I have been a fan of TWS for some time now. This may surprise some of you. TWS has some limitations, theoretically at least. The bitter irony of having complete freedom from wires…..ahhh, lovely! Yet the restriction of not being able to enjoy the leaps and bounds that have been made in choosing from a plethora of near lossless bluetooth codecs. You see, bud 1 has to feed bud 2 with the info it needs. This is done using wires usually. No wires mean compromises have to take place. There isn’t much space left inside the shell of a truly wireless earbud. They have a small form factor as they have to be shaped far more ergonomically than a normal iem. There are no cables or around the ear fittings to help keep them in your ears. The cramped conditions mean that normally only the lossier bluetooth codecs are supported. That is beginning to change now. But up til now, you could almost say with certainty, t’ain’t gonna be up to a wired earphone.
TWS has some qualities that leave their wired counterparts lagging quite a way behind on. No cables means no microphonics, the thumping effect you can get from your cables hitting your body and those vibrations travelling up the cable to your drivers. No cables to store sweat in when they are trapped between your t shirt and your torso in an effort to stop cable movement. No cables pulling on your ears and trying to get the IEMs to come out. A discrete fit. Comfort. Elegance.
The Galaxy Buds Pro are a partnership between Samsung and AKG. Well, of course, AKG is owned by Samsung, so all the audio stuff is having a little extra kudos these days. AKG made the first ever headphones. Did you know that? They also were the makers of the iconic K1000 Earspeaker, and the first hybrid IEMs – the K3003. I have owned both of these and they are both incredible.
The Buds Pro will retail at £179. They are being given away with some Samsung phones, which has put a large number of potential bargains onto the secondhand market. I picked my pair up for £50 on Facebook Marketplace. There was nothing wrong with it, I was able to demo it before I parted with any cash, so if you are tempted to go that way, I would suggest that you don’t spend any more than my purchase price, and you’ll have a steal on your hands.
The Buds Pro is Samsung’s in house competition with Apple’s Airpod. As such, they have gone to great lengths to make a good product. The Pro is the flagship of the Galaxy range. I have not tried any of the others. I have not tried the AirPod; for one, the design does not appeal to me.
Connectivity and comfort are the 2 must haves for a successful earphone. Good sound is achieved by a reliable wireless signal and a great fit. The Pros have both. The fit is not as flush as the Sennheiser Momentum but the Pros don’t stick out from the ear so much. Therefore they feel a little looser than the Sennheiser but don’t suffer from quite so much wind noise. A desirable feature of an earphone is to be supplied with some tips that give a half decent fit and sound quality. Alas, the Galaxy falls down here. The tips are wide bore, and in my ears they sounded shrill and boomy, and none of the sizes locked them properly into place. I changed them for some HiFiMan double flange silicon tips with a smaller bore and was much more satisfied with the results.
There are a variety of settings available on the Wearables App, which is needed to setup the Pros and which can be downloaded for free on the Google Play or iOS stores. You can tune your Buds to your sound preferences by undertaking a series of tests. You can listen in 360 audio, soap to get a Dolby Atmos effect to your gaming or movie experience. There is a variable ambient sound setting. This provides the nicest sound quality on the go, at least to my ears. The other advantage of ambient is that the Buds listen out for loud noises, particularly speech which is directed at you. When this happens you can choose to have the music quiet or paused. The music starts up again after 5 seconds, once it senses there is nothing happening. With the ambient on, the World is no longer seeming so far away. You can hear some street noise that you wouldn’t with a normal IEM. If you find this all too strange and you want to retreat further into your own World, don’t worry; there’s also ANC included. The gesture controls typical of a TWS are all there; play/pause/next/previous track/voice control/taking/ending calls. With the ambient setting, the mics are opened up in such a way that you can hear own voice clearly, so there is no need to take the buds out and risk losing them outside of the charging box. If you do lose them, you can retrieve them using the wearables app. They’ll emit a beep until you pick them up and put them back in the box.
You can have a play with all the features to your heart’s content when you get them; the question is, for us, are they worth having? Well, in a word, yes. The sound quality is good. The tips need to be changed, as we spoke about before. Once that’s done, you get a pleasant warm sound that’s fairly easy on the ears, and the ambient setting stretches the sound stage out. Although the Buds fit in the ear unobtrusively, I have had to switch off the ambient setting in even moderately windy conditions. This is because the mics which listen out for the things you might be interested in are very sensitive and pick up wind noise in a most peculiar way. The sound of the wind is like a whistle not being blown properly. This is a feature of all the TWS which can do this; in fact, the Momentum Buds were worse.
As a straight match up between the Momentum, I felt the Buds Pro won when it came to features. The Bud Pros have a maximum 12 hour battery life when combining them with the charging cradle. The Momentum manages 28. The fit of the Momentum was a lot better and the sound quality of the Sennheiser had a higher level of clarity to it, with a slightly reduced bass performance. The The cosmetics of both were pleasing, although the Sennheiser had a snazzier finish and a better looking charger. In all honesty I could easily be happy with either set, and am looking forward to many more hours pounding the streets with them.
I am relieved to tell you that Galaxy Buds Pro is not an afterthought from Samsung. It’s a good piece of kit and has some well thought out features without overly compromising on sound quality.