Travel Toy: Galaxy Buds

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).

Sound Isolation

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!

Sound Reproduction

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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

Noise-Canceling Headphone Reviews from

I was recently contacted by Elizabeth Reynolds from regarding their analysis of active noise-canceling headphones. For the upper ends of the price range, the headphones listed are definitely solid purchases. As someone partial to Bose, I certainly can’t argue with their placement!

There are a few more affordable headphone options for consideration, though, for those not able to spend $200+ for headphones. I’ve listed a couple of my personal favorites below. All the links below are for Amazon’s Smile, where a portion of your purchases will go to a charity of your choice at no cost to you.

Over The Ear


Audio-Technica ANC7B is my go-to pair when it comes to affordable over-the-ear active noise-canceling headphones. While they go for ~$200 new, you can get factory refurbished headphones for less than half that price. I picked my pair up for $67, and they’re going strong more than a year in! Reducing background noise by 90%, these are amazing for long flights. An added bonus is that you can use the headphones with a dead battery by leaving ANC off. The headphones come with a carrying case, and extra adapters to use them on old-fashioned airline outputs.

Audio-Technica also released an ANC9 version which has 95% reduction. These headphones also have three distinct settings for sound isolation, allowing for greater control over your experience.


TaoTronics also has an over-the-ear offering that is even more affordable coming in at $54. This can further be reduced, for a limited time (with use of coupon code KINJA22J), bringing the final price to $37. In addition to these headphones being wireless (Bluetooth), they have an integrated microphone so you can take phone calls while you use them.


Bose’s QuietComfort25 headphones are currently marked down from $300 to $170, which is an excellent price for a pair that my coworkers have been using since their introduction to the market in 2014. I can safely say you will not regret this purchase.

In The Ear


TaoTronics also has a pair of in-ear headphones. The nice thing about these headphones is that you can charge the embedded battery while using them. This is not common for most ANC headphones, so this is a very nice feature. As with their over-the-ear headphones, this pair has an integrated microphone. For those that want to go wireless, a Bluetooth version is available. Both pairs come in at under $60.


It should come as no surprise that I also mention Audio-Technica’s ANC23 in-ear headphones. Offering an in-ear 90% isolation solution with a comfortable fit, it’s hard to say no for $40!

Step Up Your Headphone Game

After years of traveling without active-noise cancelling, I decided it was time to take the step and move from sound-isolating earbuds to over-the-ear headphones. Though not the quintessential Bose QuietComfort25 [affiliate link], I am thrilled with my Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B [affiliate link].

I detailed some features of the ATH-ANC7B below, as well as some other headphones and earbuds that might appeal to you. Let me know what you use in the air!


The ATH-ANC7B has a microphone on each ear-cup offering a solid 90% noise-cancellation in addition to the noise-isolation that the cups themselves provide. These headphones come with two lines as well as a sturdy carrying case.

The Case
The Case
Cable Compartment! So much cleaner.
Cable Compartment! So much cleaner.
ANC Powered Off
ANC Powered Off
ANC Powered On
ANC Powered On

One thing to keep in mind is that the version of the ATH-ANC7B that I purchased does not have an in-line microphone for phone calls. For that, you would have to use the ATH-ANC7B SVIS [affiliate link].

Bose QuietComfort 25 [affiliate link]

In addition to an amazing feel on your head, the QuietComfort 25 comes with an in-line microphone and some of the best noise-cancellation and built-in equalization available. Boasting upwards of 30 hours of use on a single AAA battery, few headphones come close. This makes it ideal for long days of flying!

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9 [affiliate link]

The ATH-ANC7B’s big brother! In addition to the comfort of the ATH-ANC7B, the ATH-ANC9 offers three different isolation profiles that target specific frequencies common to various environments: airplane, office, and study. The noise-cancellation is more advanced, as well, coming in at 95%. This is achieved by the presence of two microphones on each ear-cup.

Bose QuietComfort QC20 [affiliate link]

The QC20s are the in-ear version of the QC25. Though it lacks the additional isolation provided by the over-the-ear form of the QC25, the proprietary eartips make a big difference. I strongly advise against using these for the gym, however. There is nothing more frustrating than damaging expensive technology because a weight rolled over it! Though they are pricey, you do get what you pay for.

BeoPlay H3 [affiliate link]

The BeoPlay H3 by Bang & Olufsen is easily on-par with the Bose QC20. Unlike the other headphones listed here, the H3 uses a built-in Lithium Ion battery that offers 20 hours of ANC playback. You get the stylistic appeal and quality audio that B&O is known for, along with memory-foam tips on the earbuds.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 [affiliate link]

Don’t discount this pair from its price alone. The ATH-ANC23 boasts a solid 90% noise reduction for less than $60! You also get a carrying bag, extra ear-pieces so you can ensure a comfortable fit, and an extra adapter to use on planes that use the two-pronged audio plug. If you would like to have earbuds with a microphone, you will need to opt for the ATH-ANC33iS [affiliate link], though.

Travel Charger

I can’t say enough good things about the eneloop Rechargeable Battery Pack by Panasonic [affiliate link]. Other than the B&O H3, all headphones listed above use AAA batteries, and having a charger you can travel with is crucial. Amazon makes a charger with USB port [affiliate link] if you have Ni-MH batteries already. Both chargers will handle AAA and AA batteries, so you are set for other devices you have that need them, as well.