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Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Better bud battle

In a Samsung versus Samsung showdown, we only know one thing for certain — Samsung will come out on top. Its two latest pairs of truly wireless earbuds may share a name, but they couldn’t be further apart. Let’s pit the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus to see which headset emerges victorious.

This Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus article comes from the audio experts at our sister site SoundGuys. Check out their in-depth take on the headsets.

Designs that are far apart on the family tree

A picture of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live case open comparison.

If someone put these two pairs of earbuds in your hand, you’d think they were from completely different worlds. The Galaxy Buds Plus looks like a familiar pair of comfortable wireless earbuds — and they are. They rock a glossy finish with rubber ear tips and wings that keep them locked comfortably in your ears.

On the other hand, the Galaxy Buds Live look like they belong in chili or a stew. There’s no way around the fact that they look just like beans, especially in the bronze finish. The Buds Live eschew rubber ear tips too — instead snuggling in place held only by your ear canal, and a small wing tip that presses into your outer ear. On the outside, the Galaxy Buds Live are shiny like the Buds Plus, but the inside has a matte texture instead.

The Galaxy Buds Live are comfortable for unsealed earbuds, but the Galaxy Buds Plus are more stable and fit a wider variety of ear shapes.

Both pairs of true wireless earbuds feature onboard touch controls that may be remapped in the Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Wearable apps, available on iOS and Android respectively. The touch panels are clearly defined on the Galaxy Buds Plus, but only the upper half of the Galaxy Buds Live are touch-sensitive.

For an open-type fit, the Galaxy Buds Live work rather well — and are certainly more comfortable than the AirPods. We’re not comparing apples to beans today, though, and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus are more comfortable and offer a more stable fit than their sibling headset.

It’s easy to give the edge to the Galaxy Buds Plus as the interchangeable tips allow for a customizable fit. The one-size-fits-all design of the Buds Live simply doesn’t work when you don’t have one-size-fits-all ears.

Charging cases that look different, but work the same

A picture of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Live comparison of the USB-C charging cases.

The earbuds themselves may look like opposites, but the charging cases are akin to one another. If you opt for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, you’ll see a familiar pill-shaped design that rolls over from the original Galaxy Buds. However, the Galaxy Buds Live adopts a jewelry box design that’s a more squared off.

Outside of the size and shape, the cases are very much the same. Both rely on magnets to lock your Buds in place, and they support USB-C charging along with Samsung’s Wireless PowerShare. That means you can easily charge with the included cable or juice up with the power of your Samsung Galaxy device. Non-Samsung smartphone users can still take advantage of wireless charging with any Qi-compatible mat.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: Battle of the batteries

A photo of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus true wireless earbuds using wireless PowerShare atop a Samsung Galaxy S10e.

Before we place one pair above the other, it’s fair to say that neither pair struggles with battery life. The Galaxy Beans — sorry, Buds Live — managed 5 hours, 15 minutes of battery life with noise-cancelling enabled. This is above average for noise-cancelling true wireless earphones, and expected for true wireless earbuds generally. Our testing managed two and a half cycles with the charging case, which is more than enough to get you through a week of commuting.

If the Galaxy Buds Live battery life is just average, then the Buds Plus should be called the Superbuds. We managed an impressive 11 hours, 45 minutes of playtime, and the case only provides one additional charge. Still, it adds up to nearly a full day of listening.

Both cases can fast-charge their respective earbuds. The Galaxy Buds Live require just five minutes of charging for one hour of playback. The Galaxy Buds Plus are a little more efficient because the earbuds only require three minutes in the case for one hour of playback.

Connection quality and Bluetooth codec support is identical

As another way to remind you that they’re — in fact — siblings, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live and Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus share identical connection technologies. As true wireless earbuds, they both use Bluetooth to stay connected, supporting up to the 5.0 firmware. They also support the Samsung Scalable Codec, which is great news for Galaxy smartphone owners.

Both pairs even support the AAC codec, so iPhone users can stream high-quality audio; though, it’s a disappointment for other Android adoptees. Worse, neither pair supports Bluetooth multipoint connectivity. Rather than connecting to two devices at once, you must manually switch from one device to another. This is easy to do with Windows and Android devices, thanks to Microsoft Swift Pair. Instead of disconnecting from your Android smartphone, and then connecting to a laptop, you can simply force a connection through your laptop’s Bluetooth menu.

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The Samsung Galaxy Wearables app is yet another draw between the two siblings. It supports the same Spotify integrations (Android exclusive) along with the same ambient sound settings and game mode profile too. If it sounds like both pairs are nearly the same, it’s finally time to see where they differ.

Galaxy Buds Plus win the sound quality battle

A chart depicting the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus frequency response, which amplifies bass notes (slightly).

