Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Airpods Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Airpods Pro (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Case Render

Samsung endeavored to include as many features as possible into these earbuds, resulting in a combination that works together to be handy in certain situations. Active noise cancelation and ambient mode complement the sound quality and increased water resistance.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

All aboard

Bolder sound
Solid ANC performance
Dynamic ambient mode
360-degree audio ability
Significant water resistance
Smaller charging case
Fit requires more fidgeting
Proprietary ear tips
Lower battery life than predecessors

AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro

Without question, these are the best earbuds Apple has made thus far, given their steady and reliable performance for Apple users. The comfy fit and user-friendly elements are nice to have, although they're tempered by struggles in the key areas of battery life and water resistance, making them tougher to compete against others.

AirPods Pro

Almost there

Excellent noise cancelation
Transparency mode works very well
Spatial audio is cool
Super comfortable design
Playback gestures are great
Compact, high-quality charging case
So-so battery life
No customizability on Android
Lightning for charging
Not as resistant to water and sweat

When two giants like Apple and Samsung use the word "Pro" to describe their best wireless earbuds, it leads to an interesting battle. Samsung finally took its best features and put them into one single pair in the Galaxy Buds Pro, while Apple had previously done the same with the AirPods Pro. With similar paths, finding the contrasts only makes this matchup more intriguing.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro Staying apart

On paper, there are some things that stand out as part of that contrast, but the full story really comes from how the specs come together with the practicality of their respective feature sets. They obviously look totally different from a design perspective, though neither provides an inherent advantage over the other. Samsung did its best to make the Galaxy Buds Pro feel and act naturally, and there is something beneficial about all that.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy Buds ProAirPods Pro
Bud battery lifeUp to 8 hoursUp to 5 hours
Charging case battery life18 hours (28 without ANC)24 hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.1Bluetooth 5.0
Digital assistant supportBixby, Google Assistant, SiriSiri
Supported audio codecsSBC, AACSBC, AAC
Speaker size13 mm drivers6 mm drivers
Active noise cancelationYesYes

Water resistance figures prominently here because Samsung made its earbuds among the most rugged available. Raising the protection to IPX7 makes the Galaxy Buds Pro ideally suited to withstanding a reasonable level of punishment. While not made to go swimming, they can submerge down to one meter for 30 minutes. Sweaty runs and workouts shouldn't pose a problem at all. The AirPods Pro have nowhere near that kind of durability. You could use them when active, though you do run the risk of them failing if you don't wipe them clean each time.

Battery life is another category that needs some context. The eight-hour ceiling for the Galaxy Buds Pro is when you have active noise cancelation (ANC) turned off. Turn it on, and you get a max of five hours. That's only marginally better than the four hours the AirPods Pro get when they have ANC on. Apple's charging case delivers one extra charge, and is a tad smaller, but otherwise, the differences are minimal. Both support wireless charging and can charge pretty quickly. Samsung gets an edge in that the Buds Pro case also charges via USB-C, compared to the Lightning port in the AirPods Pro case.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro Making a statement with features

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Airpods Pro

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

Fit and comfort obviously play a huge role in earbud quality. Samsung had to tweak the design to squeeze in all the extra components without going to a radically different form factor like with the Galaxy Buds Live. While very light and easy to wear, the Buds Pro are thicker in the middle, with a bump protruding inward towards the inner ear. As a result, they wiggle a little more, and may slip out of place more often.

That's not really an issue with the AirPods Pro, which have a very comfortable frame that fits pretty naturally. Ears are pretty subjective, so while this may be the case for some, others may feel otherwise.

Samsung did manage to improve the audio quality for the Galaxy Buds Pro compared to its previous earbuds, thanks to the improved dual drivers.

Samsung did manage to improve the audio quality for the Galaxy Buds Pro compared to its previous earbuds thanks to the improved dual drivers. Unfortunately, it still stubbornly refuses to offer a manual EQ to adjust the sound. The Galaxy Wearable app offers six presets, and they're alright, but more personal tinkering is worth adding. Apple doesn't offer a manual EQ, either, but does have something called Adaptive EQ, which analyzes background noise and automatically adjusts sound accordingly. It's a neat idea, but could be too sensitive if it interprets chewing gum or running steps as sounds that need to be constantly dealt with.

They also each have ambient modes to let background noise to seep in and help you hear everything without taking the earbuds off. However, Samsung did something different by pairing the feature with ANC to create a dynamic effect whereby the ambient mode kicks in once you start talking. It's called Voice detect, and it works no matter what audio you're listening to from your paired device. Apple calls it Transparency mode, but it doesn't work dynamically in the same way. Once you turn it on, it stays there, and there aren't multiple levels of filtering like with the Galaxy Buds Pro.

The system does have its quirks. Samsung gives you a buffer range of between 5-15 seconds for the microphones to raise the volume back to where it was for the music or audio you were listening to. Go into the app and set it for the time you want once you stop talking.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Sound quality and call quality

AirPods Pro

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

Despite everything, the Galaxy Buds Pro hold an audio edge for the AirPods Pro. Not only is the bass deeper (provided you get a tight seal in your ear), but the mids and highs are crisp and detailed. That's not to say Apple's earbuds don't sound good — they do. But in an apples-to-apples comparison, Samsung gets the nod here.

Speaking of comparisons, Samsung also followed Apple's lead in including 360-degree audio for virtual surround sound. Using Dolby Head Tracking technology, watch anything coded in 5.1 or 7.1 surround and the Buds Pro can produce the spatial sound through your ears. It's a cool way to watch movies and shows, though it's not immediately evident that either brand holds an edge with this feature.

Samsung also followed Apple's lead in including 360-degree audio for virtual surround sound.

Call quality is another close call for these two. Samsung has made major strides in this area, and the Galaxy Buds Pro are easily the best it's managed in that regard. The AirPods Pro already held a leading position with that particular feature, and are still among the best for talking.

The two also effectively cancel each other out on mobile gaming. Both earbuds support low-latency performance to better sync with games, though Samsung still technically considers it something of an experiment, which is why it's in the Labs section of the Wearable app.

The AirPods Pro do hold an edge with the onboard touch controls because they're generally more reliable. It's not that they're bad on the Buds Pro, they're just not as efficient and accidental touches are a little too easy. Luckily, Samsung lets you turn them off completely in the app.

If you're looking for colors, only one of these gives you an option. The Galaxy Buds Pro come in Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Violet, whereas the AirPods Pro only come in white.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro Which should you choose?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Review

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

Not surprisingly, there are exclusive features between these two that are platform-specific. The Galaxy Buds Pro can switch between Samsung phones and tablets depending on which device needs to prioritize audio. It's not that different with the AirPods Pro and how they can switch audio on Apple devices. You don't get a feature like that when using Apple devices with the Buds Pro, nor using the AirPods Pro with Samsung devices, but you're not completely shut off if you wanted to mix things up.

Samsung is clearly headed in the right direction if it keeps this up. The Buds Pro are the third in a string of audio and functional improvements in the true wireless space. They sound great, include useful features, and don't overdo it on stuff that probably wouldn't work. The great app support only helps make them easier to manage. The AirPods Pro are easy to use, but not necessarily as easy to manage when there isn't a dedicated app to do it all in one place.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.