Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live: Which should you buy?

Galaxy Buds 2 olive
Galaxy Buds 2 olive (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung's latest Galaxy Buds 2 provide surprisingly punchy sound for such a compact design. They slide comfortably into any ear, and use Samsung's fit test to ensure you have the right tips installed. For their price range, Samsung phone owners can't do better.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Block out the world

Far superior ANC
Separate woofer and tweeter
Less glitchy touch controls
Comfortable design w/ Samsung fitting software
More color options
Narrow soundstage
Mics, ambient mode can be tinny
IPX2 water resistance

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Render

The least "bud"-like of any wireless earbuds we've tried, these petite bean-shaped Buds slot comfortably and securely into your outer ear without straining or blocking your ear canal. While its ANC isn't great, its sound quality impressives in peaceful conditions.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Give your ears a rest

Unique outer-ear design
Wide, bass-heavy audio
Slightly better ANC battery life
Mystic colors
Can technically work with iPhones
Poor noise cancellation
Unreliable touch controls
IPX2 water resistance

Live, Pro, Plus, 2: Samsung has a wide range of Galaxy Buds wireless earbuds with intriguing names that don't clearly signal which one is the "best" available. Most recently, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 arrived with colorful charm and active noise cancellation (ANC); but do these earbuds beat the year-old Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, with their uniquely tiny design and strong battery life? Let's weigh the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. Galaxy Buds Live and see which buds emerge on top.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. Galaxy Buds Live Design differences

Galaxy Buds Live

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

With the Galaxy Buds Live, it had a very distinct bud design that evoked a bean — as you'll see clearly in the photo above. Rather than sliding into and stretching your ear canal, the Galaxy Buds Live rest in your outer ear. Earbuds can lead to wax buildup and infections over time, but the Live avoids this issue; it also precludes the need for different-sized tips, with its one-size-fits-all design. And to preempt your next question, they stay secure in your ears no matter how much you shake and tilt your head, which our reviewer tested thoroughly.

Galaxy Buds Live are amazingly comfortable but can't block the outside world despite ANC support. The 2s are more traditional but still smaller than most rival buds.

With the Galaxy Buds 2, you get a much more traditional design that slides into your ears. That doesn't mean they're boring or unchanged from past buds: our reviewer said they're small compared to competing models, and fit comfortably for hours to the point that you'll forget you're wearing them. They may not match the Live buds for comfort, but put in a more valiant effort than most. One unique perk: Samsung uses the Buds 2 mics to test if they're fitting properly in your ears, and recommend changing out the tips if the seal isn't right.

Surprisingly, both devices support ANC. Of the two, the Buds 2 block out "98% of external sound" according to Samsung, and our tests supported this; they're not on par with competing ANC models from Sony or Bose, but they're still great for loud environments like a plane. For comparison, the Galaxy Buds Live can block out some sound but...well, they're open-ear earbuds. They'll only minimize external noise from quieter sources like an air conditioner, not somewhere with tons of sound pollution. Its ANC mode drains its battery faster for little gain in quality, so you may want to skip it.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Similarly, the Galaxy Buds 2's larger size gives them more room for larger audio drivers and batteries compared to the Galaxy Buds Live. But we'll touch on that in later sections.

Both earbuds support touch gestures. Here, again, the Galaxy Buds 2 come out on top. Both models are prone to false touches when adjusting the earbuds, but it was especially an issue for our Live reviewer. With the Buds 2, we think Samsung did something to minimize the issue, because he could adjust them with fewer skipped or paused songs.

In terms of the earbud cases, both have a glossy white exterior that you may find basic, classic, or tacky. Both cases support USB-C and wireless charging, with LEDs to show the current battery level and solid hinges with good resistance when opening them.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. Galaxy Buds Live Battery life and specs

When testing the Galaxy Buds 2, we found it typically lasted 5.5 hours per charge with ANC active or 8 hours without it. And thanks to the fast-charging case, it could give you an extra hour of play after about 10 minutes of recharging. That's about the industry average all around for battery life.

With the Galaxy Buds Live, we found it would last 6 hours with ANC or 8 hours without it. That's pretty on par, considering its much smaller size. Both cases have similar levels of recharge, hitting up to 29 hours apiece without ANC active. And the Live case has similarly fast-charging skills, giving you an hour extra after a few minutes in-case.

