A few months ago I broke down and jumped on the truly wireless bandwagon. The primary driver here was that a lot of times when running through the airport (or down the aisle of the plane) it was painfully easy to get cables tangled on bags and arm-rests. I had been using inexpensive MPow Bluetooth headphones when running, but as they hooked over the ear it wasn’t terribly comfortable with my glasses.
After many, many hours of browsing Reddit, Rtings, and other review sites, I finally decided on Samsung’s Galaxy Buds. The fact that I primarily use a Galaxy S10+ it seemed to be a very logical decision. The Galaxy Buds allow for Qi charging (which works with the S10/S10+’s powershare feature) and uses a USB-C port to charge over a cable (unlike Amazon’s Echo Buds, for some reason…) so I don’t have to carry even more cables.
The Galaxy Buds also use a proprietary codec to allow for low latency communication with other Samsung devices. Add this to the fact that many video applications (like Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, etc.) have logic to keep the audio and video synchronized, and you can worry less about the latency value that is shown on the Rtings site when it comes to using these buds with a Samsung phone. I haven’t had a chance to try these with Samsung tablet so I can’t say if you’ll experience similar performance with that.
I do like that the earbuds have sensors which determine if they are in an ear, automatically pausing playback if they are removed. This helps conserve battery life and also makes for convenient auto-pause. It is also a seamless process if you just remove one earbud and put it back in (to resume playback on that ear).
Over the last few months I’ve been using these buds in a variety of environments: office, on the street, at the gym, and while traveling. With the right set of earbuds and appropriate insertion (make sure the wings tuck into the ridge of your ear and use the earbuds that fit your ear canal best – keep in mind that you might need to buy 3rd party foam buds to get the best fit) you can almost completely eliminate office sounds.
The isolation is not perfect for the sounds of engines, however, so you will hear some sounds when traveling, but given that these buds are strictly for noise isolation and not cancellation, they offer a respectable level of environmental sound reduction.
One thing to keep in mind with gym sounds is that some sounds (like the impact of footfalls or chews when eating) can be quite loud. Overall it is not a huge issue, though, and I found myself adapting to this fairly quickly. Your mileage might vary, of course!
Samsung phones allow a custom audio profile to be developed based on a short hearing test. By playing tones of various frequencies and determining how easily you can hear them with a specific set of headphones, the phone will amplify those sounds in the future to ensure you hear as much of your media as possible. I was skeptical of this but the difference is very noticeable.
When paired with the “Dynamic” profile in the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app, it makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. Note that not all features of the Wearable app might be present if you use this with a non-Samsung device. I haven’t had a chance to try it with another phone so I can’t speak definitively to that.
Finally, the Wearable app allows for control of the touchpad behavior, as well as to lock it and prevent accidental touches. This also allows you to determine if you wish to use the Ambient Sound feature or integration with your assistant (Bixby, Google Assistant, etc.). The Ambient Sound feature is… handy, but the sounds are somewhat distorted, almost as if you are trying to hear things while underwater.
If you have a Samsung device, getting a pair of Galaxy Buds is a no-brainer. I would suggest you hold on for the newer generation of buds to be released so that if there is a price-drop for the current (soon to be previous) generation of earbuds you can take advantage of them.
For other Android devices, these are still a very solid purchase, but depending on your use-case you might be better suited by something like the Sony WF-1000XM3 buds (if you need active noise cancellation and pressure compensation, and have the budget) or Jabra 65t/75t (if you need excellent microphones for phone calls). As with all tech purchases, be sure to consider your needs when reading reviews, because what works for someone might not work for you.