Samsung Level In Headphones

These are nice headphones, but there are other really nice headphones out there that don't cost $149

Samsung is finally getting in on the premium audio game with its "Level" series of headphones and speakers, which were recently announced for the U.S. It's offering up four models in the series — Over, On, In and Box — that bring high prices and presumably high quality to those who have an affinity for the Samsung brand and some disposable income.

I managed to pick up a pair of the Level In earbuds, which retail for an extremely hefty $149.99 in the U.S., and use them for my daily headphones for the past few weeks. Samsung is definitely making a step in the right direction with these high-quality earbuds from both a design and material perspective, but the Level In headphones are still a luxury purchase for a limited audience — read along for the full review.

Sound quality

Samsung Level In Headphones

It's rather difficult for a pair of small in-ear headphones to provide quality, high-end sound by over-ear headphone standards, but as you can see by the use of them every single day on the streets and in the subways of every city, they're more of a necessity item than anything else. You give up audio quality for the comfort and ease of having a small set of earbuds that can be wound up and stuck in a pocket, and although big headphones are making a resurgence as of late, earbuds are the way to go for many.

Samsung is trying to promote its Level In earbuds as offering uncompromising sound, with a "dynamic 3-way speaker" that offers "... rich, clear treble and mid-range sound through dual balanced armature driver units while a single low-range speaker handles deep bass response." But the limits of acoustics in a small set of earbuds hamper any manufacturer's ability to do all that much with a pair of earbuds, and Samsung is no exception.

I'm far from an audiophile, in that I think the "high quality" setting in Google Play Music for streaming All Access tracks is just fine in terms of fidelity, but I do spend a pretty large amount of my time with headphones crammed into my ear holes. My go-to pair of headphones prior to using the Level In are Logitech's Ultimate Ears 350vm — $60 retail, marked down to somewhere around $25 now that they're getting older — and they have served me well for the better part of two years.

I can't say I noticed a single bit of quality difference in the music or podcasts that I listen to hours a day between Samsung's $149 Level In headphones and my $60 (or less) Logitechs. Across spoken word podcasts and electronic, rock and alternative music genres, the Level In earbuds sounded great — but so do my other headphones that are one-third the price.

Samsung isn't lying when it says that it offers rich bass and balanced mid-range, but it is being a little less genuine when it makes the assumption that you can't get that from another brand offering the same set of features at a lower price.

Style and feel

Samsung Level In Headphones

In the modern age of headphones, the look of what you're using seems to be just as important as the sound (looking at you, Beats). Samsung has thought of this, naturally, and has done a great job making its entire Level line of headphones and speakers clean, stylish and most importantly well-suited to pairing with other Samsung products.

I'm using the white and silver color option, which has a bit of a pearlescent look to it, but there's also a more subdued black pair for the same price if that's more your thing. The white model adds some chrome plastic around the earbuds and play/pause/volume buttons (the latter of which don't seem to work on my LG G3), and brushed silver plastic on the headphone jack, while the black models swap that out for some dark grey and black plastic instead.

The Level In headphones come in a beautiful box that's ridiculously sturdy and closes with a magnet (maybe thats where some of the $149 is going), and inside you'll find several sets of different earbud tips. You get multiple sizes of standard flexible rubber tips, and the same sizes in a soft memory foam-like option. I found the foam ones didn't offer me enough noise cancellation, but they do help with comfort for long listening sessions. You also get a hard-sided zip-up pouch for the headphones and extra tips, though most people will just end up winding these up and stuffing them in their pocket or bag, surely.

The earbuds themselves are quite large, actually, and could easily cause some discomfort problems depending on the size and shape of your ears. I have relatively large ears — using the second-largest included rubber tips — and still noticed in some cases that the hard plastic of the earbud was rubbing up against the outer side of my ear. Considering that there's basically only one way for earbuds to go in your ear, there's little room for adjustment to improve comfort.

This will really depend on the size and shape of your ears, but may be something to consider when buying these — just like any other earbuds you'll want to potentially try them out and return them if they don't work for you after a few hours of listening.

