What was Samsung thinking when it created the Buds Live?
The newest true wireless earbuds from Samsung sport a very strange bean shape that even the company noticed.
The earbuds then look like a very stripped down version of an in-ear monitor you might find at a live production that the MC uses to keep in communication with the stage manager.
Sure, the form factor is striking and the earbuds do feel a lot smaller than previous iterations but, after using the earbuds for a week, I am struggling to find things that I like about the Buds Live.
There are some great things about these beans and if you are a first time buyer, they may seem tempting but as a person with what is apparently a strange ear shape (this is now apparently a thing), you might want to reconsider.
For listeners who love the low end, the Buds Live deliver in droves.
Out of the box the Buds Live have enough bass to drown out even the most annoying angle grinder in your neighbourhood and while it is impressive, we would have liked a more flat profile from the beans when the EQ is flat.
As such the Buds Live require a bit more tweaking than many users will be accustomed to but that’s not something we’d consider a bad thing.
What we would love however is an update of the Samsung Wearables app that allows for finer equalising than the six presets allow for.
While the Galaxy Buds are comfortable there are a few oddities we’ll get to later but as a pair of earbuds that sit in your ears for a few hours at a time, they’re fine.
The battery life, on the other hand, is very impressive. With active noise cancelling turned on and music blasting at 100 percent we noted an average decrease in charge of 20 percent every hour resulting in a total of five hours between charges.
The microphone is okay but as Bluetooth still lets microphone tech down every time, they’re good enough for a Zoom call with your colleagues but not going to replace a hardwired microphone for the likes of streaming or gaming anytime soon.
And this is the point in the review where we highlight the numerous problems with the Buds Live.
The form factor of these earbuds is interesting. Rather than being inserted into your ear canal, these buds sit in the folds of your ear, injecting sound directly into your ear canal.
This solution works sometimes and doesn’t a lot more of the time.
Several times over the last two weeks simply brushing my hair behind my ears has seen the Buds Live hit the floor. While cleaning the house I’ve had the Buds Live fall out of my ears as I mop with one incident nearly resulting in the Buds Live falling into a cleaning solution.
That is not good at all considering these earbuds only have an IPX2 rating so if you’re sweaty or forget to take these off before dashing through a shower, you might find the buds ruined.
While the Buds Live felt secure at first, over time I have become very nervous about using them when moving for fear of losing one of the R3 999 earbuds we have been loaned for review purposes.
The other problem with this form factor in my ears is that I never quite got a nice, loud sound from these buds likely because they are resting at the entrance to your ear canal rather than getting closer to your eardrums and creating a seal.
Unfortunately the shape of your ear is really going to be the determining factor of whether you will enjoy wearing these earbuds or not.
Samsung claims the Buds Live sport active noise cancelling and after my time with these earbuds that claim holds no water. Outside noise can still be heard when listening to music and taking calls so there really isn’t very much, if any, noise cancelling going on here.
There is also an experimental feature which allows ambient noise to be broadcast into your ears. The feature is okay but all too often ambient noise would be much louder than expected, as this is an experimental feature hidden away requiring activation by the user we aren’t deducting points.
Battery and software
As mentioned earlier in our review the Buds Live will net you roughly five hours of continuous play at full volume with active noise cancelling on and the equaliser set to Dynamic.
With the charging case you can expect 21 hours of life in total with the Buds Live which is really rather good.
As for the Galaxy Wear app, everything can be seen at a glance and surprisingly, if you switch from your smartphone to your PC, the profile remains on the Buds Live. That means, if you disable touch controls for the Buds on your phone, that function will remain off even when you connect them to another device.
As mentioned, we’d love a more in-depth equaliser in this app.
We’re now at a point where we have to make a call regarding whether these Buds Live are better than the (now cheaper) Galaxy Buds+.
Looking at sound profiles, the Buds Live are better in every way out of the box. The sound stage is nicer and there is a decent amount of low-end for earbuds this small.
But the form factor is just too big of an issue for us to ignore here, especially when we’re trying to recommend a product.
Why Samsung decided to reinvent the wheel as far as earphones are concerned is beyond me.
Sure, there is some clever engineering going on in the buds but why did they have to be bean shaped?
There are many positive reviews about the Buds praising them for the great sound and long battery life, but if you can’t get the damn things into your ears, and keep them there, then none of that matters.
Unfortunately our advice here is to go and check out the Buds Live for yourself to see if they fit your ears. We’d be rather upset if we’d dropped R3 999 on these buds and discovered they just don’t play well with our ears.
Our verdict then is give these buds a miss (unless you want to go out and test fit them yourself), perhaps the next generation will bring us back to a shape that’s a bit more normal.
*Disclaimer: The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live were sent to Hypertext for review purposes. The earbuds will now be sanitised and returned to Samsung South Africa.