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Galaxy Buds Pro vs AirPods Pro

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(CNN) —  

The Galaxy Buds Pro are Samsung’s first wireless earbuds that should make Apple nervous. These $199 buds offer solid active noise-cancellation (ANC), excellent sound quality and a ton of handy features for Android users — and they look great doing it.

Still, the $249 AirPods Pro are our pick for the best true wireless earbuds for good reason, with superb ANC, a comfortable design and seamless compatibility with your iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Is that enough to keep Samsung’s exciting new rival at bay? We’ve tested the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro side-by-side extensively to help you decide which earbuds are best for you.

Apple AirPods Pro: The $249 AirPods Pro have the best ANC of the two, and are especially ideal for those with iPhones, iPads and Macs. They come in a single color — classic Apple white.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: The $199 Galaxy Buds Pro are the cheapest of the two earbuds, are optimized for Android and have a wider range of features. The Buds Pro also give you more color options, with a choice of black, white and an especially striking violet.

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PHOTO:
Michael Andronico/CNN

As someone who’s reviewed nearly all of Samsung’s recent earbuds, I always find myself eager to return to the superior sound of my AirPods when I’m done. With the Galaxy Buds Pro, that’s no longer the case. The Buds Pro and AirPods Pro are nearly identical when it comes to outputting rich, lively sound, with only a few noteworthy discrepancies that popped up in our testing.

Both earbuds did a fantastic job pumping out the sunny pop rock of Beach Bunny’s “Love Sick,” as the track’s bouncy bass and groovy guitars came through with full clarity. The bass sounded just a bit bigger and brighter on Samsung’s buds, while the AirPods Pro delivered a more neutral sound.

The Buds Pro’s extra bass proved to be a slight detriment on Julien Baker’s “Hardline,” which alternates between soft synthesizers and walls of guitars and drums. While the track’s arpeggiated guitar riffs and vocal yelps sounded crisp on both earbuds, the bass sounded a little bit muddy on the Buds Pro once the full band kicked in.

The Galaxy Buds Pro and AirPods Pro both handle hip-hop tracks well, as they each preserved the snappy snares and smooth melodies of Juice WRLD’s “Wishing Well.” Samsung’s buds sounded just the slightest bit better here, as there was more separation between individual tracks such as the piano and guitar.

It’s worth noting that the Buds Pro have the unique advantage of offering multiple equalizer options (on Android at least), as you can swap between normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear and treble boost modes. But in terms of pure audio quality, you really can’t go wrong with either of these buds.

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PHOTO:
Michael Andronico/CNN

The Galaxy Buds Pro deliver decent active noise cancellation, but Apple’s high-end earbuds came out on top in nearly all of our tests. Samsung’s buds did a good job quieting the sounds of cars, trains and chatter coming from a busy Queens street, but the AirPods Pro blocked out even more noise — to the point where we could barely hear people talking.

Testing the two buds indoors with a recording of airport sounds coming out of our speakers yielded similar results. The AirPods Pro all but silenced the hum of nearby jet engines, leaving just the sounds of footsteps and announcements coming over the PA. But when we switched to the Galaxy Buds Pro, we could still hear a bit of hissing.

Both earbuds can amplify outside noise to help you better hear your surroundings — the Buds Pro do this with Ambient Noise, while the AirPods Pro have Transparency mode — but Samsung’s buds have some neat tricks in this area that Apple’s don’t. The coolest one is Voice Detect, which allows the Buds Pro to automatically switch from ANC to Ambient Noise mode for a few seconds once you start talking (a feature that seems tailor made for coffee shops). And unlike the AirPods Pro’s Transparency mode, the Buds Pro’s Ambient Noise feature offers four levels of volume, and let in more sound than Apple’s buds did when fully cranked up.

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PHOTO:
Michael Andronico/CNN

Both of these earbuds will get you through a good chunk of the day on a charge, but the Galaxy Buds Pro last slightly longer. Samsung’s buds are rated for five hours of endurance with ANC on and eight hours with it off, and both claims fell in line with our testing. Meanwhile, the AirPods Pro are rated for four hours and 30 minutes and just five hours with them off. Fortunately, both sets of earbuds offer up to an hour of listening time from a quick 5-minute charge.

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PHOTO:
Michael Andronico/CNN

There isn’t exactly a clear winner between the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro when it comes to features, as each set of earbuds is optimized for iOS and Android respectively. The Buds Pro have a richer feature set on paper — on top of the aforementioned Voice Detect and Ambient Noise capabilities, Samsung’s earbuds also offer multiple sound profiles and multiple ANC levels, which you won’t find on the AirPods Pro. However, these features are exclusive to the Galaxy Wearable app on Android, meaning you can’t tweak the audio or ANC output on an iPhone.

It’s a similar story with the AirPods Pro, as features such as Siri voice control, audio sharing (which lets two AirPods owners listen to the same audio source) and the Ear Tip Fit Test (which analyzes your ears to help you find the best tips for your ears) are all exclusive to iOS. The AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro both pair instantly to their respective device families, and both allow you to summon your phone’s virtual assistant (Siri for the iPhone, Bixby for Galaxy phones). In short: The AirPods Pro work best for Apple users, and the Buds Pro are built for Android phone owners — especially if you have a Galaxy device.

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PHOTO:
Michael Andronico/CNN

The $199 Galaxy Buds Pro and $249 AirPods Pro are very similar where it matters most — they both sound great, are extremely comfortable and have respectable battery life. As such, choosing between the two comes down to your priorities.

If you want the best possible value or are an Android user, the Galaxy Buds Pro are a no-brainer. They offer a ton of functionality for $50 less than the AirPods Pro, including solid ANC and some really handy ambient noise features for those on Android phones.

If you’re willing to pay up for the best possible ANC of the two — or are already in the Apple ecosystem — the AirPods Pro are for you. Apple’s buds do an excellent job blocking out noise, and work seamlessly with iPhones, iPads and Macs.

The good news is that the battle for audio supremacy between Samsung and Apple has never been closer, and you can’t make a bad choice here. Will Samsung follow this pattern and deliver an affordable over-ear alternative to the awesome (but overpriced) AirPods Max? We sure hope so.



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