Value proposition

Samsung Level In Headphones

Samsung clearly isn't targeting true audiophile headphone junkies with its line of Level headphones, and the Level In are no exception. These $149 headphones are a complete and utter luxury purchase, that will only serve those who are faithful to the Samsung brand and want to buy a high-end accessory for their high-end phone or tablet. There are dozens of headphone choices out there that will provide equal (or better, honestly) sound for less than half the price, as well as the same high quality and features Samsung bandies about here.

I don't think a single person that drops $149 on the Level In headphones will be disappointed with the listening experience, material quality or design — but they may be a bit disappointed by how much they had to spend to get that complete package.

 

Reader comments

Samsung Level In headphones review

54 Comments

I would love a head to head review comparison of like 5 to 10 brands of earbuds.

Finding a great solution at a great price can be challenging.

Check Head-Fi, your wallet might not like you afterwards tho... InnerFidelity's Wall Of Fame might be a better place for some quick recommendations (Head-Fi is too full of noise at times, no pun intended). My own quick recommendations:

If you want a lot of detail and don't mind a slightly "bright" sound (slight emphasis on high notes, neutral bass), take a look at Etymorics hf3 or hf5 (both work with Android phones despite the button arrangement). Can be found for $100-125, well worth the money, I can clearly hear the difference between them and some of my $20-40 IEM (models that are also a good value for their price mind you, like MEElec M6 or UEs).

Ety isn't the sexiest brand but they just about invented in ears, the hf are also some of the most isolating IEM out there if you really wanna tune the world out... The offer to get custom molded sleeves for an extra $100 is also pretty unique in the industry. Got my blue hf5 for $60 at Cowboom but if they died I'd run out and pay whatever Amazon asks for a new pair (only in red!).

If you want a warmer sound and/or don't want as much isolation, take a look at the Philips Fidelio S1 & S2. More bass emphasis than the Etys without over doing it, nice flat cable, great value for the money at around $80-100 for the lower end model. They look really sweet too IMO.

Sports IEM for under $35: look no further than the MEElectronics M6. The behind the ear design (like some Shures) just stays on and the sound is solid for the price, nice and punchy for exercise, not a big deal if they get trashed. I run with mine almost daily, got the plain non sports model and sweat/rain hasn't phased them.

Bottom line, there are TONS of good models out there at $25-$150 that WILL absolutely sound better than cheap throw ins (and probably these Samsungs). If you care about SQ at all you owe it to yourself to do a little research instead of picking the first pair of Skullcandies you see at the checkout line (tho they've gotten better).

Sony MH1c were also a pretty good value for a while (<$50), better than many of the IEM Sony themselves sold at retail... For some reason they didn't sell them direct (they bundled them with some devices) but were plentiful on eBay.

There's probably more readily available models in that price range that can match them now. Philips, MEElectronics, Ultimate Ears, etc all have a nice line of budget models (as well as mid range stuff that competes with the Etys, Shures, HiFiMans, etc).

The InnerFidelity WoF as well as joker's HUGE comparison thread at Head-Fi should both be good resources for what you want. It's really not hard to find a good value that will probably blow away most of what you've heard before.

It was slightly harder to find models with mics and buttons some two years ago but that's obviously changing, it's still somewhat less common at the mid to high end tho. All the ones I suggested have a mic and Android compatible buttons.

Joker's thread doesn't just compare 5 or 10 brands btw, more like 50+ and a huge swath of models. He's heard them all first hand and keeps a ton for reference's sake, recently he's even taken to sending them to Tyll at IF for FR measurements which can give you an idea of the way they're tuned without screen listening.

Both resources have a much more objective and controlled approach without ignoring the subjective nature of earphone preferences, certainly more comprehensive than much of Head-Fi or earphone coverage around the web in general.

I'll agree on the M6 recommendation. They're not exactly "audiophile", but they're kind of fun to listen to, and actually probably better for things like lower bit rate MP3s and the typical podcast since they sort of naturally soften the harsh high end. They have reasonably good isolation, too, so I use them when mowing. I even used them for a while on stage for IEMs prior to getting my customs. I have a couple pair of the M6, and I think they ranged from $15-20.

