Earbud comparison

I’ve been meaning to write this up for a couple of weeks, but haven’t gotten around to it.

My Galaxy Buds+ started to lose battery life, so I started thinking about switching to Apple AirPods, but the Pros were very expensive, so I suffered with diminishing battery life, because the Buds+ were good…

Eventually, a couple of weeks ago, Amazon dropped the price of the AirPods Pro by a third and I had just bought my wife some JBL sports earbuds (BT, but cable between the two ears and the hook around the outside of the ear), so I didn’t feel too guilty buying them.

What a difference! I was listening to the same music I had been listening to on the Galaxy Buds+ and, wow, so much more detail. Yes, there was more bass, in fact, I just dug out my Sony MDR-ZX770BN over-ears for another comparison and the 'Pods have the edge, but they have similar levels of clarity, and much more than the Buds+.

I’d always made fun of the “Oral B” toothbrush head style of the AirPods - when the first generation 'Pods were released, someone posted a picture on Twitter with an Oral B head stuck in their ear and that image has stuck with me ever since!

The Buds+ are more compact and look more modern and better designed, they fit in the ear and don’t have the stub sticking down out of the ear, which I always felt was a better look. The case is also more compact and uses standard USB-C for charging, whereas the 'Pods use Apple’s proprietary Lightning port, I just wish the iPhone and the 'Pods would switch to USB-C, so that I only need 1 cable for all my products, but I guess we’ll have to wait another couple of years for that to happen.

For 90% of the time, I use the Buds+/'Pods Pro for audio books and podcasts, with some music in-between. With no other reference (the Sony’s are too bulky to wear out walking the dog, although I did use to wear them on my commute on the train a few years back), I thought the Buds+ were really good. But the 'Pods bring a whole new richness to the sound of even “just” voices. There seems to be a richer spectrum, the sound has more “body”. I guess the extra space inside due to their design has meant that they can get better drivers in there than the more compact Buds+.

I did try some of the spatial music with the Pros. Some of the “up-mixed” stuff didn’t really sound much different, but the Billie Eillish album is an absolutely stunning example of what can be achieved. For a start, with the phone in front of me, she was singing from in front of me, after years of just stereo, a weird effect at first. Then, I started to rotate my office chair, with my phone still on the desk, as I rotated, her voice remained on the “stage” over my desk, with the song moving around my head as the chair rotated.

A bit gimmicky, but it was a wow moment, just like the first time I heard a demo of Dolby Digital at a dealer and ended up going home with a new amp and speakers! It is certainly interesting, listening to music that way, but whether it is better, I don’t know. We went through stereo with the music transitioning from one ear to the other and back (Tomita’s Bolero is a fantastic example of how to do that with effect). I think there are certain types of music that can take advantage of it, but for “normal” music, it will probably remain a gimmick, more than a real enhancement.

But I can certainly see it being good for films or even audio plays, where the different actors are in different parts of the soundstage.

In summary, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are very good general purpose ear buds, but, compared to the Apple AirPods Pro, they certainly aren’t worth the price Samsung charged for them (they’ve since been superseded). Luckily, I got mine free, when I bought my Samsung Galaxy S20+ and, until I had tried the AirPods, I never had any complaint about them or the quality of the playback.

But I was just amazed at how much more fidelity there is from the AirPods Pro. Little nuances that I had never picked up before.

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It’s a shame my ears can’t tolerate the Samsung Buds Pro, 'cos they keep giving me a free pair every time I buy something. Now have two pairs (in addition to the ones I refunded).

I’ve stuck with A-Series Pixel Buds for a while now. Sound OK, don’t fall out, and the way they integrate with Google Assistant is better than other buds. Long press/release gives you a summary of any notifications and reads your texts and WhatsApp messages. Very useful.

Never tried the Apple ones though.

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