Compared: Apple's AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

Posted:
in General Discussion
Samsung launched the Galaxy Buds Live on Wednesday, its latest attempt to take on Apple's AirPods lineup, but how does it compare against the AirPods Pro? We take a look at the ANC-equipped wireless earphones.

AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Live
AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Live


The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are a continuation of the South Korean electronic company's take on wireless earphones, and are a direct competitor to Apple's AirPods Pro. Given the long-time rivalry between Apple and Samsung in the smartphone space, it makes sense that personal audio becomes another battleground for the two firms.

On the face of it, the two companies offer earphones with advanced features like active noise cancellation, but with Samsung opting for a more unique design and a lower price point. The question is whether Samsung has done enough with the latest Galaxy Buds iteration to make them worthwhile for people who may otherwise opt for the AirPods Pro.




Specifications

AirPods ProGalaxy Beats Live
Battery LifeUp to 4.5 hours with ANC,
Up to 5 hours without ANC
Up to 6 Hours with ANC,
Up to 8 Hours without ANC
Quick Charge1 hour use for 5 min charge1 hour use for 5 min charge
Water ResistanceIPX4IPX2
ControlsForce StemTouch controls
Noise CancellationANC & ambient listening modeANC
FitCustomized oval ear tips,
three sizes
Two wingtip sizes
Weight5.4g5.6g
SpeakerCustom high-excursion Apple driver,
Custom high dynamic range amplifier
12mm speaker with
Sound by AKG
Microphones1 outer,
1 inner
2 outer,
1 inner
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.0
Price$249$169

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - Size and Shape

The AirPods Pro use the signature design of an element that fits into the ear with an ear tip, with an extra element that dangles down, making the AirPods Pro look vaguely like a musical note from some angles. According to Apple's specifications sheet, the earphones measure 1.22 inches long, 0.86 inches wide, and 0.94 inches deep.

Samsung has opted for a bean-like shape for the Galaxy Buds Live, with each made to fit within the ear cavity with minimal external exposure. People looking at the earbuds when fitted will see the shiny exterior, but there isn't any extra dangling elements or major protrusions.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are designed to sit within the ear's folds.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are designed to sit within the ear's folds.


The design works in Samsung's favor, with the measurements of 0.65 inches by 0.59 inches by 1.07 inches making them considerably smaller than the AirPods Pro. Though physically smaller, they are still slightly heavier, with each earbud weighing in at 5.6 grams apiece against Apple's 5.4 grams.

To keep the small units in place, Apple uses customized oval ear tips that can be changed for a snug fit in the ear canal. For the Galaxy Beats Live, Samsung uses an ergonomic tip-less design that supposedly offer all-day comfort, with options to improve the fit using two different sizes of wingtips.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - Charging Cases

Both products are supplied with a charging case, which can provide extra power when the user is on the move without access to an outlet. Unlike the AirPods case's opening at the top edge of the unit, the Galaxy Buds Live instead opens like a clamshell, a somewhat different approach, but one that also seemingly treats the units like they are jewelry rather than audio devices.

While Apple's charging case is 2.39 inches wide and 1.78 inches tall, Samsung's unit is squarer at 1.97 inches for width and length. Apple's case makes up for its wider design by being thinner, at 0.85 inches to 1.09 inches, but its still slightly heavier when unladen at 45.6 grams versus 42.2 grams.

Galaxy Buds Live charging case
Galaxy Buds Live charging case


For recharging the AirPods and Galaxy Buds Live, the two cases offer similar speeds for quick charges, with five minutes of charging equating an hour of usage. For overall battery life, Samsung claims the Galaxy Buds Live and case can offer up to 21 hours of usage, while Apple claims more than 24 hours of listening time.

Both support wireless charging
Both support wireless charging


Samsung's charging case does offer the extra party trick of working with Samsung's smartphone feature where it can provide a power top-up to the case via wireless charging. Apple's case can wirelessly charge, but such a feature is unavailable on current-generation iPhones.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - ANC

Both products offer ANC functionality, though they work broadly through the same method. Both use microphones positioned inside and outside of the ear canal to pick up background noise, and then generate an opposing sound that cancels it out before the user is able to hear it.