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Yeah, they dip in price on Amazon all the time, particularly when MEElec refreshes them slightly. They've got them in half a dozen colors now too.

Just get some Xiaomi Piston 2.1s. Pretty much unanimously regarded as some of the best IEMs and they cost like $23.

I don't doubt that these are good buds, but I've found that for the money, it's hard to beat the Klipsch S4i (Apple) or S4a (Android)!

Agreed. I haven't run into a pair that's better than Klipsh, and they're often as low as $25 on eBay or Amazon.

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It's actually not that hard to beat them for the money. They're not bad by any means, but far from the best value (unless they're going for like half the price they used to).

I have a pair of Level In headphones as i received it as a gift from a friend who works at Samsung USA. I used to use Bose ie2 and Level In blows my old bose pairs away. I love using it.

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But if these don't belong in that price range to begin with (sound quality wise), then they're selling merely cause it says Samsung on them. If they're just trying to compete with Beats, well, bravo I guess.

There's plenty of headphones at this price point with mic and control that bat well above their price (and at lower price points), most just aren't sold at Best Buy or Walmart and aren't advertised by any hip hop magnate.

It's baffling how much bad, overblown, disingenuous, and even clever advertising has hurt the audio industry as a whole, specially personal audio. And it's sad how quickly and how much Beats came to dominate, really sad.

The review didn't say they were bad, making it more a personal decision whether you want to spend more money to possibly get better sound. And again, having a functional remote weighs up for a lot, and no, there are not "plenty" of in ear headphones with functional 3-button controls for Android. The S4a mentioned above is one of few and they honestly don't sound very good.

Just an example, one of my headphones which I like a lot, a pair of Klipsch Image One (yeah, I'm one of those who always have the loudness button depressed on any sound system with one of those buttons, so I really like the excessive bass on the Image One's... Anyhoo...), unfortunately they come with the usual iPod controls, i.e. pretty useless. Luckily for me I realised that on this specific model it's fairly easy to replace the cable yourself, so I bought a Samsung compatible cable for some other headphones and soldered them on myself. However, I doubt very few would bother doing that... :)

Well, there's plenty of one-button models, and with the right app you can skip tracks, pause, repeat, and even change volume with a single button. If you really need discrete buttons for volume control a la iPhone then yeah, choices narrow down considerably... All those models require their own apps to work properly too tho. My point was the article seemed to indicate they didn't sound better than cheaper models, for $150 I expect a big leap from a $50 pair, cause plenty others can accomplish that.

I think we can all agree that the one-button solution is annoying, no matter what app you use. "Uh, no? Did I have to press two long or three short to go back?"

To me, the review says it can be hard for most people to hear the difference between headphones at $50 and $150. Which I can agree with to some extent. Especially when you use them in their intended environment, that is on the metro, exercising or just being out on the move in a normal noisy town.

Haven't had an issue using a single button here, logic's been the same for years across a lot odd devices... Double press for skip and triple to repeat.

I'll grant you volume control can get tricky (tho with the app I use it's just one long press and release at desired volume), but there's buttons on every phone ever for that...

Anyone that needs to fidget with volume every two sec should really look into slapping their collection into shape with Replay Gain.

You can't apply relay gain to your environment. :)

Anyway, I think this will help put pressure on other manufacturers to offer headphones with functional controls, as Samsung is a big enough brand to make a big dent in any other's sales by entering this price range.

Plenty of major manufacturers make headphones that work with androids headset controls. You don't have to pay $150 to get that.

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You may not know what you're missing. ;) Granted if you don't use them often then it's a poor value proposition regardless... I'm not an audiophile by any means (word has all sorts of auspicious connotations) but I feel like I've gotten my money's worth with all my headphones, wouldn't spend more than I have either, tho I could also pare it down if I was cash strapped.

