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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: which should you buy?
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung has launched another pair of true wireless earbuds. Its range includes many different models, including the Galaxy Buds Pro, Galaxy Buds Live and Galaxy Buds+ (which are being discontinued), but the new Galaxy Buds 2 are the follow-up to the original Galaxy Buds. The first Galaxy Buds were a little disappointing, so hopes are high for the Buds 2.

But they're not just competing against Samsung's other pairs, of course. They also need to take on other brands' finest. While not the best-sounding, Apple's AirPods are some of the most popular wireless earbuds around, and helped take the product category mainstream.

The Apple/Samsung rivalry goes back a long way – remember all those court cases during the early 2010s? – so wireless earbuds are just the latest battleground in a long-running war. Can Samsung take this victory? Let's pit the two head to head and find out.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: price

Apple and Samsung don't really do budget, but these models of wireless earbud are towards the more affordable end of the scale.

The second-gen AirPods debuted in 2019 with a retail price of £159 ($159, AU$249).  This being Apple, discounts aren't all that common, though you could well get lucky if you know where to look. For the latest, check out the best Apple deals.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are a little cheaper, retailing for £139 ($150, AU$219) when they launch on 27th August – that's the same launch price as the original 2019 Samsung Galaxy Buds. Though at time of writing you can pick up the AirPods for less than that.

Deals? The Buds 2 are brand new, so it's not likely. Though keep a look out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – you never know your luck!

**Winner** Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: design

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy Buds 2 are Samsung's smallest and lightest wireless earbuds yet, tipping the scales at just 5g per bud. The charging case's exterior might be white, but the buds themselves (and inside of the case) come in a choice of four colours: graphite, white, olive and lavender.

They also come with rubber ear tips, which don't feature on all earbuds at this price. There's even an earbud-fit test housed within Samsung's Galaxy Wearable app, to help you determine which size fits you best. And they're rated IPX2, meaning they're splashproof.

The AirPods weigh in a little lighter than the Buds 2, at 4g per bud. They don't have ear tips, so you'll just have to hope they fit (the one-size-fits-all splits opinion in our office: some get on fine, others suffer repeated drop outs, so we would recommend you try before you buy). They don't have a waterproof rating, so get them wet at your peril. And the finish? You can have any colour as long as it's white.

**Winner** Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: noise-cancelling

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: noise-cancelling

(Image credit: Apple)

Impressively for a pair at this price, the Galaxy Buds 2 offer noise-cancelling tech. We haven't had them in for a listening session yet, but on paper, they sound very promising. The active noise cancelling claims to block external noise by up to 98 per cent, while the enhanced Ambient Sound mode offers three adjustable sound levels. They might lack the Intelligent ANC and Dolby Head Tracking of the pricier Galaxy Buds Pro, but still, it's an impressive offering for a pair at this end of the market.

Apple's standard AirPods don't offer noise cancelling – for that, you need to step up to the pricier AirPods Pro. So it's something of a bye for Samsung in this round.

**Winner** Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: battery life

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: battery life

(Image credit: Future)

The Buds 2 claim five hours per charge with noise cancelling switched on, plus an additional 15 hours provided by the USB-C charging case. They also support Qi wireless charging – five minutes on a standard 5A pad should return around an hour of playback.

This is bested by the AirPods. They deliver the same five hours per charge, plus an extra 19 from the charging case. Though remember that the Buds 2 have noise cancelling, which is a considerable battery drain.

The AirPods are available with a wireless charging case, but it'll cost you extra – £199 ($199, AU$319).

**Winner** Apple AirPods

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: sound quality

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: sound quality

(Image credit: Apple)

As we've said, we haven't tested the Galaxy Buds 2 yet, so can't comment on their sound quality. But we can say that Samsung has employed a two-way woofer/tweeter system which will hopefully outperform its previous wireless earbuds, which have been a little disappointing.

There are some other features that should improve the listening experience, too. As well as Bluetooth 5.2, Samsung uses its own codec to boost the strength of the wireless connection and improve sound quality when synced to a Samsung Galaxy mobile device. The auto-switch feature lets you switch between Galaxy devices in an instant, so you could switch from streaming music on your Samsung tablet to taking a handsfree phone call on your Galaxy smartphone just like that. And as well as the ear-tip fit test, the Galaxy Wearable app lets you tweak the noise controls and EQ level.

Let's hope it's enough to improve on the original Galaxy Buds' two-star rating.

Apple is known for its neutral sonic balance – the AirPods stick with this straight-down-the-line approach with no artificial boosting of bass or enhancement of treble. You feel as though you're listening to music with little to no manipulation, and that's something of which we're always hugely appreciative.

That's not to say they don't have impact. There's a nice level of subtlety and sophistication, with low-level dynamic shifts feeling more granular and delicate, while bigger contrasts between quiet and loud are more pronounced and dramatic. The delivery has plenty of detail too, and the presentation is nicely open and spacious. Organisation, meanwhile, is very good thanks to their impeccable timing.

But they're not perfect. They veer towards harshness at high volumes and struggle to make sense of the most built-up sections of some tracks. Still, it's an impressive performance, especially considering the price tag.

**Winner** Apple AirPods

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: early verdict

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Apple AirPods: early verdict

(Image credit: Samsung )

The Galaxy Buds 2 are shaping up to be a very good proposition indeed. With noise cancelling, interchangeable ear tips and some natty colour schemes, there's plenty to justify choosing them over the Apple AirPods. They should be cheaper too, providing the AirPods aren't available on a deal.

The only question mark concerns performance. Can they improve on Samsung's slightly shabby track record when it comes to wireless earbud sound quality? And – crucially – can they beat Apple AirPods, the buds that took true wireless mainstream? We'll update this with a definitive verdict once we've put them through their paces.

MORE:

Pre-order the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 at Samsung

Another head to head: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Galaxy Buds Pro

More wireless wonders: best wireless earbuds

These are the best headphones of all styles and prices

Looking for a bargain? Check out the best cheap headphone deals

Joe Svetlik

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.