Apple and Samsung are no strangers to a fierce rivalry. The two have been arch enemies in the smartphone space ever since the launch of the original iPhone back in 2007. This culminated in the early-2010s, with both brands engaged in a six-year court case over patent infringements.
Thankfully, those days are behind us. But still the rivalry persists, spilling over into other product areas as each firm launches its respective devices. Here we're looking at which pair of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds you should buy: the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, or Apple AirPods Pro?
The AirPods Pro have a head start on the Buds Live, launching back in October 2019. They're an upgraded take on the second-gen AirPods, with silicon ear tips for a more snug fit and active noice-cancellation to block out the outside world.
The Buds Live are Samsung's third stab at the true wireless earbuds crown, following the disappointing Galaxy Buds and mediocre Galaxy Buds Plus. Is a new jelly bean-shaped design and the addition of noise-cancellation tech enough to warrant a purchase?
Let's see how the two stack up.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Apple AirPods Pro: price
Apple devices never come cheap. Add the word 'Pro' into the name, and you've got a pretty pricey product. The AirPods Pro retail for £249 ($249, AU$399).
That's a lot more than the Galaxy Buds Live, which sell for £179 ($170, AU$319).
Of course, that's the full retail price, and you might be able to find both on a deal. But the Buds Live have only just launched, and Apple deals are few and far between, so you'll have to strike it lucky. You'll find the cheapest current prices for both models further down this aricle.
For Samsung's lower price, it stands out as the clear winner.
**Winner** Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Apple AirPods Pro: battery life
Battery life is a crucial factor with any wireless headphones, especially those with noise-cancellation. The Buds Live give you six hours of life with active noise cancellation on and Bixby voice control off, while the carry case provides a further 15 hours of life. After that, you'll need to find a mains plug.
But these figures vary depending on your settings. Switch Bixby on, and battery life drops to 5.5 hours, but switch both it and noise cancellation off, and you'll get eight hours from the Buds themselves plus a further 29 hours using the carry case. Impressive.
A five-minute quick charge is enough to get you around an hour’s playback. Handy when you need to dash out of the house.
The AirPods Pro give you five hours of playback from the earbuds, with the carry case providing another 19. That total playback time of 24 hours is three more than the Galaxy Buds Live, though you will have to charge them from their carry case an hour sooner than with Samsung's equivalent. Again, a five-minute charge blast gives you an hour's listening.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Apple AirPods Pro: design and fit
Aesthetically, the two pairs couldn't be more different. The Galaxy Buds Live resemble two kidney beans with a glossy exterior that's smooth to the touch. They're nowhere near as intrusive as some earbuds, which can feel borderline invasive. Samsung has deliberately design them this way.
The buds come with two different sizes of wingtip (small and large) to help you secure the top section of each bud. Once in place, they feel light, comfortable and secure, even if that shiny surface can be a bit slippery in your fingers at times.
They also come in three colours: the eye-catching Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black or Mystic White.
The AirPods Pro look a lot more conventional. Indeed, with their glossy white finish and protruding stems, they could be mistaken for the standard AirPods. Though there's one big difference: the silicon tips, to help secure them in your ears.
They're light and comfortable, and stay put even during vigorous workouts. And three pairs of eartips should mean they fit almost any ear size. But the white finish is a little vanilla for our tastes.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Apple AirPods Pro: features
Samsung's headphones support Bluetooth 5.0 and use ‘Samsung Scalable Codec’, a technology that changes the bitrate of the music being played depending on the strength of your Bluetooth signal. It only works with Samsung devices (Android 7 and above) and you can’t turn it off, but we didn't hear any major jumping around of quality during testing with a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Our test did throw up a couple of bugs with both charging and playback, however. But hopefully, these were just teething issues with an early production sample.
Using Samsung's companion app, you can check the battery life of each earbud, adjust the sound, and use the 'find my earbuds' feature. The Buds Live can switch quickly between pairing with other Samsung devices like smartphones and TVs, so if you're part of the Samsung ecosystem you'll get a bit more out of them.
