Galaxy Buds 2 vs. Live, Plus & Pro: What’s the difference?
Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds 2 are here, and they’re great. Problem is, they’re also the fourth set of wireless earbuds that Samsung has released in less than two years, joining the Galaxy Buds+, the Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Buds Pro.
Confused? We don’t blame you. Let us help.
We’ve loved pretty much every incarnation of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, but they each have some key differences — some have active noise cancellation (ANC), while others don’t, and only certain Buds work well with an iPhone, to name just a few. So if you’re trying to figure out the difference between a Plus and a Pro (or are just wondering which Buds are the ones that look like beans), we’ve got you covered below.
You want the cheapest Galaxy Buds out there. The Galaxy Buds+ are technically being replaced by the Galaxy Buds 2 in Samsung’s current lineup, but they’re only about a year and a half old — and are still a pretty great set of earbuds. They sound good, they’re very comfortable and, like Samsung’s more expensive buds, they have an Ambient Noise mode for helping you better hear your surroundings while jamming some music. And since they’re on the way out, you can usually snag them for super cheap (they’re only $99 as of this writing).
You want something that works equally well on iOS and Android. Unlike Samsung’s more recent Galaxy Buds, the Galaxy Buds+ have full app support on both iOS (via the Galaxy Buds app) and Android (via the Galaxy Wearable app). That means you can switch between various sound presets, customize the controls and toggle the Ambient Noise feature whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android device.
You want the best-looking (and most comfortable) Galaxy Buds. Samsung has a knack for crafting attractive buds that are easy on the ears, but the Galaxy Buds 2 stand above the rest in the design department. These ovular earbuds are the perfect mix of stylish and subtle, with a rounded design that’s slimmer than the Buds Pro and less conspicuous than the bean-shaped Buds Live. They come in some beautiful colors, including lavender and olive on top of the more traditional white and graphite. They’re also Samsung’s lightest earbuds yet, complete with silicone ear tips that make them a joy to wear for hours at a time.
You’re an Android user who wants lots of features for a reasonable price. The Galaxy Buds 2 are especially ideal for folks with an Android phone, which you’ll need to utilize Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app. This software lets you tap into some of the Buds 2’s most useful features, including the ability to customize the controls, perform a fit test and tweak the Ambient Noise and ANC modes. (Yes, these $149 buds have ANC, but it’s not stellar.) While the Buds 2 pair fine to an iPhone via Bluetooth (and let you switch between ANC and Ambient Noise using onboard controls), you’ll need an Android phone to get the most out of them.
You want a pair of earbuds that look truly distinct. The Galaxy Buds Live’s bean-shaped design became the subject of many an internet meme when it was first revealed, but it does have a certain charm to it. These unique buds are among Samsung’s most comfortable, and don’t look quite as jarring once you put them in your ears. They’re also the only Galaxy Buds that come in an attractive Mystic Bronze (which matches last year’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra) in addition to black, red and white.
You want cheap, platform-agnostic buds. Like the Galaxy Buds+, the Galaxy Buds Live can be used with a companion app on both iPhones and Android devices, allowing you to fine-tune how your music sounds via an equalizer, customize the controls and toggle ANC. Just keep in mind that the ANC on these buds is barely noticeable, and there’s no Ambient Noise feature like on the rest of the lineup.
You’re willing to pay up for ANC and lots of features. At $199 (but often on sale for less) the Galaxy Buds Pro are the most premium member of the Buds family, and you get what you pay for. These buds have the most refined ANC and Ambient Sound modes of the whole lineup, doing a solid job both blocking and letting in noise while providing multiple levels of intensity for each. That’s in addition to Samsung’s usual software features, including a sound equalizer, customizable controls and hands-free Bixby control (sorry, no swapping for Google Assistant here) for summoning Samsung’s virtual assistant.
You use an Android phone. Like with the Galaxy Buds 2, the Buds Pro’s many useful software features are limited to the Android-only Galaxy Wearable app. You can still switch between ANC and Ambient Noise modes using on-ear controls when paired to an iPhone, but you won’t be able to customize the buds in any way.
You care about on-ear controls (and the color purple). We’ve found the Galaxy Buds lineup to have pretty finicky touch controls across the board, with some models being too sensitive to touch and others being not receptive enough. The Buds Pro mostly get things right, responding well to various combinations of taps for controlling music playback and activating noise cancellation. And if color options are a priority, the Buds Pro come in an attractive Phantom Violet in addition to black and white. And yes, it matches the Galaxy S21 and S21+.
It’s hard to go wrong with any version of the Galaxy Buds — they all sound great, are super comfortable and deliver pretty strong battery life. Folks seeking the cheapest options out there should go for the Buds+ or Buds Live, which are also your best bets if you use an iPhone. The $149 Galaxy Buds 2 are the sweet spot for most Android users, while the $199 Buds Pro offer slightly better features for those willing to pay up.