Galaxy Buds Live earbud versus AirPods Pro earbud
Galaxy Buds Live earbud versus AirPods Pro earbud


Samsung bills its version as the first ANC "for open type," with it having received UL Verification for cutting background noise by up to 97% in low-frequency bands. By design, Samsung is still allowing the bulk of sounds to pass through, but with its focus on low-frequency bands, the ANC will largely concentrate its power on droning sounds that greatly affect the music listening experience.

Because of this, the ambient sound mode from earlier models like the Galaxy Buds Plus isn't available, because it's effectively on all the time. Users will still be able to hear events happening in the environment, just it won't be able to block noise as well as full ANC.

AirPods, however, benefit from a Transparency mode that can be enabled, one which funnels through some environmental sounds to the user. This means the AirPods can provide both a full ANC experience and one with selective environmental audio, granting the best of both worlds.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - Audio Quality and Voice

The AirPods Pro use a custom-built high-excrusion, low-distortion speaker driver, in combination with a high dynamic range amplifier for a clear sound profile. Enhancing this further is Apple's Adaptive EQ, which alters the sound profile to match the shape of the ear, by using an inward-facing microphone to monitor the situation.

Samsung opts for 12mm speakers, which are tuned by AKG for a high quality spacious sound. The use of a large driver and bass duct enables a deep bass, while the duct and vents allows air to flow to keep things comfortable for the user at the same time as cutting occlusion.

The Voice Pickup Unit detects jaw vibrations for better voice recordings.
The Voice Pickup Unit detects jaw vibrations for better voice recordings.


Both systems take advantage of placing microphones outside and inside the ear canal, but while Apple uses one of each, Samsung uses two on the outside.

Furthermore, Samsung employs a Voice Pickup Unit, which can sense when a user's jaw is moving and converts vibrations into voice signals, which helps enhance speech for calls and for dealing with digital assistants.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - Interface and Digital Assistants

As both deal with earbuds plugged into the ears, it's not surprising to discover that both take advantage of touches for controls. Users can touch the outside casing of the Galaxy Buds Live to manage music playback and to answer calls.

The AirPods Pro uses its Force Stem for similar controls, which may be more useful for people worried about hurting their ear canal by directly tapping the Galaxy Buds Live wedged into it.

Both also provide access to digital assistants, with AirPods working with Siri while Samsung opts to use Bixby. Of course, each are limited to their respective ecosystems.

In each case, the users can trigger Siri or Bixby verbally using an always-on microphone. For Samsung, it does offer the option to disable the Bixby Voice Wake-Up function, which effectively turns off the function.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - Battery Life

In terms of how long you can use each of the wireless earphones, there's a fair bit of variation, but fundamentally each boasts hours of playback with periodic recharging via the charging cases.

Apple claims the AirPods Pro offer up to 4.5 hours of listening time from a single charge, which rises to 5 hours with ANC and Transparency turned off. Talk time runs to 3.5 hours.

The charging case can recharge itself from a compatible Samsung smartphone wirelessly.
The charging case can recharge itself from a compatible Samsung smartphone wirelessly.


For Samsung, it offers many variation in times, due to being able to have ANC and Bixby Voice Wake-up enabled independently. At the high end is 8 hours of play time with both turned off, 6 hours with one of them enabled, and 5.5 hours with both turned on.

Talk time is also better for Samsung, with it achieving 5.5 hours with ANC turned off, but a comparable 4.5 hours with ANC enabled.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - Other Details

Both models use Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to the smartphone. The AirPods Pro take advantage of the H1 chip for quick pairing with an iPhone and rapid device switching, but Samsung boasts the same switching capabilities with compatible devices. Samsung also uses its own proprietary Scalable codec alongside AAC and SBC.

