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Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.4
Reviewed Sep 24, 2020 at 08:05 am
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless Picture
6.6
Mixed Usage
6.3
Neutral Sound
7.0
Commute/Travel
8.1
Sports/Fitness
6.1
Office
5.1
Wireless Gaming
5.0
Wired Gaming
5.9
Phone Calls
Type Earbuds
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Truly Wireless
Noise Cancelling Yes
Mic Yes
Transducer Dynamic

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are unusually-designed truly wireless earbuds. They have a distinctive look, feel surprisingly stable and comfortable, and produce a well-balanced sound profile that's versatile enough for a broad range of musical genres and 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. Their slightly open fit generates a more spacious but also less consistent listening experience than most in-ears.

Our Verdict

6.6 Mixed Usage

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are adequate for mixed usage. They're well-built, decently comfortable, and very portable. They also maintain a stable fit and generate a well-balanced sound profile. That said, due to their somewhat open fit, you may have trouble achieving consistent audio delivery. They also leak quite a bit of sound and have a touch-sensitive control scheme that's limited in overall functionality.

Pros
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
  • Low wireless latency on mobile devices.
  • Good build quality.
  • Exceptionally portable, lightweight design.
Cons
  • Sub-par overall noise isolation capability.
  • Control scheme has limited functionality.
  • Middling microphone recording quality and noise handling capability.
  • Leak quite a bit of audio.
6.3 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 listening experience.

Pros
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
Cons
  • Inconsistent audio delivery.
7.0 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.

Pros
  • 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.
8.1 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 protection, though we don't test for this.

Pros
  • 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.
6.1 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 listen to content on your phone and computer. 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
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
  • Low wireless latency on mobile devices.
Cons
  • Sub-par overall noise isolation capability.
  • Leak quite a bit of audio.
5.1 Wireless Gaming

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

5.0 Wired Gaming

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

5.9 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
  • Well-balanced sound profile.
Cons
  • Sub-par overall noise isolation capability.
  • Middling microphone recording quality and noise handling capability.
  • 6.6 Mixed Usage
  • 6.3 Neutral Sound
  • 7.0 Commute/Travel
  • 8.1 Sports/Fitness
  • 6.1 Office
  • 5.1 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.0 Wired Gaming
  • 5.9 Phone Calls

Check Price

Mystic Black Galaxy Buds Live
SEE PRICE
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Mystic Bronze Galaxy Buds Live
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Amazon.com
Mystic White Galaxy Buds Live
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style

The Samsung Buds Live are exceptionally unique-looking earbuds. Their bean-like shape sets them apart from other wireless earbuds, and their eye-catching design is only further highlighted by the shiny finish used on the outside of their casing. While they don't enter the ear especially deeply, they barely protrude from your ears thanks to their very compact size. They're available in the industry-standard white and black color schemes as well as 'Mystic Bronze'.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.02 lbs
Clamping Force
0.0 lbs

The Samsung 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 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.

9.5
Design
Portability
L 1.0 "
W 1.0 "
H 1.1 "
Volume 1.1 Cu. Inches
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 "
W 2.0 "
H 1.1 "
Volume 4.4 Cu. Inches

The Samsung Buds Live have a great charging case that supports Qi-enabled wireless charging. It features an eye-catching satin finish 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 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 protection, 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 have silicone wing tips to hold them steady once they're fitted, which should allow you to do some pretty strenuous workouts without having to worry about having them pop out of your ear.

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-C charging cable
  • Manuals

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

The Samsung Buds Live have a well-balanced default sound profile. They do a fairly good job of following our target curve and should be suitable for a wide range of audio presets. Their companion app offers a couple of audio presets to better suit your preferences.

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

The Samsung Buds Live have disappointing frequency response consistency. That may be because they don't enter the ear as deeply as conventional in-ear headphones. 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

These earbuds 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. 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 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.

6.4
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
4.82 dB
Low-Treble
-1.39 dB
Mid-Treble
-1.07 dB
High-Treble
-10.16 dB

These earbuds have mediocre treble accuracy. Their uneven mid-treble range can cause some notes 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. An extended bump throughout the bass range can generate a little boominess while 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 adjacent spike in the mid-treble range makes some notes sound alternatively dull and piercing. Also, there's some mismatch between the L/R drivers across the entire frequency range, though that may only be valid for our test unit, and yours may perform differently.

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

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. Overall, these headphones should do a good job of localizing the placement of objects 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
4.0
Acoustic Space Excitation
4.1

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live create 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

These earbuds don't have any virtual soundstage features.

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 high-mid to low-treble range at both moderate and high 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 with ANC turned on or off. Our results are only valid when these earbuds are used in this configuration.

Isolation
5.9
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 the volume of any ambient noise in the bass or mid-range.

Note: Testing the Samsung Galaxy Live's noise isolation capability 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

These earbuds have mediocre leakage performance. Due to their more open fit, they leak more audio than 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.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No

The Samsung Buds Live have integrated mics in each bud.

5.6
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
343.96 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
6.74 dB
HFE
22988.02 Hz
Weighted THD
395.438
Gain
3.99 dB

The integrated mics deliver disappointing recording quality. While your voice should sound bright and airy, it may also be perceived as thin, muffled, and distorted.

5.9
Microphone
Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise
Speech + Subway Noise
SpNR
10.25 dB

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.

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 and have a case that yields around an additional 2.5 charges. Better still, you can use one of the buds while the other charges in its cradle. Unfortunately, these earbuds don't have any power-saving measures, like a standby mode or an auto-off timer.

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, the iOS version doesn't.

Connectivity
6.9
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
5.0
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
171 ft
PC Latency (SBC)
366 ms
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
88 ms
Android Latency
30 ms

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have okay Bluetooth connectivity. They support Bluetooth 5.0 but not NFC or multi-device pairing. Also, regardless of whether or not you use the gaming mode, their latency on PC is much too high for gaming or streaming movies. They perform far better on mobile devices. You should be able to watch videos or play mobile games on iOS devices with little latency. When using the gaming mode on Android devices, latency drops from the standard 95 ms to 30 ms, which is outstanding. 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

These are Bluetooth-only earbuds.

0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length N/A
Connection No Wired Option
Analog/USB Audio Latency
N/A

The Samsung Buds Live can't be used on a wired connection. They come with a USB-C cable to charge their case.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC/PS4 Analog
No
PC/PS4 Wired USB
No
PC/PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No

These earbuds can only connect to Bluetooth-enabled PCs and aren't compatible with PS4 consoles. Because of their very high latency on PC, they aren't recommended for gaming.

Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No

These earbuds are Bluetooth-only and aren't compatible with Xbox One consoles.

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 Buds Live's charging case should provide an additional 2.5 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'. 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 below so that we can update our review.

Compared to other headphones

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are truly wireless earbuds with a unique design. They're well-built, decently comfortable, and do a great job of staying in your ear. That said, they produce a somewhat inconsistent listening experience, 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.

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.

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 noise, and support multi-device pairing. That said, the Samsung are more stable, last longer off of a single charge, and have lower wireless latency with mobile devices. The Samsung are more effective in filtering out low-frequency noises.

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.

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 listening experience, 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 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 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.

+ Show more

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless Price

Mystic Black Galaxy Buds Live
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com
Mystic Bronze Galaxy Buds Live
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com
Mystic White Galaxy Buds Live
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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