Outside of battery life, the two buds have some other similarities but plenty of differences. We've laid out the highlights in the table below.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy Buds 2Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
ColorsOlive, Lavender, Graphite, WhiteMystic Bronze, Mystic White, Mystic Black
CompatibilityAndroid 7.0-and-up devicesAndroid 5.0-and-up devices
iPhone 7 or later
Earbud size/weight17.0 x 20.9 x 21.1mm
16.5 x 27.3 x 14.9mm
Bud battery life5 hours (ANC) to 8 hours (no ANC)5.5 hours (ANC) to 8 hours
Charging case battery life20–29 hours (w/ or w/out ANC)20–29 hours (w/ or w/out ANC)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.0
Digital assistant supportBixby, Google AssistantBixby, Google Assistant, Siri
Supported audio codecsSBC, AACSBC, AAC
Speaker size12mm woofer, 6.3mm tweeter12mm driver
Active noise cancelationYesYes

Compared to the Buds 2, the Live buds are wider but much less thick, which is why they don't have to slot into your ear canal. Their shiny "Mystic" colors have a more premium look to them than the more muted Buds 2, but those arguably have better color options with Olive and Lavender to go with the usual black and white.

Galaxy Buds Live

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

The Galaxy Buds 2 pack in two drivers (a woofer and tweeter) compared to just one Live driver — while still weighing slightly less. We'll discuss in the Sound section below how that equates to better audio quality. Otherwise, both generally rely on the same Samsung software and support the same audio codecs.

Both buds have a significant weakness: an IPX2 rating that makes them unsuited for sweaty workouts. Most of the best wireless earbuds at least hit IPX4 to make them sweat- and splashproof. Just keep that in mind when choosing either, since they're both fairly costly.

Made by Samsung, both Galaxy Buds work best with Android phones, particularly Samsung phones. But the Galaxy Buds Live are technically compatible with iPhones, even if not every feature works with them. With the Galaxy Buds 2, Samsung didn't bother to make them compatible at all, no longer supporting Siri for example.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. Galaxy Buds Live New Buds, more powerful sound

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

It's a matter of personal preference whether you go for the bean-like Live design or the petite, rounded Buds 2. And battery-wise, they're comparable. What'll matter most is the audio quality. And in that department, the two devices are surprisingly competitive.

The Galaxy Buds 2 have a punchy profile with great medium-to-high volumes that overwhelm quieter songs with its bass.

Our Galaxy Buds 2 review noted that they "have a very forward, punchy profile out of the box, with a pronounced S-curve equalization—over-emphasized bass and treble, with a slight dip in the mid-range." They "sound fun and punchy at medium-to-high volumes but don't scale well to quieter environments, where the bass overwhelms the rest of the frequencies." Their narrower soundstage sounds better for certain genres than others, but isn't as suited for jazz or classical.

In other words, they sound good for their price range but will fall short of premium earbuds like the Galaxy Buds Pro.

The Galaxy Buds Live have a wide, vibrant soundstage that performs well in quiet environments. But their ANC doesn't impress.

Our Galaxy Buds Live review had nothing but positives about the sound quality. The reviewer said that they "made everything sound just as I would hope. The soundstage is wide and vibrant; there isn't that flat feeling you get with some cheaper earbuds, and that bass duct really does allow for a noticeable oomph with certain tunes."

Compared to the Buds 2, the Buds Live are less dependant on the seal for quality audio, sounding great regardless of your ear shape. On the other hand, the open-ear design makes the audio more muffled by the outside world. With the Buds 2, you get ANC to completely shut it out, or an Ambient mode that lets words or useful noise in. Unfortunately, our reviewer noted that the Ambient mode doesn't filter junk noise from relevant noise as well as other earbuds, making it hard to hear what people say to you.

Overall, the Galaxy Buds 2 have more powerful drivers and noise cancellation but not a particularly wide soundstage, while the Galaxy Buds Live sound rich but have less punch and protection from the outside world.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs. Galaxy Buds Live Not a simple choice

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

We can't argue that either of these earbuds is the clear choice over the other. Both crush the Galaxy Buds+ while falling short of the Galaxy Buds Pro. Each has similar, respectable battery life with charging cases that'll refuel them in no time. Both are a better fit for home usage thanks to their wimpy water resistance, though the Buds 2 will handle a daily commute much better. In a quiet environment, though, the Buds Live will sound rich and won't strain your ears across a long day's listening.

Think about when you plan to use these earbuds the most, and just how much active noise cancellation matters to you. Both earbuds cost similarly; the Galaxy Buds Live do cost slightly more at full price, but are more likely to be found on sale these days. So we'd argue that depending on your preferences, you can't go wrong with either in this price range.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.