While Samsung bestowed IPX2 water resistance on the Galaxy Buds Live, which allows it to handle dripping water, the higher IPX4 of the AirPods Pro can handle larger water splashes, which also makes it more resilient to sweat.

Along with the microphones and Force Sensor, the AirPods Pro also include a motion-detecting accelerometer, a speech-detecting accelerometer, and dual optical sensors. On top of touch sensing and the Voice Pickup Unit, the Galaxy Buds Live also have an accelerometer an infrared sensor, grip sensor, and a Hall sensor.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live - Pricing

The AirPods Pro cost $249, including the wireless charging case, putting it at the premium end of the personal audio spectrum.

As usual for Samsung, it has opted to make its own accessory cheaper than Amazon's, with the launch price for the Galaxy Buds Live being $169.99. That works out to be $79.01 cheaper than its Apple rival.

Samsung also offers more choice, as while Apple's AirPods are sold in just white, the Galaxy Buds Live are available in Mystic Bronze, Mystic White, and Mystic Black color options.

Cheaper is not always best

On paper, it's a tricky decision to make, as Samsung offers quite a compelling argument for the Galaxy Buds Live. For wireless earphones with a charging case and ANC functionality, paying just shy of $170 doesn't seem that bad.

The appearance of the earbuds are also seemingly inoffensive, with most of it hidden by the user's ear edges compared to Apple's continued use of a dangling prong. In the right situation, the Galaxy Buds Live could be mistaken for earrings, or may not even be noticed at all.

Galaxy Buds Live case
Galaxy Buds Live case


While price is certainly in Samsung's court, there's still so much it has to do in order to be a real competitor to the AirPods Pro.

Apple still has the better ANC by being able to switch between full ANC and the Transparency mode, which Samsung's earbuds still lack. There's also the Adaptive EQ of the AirPods Pro that are likely to present a better overall sound than taking the tuned-for-everyone approach.

There's also the possibility that people may not be prepared for a new style of fitting the earbuds in the ear, the prestige of Apple products over Samsung, and the fact that AirPods Pro deal with Siri and not Bixby.

Samsung certainly has pulled its socks up and created a great alternative to the AirPods Pro. The problem it has is that the AirPods Pro exist.

Best deals on AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Live

Current AirPods Pro prices are discounted right now, with the best AirPods deals at your fingertips in our Price Guide.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, meanwhile, retail for $169.99, with availability at Amazon, B&H and Samsung directly.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,531member
    BeanPods..
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 26
    What happens when you water them?
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    So these aren’t really noise canceling at all. Just reducing low frequency hum. That’s a deal breaker right there for me. 
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 26
    If this review has to resort to "Apple prestige" and denigrating a form factor that both innovates AND is a proven one based on hearing aids - when this same site just trashed OnePlus for ripping off the AirPod design just a couple of weeks ago - it is an admission that there are no real differences between the Samsung and Apple products. In that, this review reaches the same conclusion as everyone else: that this is a fantastic product in its own right. The only legit criticism then is the ANC, which most other reviews cited. So, there has been only one bad review for this much maligned in advance product and that one seems to be an outlier.

    As to which one is better: simple. If you own Apple hardware then buying this product makes no sense. Buy AirPods or AirPod Pros. But if you do not own an iPhone, iPad or Mac, then based on the reviewer this is what you need to get. The prestige of the Apple name means nothing to you already apparently, Siri and other ecosystem benefits will be useless for you, and the lack of true ANC isn't worth the $70 price differential.

    The key takeaways from this review isn't whether Apple device owners should buy this for their Apple devices over AirPods. They shouldn't and won't. The question is whether Samsung is capable of making an excellent product of comparable quality with Apple's best and do so without copying Apple (indeed quite the opposite, as it is difficult to arrive at a product that is less like the AirPod than this except by sitting down and centering the design of the device around that purpose from the outset). While the reviewer will never concede so the answer to this is clearly yes, which makes this an obvious buy to pair with whatever non-Apple products an Apple fan may find himself owning.
    avon b7ednlBeatsmuthuk_vanalingamOferglo46
  • Reply 6 of 26
    So these aren’t really noise canceling at all. Just reducing low frequency hum. That’s a deal breaker right there for me. 
    It is more like Samsung created their own definition of ANC, which by the way isn't a protocol or anything else based internationally or industry agreed upon standards i.e. 4G, Bluetooth 5 or waterproof ratings anyway. Reviews on this are basically split down the middle with about half saying "their ANC is fine" and the other half claiming that the product doesn't have ANC at all.

