The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are polarized by their unique design, which while enabling a wider soundstage experience, can also lead to discomfort for users with certain ear shapes and sizes. The audio experience offers some compensation, but I can’t help but feel like Samsung is too risky of a purchase to recommend, given the problems experienced by users with different ear shapes.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
6 Hrs (Typical Use)
Yes (Wearable app)
While we’re no strangers to reviewing wireless earbuds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the first pair that we’re looking at from a major mobile phone manufacturer. The Galaxy Buds Live falls into the same general product line as the Galaxy Buds2 and the Galaxy Buds Pro. The Buds Live is the most affordable of the three, with the Buds Pro being the more premium offering from Samsung.
The earbuds come in a small carry case that doubles as the charger, a design we’ve become quite accustomed to when it comes to earbuds. The lid is magnetic, which helps keep the case closed in your pocket or backpack. There is also a tiny single LED light indicator on the front of the case.
On the inside, there is another LED indicator light in the center, with each earbud located in a magnetic slot, a standard feature of most wireless earbuds these days.
My initial reaction to the glossy, smooth earbuds was some concern over fingerprints. However, while fingerprints do get left on the earbuds quite easily, they are almost impossible to see from most angles, and the glossy finish retains its clean aesthetic appearance.
There is a (L) and (R) marking on the case itself, showing you which ear which earbud fits into. Similarly, when picking up the earbuds themselves, there is an additional left/right indicator on the inside of the buds.
The version I reviewed was the Mystic Black color, though Samsung also offers a Mystic Bronze and Mystic White version. The glossy silver-like coloration on the buds is very prominent, I was worried this may cause some serious issues with fingerprints, and while they do still appear with enough pressure, they aren’t very noticeable in typical use.
Getting them set up
Placing them in the ears correctly took a little bit of twisting and turning, as the design is slightly different from many other earbuds on the market. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live has a kidney-bean-shaped design and can take a bit of getting used to for those coming from other earbud designs.
The next step was to get them synced up with my Samsung S22 Ultra, which I prefer doing without any manuals. In my opinion, if you need a manual to connect to your earbuds, there is a flaw in the design process.
Thankfully the pairing process was quick and easy; the earbuds entered pairing mode when they were placed in the ear, and my phone immediately detected them. Within seconds I was listening to music.
How do they sound?
To test the audio quality of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, I first opened up Spotify and ran through some of my testing playlists. These playlists incorporate a few different genres which utilize different production, mixing, and mastering methods to see how they perform across multiple genres.
Off the bat, one can pick up on what comes across as a reasonably impressive soundstage; this is primarily due to how the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live sits in the ear. Unlike some earbuds that extend into the ear canal, the Buds Live are positioned outside your ear. This positioning has both pros and cons to it. The benefit is a wider soundstage, almost like an open-back headphone. The problem here is that when I think of earbuds, I think of outdoor activities, travel, or commuting. These are scenarios where you’re going to favor isolation over the soundstage.
For testing, we used the standard EQ setting.
Out of the box, the Galaxy Buds Live has a very flat sound signature with very little in terms of peaks. The bass response was decent but didn’t blow me away. The sound did offer a relatively good depth, however. I would have preferred a slightly more U-shaped sound signature, as earbuds always feel like they’re supposed to be more of a fun audio experience than an accurate one, especially in the market space that the Samsung Buds Live plays in. However, this is a contentious topic, and there are no doubt those who will prefer the flatter, more neutral sound signature.
The same neutral sound signature continues across the spectrum, with mids and highs offering a similar experience. There were perhaps a few small peaks in the higher frequency range as well as an area of the mids that felt slightly more pronounced. These nuances don’t make themselves obvious and are only really noticeable on critical listening.
It’s worth noting that the sound signature can be customized through the Galaxy Wearable app. The app will allow you to control the signature with a few EQ presets (Normal, Bass Boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear, and Treble Boost)
The normal EQ setting is the standard flat sound signature.
The bass boost option cranks up the low end while leaving the mids and highs mostly unchanged from normal.
The soft EQ setting seems to influence the mid-range mostly and is very similar to the normal setting, but with a touch less pronounced mids.
Dynamic quickly became my favorite option for how I listen to music; it seemed to beef up the low end and sharpen up a few of the higher frequencies. With that said, there are also frequency ranges that feel like they get thrown a bit too deep into the mix with this setting. It tends to work well for bass-heavy electronic, though.
The clear option focuses on bringing out more definition from the mids and highs; this is probably a good choice if you’re having a Zoom meeting or listening to audiobooks.
As the name suggests, the treble boost option will boost the treble but leaves the bass response fairly low.
This is where the ANC (Active Noise Canceling) feature comes into play. Once activated, the ANC noticeably removes some of the background noise that occurs due to the position of the earbuds being mostly on the outer area of your ear. The ANC removed a lot of lower frequencies from my environment, but I still found that external higher-pitched frequencies could still be distracting at moderate volume. This is fairly standard for most lower-cost ANC features.
