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Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Updated Mar 05, 2021 at 01:26 pm
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless Picture
6.9
Neutral Sound
7.2
Commute/Travel
8.2
Sports/Fitness
6.5
Office
5.3
Wireless Gaming
5.2
Wired Gaming
6.1
Phone Calls
Type Earbuds
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Truly Wireless
Noise Cancelling Yes
Mic Yes
Transducer Dynamic

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless are unusually-designed noise cancelling truly wireless earbuds. They have a distinctive look, feel surprisingly stable and comfortable, and have slightly warm and well-balanced sound profile that should suit a broad range of audio content. Despite their ANC system, they're not the best choice of earbuds for overall noise isolation, though they're surprisingly effective in filtering out low-frequency ambient noise, like bus or plane engines. Their slightly open fit generates a more spacious but also less consistent listening experience than most in-ears.

Our Verdict

6.9 Neutral Sound

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are passable for neutral sound. They have great bass and mid accuracy, which gives most mixes adequate thump and rumble as well as detailed vocals and lead instruments. That said, their treble response is a little uneven, which can cause some notes to sound a little piercing. Also, their open fit results in a less consistent audio delivery, though their soundstage is a little more spacious than most closed-back earbuds. Their companion app has a couple of different audio presets to choose from to adjust your listening experience, though there isn't a more robust EQ to fine-tune their audio reproduction.

Pros
  • Slightly warm, well-balanced sound profile.
Cons
  • Inconsistent audio delivery.
7.2 Commute/Travel

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are decent for commuting and traveling. They're extremely portable, decently comfortable, and have remarkably low latency on mobile devices, which is handy if you like to watch movies on your way into the office. While their ANC system does a good job of filtering out the low rumble of bus and plane engines, it's less effective when it comes to blocking out the chatter of fellow commuters. Their seven-hour-plus continuous battery life should be sufficient for longer trips, though they don't have any power-saving features like a standby mode to help conserve their charge when not in use.

Pros
  • Slightly warm, well-balanced sound profile.
  • Low wireless latency on mobile devices.
  • Exceptionally portable, lightweight design.
Cons
  • Sub-par overall noise isolation capability.
  • Control scheme has limited functionality.
  • Middling microphone recording quality and noise handling capability.
8.2 Sports/Fitness

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are a great option for sports and fitness. Their unusual bean-like design helps keep them stable in your ears, even during intense workout sessions. Unfortunately, while their control scheme is fairly easy to use, it's missing some essential functions out-of-the-box, like volume adjustment. Also, they're only rated IPX2 for basic water resistance, though we don't test for this.

Pros
  • Slightly warm, well-balanced sound profile.
  • Very stable fit.
  • Good build quality.
  • Exceptionally portable, lightweight design.
Cons
  • Control scheme has limited functionality.
  • Relatively low IPX2 rating for water resistance.
6.5 Office

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are mediocre for office use. They do a poor job of filtering out the chatter of other coworkers and leak quite a bit of audio. They also don't support multi-device pairing, which is a little annoying if you want to listen to content on your phone and computer at the same time. That said, they're decently comfortable and have more than enough battery life to last you the day, as long as you throw them back in their case now and then.

Pros
  • Slightly warm, well-balanced sound profile.
  • Low wireless latency on mobile devices.
Cons
  • Sub-par overall noise isolation capability.
  • Leak quite a bit of audio.
5.3 Wireless Gaming

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live aren't suitable for wireless gaming due to their high latency on PC and incompatibility with consoles.

5.2 Wired Gaming

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are Bluetooth-only earbuds that aren't compatible with a wired connection.

6.1 Phone Calls

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are sub-par for making phone calls. Their integrated microphones make your voice sound muffled and thin. They also don't do a good job of separating speech from background noise. Also, due to the buds' sub-par noise isolation capability, you may have trouble hearing what's being said.

