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Samsung's Galaxy Buds 3 Look Like AirPods, But That's Not All That's New

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In a first for Samsung, its new earbuds, the Galaxy Buds 3 and Galaxy Buds 3 Pro, have stems just like Apple's AirPods. The new buds skew more premium, with the open-style Buds 3 priced at $180 and the Buds 3 Pro going for $250, but their "blade" designs give them a more generic look than previous Galaxy Buds models. Both are available now for preorder and will ship on or after July 24. If you preorder them before July 23, you get a free case. 

I've had some limited hands-on time with the buds, but I haven't had a chance to properly evaluate them yet, so this isn't a full review. I do have some early impressions on their design and lots of features and specs to talk about.

Read more: Everything Announced At Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked Event

Galaxy Buds 3, successor to the Galaxy Buds Live 

Available in white or silver, the Galaxy Buds 3 are open earbuds like the standard AirPods. Like Samsung's earlier open earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live (aka The Beans), the Buds 3 have some active noise canceling, according to Samsung. I don't expect it to be all that effective because ANC typically doesn't work well with open buds. I'll be able to comment more on that once I fully test the buds. 

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Enlarge Image

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The Galaxy Buds 3 feature an open design and look pretty similar to Apple's AirPods 3.

David Carnoy/CNET

Similar to the AirPods, these are designed for people who don't like having ear tips jammed in their ears and prefer to hear the outside world. They're lightweight and comfortable and fit my ears a little more securely than the AirPods 3. Both the Buds 3 and Buds 3 Pro feature pinch controls like the latest AirPods (I liked their pinch controls) along with swipe controls to adjust volume levels. Both models also have ear-detection sensors that pause your audio when you take a bud out of your ear and resume playback when you put the bud back in. Finally, you can issue voice commands to control music playback without touching the buds.

As open earbuds allow ambient sound to leak into your ears and don't offer a tight seal, bass performance can be an issue. The Galaxy Buds 3 has a single 11mm dynamic driver. Their sound quality won't be as good as the Buds 3 Pro's, but it will hopefully measure up well compared to what you get with other premium open earbuds. 

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The buds' charging case has a translucent top.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Buds 3 are rated for up to 6 hours of battery life with ANC off and 5 hours with it on (the charging case charges wirelessly and has a dedicated Bluetooth button). Both new earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.4, are IP57 water and dust-resistant and support LE audio along with the new Auracast feature (Samsung's 360 audio feature is also on board). An IP57 rating means the buds aren't fully waterproof but they can withstand a sustained spray of water.

Galaxy Buds 3 Pro, the new flagship

The Galaxy Buds 3 Pro are Samsung's new flagship earbuds and are also available in white and silver. They have a few key differences from the Galaxy Buds 3. First and foremost, they're noise-isolating buds and include a set of small, medium and large ear tips to choose from (it is critical to get a tight seal to get optimal sound quality). 

They also have both active noise canceling and a transparency mode. The ANC is the adaptive variety and seems quite good -- at least based on the very limited time I had the buds in my ears. Samsung says, "the microphones in the Buds 3 series analyze both internal and external sound in real time to enhance sound and active noise cancellation quality through adaptive EQ and adaptive ANC."

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The Galaxy Buds 3 Pro has a noise-isolating design. Both new earbuds have pinch controls and you can swipe up and down on the edge of their stems to adjust volume levels.

David Carnoy/CNET

Additionally, the Buds 3 Pro, "constantly collect and identify surrounding sound and automatically adjust the optimal level of noise and sound without manual adjustment through Adaptive Noise Control, Siren Detect, and Voice Detect." This sounds similar to the AirPods Pro 2's Adaptive Audio features, but Buds 3 Pro doesn't have a Conversation Awareness mode.

While the Galaxy Buds 3 has a single dynamic driver, the Buds 3 Pro has a 10mm dynamic driver along with a separate planar tweeter, which should help deliver clearer-sounding highs. Samsung also says the Buds 3 Pro has dual amps, which helps reduce wireless hiccups.

In my early listening tests, I found the buds did sound better than the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. The Buds 2 Pro sound good but the Buds 3 Pro treble clarity and bass definition is superior and they sound cleaner and more accurate overall.  

