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

Published on Nov 01, 2022 08:58 AM IST

Most of the Galaxy Buds2 Pro’s headline functionality, including 24-bit audio and head tracking for immersive sound, work exclusively with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones

The Galaxy Buds2 Pro succeed the then impressive Galaxy Buds Pro. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)
The Galaxy Buds2 Pro succeed the then impressive Galaxy Buds Pro. (Vishal Mathur / HT Photo)

Does a “Pro” moniker on wireless earbuds really mean much? Good sound is supposed to be the singular assignment for earbuds and headphones. Does it therefore, have to do with adding gravitas to the price tag? Or does this mean more features than what’s par for the course? What exactly would they be? After all, a “Pro” smartphone can possibly stand out on a variety of specs and functionality. With earbuds and headphones, there’s little room to maneuver.

That’s the first complicated task for the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro, the company’s latest and presently most expensive wireless earbuds. Be ready to part with 17,999 worth of your hard-earned money. The Galaxy Buds2 Pro succeed the then impressive Galaxy Buds Pro and sit alongside the Galaxy Buds2 (around 11,999) and the now-ageing but still very unique bean-ish Galaxy Buds Live (these now cost 5,990; a far cry from their launch price of 15,990).

Also Read: Want to buy a smartphone but have budget of less than 10,000? These deals are for you

The “Pro” in the Galaxy Buds2 Pro could very well, at least when compared with the Galaxy Buds2, be a reference to the 24-bit Hi-Fi audio codec support and the updated active noise cancellation (ANC) which is theoretically more capable too. But that isn’t the end of it. Not even close.

Closed ecosystems, walled gardens, or perfectly baked in?

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

The 24-bit Hi-Fi 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 music streaming apps that have 24-bit tracks – incidentally, Apple Music has this for now, though we aren’t sure when Spotify and Amazon Music (though high-res music is available globally) will truly get into the ring in India.

Then there’s the promise of immersive 360-degree audio with Dolby Atmos, with this feature essentially tracking your head movement to move the sound around to give the illusion of you being in the center of it all. Want to take a guess? The 360-degree audio needs a Samsung Galaxy phone with One UI 3.1 or newer, while enhanced head tracking and multi-channel audio support will require 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 all need to be from the Samsung family. Including the smart TV pairing. Tracking your buds, in case you misplace them, comes via the SmartThings app which is Samsung’s own app and not available for other Android phones.

Most of the Galaxy Buds2 Pro headline functionality will work only with Samsung Galaxy phones, and this is an understandable evolution of business and technology in tandem. Keeping certain functionality exclusive for its own family of devices has been done to different degrees – Apple does it and even OnePlus have done that with their earbuds over time.

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

Where is the “Pro” in these Pro wireless earbuds?

The question you must be asking is – does this deliver on the promise of “Pro” performance? It builds expectation, having a name like that. And after having paid so much money.

Samsung’s designers have shaved off a certain chunk of the bulk from these buds, compared with 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 slight tweaks make this one an even better fit for more ear contours. The positive spin, as a result is, a lot of the ambient noise is blocked out even with ANC off.

The use of the matte finish on the case and the buds is certainly our preference over glossy coatings – those are just fingerprint and scratch magnets.

Samsung has given these Galaxy Buds2 Pro a larger vent for better airflow. This is to tackle the persistent limitation of noise cancelling earbuds, which is the hemmed in feeling ears have after a while of continuous use. We can say things have improved quite a bit in terms of the longevity of ear comfort, but the Sony’s newest WF-1000XM4 can still be worn for longer before the ears demand a deep breathing break. It’s the same with the latest generation AirPods Pro too.

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

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

Dual audio driver architecture has clear advantages. The composition that we described earlier, allows for lower and higher frequencies to be divided between the two drivers. Instead of one having to replicate everything. That means clearer reproduction of frequencies, distinguished as they should and little chance of one overshadowing the other. From what we could decipher after listening to multiple genres on the Galaxy Buds2 Pro, there is a definite, albeit slight, V-shaped element to the EQ tuning. The bass and vocals are slightly boosted, but the mids aren’t drowning either.

There’s generous bass for the up-tempo music genres, including remix music and dance tracks. At the same time, this won’t deliver your favorite podcast with muddled sound. And everything in-between.

Battery life needs an evolution, next time around

Battery life is something that’ll need a big upgrade when the next upgrade cycle comes along. This does just about 5 hours with noise cancellation active. That’s not a hardship, but still significantly lesser 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 on for music playback.

Do you need to be so dependent on technology?

The voice detect feature really didn’t work well for us – this is supposed to automatically reduce the volume of the music when the earbuds detect you are talking to someone. It can be iffy at times, particularly if you are in a busy locale with lots of indistinguishable chatter. How hard is it to pause the music yourself?

Samsung’s best earbuds, almost exclusively for its phones

How exclusive does exclusive need to be before the walled garden scenario begins to unfold in earnest? We get the feeling that Samsung may have overplayed the card a bit too much with the Galaxy Buds2 Pro, leaving very little for other Android phone users. Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with the under-the-hood stuff, which Samsung cannot ensure in other Android phones.

That leaves us with one simple criteria, which will dictate whether you should spend money on the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro. That is, whether you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, and one that’s new enough, to draw upon the full width of functionality. And if you do meet the smartphone criteria, it’s a tough pick for you between these earbuds, and the Sony 1000XM4s.

We don’t envy you having to make that tough pick. Just a thought – the advantages of the ecosystem, as the attempt is being made here, are often worth keeping onside.


    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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