Pros
  • Slightly warm, well-balanced sound profile.
Cons
  • Sub-par overall noise isolation capability.
  • Middling microphone recording quality and noise handling capability.
  • 6.9 Neutral Sound
  • 7.2 Commute/Travel
  • 8.2 Sports/Fitness
  • 6.5 Office
  • 5.3 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.2 Wired Gaming
  • 6.1 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Jun 29, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  2. Updated Mar 05, 2021: Updated review for accuracy and clarity.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are distinctive-looking earbuds. Their bean-like shape and shiny finish on their outer casing make them stand out in most environments, though thankfully they don't protrude very far from your ears. They're available in the fairly conventional white and black color schemes as well as 'Mystic Bronze'.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.02 lbs
Clamping Force
0 lbs

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are decently comfortable. Unlike in-ear headphones, they don't have traditional ear tips. Instead, the bottom-mounted speakers fire directly into your ear canal, so the buds don't feel invasive. That said, they can start to apply a bit of pressure to the innermost part of the outer ear where the buds rest, especially if you have small ears.

5.7
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use Good
Feedback Decent
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control On/Off
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls Voice Assistant

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have an easy-to-use touch-sensitive control scheme that's somewhat limited in terms of overall functionality. There's no default support for volume adjustment or voice assistant activation, which is disappointing. Default controls are similar to the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless, with a single tap to pause and play, a double-tap to skip forward or answer an incoming call, and a triple-tap to go backward. Holding either bud turns on their ANC feature. However, you can remap what a long press does in their companion app and enable missing controls. Unfortunately, this means that you can't have support for volume adjustment, ANC activation, and enabling your phone's voice assistant at the same time.

These earbuds produce a beep every time you adjust. That's somewhat useful for a pair of touch-sensitive earbuds, as it lets you know if you've accidentally made an input.

9.2
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 0.8 ยฐC
9.5
Design
Portability
L 1.0" (2.5 cm)
W 1.0" (2.5 cm)
H 1.1" (2.8 cm)
Volume 1.10 inยณ (18.03 cmยณ)
Transmitter Required No

These are remarkably portable earbuds. They're extremely compact and come with a small case. You shouldn't have any issues fitting them into your pocket or tossing them into a bag.

8.0
Design
Case
Type Hard case
L 2.0" (5.1 cm)
W 2.0" (5.1 cm)
H 1.1" (2.8 cm)
Volume 4.40 inยณ (72.10 cmยณ)

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have a great carrying case that supports Qi-enabled wireless charging. It looks quite premium, with a satin finish exterior that contrasts its matte interior, and has a solid, yet lightweight feel. Indicator lights on the inside and outside of the case show the case and buds' respective charge statuses.

7.5
Design
Build Quality

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are well-built. The buds and case are made of dense plastic with a glossy exterior and matte-finish interior. They feel like they could survive a couple of accidental drops or bumps without much of an issue. Unfortunately, the buds are only rated IPX2 for basic water resistance, which is a little disappointing at this price point. That said, we don't currently test for this.

8.0
Design
Stability

The Samsung Buds Live have a very stable fit. They're compact, lightweight, and are fitted with silicone wing tips that help keep them in place. You shouldn't need to worry about having them fall out of your ears even during intense workouts.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbuds
  • Charging case
  • 2x silicone wing tip stabilizers
  • USB-A to USB-C charging cable
  • Manuals

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-0.67 dB
Treble Amount
-2.16 dB

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have a well-balanced, though somewhat warm default sound profile. Their well-balanced bass and mid ranges result in good amounts of punch and warmth as well as full-bodied, present, and detailed vocals and lead instruments. That said, fans of EDM or hip-hop may find the low-bass a little lacking, which could be due in part to their slightly open fit. Their uneven treble range can also dull the brightness of upper harmonics in some mixes. If this isn't to your liking, their companion app offers a couple of EQ presets to adjust their audio reproduction.

