The added active nosing cancelling (ANC) makes Samsung Galaxy Buds Live a direct and serious competitor to Apple AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3.
This headphone guide explains the new features and improvements of Galaxy Buds Live (vs Galaxy Buds Plus), and how Galaxy Buds Live stands against Apple AirPods Pro to help you choose a pair of proper wireless earbuds.
Galaxy Buds Live vs Galaxy Buds Plus: the new features of improvements
Galaxy Buds Live share many similar features and controls with Galaxy Buds Plus (Galaxy Buds +). For example, both buds share the 2-way dynamic speaker system tuned by AKG, 3-microphone array, touch panel control, Spotify integration, Qi wireless charging and wireless PowerShare charging. The plugins for these two buds in Galaxy Wearables are very similar as well.
But Galaxy Buds Live comes with some improvements and new features that cannot be found in Galaxy Buds Plus.
In this post, we will focus on these differences.
The No.1 new feature of Galaxy Buds Live is the active noise cancelling (ANC).
Samsung claimed that Galaxy Buds Live received UL Verification for reducing background noise by up to 97% in low-frequency bands.
It is an overstatement, although ANC on the buds is comparable to other wireless earbuds.
In the real world, the top-tier consumer ANC over-ear headphones (e.g., Sony WH-1000XM4, Bose QuietComfort 35) can reduce about 70-90% background low-frequency noise. Wireless earbuds with ANC normally can only reduce about 40-70% noise.
Galaxy Buds Live adopts the open-type design. The buds do not try to create a sealed environment in the ear canal. Instead, there are air vents on the buds so that you will feel quite comfortable even if you wear the buds for extended periods.
Most other wireless earbuds with ANC need silicon (or foam) tips to create a sealed space. For example, both Apple AirPod Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 use silicon tips to help noise cancelling. But for most people, the seal will cause pain and is uncomfortable if you use such buds for a long time.
Normally, such a seal is needed to achieve decent noise isolation and cancelling.
It is glad to see Samsung used the open-type design for noise cancelling. And Galaxy Buds Live managed to get comparable (only slighter lower) noise reduction compared to AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3.
By default, you can tap and hold (long tap) the touch panel to enable or disable ANC on Galaxy Buds Live, as explained in this guide.
The bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live look quite different from the conventional wireless earbuds like Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds Plus (Galaxy Buds +).
As mentioned earlier, the new open design means it is not necessary to “seal” your ear canal with the buds. So, there are no silicon (or foam) ear tips on Galaxy Buds Live.
In fact, there are two air vents on the buds.
So, you will not have the feeling of “stuffed” when you use the Buds Live for a long time. Of course, you need to fit the buds in your ear correctly.
Most users will feel the comforts immediately.
To wear Galaxy Buds Live properly, you need to know:
- The shiny side is facing outside.
- The thinner side (with speaker and microphone holes) should go deep to your ear.
- Once you insert the buds into your ear, you need to twist it a bit to secure it.
- There is wingtip on the “fatter” side. You can choose S, M or L size to fit your ear. Many owners do not realize the rubber surrounding the letter L and R is a detachable wingtip. In your Galaxy Buds Live box, you should find another two pairs of the wingtip.
Anyway, it may take a while for you to get used to the new wearing method.
Voice Pickup Unit
Galaxy Buds Live offers the best call quality. Period.
No other wireless earbuds we tested so far can deliver a better call quality. The voice is simply crisp and clear, even in a very noisy environment.
The magic comes from the new Voice Pickup Unit (VPU) of Galaxy Buds Live. Huawei used a similar VPU in the AirPods-like FreeBuds 3.
The VPU sensor can sense the motion of your jaw and convert the vibration into voice signals when needed.
By combining VPU with the two microphones located outside of the earbuds, Galaxy Buds Live can effectively filter out most ambient sound when you make calls.
Galaxy Buds Live also added a bass duct (see Galaxy Buds Live layout) to amplify the bass notes.
Such a bass enhancement is needed for most open design earbuds to maintain the sound quality at low frequencies.
Of course, AKG tends to add too much bass. But it seems the issue is not significant on Galaxy Buds Live.
Battery life (worse)
Galaxy Buds Live has a shorter battery life of 6 hours (actually 5-6 hours) with ANC on. The charging case offers 2.5 charges for the buds.
So, Samsung claimed the 21 hours non-stop listening time for the Buds Live.
As a comparison, Galaxy Buds Plus offers 11-hour playtime and the charging case offer another 11 hours.
If you turn off ANC and Bixby Voice on the Buds Live, the playing time is about 8 hours, which are 3 hours short of the Galaxy Buds Plus. The consolation is the Buds Live charging case offers more.
You may check this guide on the battery life of Galaxy Buds Live under 3 different conditions.
Galaxy Buds Live vs AirPods Pro: the choice of ANC wireless earbuds
Here is a quick summary of the comparison for Galaxy Buds Live vs AirPods Pro. A detailed review and comparison between Samsung Galaxy Buds Live and Apple AirPods Pro will be published here (coming soon).
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Wins
- Call quality. There is no question that the Buds Live delivers the best call quality among all wireless buds in 2020.
- Working with Android phones. You can install the Galaxy Wearable app and Galaxy Buds Live plugin on most devices to get full control of the Buds Live.
- Comfort for extended usage. The Buds Live fits better for most users. And the open design does make it more comfortable to wear.
- Manual EQ settings. You can adjust EQ settings in the app for the Buds Live.
- No parts are sticking out of your ears.
- Price. The MSRP of Samsung Galaxy Buds Live is $179.99, which is $70 cheaper than Apple AirPods Pro.
- Battery life. Without ANC, AirPods Pro offers about 5 hours of listening time within one charge; while the Buds Live can last about 8 hours.
Apple AirPods Pro Wins
- Working with Apple products. AirPods Pro is made for Apple products. You can use it as normal $100 Bluetooth earbuds on Android and other devices without any advanced controls and features.
- Seamless switching among iOS devices. The pairing can be saved in iCloud, and therefore you can easily switch AirPods Pro among different Apple products.
- Noise isolation. The ear tips on AirPods Pro give decent noise isolation. The isolation is actually as good as the Jabra Elite Sports. Buds Live is a different design.
- Noise-cancelling. AirPods Pro offers slightly better (and consistent) noise cancelling than the Buds live.
Neither wins (tie)
- Sound quality. Galaxy Buds Live is better in the lower end, and AirPods Pro is better in the middle range. Neither is for audiophiles.
- Gesture controls.
So, if you are mainly using Android devices or mixing Android and Apple products, Galaxy Buds Live is a better choice. In this case, you may also consider Sony WF-1000XM3.
AirPods Pro is mainly for Apple product owners, and it is the best choice for them.
How to wear and use Samsung Galaxy Buds Live?
You may check this guide (coming soon) on how to wear and use Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.
For Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Buds Plus, you may check this guide on how to use them.
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