Samsung’s ecosystem possessiveness gets very serious with the Galaxy Buds2 Pro

Does a “Pro” name on wireless earbuds really mean a lot? Good sound should be the only command for earbuds and headphones. So does it have to do with adding gravitas to the price tag? Or does this mean more features than what comes with the course? What exactly would that be? After all, a “Pro” smartphone can potentially stand out due to a variety of specifications and functionality. With earplugs and headphones, there is little room to move.

That’s the first complicated task for the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro, the company’s newest and currently most expensive wireless earbuds. Be ready to say goodbye to 17,999 worth of your hard-earned money. The Galaxy Buds2 Pro succeeds the then impressive Galaxy Buds Pro and sits next to the Galaxy Buds2 (approximately 11,999) and the now outdated but still very unique bean-like Galaxy Buds Live (these cost now 5,990; a far cry from their launch price of 15,990).

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The “Pro” in the Galaxy Buttons2 Pro could very well be, at least compared to the Galaxy Buds2, a reference to the 24-bit hi-fi audio codec support and the updated Active Noise Canceling (ANC) which is also more capable in theory. But that’s not the end. Not even close.

Closed ecosystems, walled gardens or perfectly ingrained?

Walled gardens are something we should discuss. Samsung has made it very clear with the Galaxy Buds2 Pro that they work best with Samsung Galaxy smartphones, although there is wider support for Android phones in general (it will be simple, just works, sort of compatibility) and nothing for the Apple iPhones so far. But how does this work?

The 24-bit HiFi audio needs the Samsung Seamless Codec to work. Guess where they are exclusively available? Samsung Galaxy phones with One UI 4.0 or later, albeit with apps for streaming music with 24-bit songs – by the way, Apple Music has this for now, although we’re not sure when Spotify and Amazon Music (although high-res music will be available) is) worldwide) in India really come into the ring.

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Then there’s the promise of immersive 360-degree audio with Dolby Atmos, where this feature essentially follows your head movement to move the sound to give the illusion that you’re in the middle of it all. Do you want to guess? The 360-degree audio requires a Samsung Galaxy phone with One UI 3.1 or newer, while enhanced head tracking and multi-channel audio support requires One UI 4.1.1 or newer.

Quick pairing also requires a Samsung phone and the SmartThings app. The Galaxy Buds2 Pro can also switch seamlessly between multiple devices, but they must all be from the Samsung family. Including the smart TV link. Tracking your earbuds, in case you lose them, is done through the SmartThings app, Samsung’s own app and not available for other Android phones.

Most of the functionality of the Galaxy Buds2 Pro headline only works with Samsung Galaxy phones, and this is an understandable evolution of business and technology combined. Keeping certain functionality exclusive to its own family of devices has been done to varying degrees – Apple is doing it and even OnePlus has done that with their earbuds over time.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean you can’t use the Galaxy Buds2 Pro with other Android phones. You can, and we can safely say that they sound extremely good even without 24-bit audio. Just that, the overall experience is best classified as vanilla-boring. The question to answer before handing over the money – is anything really worth it?

Where’s the “Pro” in these Pro wireless earbuds?

The question you need to ask yourself is: does this live up to the promise of “Pro” performance? It arouses expectations, with a name like that. And after paying so much money.

Samsung’s designers have shaved off a certain amount of most of these tops, compared to the predecessors. The company claims it is about 15% with each bud weighing 5.5 grams. The previous iteration was comfortable to wear, and the minor tweaks make it even better suited to more ear contours. The positive spin results in blocking out much of the ambient noise, even when ANC is turned off.

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Using the matte finish of the case and buttons is definitely our preference over glossy coatings – those are just fingerprint and scratch magnets.

Samsung has given this Galaxy Buds2 Pro a larger vent for better airflow. This is to address the persistent limitation of noise canceling earbuds, which is the feeling ears feel after a while of continuous use. We can say that things have improved quite a bit in terms of ear comfort longevity, but Sony’s latest WF-1000XM4 can still be worn longer before the ears require a deep breather. The same goes for the latest generation of AirPods Pro.

Sound is where the Galaxy Buds2 Pro comes very close to Sony’s 1000XM4 and surpasses the Google Pixel Buds Pro. In each ear are newly designed dual audio drivers (two-way speakers, a woofer and a tweeter). Even before we get into the subjectivity of different music genres, the improvements in the soundstage are obvious. There’s a notch more vibrancy and detail, and to be honest, that was all that was needed.

The audio is tuned by AKG, an audio company that Samsung has owned for a while, but their roots and experience go back to the year 1919 when they started in Germany.

Dual audio driver architecture has obvious advantages. The composition we described earlier makes it possible to divide lower and higher frequencies between the two drivers. Instead of having to replicate everything. That means a clearer representation of frequencies, distinguished as it should be and little chance of one overshadowing the other. From what we were able to decipher after listening to multiple genres on the Galaxy Buds2 Pro, there is a distinct, albeit slightly, V-shaped element in the EQ tuning. The bass and vocals are slightly boosted, but the mids don’t drown either.

There is generous bass for the up-tempo music genres, including remix music and dance numbers. At the same time, this does not provide your favorite podcast with cluttered sound. And everything in between.

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Battery life needs evolution, next time

Battery life is something that needs a major upgrade on the next upgrade cycle. This takes about 5 hours with noise reduction active. That’s no hardship, but still significantly less than the 8 hours we got the Sony 1000XM4s to last on a single charge, and the 7 hours the Pixel Buds Pro did, both with ANC turned on for music playback.

Do you have to be so dependent on technology?

The voice detection feature really didn’t work well for us – this should automatically reduce the volume of the music when the earbuds detect you’re talking to someone. It can be questionable at times, especially if you’re in a busy environment with a lot of indistinguishable chatter. How hard is it to pause the music itself?

Samsung’s best earbuds, almost exclusively for its phones

How exclusive does exclusive have to be before the walled garden scenario starts to unfold in earnest? We get the feeling that with the Galaxy Buds2 Pro, Samsung may have overplayed the card a little too much, leaving little for other Android phone users. Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with the things under the hood, which Samsung can’t take care of in other Android phones.

That leaves us with one simple criterion, which will determine whether you should spend money on the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro. That is, whether you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, and one that is new enough, to take advantage of its full functionality. And if you meet the smartphone criteria, choosing between these earbuds and the Sony 1000XM4s will be a tough one for you.

We don’t envy you for having to make that difficult choice. Just a thought – the benefits of the ecosystem, as attempted here, are often worth disregarding.

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