If all of the leaks from December 2020 weren’t evidence enough of Samsung’s next true wireless earbuds — the Galaxy Buds Pro — we now have an unboxing video courtesy of YouTuber Digital Slang.
The extensive, 17-minute video is our best look so far at the Galaxy Buds Pro, which are widely believed to take the stage at Samsung’s next Galaxy Unpacked event scheduled for January 14. Digital Slang reportedly acquired the as-yet-unreleased buds from a seller on Facebook — likely the same person mentioned in a January 3 report from SamMobile.
The new earbuds look like a slightly smaller and smoother version of the Galaxy Buds+ — a return to a more conventional shape after experimenting with the bean-like Galaxy Buds Live.
Despite their resemblance to the Galaxy Buds+, the Pro will ship in a wirelessly charging case that looks virtually identical to the one Samsung chose for the Buds Live.
The Pro’s key feature is their active noise cancellation (ANC). The Buds Live also offered ANC, but we found it to be ineffective, likely due to the unusual shape of the Buds Live and their lack of an in-ear silicone ear-tip. The Buds Pro should offer considerably better ANC performance.
Prior to the unboxing video, a new version of Samsung’s Wear app was found on Samsung’s servers, and then subsequently posted to GitHub by Tim Schneeberger. This app contained many references to the new earbuds, along with support for ANC and other features.
Based on the settings found within the Galaxy Wear app and the unboxing video, the Galaxy Buds Pro will have adjustable ANC with an adjustable ambient mode. However, they will also have a new voice-detect feature that automatically shifts the buds into ambient mode while simultaneously dropping the audio volume level so you can hear. A very similar feature was included with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 ANC headphones earlier in 2020. Cleverly, the app lets you set how long the ambient mode remains active after you’ve stopped talking: 5, 10, or 15 seconds.
A gaming mode switches the earbuds to an ultra-low-latency connection and a hearing adjustment setting will let users alter the acoustics for each ear to accommodate for discrepancies in hearing capabilities.
One feature that is listed in the app like Samsung is taking a page from Apple’s playbook. The Samsung app reveals a feature called 3D audio for videos, which sounds a lot like Apple’s spatial audio for the AirPods Max and AirPods Pro.
The app doesn’t specifically say that the feature will mimic spatial audio’s ability to alter where the sound appears to be coming from, but Schneeberger’s analysis of the Wear app’s code suggests that’s exactly how it will work:
This is a bit disappointing because the 3D audio feature is only available under certain circumstances:
Even though the spatial sound is processed on the Android device, the earbuds transmit data from their gyroscopic sensors. This is very likely used for the head-tracking effect and influences the spatial audio effect processor on the phone.
But Galaxy Buds Pro buyers may need to wait for a future app update before the feature goes live — the unboxing video doesn’t mention 3d Audio at all.
The Galaxy Buds+ are $150, and the Galaxy Buds Live are $170 (when not on sale). Assuming that the Galaxy Buds Pro feature upgrades over both of these models, it’s likely they will debut at $199. That would be the most Samsung has ever charged for a set of Galaxy earbuds, but it’s still well under the $249 price of the AirPods Pro.
According to the back of the box in the video, we can expect to get about 5 hours of battery life per charge in each earbud, and a total of 18 hours when you include the charging case. That’s definitely on the low side of what we’ve come to expect from ANC earbuds. The Apple AirPods Pro, for instance, deliver 5 hours per charge with ANC off, and about 24 hours with their charging case included.
Of course, it’s possible that the Buds Pro will last longer if you turn off features like ANC and Bixby Voice Wake-up. Doing so could yield 5.5 hours or more per charge, and up to 20 hours with the case.
One surprise is the new IPX7 rating listed on the box. Samsung has historically done very little to waterproof its earbuds. The Galaxy Buds, Buds+, and Buds Live were each IPX2, one of the lowest ratings you can get for water resistance. IPX7 means you’ll be able to do rinse the Galaxy Buds Pro under running water, shower with them, and they’ll even survive short and shallow immersion underwater. It’s worth noting that Apple’s AirPods Pro are IPX4.
The touch controls can operate most phone and playback functions as well as ANC modes, though not all at the same time. To choose which functions you want to control, there are customizations available in the Samsung Wear app.
We expect to see the Galaxy Buds Pro launch at the same time as the Galaxy S21, slated for January 14, 2021.
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