When I was first introduced to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live in August 2020, the first thing that sprung to mind was the story of Jack and the Beanstalk – the tale about the young lad who traded the family cow for a handful of magic beans that ended up growing into a sky-scraping plant.
No, these true wireless earphones from Samsung won't make a giant tree grow in your garden, but they do look a lot like beans, and they're sort of magic because they offer active noise cancelling despite rocking a rarely seen 'on-ear' design.
But are they any good? In this review, I'm going to put them through their paces to find out how they feel and sound, and whether you should consider sacrificing the family cattle to get some.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review: Design
To be honest, when I heard that the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live were going to be shaped like beans, I performed a face palm. They were going to look crap, weren't they? Well, you'd think so, but I actually warmed to them rather quickly thanks to their ergonomic shape designed to match the curves of the ear and face – not to mention the high-gloss finish.
Whichever of the five colour options you go for – Mystic Black, Mystic White, Mystic Bronze, Mystic Blue or Mystic Red – you're sure to get a few double-takes when you're down at your local gym.
These buds have an 'on-ear' design. Don't worry, that doesn't mean they'll fall out as soon as you start sprinting on the exercise bike. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are designed in such a way that they nestle softly yet snugly inside the lugholes, reducing fatigue when listening over longer periods. And just to make sure you get a fit that's right for you, the earphones come with two different wing-tip sizes.
Each of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live capsules weighs 5.6g, which is somewhat lighter than Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro (6.3g per capsule) but a little heavier than the Galaxy Buds2 (5g per capsule). In my experience, though, all of those products are comfortable in, and on, the ear – even when listening for hours at a time.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review: Features
Whether you plan to use these pulse-shaped earphones at the gym (runner beans), on a cruise (navy beans) or on the sun bed (baked beans), you'll be hoping for a decent set of features to make your music or podcast listening as pleasurable as possible. And the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live don't disappoint – indeed, you could argue that the spec list is quite generous for a pair of buds at this price.
Active noise cancelling isn't a given in a set of mid-priced earphones, but it's available here – and decent it is, too. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live have UL verification for snuffing out background racket by up to 97% in low-frequency bands. Bixby voice assistance enables you to adjust the volume, make or take calls, and check the latest weather forecast, all without taking your phone from your pocket. Of course, if you don't fancy chatting, you can use the buds' touch-sensitive controls. And speaking of calls, three built-in mics work in tandem with Samsung's high-tech Voice Pickup Unit to ensure you can hear, and be heard, with real clarity.
Battery life may not be best-in-class but it's very reasonable, with the buds providing up to six hours of ANC listening on their own, or up to 21 hours if you're carrying the included charging case. And there's a quick-charging feature, too, which enabled me to get one hour's listening from just a five-minute top-up.
Finally, you needn't worry about losing your snazzy new earphones. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live work with SmartThings Find, which means you'll be able to easily locate them, via your phone, if they happen to go astray.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review: Sound
To help nail the performance of these bean-shaped earphones, Samsung teamed up with Grammy Award-winning audio expert AKG... and the results are decent. Driven by 12mm speakers, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live deliver a spacious sound that's characterised by solid, punchy bass. Want to adjust it? Head over to the Galaxy Wearable app and you can choose between six different presets, including things like bass boost and treble boost. Detail is a little lacking in the mid and high ranges, but that's not uncommon in earphones of this price, and overall I found these Samsung buds provided an entertaining listen.
What's more, they also feature Spotify integration – simply press on the left bud for a second and you'll gain access to all your favourite playlists, and much more.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review: The alternatives
If you're happy to listen to your favourite tunes through a pair of wired earphones, then I recommend the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone. Designed in collaboration with acclaimed sound engineer Luca Bignardi, and boasting three drivers, these TXH-certified buds deliver precise, powerful sound that belies their modest price tag.
Want to stick with true wireless buds? Well, the Sony WF-1000XM4s are more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, but they're well worth the investment, marrying a classy black-and-copper aesthetic with exceptional sound quality and a wide range of in-app features. Louder's Scott Munro bought a pair of these in the 2021 Black Friday sales, and in his review said they were a "cut above thanks to their crystal clear sound and excellent noise cancelling."
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