Bolder choices

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Case Render

Staying true

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Galaxy Buds Live Mystic Bronze

Samsung crammed in as much of the tech that was previously missing as possible with the new Galaxy Buds Pro. Not only is there dynamic active noise cancelation at work, but it also works in reverse with a lively ambient mode. That's all on top of a bolder sound and better water and sweat resistance for workouts.

$200 at Amazon

Pros

  • Bolder sound
  • Solid ANC performance
  • Dynamic ambient mode
  • 360-degree audio ability
  • Significant water resistance
  • Supports Qi wireless charging

Cons

  • Fit requires more fidgeting
  • Proprietary ear tips
  • Lower battery life

Samsung took a whole new approach to building a pair of true wireless earbuds by cutting off the actual bud and crafting a design that stands out, not just for how it looks but also how it fits. While they're equipped with a set of impressive features, there is room for improvement.

$139 at Amazon

Pros

  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Very comfortable design
  • Wearable app truly helps
  • Supports Qi wireless charging
  • ANC support

Cons

  • Touch controls can be finicky
  • Design can be polarizing

Samsung released these two earbuds a mere six months apart, and they each represent a different approach for the company. The Galaxy Buds Pro are the culmination of more than a few attempts at getting it right with this form factor, while the Galaxy Buds Live are a unique take on that same approach. Both are good at what they do, though the differences between them go beyond what's on paper.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Very different

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro And LiveSource: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central

From the photos alone, it's obvious these are two different products despite being from the same company. They're also two of the best wireless earbuds available, and that's why it's so interesting to pit these two against each other. Beyond appearance, the Galaxy Buds Pro were built to do it all, whereas the Galaxy Buds Live were made to feel like nothing else could.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Durability IPX7 IPX2
Bud battery life Up to 8 hours 8 hours
Charging case battery life 18 hours (28 without ANC) 29 hours
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.1 Bluetooth 5.0
Digital assistant support Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri
Supported audio codecs SBC, AAC SBC, AAC
Speaker size 13 mm drivers 12 mm drivers
Active noise cancelation Yes Yes

The one advantage the Buds Live have that you don't see reflected in a spec sheet is the comfort. While it's hard to make any pair of earbuds feel equally comfortable for every single user, Samsung made a strong go of it with this unique pair. The key is that the drivers don't protrude into the ear canal, letting each earbud nestle and sit in the inner ear. It's a design philosophy that pays off in feeling less of a presence for each ear.

Unfortunately, Samsung had to cut corners to get there. The 12mm drivers were an upgrade from the Galaxy Buds+, and were necessary to boost the audio quality and volume when sound had to travel further to get into the ear. With such an open design, it's hardly surprising the water-resistance rating is as low as it is — only IPX2, compared to the Buds Pros' IPX7 rating. Samsung addressed the lack of durability in past models by making those earbuds able to submerge in water down to one meter for 30 minutes. They're not made for swimming, but can easily handle sweaty runs or workouts.

Samsung Galaxy Buds LiveSource: Hayato Huseman / Android CentralPictured: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.

The Galaxy Buds Pro were built to do it all, whereas the Galaxy Buds Live were made to feel like nothing else could.

Meanwhile, Samsung had to tinker with the Galaxy Buds Pros' design to get the most out of them, albeit at the expense of some fit and comfort. One way to ensure that you get the best audio quality — regardless of earbuds — is to achieve the best possible seal. Samsung changed the drivers, opting for an oval-shaped speaker that also comes with different silicone ear tips. Assuming the three included sizes don't do it for you, there are third-party options that could fit.

The Galaxy Buds Live don't have any of those issues, though they pay a price for that, too. Those earbuds have to work harder to produce the same level of sound, with little to no recourse over adjusting how they fit. Finding the right seal doesn't apply to them, so it's tough luck if you find they either don't fit right or don't sound good enough.

Overall, despite the different shapes and drivers, the sound profiles aren't dramatically different. Still, the Galaxy Buds Pro sound better, delivering deeper bass and crisper clarity. They also hold an advantage in ancillary audio features, like 360 Audio for spatial playback when watching anything coded in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. For its part, each has a Gaming mode, except the Buds Pro should offer better low latency, at least according to Samsung.

Both earbuds use the Galaxy Wearable app to manage features and functions. The Wearable app can step in to help a little, though Samsung doesn't offer enough depth to customize the sound. The onboard equalizer limits you to six defined presets without the ability to create and save your own. That's a drawback both earbuds share, though it's arguable that it affects the Buds Live more because there are no physical adjustments available.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live More than just the music

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro ReviewSource: Daniel Bader / Android CentralPictured: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.

There are other features to wonder about when you're looking at wireless earbuds beyond sound quality in comfort (even if they're arguably the most important areas). For example, both are about equal on battery life. When the Buds Live dropped in battery life relative to the Buds+, it was a necessary drawback, yet it creates more of an even comparison here. Neither side holds a major advantage in this category. The Galaxy Buds Pro will do up to five hours when active noise cancelation (ANC) is turned — not all that different from the Buds Live, which go up to six hours with ANC on.

Meanwhile, Galaxy Buds Pro have a four-stage Ambient mode, whereas the Buds Live don't have it at all because there's already enough background noise that can seep in through the more open design. ANC also works dynamically with Ambient mode, particularly through Voice Detect, a feature that lowers the audio volume while ramping up the background noise to simplify talking to people or hearing something once you start talking. There's no such feature on the Buds Live.

Onboard touch controls remain a sore spot for Samsung, and that's true of both models here.

Phone call quality is absolutely superb on the Buds Pro, and an improvement over already solid performance from the Buds Live. Clarity was such that callers couldn't tell the difference between the phone and the earbuds. The Buds Live do let in a little more ambient sound, but are no less impressive for their clarity in spite of a more open design.

Onboard touch controls remain a sore spot for Samsung, and that's true of both models here. It's not that they're not responsive; sometimes they're too responsive. You can turn them off completely through the app, but it would be nice to see the company's engineers finally figure this one out.

The variance in colors continues on, both of which lean toward more neutral fashion-forward hues. The Galaxy Buds Pro come in Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Violet. The Galaxy Buds Live come in Mystic Black, Mystic White, and Mystic Bronze.

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

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Buds Live LooseSource: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central

This choice truly comes down to comfort and feature priorities. You may feel you get both with either pair, but you won't get everything Samsung wants to offer unless you go with the Galaxy Buds Pro. The extras, like 360 Audio, Voice Detect, the dynamic Ambient mode, and more powerful drivers inside, aren't going to be available on the Galaxy Buds Live. In contrast, the unique fit and comfort won't necessarily be available on the Buds Pro, etiher.

The ANC isn't as good on the Buds Live, but at least it's there. Battery life is pretty evenly matched, as are the sizes of their respective cases, both of which are Qi-enabled for wireless charging. You would do well with either pair here, but the Buds Pro offer the best Samsung has to offer thus far.

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