When played at lower volumes, outside noise can be distracting. But I found that I didn’t encounter too much outside noise intruding at higher volumes. With that said, I suspect that you’re still going to encounter environmental noise even with the ANC, and may still get better isolation through buds that fit into the ear canal. The reality is that there is so much that active noise cancelation can do. The rest falls onto the design.
If noise cancellation is vital to you and the wireless aspect is optional, we’ve also got a list of noise-canceling earbuds we like.
The user experience
While the sound of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live does a good job overall, when it comes to the user experience, there are certainly some issues that Samsung could have worked on resolving.
One of my gripes revolves around the touch control, which I realize is a common feature across brands. But in conjunction with the slightly awkward positioning of the earbuds, I did find myself accidentally brushing over the device and stopping the music while trying to readjust them. Thankfully, this is something I just turned off on the Samsung Wearables app.
It becomes challenging to be objective when it comes to the comfort of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. The design makes it so that comfort will depend on your ear size and your ear shape heavily. For some people, the buds fit in easily and rest well-secured, but there can be problems with loose fits and potentially falling out for those with larger ears. On the opposite side of the coin, those with smaller ears may struggle to get the earbuds to fit comfortably.
I found that I had some mild discomfort within the first 30 minutes, and by 90 minutes, I felt the need to take them out and give my ears a break. This was mainly due to pressure on some of the cartilage of my ear – due to the size and shape being a bit smaller than ideal. By contrast, when I tested the EPOS GTW 270, I was able to wear them with much more comfort than the Galaxy Buds Live.
For individuals with any TMJ pain, the way these earbuds fit can cause discomfort quite quickly and should be considered. There are other models which cause less pressure on the ear and temporomandibular joint, though again, this will still be impacted by your ear shape.
While the tight fit I had was uncomfortable, the one area it assisted in was having them not fall out. I could go about some gardening without having the earbuds fall out of the ear, an issue I know some others have reported. I do feel like the wearer is going to have to readjust them regularly if running an extended distance, depending on how they fit the person.
In the end, these earbuds may be comfortable in your ears, or they may not be. The nature of the design is always going to lend itself to a gamble in the purchasing decision.
With 6 hours of advertised battery life with typical use, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live actually offers more juice than the more expensive Buds2 and Buds Pro models, both of which offer 5 hours of typical use.
In my testing, I found that this number was fairly accurate, though I do feel I ran out of battery a bit quicker than the advertised time, this was no doubt in part due to the heavier usage in the testing process.
While a benchmark of 6 hours is typically standard in the industry with the Apple Airpods (3rd Gen) offering the same time, you can find third-party competitors like Raycon which offers up to 9 hours of playtime.
Who Are They For?
That’s the million-dollar question when it comes to these earbuds. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live seems to have a unique and, honestly, somewhat confusing approach to the design of these earbuds.
My concern with Galaxy Buds Live is that they don’t offer the types of features that we typically want to see in wireless earbuds. With an IPX rating of 2, these earbuds will not handle very well in most rainy conditions. I’d have liked to have at least seen IPX4 water resistance offered. In comparison, the Galaxy Buds Pro offers full IPX7 resistance.
For a brand that pushes fitness quite heavily, Samsung has seemingly created an earbud that is best suited for home use. The loose fit on the outside of the ear means noise isolation is mediocre at best, making it less than ideal for those commuting to or from work on public transport. In addition, the lack of water resistance means it’s not that great for the active runner who finds themselves caught in rain showers.
The Galaxy Buds Live can be thought of as a casual pair of earbuds that are likely to suit you just fine at home or in the garden – but it’s tough not to recommend customers look at investing in the Galaxy Buds Pro instead. Perhaps that is the strategy here from Samsung.
Overall, I could recommend them for home use to those who have managed to try them on before purchase. However, I’d have a tough time making a broad recommendation when so much of the experience is dependent on ear shape and size.
Consider These Alternatives
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro features a different design that tends to be a bit more reliable in terms of comfort, as well as offering impressive IPX7 waterproofing. Overall, the Galaxy Buds Pro is much easier to recommend. While its retail list price is double that of the Galaxy Buds Live, you can often find the Pro for only about $50 more.
Despite being an Android advocate, it is difficult not to recommend the 3rd generation of Apple Airpods (if you can find them in stock). They offer IPX4 water resistance, and additional comfort, and have become a staple choice by many in recent years.
For the active individuals who want more protection against water, the Raycon Fitness is an excellent choice that costs around the same price but brings impressive IPX7 water resistance and is generally considered more comfortable. Not only does it offer great water protection, but also brings some excellent battery life to the party.
If you’re not too concerned about budget, the Sony WF-1000XM4 falls into a different price bracket at more than twice the price of the Samsung Buds Live. It offers IPX4 waterproofing, excellent audio quality, and more reliable comfort across a larger demographic.