    It isn't as if Samsung tried to achieve ANC with this product and somehow failed. That would make no sense as plenty of their past audio products have had traditional (for lack of a better term) ANC, and particularly since they made ANC among the most central features in the promotional materials for this product. Meaning that they didn't just list it in the specs and features area as an aside or throw in detail. Instead ANC was heavily promoted as a core feature and a major reason to anticipate this product and  choose it over its competitors. So it is more likely that Samsung is creating their own spin on ANC starting with this product, and that their future headphones and earbuds will adopt it also. As to whether Samsung's (re)definition of ANC suits your preferences or needs, caveat emptor and YMMV.
    muthuk_vanalingamOferglo46
  • Reply 7 of 26
    How come nobody here is concerned about what these things sound like? Is the sound is more annoying then pleasing?
    retrogustojeffharris
  • Reply 8 of 26
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,673member
    As a musician I am astonished that the review doesn’t actually include any listening or subjective perceptions of sound quality.  What about microphone performance, performance while on the phone, different genres of music, real-world fit and interaction, etc? Analysis of the specifications is great but that’s all it is.   Not even a rudimentary comparison in real world conditions?
    MplsPmuthuk_vanalingamlollivermike1retrogustojeffharriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 26
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,531member
    If this review has to resort to "Apple prestige" and denigrating a form factor that both innovates AND is a proven one based on hearing aids - when this same site just trashed OnePlus for ripping off the AirPod design just a couple of weeks ago - it is an admission that there are no real differences between the Samsung and Apple products. In that, this review reaches the same conclusion as everyone else: that this is a fantastic product in its own right. The only legit criticism then is the ANC, which most other reviews cited. So, there has been only one bad review for this much maligned in advance product and that one seems to be an outlier.

    As to which one is better: simple. If you own Apple hardware then buying this product makes no sense. Buy AirPods or AirPod Pros. But if you do not own an iPhone, iPad or Mac, then based on the reviewer this is what you need to get. The prestige of the Apple name means nothing to you already apparently, Siri and other ecosystem benefits will be useless for you, and the lack of true ANC isn't worth the $70 price differential.

    The key takeaways from this review isn't whether Apple device owners should buy this for their Apple devices over AirPods. They shouldn't and won't. The question is whether Samsung is capable of making an excellent product of comparable quality with Apple's best and do so without copying Apple (indeed quite the opposite, as it is difficult to arrive at a product that is less like the AirPod than this except by sitting down and centering the design of the device around that purpose from the outset). While the reviewer will never concede so the answer to this is clearly yes, which makes this an obvious buy to pair with whatever non-Apple products an Apple fan may find himself owning.

    I'd trash any product copying Apple. I think it's great they didn't knockoff the AirPods earpiece design and created these beans. I really do.

    I just find it funny how terrible these companies are when they try to not copy Apple! Shows the true colors of their design teams.



    Sammy trying their best not to copy HomePod

    lolliverjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 26
    I get the impression from the article that whomever wrote it hasn’t actually used the Samsung buds. It appears they just read a spec sheet and repeated it back to us. There was no hands-on discussion of fit, comfort (other than the a Samsung quote), sound quality, or ANC quality.
    muthuk_vanalingamlolliverretrogustoOferjeffharriswatto_cobraglo46
  • Reply 11 of 26
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,268member
    Yeah, since the primary purpose of these things is to make sound, a review that doesn’t comment on sound quality is worthless. C’mon, AI - the high school news paper could do better. 