5.4
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
1.34 dB

The Samsung Buds Live have disappointing frequency response consistency. This may be in part to their relatively open fit. Users may experience significant deviations across the entire frequency range. Also, some mismatch is present between the L/R drivers in terms of audio delivery, though it should be noted that this may only be the case for our test unit. This may also be the case if you have differently-sized ears.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
8.2
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.53 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
21.81 Hz
Low-Bass
-2.12 dB
Mid-Bass
2.29 dB
High-Bass
1.48 dB

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have great bass accuracy. Fans of EDM and hip-hop may be pleased with their slightly overemphasized mid and high-bass response, which should give their favorite tracks a little more warmth and body without being too boomy. However, their slightly underemphasized low bass range results in a minor lack of thump and rumble. That said, since these earbuds are very sensitive to fit and seal, your experience may vary.

8.4
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.19 dB
Low-Mid
-0.16 dB
Mid-Mid
-1.44 dB
High-Mid
-2.77 dB

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live's mid accuracy is great. Vocals and lead instruments should sound clear and detailed, though a slight dip in the high-mids can make some notes in this frequency range sound a little distant.

6.7
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
4.82 dB
Mid-Treble
-1.07 dB
Low-Treble
-1.39 dB
High-Treble
-10.16 dB

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have mediocre treble accuracy. Their uneven mid-treble range can cause some sibilants to sound alternatively dull and piercing. That said, due to their poor frequency response consistency, your real-world experience may vary.

6.7
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
2.36 dB
Dips
1.34 dB

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have reasonable peaks and dips performance. There's some mismatch between the L/R drivers across the frequency range, which contributes especially heavily to a deviation in the low bass range, with the left bud exhibiting an extended bump that can generate some boominess. The uneven underemphasis in the mid and high-mids nudges vocals and lead instruments towards the back of the mix. There's also a slight peak in the low-treble range that results in some minor harshness. The sharp dip and the adjacent spike in the mid-treble range makes some sibilants alternatively dull and piercing. It's worth noting that these results may only be valid for our test unit, and yours may perform differently.

7.6
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.23
Weighted Phase Mismatch
5.16
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
1.65
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
3.52

The Samsung Buds Live deliver good stereo imaging performance. Their weighted group delay falls beneath the audibility threshold, resulting in tight bass and transparent treble. The L/R drivers are well-matched in regards to phase response and only have minor amplitude and frequency mismatch, which results in the mostly accurate placement of objects, like voices and footsteps, in the stereo image. However, these results are only valid for our test unit, and yours may perform differently.

2.0
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
N/A
PRTF Distance
N/A
Openness
3.9
Acoustic Space Excitation
4.1

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have a poor passive soundstage, which is normal for closed-back earbuds. However, due to their non-invasive fit, they produce a more open, spacious listening experience than in-ear headphones like the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No
7.6
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.171
WHD @ 100
0.175

The Samsung Buds Live's weighted harmonic distortion performance is good. Aside from a slight bit of distortion in the low to mid-treble range at both moderate and high listening volumes, the rest of the frequency range falls within good limits.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
R180XXU0ATH2
Power
On
Connection
Bluetooth 4.2
Codec
SBC, 16-bit, 48kHz
EQ
Default
ANC
Off
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
Integrated

These are the settings used to test the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. Except for the noise isolation test, their ANC system was turned off for our testing procedures, as the system relies on the feedback from pressure sensors on the inside of each bud. This made testing with our dummy head quite difficult and required several test passes. We observed no difference in frequency response measurements with ANC turned on or off. Our results are only valid when these earbuds are used in this configuration.

Isolation
6.0
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-14.28 dB
Bass
-15.65 dB
Mid
-8.46 dB
Treble
-17.76 dB

These earbuds are middling for across-the-board noise isolation. They have sensors on the inside face of each earbud that prevent the ANC system from being activated if insufficient pressure is detected, which can be annoying. This also means that you can't wear just one earbud with the ANC system turned on. Their ANC system does an alright job of filtering out the rumble of bus engines, but it does little to boost their passive noise isolation capabilities when dealing with higher frequencies. Therefore, you'll likely hear the chatter of noisy coworkers as well as the hum of a nearby AC unit. With the system turned off, they barely reduce any ambient noise in the bass or mid-range. If you're looking for a pair of Samsung in-ears with a better ANC performance, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Truly Wireless.

