I tried AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro for 2 weeks. Here’s the verdict

I tried AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro for 2 weeks. Here’s the verdict

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Apple’s AirPods Pro are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy, but Samsung is taking on the standard-bearer with its slightly more affordable Galaxy Buds Pro. The Buds Pro have almost the same feature set as the AirPods Pro, with active noise canceling and spatial audio support. I’ve spent two weeks testing both these pairs of earbuds to weigh the pros and cons of each.

The AirPods Pro are an excellent pair of wireless earbuds with ANC that work seamlessly with iOS and Apple devices. They support spatial audio (aka virtual surround sound) and have a longer-lasting battery with ANC than the Galaxy Buds Pro. Sound quality is balanced, but they don’t have a universal equalizer to change the sound across all apps. You can use the AirPods Pro with Android phones, although you lose some features like spatial audio and quick switching.

Read our AirPods Pro review.

David Carnoy/CNET

When it comes to specs, the Galaxy Buds Pro are the most comparable of Samsung’s earbud models to the AirPods Pro. They sound great, with a strong bass response, but the battery life doesn’t last as long as the AirPods Pro’s when ANC is active. They also don’t work as well with iPhones as, unlike earlier Galaxy Buds, these aren’t supported in the Galaxy Wearable iOS app at the time of writing.

Read our Galaxy Buds Pro review.

AirPods Pro are smaller, feel lighter in your ear

Both are in-ear earbuds, but they have completely different designs. The AirPods Pro have a clickable stem that sticks out of the ear and they only come in white. The Galaxy Buds Pro come in three colors (silver, black or purple) and have a round design with tap panels on the side, and feel a bit heavier in your ear than the AirPods Pro.

Both pairs of earbuds come with interchangeable tips in small, medium or large. Fit will vary depending on your ear shape and size, but I’ve had trouble with both these models not staying in properly when I’m working out or moving around a lot. I’ve actually found the most secure fit with third-party foam tips for the AirPods Pro — I use ones from Comply, but there are many other brands available. The Galaxy Bud Pro tips don’t come with the wingtip locks found in previous models like the Galaxy Buds Plus that helped lock them securely in your ear. I haven’t been able to find third-party tips for the Galaxy Buds Pro yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing if that will improve the fit.

Read more11 awesome AirPods Pro tips to try right now

The Galaxy Buds Pro have the upper hand when it comes to durability against water and sweat, with a higher rating of IPX7 compared with the IPX4 of the AirPods Pro. This means they can be submerged in up to 3 feet (1 meter) of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. I haven’t taken the Buds Pro for a swim yet or run them through the washer, but I’ve had no problems after splashing some water on them. The AirPods Pro can withstand sweat and some light splashes, but I wouldn’t suggest taking them swimming.

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The AirPods Pro with third-party eartips.


Lexy Savvides/CNET

Galaxy Buds Pro, better sound quality; AirPods Pro, better noise canceling

Both these earbuds sound good, as long as you can get a secure fit. It’s definitely a matter of preference, but I prefer the warmer sound profile and more pronounced bass response of the Galaxy Bud Pro when it comes to sound quality. You can also adjust the equalizer manually in the Galaxy Wearable app to a number of different presets, from bass boost to soft. The AirPods Pro have a more neutral sound profile that actually works in their favor if you want to jump between calls, listening to music and listening to podcasts. They have an adaptive equalizer that dynamically adjusts the sound for you.

While both do a good job at canceling out ambient noise, the AirPods Pro are a touch more effective at drowning out white noise like the sound of an overhead fan or plane engines. While you can adjust the ANC level on the Galaxy Buds Pro to high or low, I didn’t really hear any difference between the two settings. I can also hear a very faint hiss when I have ANC on the Buds Pro when I’m not listening to music.

galaxybuds-pro

Lexy Savvides/CNET

They both have spatial audio (Samsung calls it 360 audio) for a simulated surround-sound experience when listening to movies and TV shows. Again, both sound good, but if I had to choose, I would go with the AirPods Pro as the effect sounds more natural. Note that at the time of writing, 360 audio support is only on Samsung devices running One UI 3.1 like the Samsung Galaxy S21 phones, whereas spatial audio on the AirPods Pro is available on any Apple device running iOS 14 or later.

But the Galaxy Buds Pro have a feature the AirPods Pro lack: voice detection. The Galaxy Buds Pro automatically lowers the volume of your media when they detect that you’re talking and then reverts back to your original settings 10 seconds after you’ve stopped. It’s great if you want to be able to have a quick conversation without actively switching the buds into ambient sound mode (or pulling one out of your ear). 

You can listen to mic samples in our video on this page to hear the difference for calls.


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Comparing Galaxy Buds Pro to AirPods Pro



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AirPods Pro: Most reliable battery life

Samsung quotes the battery life on the Galaxy Buds Pro at 5 hours with ANC on, but I never got close to that figure. With ANC turned on, the longest I was able to wear them for was roughly 4.5 hours, which was disappointing considering the claim. Apple quotes up to 4.5 hours with ANC for the AirPods Pro, but I regularly exceeded that and could manage almost 5 hours of total listening time. According to Samsung, the Buds Pro can also last up to 8 hours of listening time without ANC, but again, I wasn’t able to reach that number myself.

Each case also holds a little extra charge, with the AirPods Pro offering 24 hours’ total juice and the Galaxy Buds Pro an added 18 hours. Both cases can wirelessly charge, or you can plug in Lightning on the AirPods Pro or USB-C on the Galaxy Buds Pro.

Read moreBest Apple AirPods deals right now

Smart features are similar on both

This is the first generation of Samsung earbuds I’ve tested that aren’t compatible with the Galaxy Wearable iOS app. This means they’ll connect to an iPhone ($900 at Boost Mobile) via Bluetooth and you can activate ANC and use the default tap controls, but you won’t be able to change the settings. The AirPods Pro also work as regular Bluetooth earbuds on Android, but offer the most seamless experience customizing settings on iOS.

You can summon Siri on the AirPods Pro, or Bixby on the Galaxy Buds Pro by using your voice, or with touch controls. Each will read off text messages or notifications, and let you change the volume or place a call with your voice. There is no way to call on Google Assistant using your voice on the Galaxy Buds Pro yet, although you can activate Google Assistant on the Galaxy Buds Pro by assigning it as a long press of the touch panel, but you can’t make calls with it yet. 

Each earbud can be used independently for calls or listening to music and you can find both on a map if you lose them using the Find My app on iPhone or the Smart Things app on Galaxy devices. They both also offer fast switching between devices signed in to the same Apple ID or Samsung account.

Read moreGalaxy Buds Pro: 10 tips to help you master Samsung’s latest wireless earbuds

Galaxy Buds Pro for Android, AirPods Pro for iPhone

Both sets of earbuds have their strengths, but the best earbuds for you will ultimately depend on what software ecosystem you’re in. Previous Samsung-versus-Apple earbud comparisons were more platform-agnostic, given earlier models were compatible with the Galaxy Wearable app on iOS, but this time your phone will be a big factor in your decision. I prefer the warm sound profile of the Galaxy Buds Pro, so I’d pick these for listening to music. But for multitasking between calls and music (and for more reliable battery performance), I choose the AirPods Pro.

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