Like the Buds Live, the AirPods Pro feature touch controls, and they too can be a bit tricky to get to grips with, especially when on the move. They fit a wider range of ears than the standard AirPods thanks to the supplied silicon ear tips.
There's also an ‘Ear Tip Fit Test’ you can perform on your iPhone, which plays five seconds of music that’s analysed in order to identify any sound leakage. Get a green ‘Good Seal’ result and you’re ready to go, but if the Pros identify an issue you’ll be prompted to try a bigger or smaller tip.
Thanks to Apple's H1 chip, we experience no issues with pairing or playback during testing. Which, combined with the fit test, gives this round to Apple.
**Winner** Apple AirPods Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Apple AirPods Pro: noise-cancelling
Active noise-cancellation (ANC) comes as standard on both the Galaxy Buds Live and AirPods Pro. This cuts out background noise so you can focus on your music without cranking up the volume and potentially damaging your hearing.
While the aim is the same, each pair takes a quite different approach. Samsung claims its tech can reduce background noise under 700Hz by up to 97 per cent, while still enabling some outside sounds such as voices and announcements to get through. However, because the Buds Live are designed not to deliver a tight seal with your ear, they let in more ambient noise than rival noise-cancelling headphones.
Apple's approach is more high-tech. Each AirPod Pro has two microphones: one on the outside to detect incoming noise that can be cancelled out by anti-noise, and one on the inside that detects any noise that makes it through the seal and also analyses how your music is responding to the individual geometry of your ear. The noise-cancelling is continuously adjusted 200 times per second – which Apple claims is an industry first.
Neither Samsung's nor Apple's headphones have degrees of noise-cancelling – it's either on or off. Although both buds offer a 'Transparency' mode, which allows in more outside noise so you can hear announcements and attempt conversation.
Because of how they fit more snugly in the ear, we found the AirPods' noise-cancellation to be more effective than the Buds' so it's another round to Apple.
**Winner** Apple AirPods Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Apple AirPods Pro: sound quality
Despite lacking an airtight seal, the Galaxy Buds Live still manage to serve up plenty of bass. There’s a seriously impressive amount of low-end on offer, yet you still get a good sense of openness and spaciousness that some rivals can't match. That'll be down to the non-airtight seal.
Overall the delivery is nicely balanced, with the hefty lows never threatening to overpower. Throw in some crisp highs, and you've got a full-bodied and pleasant-sounding sonic package.
Theirs is an easy-going approach, which allows them to take the edge off harsher recordings. However, it does have its downsides – namely, they're not that exciting to listen to, and they can struggle to get into the groove of a track. They also tend to fudge more complex arrangements, with dynamics and timing both suffering.
If you've listened to other AirPods, you'll know what to expect from the Pros. They take Apple's typically neutral and balanced tonal balance, eschewing lots of heavy bass. Sonically speaking, like the Buds Live, they're pretty easy-going, which means they don't offend over long listening sessions.
But they sound more spacious than their design would suggest (that'll be down to those vents Apple has incorporated), with music sounding less like it's being pumped directly into your brain. It's not quite as natural as listening in the open, but it's not far off.
Midrange particularly impresses, with vocals having plenty of texture and detail. There's good sparkle to treble, too, but with no hint of brightness sneaking in. It's just a shame that sound quality suffers a little when noise-cancelling or Transparency mode are activated. It's not a massive step down, but it's there all the same. Having said that, they still sound more interesting to listen to than the Galaxy Buds Live.
**Winner** Apple AirPods Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Apple AirPods Pro: verdict
For us, the Apple AirPods Pro pick up this particular win. They sound better, have more effective noise-cancellation and, in our experience, are the more reliable.
But the Galaxy Buds Live aren't completely overshadowed – they look distinctive, feel extremely comfy and lightweight and have plenty of features to try out. And if you want to listen through an Android device, the AirPods are a no-go. The Buds Live are also a lot cheaper than the AirPods Pro.
If you have an iOS device, and your budget stretches to them, we would go for the AirPods Pro every time. Android owners and/or those on a budget will find the Galaxy Buds Live an interesting pair to own, but it has to be said there are more sonically gifted wireless earbuds out there.
Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro