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.
Apple and Samsung have a rivalry as old and notorious as England and France. That carries over not just in smartphones, but in the audio space as well. Apple's AirPods Pro go head to head against the new Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. Both are true wireless earbuds that come with built-in noise cancellation and a charging case, giving you uncharted audio no matter where you are. We’ve put them in a head-to-head comparison to see how they fare when it comes to design, comfort, sound quality, active noise cancellation (ANC), battery life, software, and other features.
If you’re looking for a more general set of earbud options, take a look at our list of the best wireless earbuds. And if you’re having trouble deciding between the AirPods Pro and the Jabra Elite 75t, read our take on how they compare.
Silicone eartips and comfortable fitNo eartips, uses shape to remain in earExcellent active noise cancellation boosted by H1 chipActive noise cancellation, but won't blot out everythingAutomatic EQ tweakingHighly customizable EQ optionsIPX4 water and sweat resistanceIPX2 water and sweat resistance4.5 hours of listening with ANC5.5 hours of listening with ANC
Design and Comfort
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.
The AirPods Pro retain the distinctive white Q-tip design of the first and second-generation AirPods, though there are some subtle differences. The stem bit of the Q-tip is a bit charter and curves inward so it conforms more closely to your ear and cheek. It sticks up less compared to the regular AirPods. Another bonus is that the AirPods Pros come with silicone tips, a significant departure from the hard, smooth plastic eartips of the AirPods. Apple's new AirPods Pros have a lot more technology, silicon tips, and ANC, so it's no surprise they're a little biger and heavier than the last models. Lifewire / Lance UlanoffThe fit is more comfortable, makes a better seal of noise isolation, and is less likely to fall out of your ears. You also don’t have to worry about taking it to the gym since they’re IPX4 water and sweat resistant, though obviously, you should avoid full immersion.
The Samsung Galaxy Live Buds have a distinctive design compared to both the AirPods Pro and their predecessors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+. Jokingly called the “Galaxy Beans” by many people, the nickname is valid. The Buds Live are available in Mystic White, Mystic Black, and Mystic Bronze, and resembles a pair of kidney beans.
Best BuyInterestingly, the Buds Live don’t have eartips, their shape is designed in such a way that they’ll stay in without it just by sitting in your ear, not your ear canal. The Buds Live are IPX2 water and sweat resistant, which is a lower rating than the AirPods Pro, but they should still hold up fairly well for workouts and gym use as long as you don’t get them soaked.
Sound Quality and Noise Cancellation
The AirPods Pro have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) as their main feature. Unlike passive noise-canceling, which simply uses the physical seal of the earbuds, the AirPods Pro uses its microphones to pipe in sound that essentially cancels out ambient noise without interfering with your music or other audio. Apple has also packed its AirPods Pro with a variety of clever tricks to improve ANC. There’s a vent system to reduce the pressurized feeling on your cars that certain other noise-canceling earbuds cause. It manages to do this without diminishing the ANC in any way, which is an impressive feat. That's me wearing the new Apple AirPods Pro. Lifewire / Lance UlanoffOn the other hand, if you want to hear your surroundings you can do that too by switching from ANC mode to Transparency mode. This is done by pressing or holding one of the haptic Force Sensors on either AirPods, letting ambient noise back in. This is a handy feature if you’re commuting and need to quickly turn the noise-canceling off to hear an announcement. As for the audio itself, sound quality is good with sharp highs and great boosted bass. The AirPods Pro have an H1 chip just like the previous AirPods to support all these audio features.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the first pair of earbuds from Samsung to come with ANC. They work similarly to the AirPods Pro in terms of using external microphones to balance out ambient noise, but they don’t match the level of sophistication Apple has brought to the table. The AirPods Pro are able to blot out a great deal of background noise, from a screeching train to a chattering crowd and loud PA system. The Buds Live, by contrast, dampens noise, but not nearly to the same level.
Best BuyWhere the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live does excel, however, is with the sheer number of audio features and enhancements they come loaded with. They have 12mm drivers with Harman Kardon tweaks, giving them rich sound, booming bass, and reverb. The Buds Live are good jack-of-all-trades when it comes to sound profile because they come with six EQ settings in the app, along with full customization for more advanced users. The AirPod Pro does have Adaptive EQ which is powered by the H1 chip and does it automatically, but you can't tweak individual settings.
With ANC active, the AirPods Pro will last for 4.5 hours of listening on a full charge. If you turn off ANC and Transparency mode, they’ll last 5 hours. The AirPods Pro case supports wireless charging and can provide an additional 24 hours of listening time. If you need to top up fast, 5 minutes of charging in the case can give you an hour of listening time.
The new AirPods Pros look different and the case is redesigned, too. Lifewire / Lance UlanoffThe Samsung Galaxy Buds Live can last an impressive 5.5 to 6 hours with both ANC and Bixby voice commands on. With both off, the runtime increases even more dramatically to 8 hours. That’s nearly enough to cover you for a full workday. The charging case adds an extra 29 hours of runtime and supports fast charging, both wired and wireless. In 5 minutes of charging, it can offer an hour of runtime.
Software and Features
The AirPods Pro may not offer tons of EQ tweaks to customize your sound profile, but it has a lot of other features to make up for it. For starters, when you first set them up, they’ll run an audio test to ensure the best fit for ANC and suggest how to adjust them in your ear if the test doesn’t give the best results.
Among the new features that rolled out with iOS 14, comes Spatial Audio which creates a faux virtual surround sound that can be handy for games and other immersive media. The update also came with battery optimization improvements. As always, Siri is built-in, letting you activate it with voice commands to interact with your phone, smart home devices, and control things like volume and track playback.
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.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are loaded with extras on the software end. We already touched on the various EQ options, but in addition to that you have remappable touch controls (they can be changed through the app), Dual Audio, which allows you to do playback on two pairs of devices if you want to share music with a friend, and the Bixby voice assistant for commands.
At MSRP, the AirPods Pro will cost you $249. Apple tends not to offer steep discounts, though we’ve occasionally seen the AirPods Pro come down to $200 during holiday sales. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, on the other hand, cost a more modest $169 and have been on sale a few times.
If you’re an iPhone user and already embedded in the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods Pro will offer you great noise cancellation, solid audio, and a useful set of integrations and enhancements when it comes to easy pairing. While both the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Live use Bluetooth 5.0, the AirPods Pro benefits a great deal from the H1 chip. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are a good option for Android users who like to have a number of EQ customization options, so they can create an individualized sound profile.