It’s time to revisit the age-old battle of stems versus beans. Well, maybe not age-old, but it’ll soon be timeless. We’re talking about AirPods Pro (with short stems) and Galaxy Buds Live (beans, for your ears).
The $249 AirPods Pro (currently on sale for $234) are the most popular true wireless earbuds on the market and remain our top pick for earbuds. They don’t mix things up with design, but shorter stems and rubber ear tips ensure they create a seal within your ear. Adaptive EQ for on-the-fly music adjustments, superb noise cancellation and deep integration with Apple’s ecosystem make these a clear winner.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live don’t just undercut on price ($169.99), but they stick out with an unusual design for earbuds. Buds Live are shaped like beans that just sit in your ears. There’s no tip that sticks into your ear canal and no bulky design that forces them to stick out. Strong sound and long battery life make them an exceptional pair, abd they’re also cozy in your ear.
So let’s dive into the pros and cons of the core features, stems versus beans.
Truth be told, Galaxy Buds Live and AirPods Pro both sound great. We think Apple’s true wireless has a leg up, thanks to a full seal in the ear along with adaptive EQ. That’s a real-time audio enhancement that measures how the sound reflects in your ears and adjusts the mix for the best sound and the most comfort. That, with the seal and an excellent driver setup, makes it a rich and crisp experience that hits all the notes.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, on the other hand, sit in your ear, so the sound isn’t channeled directly into your ear. Rather, the speaker and driver have front row seats to your ear. These are louder than AirPods Pro, and even at high volumes, we didn’t experience any crackling or sour notes. There’s also a processor working in real time to mix the sound, and Buds Live are tuned by AKG. If you like to customize your sound, the companion app for Android and iOS features an equalizer.
It’s easy to declare a winner when it comes to the length of your jam sessions. Galaxy Buds Live outlast AirPods Pro. With the Buds Live, you can expect six hours with active noise cancellation on, or 8.5 hours with it off, almost doubling the five-hour battery life of the AirPods Pro.
This one is also easy, as the AirPods Pro feature traditional non-open ANC. The ear tips alone provide a passive experience and the extensive onboard microphones cancel environmental noise. You feel like you’re in a bubble, and it even works when you’re sitting in an exit row on an airplane. With no music playing back, they reduce the engine noise to a hum; with music playing, they block out the noise entirely.
Samsung took a more unusual route. The Buds Live have an open design with an air vent to reduce pressure. When playing music at high volumes, it leaks sound. It’s just not sealed off. So the Buds Live ANC is an open type that lets in more environmental sounds. They’re ideal for working at home, as they block out casual conversations, but let in alarms or loud bangs.
The choice is clear if you have an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. AirPods Pro and an iPhone are a dream team. You get fast pairing, syncing across all your Apple devices and easy access for turning ANC on or off within Control Center. It just makes sense, even with the $249.99 price point.
Galaxy Buds Live will fast pair with your Samsung Galaxy, and chances are, the companion app is already installed on your device. Once you open the case and pop the beans in your ears, Bluetooth is cast and should auto connect.
As a whole, AirPods Pro come out on top, namely for a design that seals off your ear and more traditional ANC with a classic design.
But Galaxy Buds Live are new, unique and straight-up exciting. If you don’t need the full throttle ANC, at $169.99, these bring tremendous value. And they work with iPhone, Android or any device with Bluetooth.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers listed prices at the time of publication.