Note: Testing the noise isolation capability of these earbuds was difficult due to the aforementioned pressure sensor for the ANC system, which required several test passes to obtain the measured result.

6.4
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
42.71 dB

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have mediocre leakage performance. Due to their more open fit, they leak more audio than other in-ear headphones. The escaping audio occurs mostly in the low to mid-treble range, resulting in a fairly thin and sharp noise that may be heard by people around you, even in a moderately busy environment, like an office.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
5.2
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
343.96 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
7.06 dB
HFE
13,279.64 Hz
Weighted THD
248.164
Gain
3.99 dB

The integrated mics deliver disappointing recording quality. While your voice should be clear to those on the other end of the line, it may also be perceived as thin, muffled, and distorted.

6.6
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
10.25 dB
Noise Gate
Always On
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
7.0
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
6.0
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample

The microphones' noise handling capability is sub-par. People on the other end of the line may have trouble understanding you if you're calling from an especially noisy environment, like a subway car or a sports stadium.

Active Features
6.4
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
7.3 hrs
Additional Charges
2.5
Total Battery Life
25.6 hrs
Charge Time
1.3 hrs
Power-Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
Yes
Passive Playback
No
Charging Port USB-C

The Samsung Buds Live deliver an unremarkable battery performance. They provide over seven hours of continuous playback time and have a case that yields over two additional charges, though real-world battery performance can vary depending on your usage patterns. Also, you can listen to content from one bud while the other recharges, though using them in this configuration doesn't allow you to use their ANC function. Unfortunately, these earbuds don't have any power-saving measures, like a standby mode or an auto-off timer, to help conserve the charge when not in use.

It's worth mentioning that these earbuds have Samsung's 'PowerShare' feature, which allows you to recharge their case by placing it on top of compatible Samsung smartphones. However, we don't currently test this feature.

7.0
Active Features
App Support
App Name Samsung Wearable
iOS Yes
Android Yes
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
Presets
ANC Control
On/Off
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping Yes
Surround Support
No

The Samsung Buds Live's companion app is decent. You can change audio presets, turn ANC on and off, and remap the touch-sensitive control scheme. It's referred to as the 'Samsung Galaxy Wearable' app on Android and 'Samsung Galaxy Buds' on the iOS app store. While the app's Android version offers support for the earbuds' gaming mode to reduce latency as well as functions related to Samsung's Bixby virtual assistant, these features aren't available on iOS.

Connectivity
7.0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
5.0
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
171.00 ft (52.12 m)
PC Latency (SBC)
362 ms
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
26 ms
Android Latency
10 ms

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have okay Bluetooth connectivity. They don't support quick NFC pairing and can't pair with more than one device simultaneously, so you can't stream music from your phone while remaining connected to your computer. Also, regardless of whether or not you use the gaming mode, their latency on PC is much too high for gaming or streaming movies. Thankfully, their performance on mobile devices is much better. You should be able to watch videos or play mobile games on iOS and Android devices with little latency.

These in-ears also have a separate gaming mode found only in the 'Samsung Galaxy Wearable' app on Android. This mode significantly drops their latency, which is great for mobile gaming or streaming video. That said, apps compensate for latency differently, so your real-world experience may vary.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length N/A
Connection
No Wired Option
Analog/USB Audio Latency
N/A

These earbuds are wireless only. They come with a USB-A to USB-C cable for charging their case.

Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
No
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
No
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
No
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
No
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No
2.2
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
Charging Case
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
Yes
Power Supply
USB-C

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live's charging case should provide roughly two and a half extra charges. It can be recharged wirelessly via Qi-enabled chargers, PowerShare-compatible Samsung smartphones, or via the included USB cable. Aside from a USB-C port for charging, it doesn't have any inputs.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live come in three color schemes. We tested the SM-R180NZNAXAR model, which comes in 'Mystic Bronze', and you can see their label here. We expect the other variants to perform similarly.

Model Name

Color
SM-R180NZKAXAR  Mystic Black
SM-R180NZNAXAR Mystic Bronze
SM-R180NZWAXAR Mystic White

If someone comes across a pair that's different from the above variations, let us know in the discussions so we can update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are uniquely-designed truly wireless earbuds. They're well-built, incredibly portable, do a great job of staying in place, in spite of their unconventionally-shaped enclosure. That said, their open fit can result in inconsistent audio delivery, and their ANC system isn't as effective at blocking out ambient sound as that of the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless. For more options, take a look at our list of recommendations of the best true wireless earbuds, the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds, and the best earbuds and in-ear headphones.

Jabra Elite 75t Truly Wireless

The Jabra Elite 75t Truly Wireless are more versatile than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless. The Jabra are more comfortable, have a more comprehensive control scheme, feel better-built, and provide a more consistent listening experience. They also have a graphic EQ in their companion app, leak less audio, and support multi-device pairing. While the Jabra have a better performing active noise cancelling performance, the Samsung are more effective in filtering out low-frequency noises. The Samsung are also more stable, last longer off of a single charge, and have lower wireless latency with mobile devices.

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless are less well-rounded than the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless. The Buds+ are more comfortable, provide a more consistent and neutral sound, have a superior integrated mic, and last almost twice as long on a single charge. Despite lacking an ANC system, they block out more ambient noise overall, though it should be noted that the Live are more effective at filtering out low-end ambient sound. The Live also have lower wireless latency and generate a more open and spacious listening experience.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Truly Wireless are significantly better headphones than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless. The Pro are more comfortable and have a better-balanced sound profile right out of the box. Their ANC can reduce more ambient noise around you, and their integrated mic offers better overall performance. However, the Live have longer-lasting continuous battery life.

Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless are better for mixed usage than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless. The Apple in-ears are more comfortable, feel sturdier, provide a more consistent and neutral listening experience, and have a superior ANC system. However, the Samsung have a far more comprehensive companion app, generate a more spacious and open listening experience, and provide much lower wireless latency. They also last longer off of a single charge, though the Apple have a longer total battery life, with twice the number of extra charges in their carrying case.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless

The Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless are more versatile than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless. The Sony in-ears are better-built, deliver audio more consistently, block out more ambient noise overall, and have an integrated microphone with superior recording quality. With a case that provides three additional charges to the Samsung's 2.5, they also have a longer total battery life, though they don't last as long on a single charge. They also have a companion app with a much larger selection of features. Meanwhile, the Samsung have a more stable fit and lower wireless latency on Android devices.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless are better headphones than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless. The Bose are better-built, have more consistent audio reproduction, and their sound profile is better-balanced. They also have a better ANC feature, leak less sound, and their integrated mic does a better job overall. However, the Samsung have EQ presets available via their companion app.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless have different advantages. The Buds have a more comfortable fit, a more neutral sound profile, deliver audio way more consistently, and leak less audio. However, the Buds Live block out more ambient noise in the bass range and offer similar single-charge battery life, but have a case that stores 2.5 additional charges to the regular Buds' one.

Google Pixel Buds 2020 Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless and Google Pixel Buds 2020 Truly Wireless have different strengths and weaknesses. The Samsung block out more ambient noise, provide a longer continuous runtime, have more customization options in their companion app, and have far lower wireless latency on mobile devices. Meanwhile, the Google in-ears are comfier, have a more comprehensive control scheme, provide a more consistent listening experience, and leak less noise. Their integrated mic also does a better job of isolating speech from background noise.

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