AKG tuned the Galaxy Buds Plus drivers, resulting in clear audio with just a touch of amplification in the low-end.

As you might expect of earbud siblings, both pairs are tuned by AKG for similar sounds. However, the dual-driver setup in the Galaxy Buds Plus simply proves more accurate in the low-frequencies than the Galaxy Buds Live.

Since the Galaxy Buds Plus seal to the ear canal, they don’t require as much help combating auditory masking (when a loud sound makes it hard to perceive a relatively quiet one). The default sound signature of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is more neutral-leaning than that of the Buds Live, because the Buds Plus drivers don’t have to constantly compete with outside noise. The physical blockage created by a sealed ear canal does most of the heavy lifting.

A chart depicting the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live frequency response; the drivers amplify bass notes and make them sound nearly 2x louder than mids.

That said, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbuds have a great frequency response, and one that’s familiar to most consumers: bass-heavy with some treble emphasis. Not only does this add a more engaging “oomph” to your music, it’s necessary in order to hear the bass notes above the din of your surroundings. Yes, the Galaxy Buds Live features active noise-cancelling, but the efficacy of it is highly dependent on a secure, consistent fit.

Most average consumers will be happy with either headset’s sound signature, but if you want the greatest clarity, get the Galaxy Buds Plus.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus have better isolation

A picture of a woman wearing the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live noise cancelling true wireless earbuds in Mystic Bronze.

The previous section may have given this point away — the Galaxy Buds Plus offer superior isolation to the Galaxy Buds Live. Yes, the beans feature active noise-cancelling, but it only goes so far when they don’t achieve a great seal. Again, even incremental adjustments from wiggling your ears can pop the Galaxy Buds Live out of the optimal position for ANC performance, hindering the effectiveness. The Buds Plus seal your ear much better and don’t need as much assistance in blocking out ambient sound as a result.

See also: Best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds

It’s curious: after all a perfect pair of Galaxy Buds would combine the two and offer active noise-cancelling with a comfortable seal, a la the Sony WF1000-XM3. Samsung could have made a great pair of traditional ANC true wireless earbuds that could have competed well with the AirPods Pro, but it knows the audio market: the Apple AirPods remain one of the best-selling wireless headsets, and no company has been able to amass that level of popularity.

By pitching the audio market a change-up with the open-type, noise-cancelling design, the earphones stand as a compelling alternative to the standard AirPods. Samsung stated that the Galaxy Buds Live doesn’t serve as a replacement for the Buds Plus, the two headsets are meant to coexist.

Objectively, the Samsung Galaxy Buds do a better job of reliably blocking out your surroundings, but we respect that audio isn’t all about the objective figures.  However, if you want something novel and like the idea constantly being aware of your surroundings, the Galaxy Buds Live deserve a place in your ears.

What headset has the better microphone system?

As it turns out, the battle of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus has turned into a bit of a bloodbath, but the newcomer has a real chance at some points in the microphone department. The Buds Live has a solid microphone array for making calls, though the audio quality itself is pretty indistinguishable. Neither pair scratches Apple’s AirPods microphone and certainly doesn’t reach studio-quality, but they both do well at trimming away the background noise.

The microphones may make you sound a bit distant, but that’s to combat the proximity effect. This is when low notes (e.g. the fundamental frequencies of the human voice) are amplified too much because of physical proximity to the microphone. This can cause audio clipping, and generally annoying sounds. Samsung’s strategic choice to side-step this effect has its drawbacks, like making you sound hollow to the other speaker. Regardless, either system should do the trick for phone calls and Zoom meetings alike.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live microphone demo:

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus microphone demo:

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Samsung Galaxy Buds plus: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus true wireless earbuds case

The dust settled a few rounds ago, and you probably already know the score, but the Galaxy Buds Plus eat the Galaxy Beans for lunch. Both pairs hold their own in terms of design, connectivity, and support, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

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The older Galaxy Buds Plus pick up the bulk of their points in what we like to call “the important parts.” They outperform the Buds Live when it comes to battery life, sound accuracy, and isolation. The Buds Plus is a winner no matter what you’re looking for, and the lower retail price doesn’t hurt the score either. At full price, the older sibling costs $50 less than the new kid on the block and is often on sale anyway.

We’ve given you our full rundown of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, but it’s up to you to make the final call. Again, the Galaxy Buds Live isn’t a swing-and-a-miss product, rather a very niche one. Make your ultimate choice with the buttons below:

Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (white)

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds that make a statement

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the third-generation of Galaxy Buds true wireless earphones, and take on a completely new design with their bean-shaped shells. The earbuds are IPX2 water-resistant, and the USB-C case supports wireless charging and Wireless PowerShare with Samsung devices.