    I will state that I like to listen to music or podcasts while working in my shop and the muff-style hearing protection I use fits over my ears but tends to push on the ‘tail’ of my AirPods so they don’t stay in very well. The Samsung design may well do better in this regard. 
    muthuk_vanalingamjeffharris
  • Reply 12 of 26
    It's simply mind-boggling to me how companies like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi etc regularly and shamelessly knock-off Apple concepts, yet most tech forums and readers go "yawn."

    Sadly (and predictably) enough, when the dust settles, it would seem that most of them end up with the low end of the global customer base for their products. It's almost as if, knowing that fact, Apple has decided that it's not worth the effort to go after these knock-off artists. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 26
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,531member
    It's simply mind-boggling to me how companies like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi etc regularly and shamelessly knock-off Apple concepts, yet most tech forums and readers go "yawn."

    Sadly (and predictably) enough, when the dust settles, it would seem that most of them end up with the low end of the global customer base for their products. It's almost as if, knowing that fact, Apple has decided that it's not worth the effort to go after these knock-off artists. 

    I think Samsung made these original enough. I'm pretty sure they raced Apple(again) after viewing Apple patents but these are differentiated enough. Not like their knockoff iPhones and knockoff iPads.



    jetpilot said:
    I get the impression from the article that whomever wrote it hasn’t actually used the Samsung buds. It appears they just read a spec sheet and repeated it back to us. There was no hands-on discussion of fit, comfort (other than the a Samsung quote), sound quality, or ANC quality.

    Samsung only cares about specs anyways.

    But really, who's gonna buy this crap? Even purchasing for a review is a stretch.
    edited August 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 26


    As usual for Samsung, it has opted to make its own accessory cheaper than Amazon's, with the launch price for the Galaxy Buds Live being $169.99. 
    I assume that should be "Apple"?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 26
    LarryFine said:
    How come nobody here is concerned about what these things sound like? Is the sound is more annoying then pleasing?
    Even the article makes only one reference to the bass of the Samsung device, and the overall sound reproduction is never compared.

    Did the reviewer not have an actual set to use for review?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 26
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,216member
    sdw2001 said:
    As a musician I am astonished that the review doesn’t actually include any listening or subjective perceptions of sound quality.  What about microphone performance, performance while on the phone, different genres of music, real-world fit and interaction, etc? Analysis of the specifications is great but that’s all it is.   Not even a rudimentary comparison in real world conditions?

    I thought the same thing yesterday when I firs read this.. I am hoping this is just a comparison as the title reads and not an actual review? Maybe having some more time with them will allow a proper review?
    Oferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 26
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,824member
    What happens when you water them?
    They grow into a shiny magic beanstalk, of course. 

    One of the biggest keep-it/return-it decisions in this category of product is ear fit. All the features in the world don’t really matter if the little buggers don’t stay in your ear and feel comfortable to wear. It’ll be interesting to compare real world user feedback for all products in this category. 
    edited August 2020 retrogustojeffharriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 26
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,471member
    Isn’t the basic determiner on deciding what sort of phone you are pairing with?

    while both support Bluetooth and I assume can be used “cross platform”, I also assume any special or nifty features or overall performance makes the AirPods Pro work best with iOS and the Samsung with a Samsung phone (or at least Android)?
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 26
    LarryFine said:
    How come nobody here is concerned about what these things sound like? Is the sound is more annoying then pleasing?
    As long as they don't suffer from the god-awful crackling sound that plagues the AirPods Pro (I'm on my third pair now), I'll give them a shot. They also look (from the pictures) that they're more comfortable to wear while sleeping. Just ordered a pair from Amazon. We'll see.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,531member
    chadbag said:
    Isn’t the basic determiner on deciding what sort of phone you are pairing with?

    while both support Bluetooth and I assume can be used “cross platform”, I also assume any special or nifty features or overall performance makes the AirPods Pro work best with iOS and the Samsung with a Samsung phone (or at least Android)?

    Apple products just work better, even cross platform.
    jeffharriswatto_cobra
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