging case is similarly svelte. They're a slicker, more premium package.

There are new colour schemes too: graphite, white and Samsung's signature Bora Purple (not a Phantom colour in sight). Combined with the new finish, it's a more grown-up look that befits the higher price tag.

The buds have gone for a spin in Samsung's shrink-o-meter, becoming 15 per cent smaller than their predecessors. This helps them fit better in your ears, though they do prove wearing on the old lug holes – after a while, you really notice them pressing against your ears, which put us off using them for long listening sessions.

Again, three pairs of ear tips come in the box, and you can use Samsung's Wearable app to conduct an Earbud Fit Test to guarantee the best seal. 

The on-bud controls? They're intuitive, if a tad over-sensitive. But you can turn off all touch controls using the app, to avoid accidentally pausing your music when brushing against the buds.

The charging case has also been redesigned – it's tiny, fitting into the palm of your hand, and the soft-touch finish feels nice while also offering a good grip. Improvements all round.

Winner: Buds 2 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: battery life

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: battery life

(Image credit: Samsung)

The original Buds Pro last five hours from the buds, plus another 12 from the case, making a total battery life of 17 hours. That's decent, if unremarkable.

The Buds 2 Pro improve on this, but only marginally. The buds last the same five hours, but the case adds another hour to its run time, making a total of 18 hours. Which is a shame, seeing as plenty of rivals surpass 24 hours of total run time.

Winner: Buds 2 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: features

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: features

(Image credit: Samsung)

We described the original Buds Pro as "a Samsung product for Samsung fans". Considering the number of features that require a Samsung Galaxy smartphone to work, that description is also apt for the Buds 2 Pro.

The key new feature is end-to-end 24-bit high-resolution “hi-fi” sound quality. That means the buds will fully decode and play 24-bit audio files from music streaming services (like Amazon MusicTidal and Qobuz). But this only works when the buds are paired with a Samsung Galaxy device running One UI 4.0 or higher. The resolution maxes out at 24-bit/48kHz too.

Not a Samsung user? Then the 24-bit audio stream will be downsampled to 16-bit.

In pure data stream terms, Samsung's SSC HiFi Codec (which enables the "hi-fi" sound quality) delivers slightly more information than aptX HD Bluetooth, but falls behind the Sony WF-1000XM4 using Sony's own LDAC technology. Then there's the sound quality of the Buds 2 Pro, which we'll come to in a minute...

360 audio with multi-channel support and dynamic head tracking also come as standard, giving a more immersive experience when listening to Dolby Atmos-mixed tracks, or watching TV shows and films that have an Atmos 5.1 or 7.1 surround soundtrack.

Bluetooth 5.3 is on board too – this is the latest Bluetooth standard, making its debut on a consumer product. It's a big step up from the Buds Pro's 5.0, and opens the door to Bluetooth LE “Low Energy” Audio, which will arrive later this year alongside the One UI 5.0 update. The main advantage? The ability to record 360 audio from the earbuds.

Like the original Buds Pro, the Buds 2 Pro feature active noise-cancelling (ANC), but it's more effective this time round. That's thanks to three high SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) mics that help filter out 40 per cent more outside noise than on the Buds Pro. The wind shield on the Buds 2 Pro has doubled in size as well, which is more effective in eliminating unwanted outside noise. 

Conversation Mode – or Voice Detect – is also new, and works just like Sony’s Speak-to-Chat feature, which recognises when you’re speaking and automatically switches to Ambient mode and lowers the volume so you can hear the other person better without taking out the earbuds.

The Buds 2 Pro have the same IPX7 rating as the originals, meaning they can survive up to 30 minutes of immersion in up to a metre of water.

Samsung Galaxy phone users get an extra home screen widget that lets you change noise modes and turn off all touch controls with a single tap. The Wearables app with the Buds 2 Pro’s extensive customisable features is available for other Android users, but Apple/iOS users have to make do with the basic Bluetooth connection for playback, basic touch controls without any customisation, and not much else.

Another boon for those entirely embedded in the Samsung ecosystem is auto switching, with the Buds 2 Pro connecting easily to Galaxy smartphones, watches and now even Samsung 2022 smart TVs for the first time. Improvements all round once again for the Buds 2 Pro.

Winner: Buds 2 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: sound quality

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: sound quality

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung doesn't have a great track record when it comes to great-sounding wireless earbuds. In fact, it's scored a recent string of three-star pairs, including the Galaxy Buds Pro and Buds 2 Pro.

The original Buds Pro are nicely balanced, not over- or understating any part of the frequency range, with a detailed midrange. But the whole package remains unsatisfying, sounding bland and undemonstrative. Their overall tonality is matter-of-fact, their dynamic ability is mild in the extreme, and their ability to properly attack a tune is basically non-existent.

Their successors aren't much better. While they do sound open and clear, with a spacious soundstage and plenty of energy, the bass is rather soft and flabby, and the treble unnecessarily harsh. The resulting melange makes tracks of all genres and eras sound pretty much the same, robbing them of their sonic character.

Songs in 24-bit have more detail, but still sound flat through these earbuds. Just like the Buds 2 Pro overall, it's an improvement, but not nearly up to our – admittedly high – standards.

360 audio is a mixed bag, too. It is more immersive, with dynamic head tracking sounding particularly impressive, but the head tracking doesn't always work – the effect comes and goes at intermittent intervals. Frustrating.

Winner: Buds 2 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Galaxy Buds Pro: verdict

There's a clear winner here: the Buds 2 Pro. While the originals are cheaper, the Buds 2 Pro sound better, have a fancier design, longer battery life and more advanced feature set.

It's not a huge improvement by any measure. And we must stress there are much better wireless earbuds available at this price. But if you're a Samsung fan and want Samsung earbuds, the Buds 2 Pro are the better bet compared to their predecessors.

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Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.