$20 MEElec M6 - IEM for running, good value for what they are

$60 Etymotic hf5 - would buy again even at full retail ($100+), can't travel or stand in a bank line without them, hope to get the custom sleeves soon

$125 V-Moda M80 - lovely on ears for when I don't want the isolation of IEM, like them so much I'm thinking of selling them to get the newer folding XS model, could live without them tho

I have a pair of more expensive open headphones for gaming and music at home, but I spend a lot of time listening to music at my desk... They do blow these away too but at 2-3x the price they better. I feel like people short change themselves with audio these days (not you necessarily).

Drooling over a 1080p+ phone display or a plasma or 4k TV while using bad headphones (plenty of GOOD cheap headphones), or a sound bar (or TV speakers, shudder) is all kinds of confusing. It's like riding a sports car in a folding plastic chair... The press and industry at large also do an awful job of marketing good audio tho.

Ohh, I forgot about my Koss KSC50 / KSC75 clip ons... Easily the best value amongst them even tho they're the cheapest, not good for quiet environments (they're open, so they leak), but they stomp all over many many headphones up to $50 even tho they cost a fraction of that.

I don't use them much anymore but they're great for like skiing and running on the road, when you don't wanna be totally oblivious to the world. A lot of full size on ears wish they sounded as good as those cheap clip ons, lifetime warranty to boot.

Yeah you are way more of an audiophile (he he) than I am I only use my headphones at the gym and while I am doing some serious coding at work. Maybe occasionally when I am watching something on the computer the wife doesn't care to hear. If it doesnt sound like a Victorola, I am fine with it.

I have my Beats that I use, 2-3 pair of Samsung (still in the plastic) and some of the new Apple ear buds. Thats it, didn't pay for any of them. I do have to find a good set of (or one) bluetooth speaker for hose/yard use...got a recommendation?

UE MINI BOOM

1. True Left and Right STEREO Channels in the box - TWO Speakers - L/R!
2. LOUD and CLEAR volume
3. Great compact/lightweight form factor - easy to carry/throw in travel bag or beach bag
4. standard micro USB charger - who wants to F with a proprietary charger like on Bose and several others? F That!
5. 10 hour battery life
6. 50 foot Bluetooth Range
7. Bluetooth 4.0
8. NFC Support
9. Clean/Sleek Design/Controls.
10. Durable Design.
11. Speakerphone
12. reasonable price - $80-$99.
13. you can optionally buy two and use their App from Play Store and join the two speakers as L/L and R/R or as L/R and L/R if you prefer - all via their App.

http://www.ultimateears.com/en-us/mini-boom

The Verge recently had an article that compared a number of Bluetooth speakers (like a dozen), which is unusual since that kinda stuff is usually reviewed in isolation (which is all but worthless). I thought it was well put together, I think the Logitech UE mentioned above and it's larger brother came out on top, tho not the cheapest. They also highlighted a cheaper Panasonic model that's more weather proof that I've been meaning to order on Amazon to try out.

The thing about that sorta wireless speaker is that you're usually overpaying quite a bit if sound quality is the overriding concern... Part of the budget is going to batteries, BT, a catchy design, etc etc; size alone compromises many models. The price point for the better ones seems to be like $200, for that kinda money you can get a pair of passive bookshelf speakers ($50-150, Infinity Primus, Pioneer's Andrew Jones line, etc) and a small inexpensive t-amp ($25-80) + BT adapter ($30) that will blow anything like the UE Boom away, like no comparison.

Obviously that kinda setup is far less portable (2-3 wires, large enclosures), for something semi permanent it's well worth a couple extra wires/components tho; however if you want something more portable with a rechargeable battery and totally wireless I'd again point ya towards that Verge article I mentioned. Logitech's been doing that kinda portable battery powered dock/speaker for years, they've put out quite a few decent models even long before BT was trendy/usable (and before they bought UE). The UE Boom's ability to pair up seems particularly nice for a larger space IMO.

My only other recommendation would be that if you have any old speaker set, dock, or boom box with a 3.5mm jack that you like; you can simply get a cheap BT adapter/receiver and accomplish the same effect. Might not be as sleek but it's very cost effective for casual use. I have a Miccus Blubridge Mini-jack Rx with a really old Logitech mm50b dock, the fact that it uses 4 AAs makes it nice for leaving in the car without worrying about recharging.

There's also active speakers which would fall somewhere in between, if it's not a total outdoor space something like Samson's MediaOne 3a / 4a or even the more expensive (and smaller, albeit lesss punchy) Audioengine A2 would also work well. The amp is in one speaker so it's just one wire between the two, just add BT. For tossing on a patio table or completely outdoor use away from outlets etc then stuff like the UE Boom or mini works better obviously...

My peeve is people that use those things like their bedroom stereo or whatever, which makes them a terrible value. If it doesn't need to be transportable and away from outlets you can do better for money, much better, if it does then by all means.

The Verge article I alluded to:
http://mobile.theverge.com/2014/7/2/5861556/best-bluetooth-speaker

That Panasonic SC-NT10D seems intriguing for the price it's going for on Amazon, and the current model even added speakerphone functionality I think. I'll definitely be tossing it on my next Amazon order. Edit: My bad if I went hugely off topic, you wrote hose (sp: house?) / yard so I wasn't entirely sure.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I wear earbud headphones at work for at least half of my shift and for the money and durability I have had the best luck with Sony. Especially their extra bass models. Thanks for steering me clear of these. Peace

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Not been able to hear these ones out but probably sounds OK, but there are tons of other in-ears that do that. Apples in-ears are the worst offenders out there and should be considered a violation of human rights.
Etymotics are nice but somewhat harsh when listening to streaming sources like spotify/rdio/deezer, some very nice all-rounders are the sennheiser ie80 with comply foams.
Very nice bass response and good mids and slightly rolled off highs that helps with listening fatigue, anything sub 200$ sounds like shit, so get a pair of 400$ in-ears with great sound and replaceable cable and enjoy them for many years instead of being a cheap whining looser.
Buying cheap headphones/buds (sub 200$) or beats at any price point is just asking for crap quality.

It's that elitest attitude that also gives the Hi-Fi and Head-Fi hobbies (and many others) such a bad rap. Not everyone can afford to pay that much, yet still want to enjoy their hobby. Get it through your head already.

I agree, there's perfectly usable models under $200 that are still a huge step above the bargain bin stuff and bundled models. To say that you might as well just spend $400 for anything decent is foolish, if that's the case then you might as well just spend $600 for custom molded IEM that fit your ear perfectly because anything else is worthless. Shoot, I think half of Ety's models are under $200 (certainly under $400) so the whole post is kinda contradictory.

I don't want to play grammar police, as English is not my first spoken language. But "It's offering offering"? Come on, Andrew and AC, you can do better than this. It should not be difficult for native English speakers to distinguish the difference between it's and its. The whole sentence would have been so much better if it said "Its lineup offering".

Rant over.

I am not going to be harsh to you because you stated that English is not your first language.

The sentance problem is not with "it's" is is with saying offering twice. Here you go:

It's offering offering up four models
It's offering up four models
It is offering up four models

I am not a grammar Nazi but I think it can go both ways. I understand that "its" is referring to the previous thing (I think it was Samsung in this case) but the same can be accomplished with "It is".

I very well could be wrong, but it makes sense to me.

I think ultimately that is what Andrew was trying to say; which begs the question, where is proofreading these days? I am not expecting some grand literature, but this is such a tiny mistake that should've been addressed before posting. If you look at it one way it is wrong, and with your way, which I am sure it's the author's intent, is still wrong. 2 wrongs do not make it a right, and that was ultimately my point.

Like I said I am not a grammar Nazi, even though I think my way is perfectly ok, but I do agree that the proofreading/journalism standards have gone far down hill.

I look at this like a blog more than a serious "newspaper" but I read a news aggregate site all the time and the mistakes that the big ones (newspapers) make are just stupid

I have a pair of MEElectronics M16's that are my daily drivers, and they only cost $15 as well as some Klipsch Image S3's that were $30. I can recommend both sets highly for cheap in-ears.
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I likely wouldn't buy these at $150, but I'd love to have them included with a new Samsung flagship purchase.

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