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The Galaxy Buds 3 Pro in their case.

David Carnoy/CNET

Another extra feature the Buds 3 Pro has are lights in their stems or "blades," as Samsung calls them. They let you know when the buds are in pairing mode and they flash when you use the Find My feature as the buds make a chirping noise (this would make them easier to find in a dark room). You can also just activate the lights by pinching and holding each bud for a few seconds and wear the buds around with the lights on if that's your thing.

The Buds 3 Pro also has an IP57 rating for dust and water resistance. Battery life for the Galaxy Buds 3 Pro is rated at up to 7 hours with noise canceling off and 6 hours with it on. Its charging case features wireless charging as well as a dedicated button for Bluetooth pairing so you can pair the buds more easily with a variety of Bluetooth audio devices.

Enhanced voice-calling 

Samsung has mostly done a good job with voice-calling performance in its Galaxy Buds models, and these new Series 3 models  deliver excellent voice-calling performance with top-notch noise reduction. They have three microphones in each bud along with a voice pickup unit. Earbuds with a stem design do get the microphones a little closer to your mouth, so that should also help with voice calling. In my calls using the Galaxy Buds Pro in the noisy streets of New York (with some wind), callers said they could barely hear any background noise and that my voice was mostly clear with limited warbling. They were impressed.

Samsung says that; "with a pre-trained model based on machine learning, the Buds 3 series is now able to restore the original voice of the speaker in various noise environments while also providing a rich and natural call -- similar to the high-quality calls of smartphones -- with the Super-Wideband Call feature." That allows the buds to transmit voice up to 16kHz instead of up to 8kHz, according to Samsung.

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Case closed.

David Carnoy/CNET

Galaxy Buds 3 and 3 Pro special features for Galaxy users

As noted, the buds share many of the same features. The Buds 3 are missing the dual amps, lighting in their stems, a transparency mode (they're open earbuds, so you don't need it), Adaptive Noise Control and the Voice Detect/Siren Detect feature. Plus, the Buds 3 Pro has dual drivers.

As far as other special features for Galaxy smartphone users go, they have automatic pairing and audio switching with Galaxy devices, including Galaxy PCs. That's another way of saying they have multipoint Bluetooth pairing for Galaxy devices.  

Both buds also support the Samsung Seamless Codec that Samsung says is now capable of delivering 24bit/96khz high-resolution streams with an HD music streaming service like Qobuz or Tidal. That codec is only available with certain Galaxy devices, but the buds' default audio codec is AAC, which tends to sound just fine (iPhones and other Android devices would use AAC.)

The last Galaxy-exclusive feature that Samsung highlights is its Interpreter feature that's part of Galaxy AI. "If you're attending a class in a foreign language, you can turn on Interpreter in Listening mode on the Galaxy Z Fold 6 or Flip 6 with Buds 3 series plugged into your ears," Samsung says, citing one example of how to use the feature. "This will allow you to hear the lecture translated directly through your Buds, removing language barriers that may exist in your studies."

Samsung Galaxy Buds 3 and Buds 3 Pro final first impressions

As I said, this is just a quick first look at the Galaxy Buds 3 and Buds 3 Pro and I'll have lots more to talk about in my upcoming full reviews, including sound quality and performance comparisons to the AirPods 3, AirPods Pro 2 and other top true-wireless earbuds. 

Some of you might be a little disappointed that Samsung gave in a bit and followed Apple's design. I personally prefer earbuds with stems and I do think it makes some sense to move to this design, even if it does seem like a cop-out to go with the herd, so to speak.

From what Samsung has told me they simply found from their testing that the "blade" design worked the best for the most people. A lot of folks had fit issues with Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Buds Pro 2 (I had to use my own larger ear tips with them). At least from my initial wear tests, my impression is these new models will be a better fit for more people.

The only problem is that their designs are a tad generic and arguably lack a bit of wow factor for their relatively high prices -- the AirPods Pro 2, like the Galaxy Buds 3 Pro, retail for $250, but typically sells for less than $200 on Amazon and are $169 right now. It's therefore key that the buds offer standout performance. After some initial tests, I've been been fairly impressed, but I'll have more to talk about in my full hands-on reviews, which I'll post in the coming days.

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Galaxy Buds 3 and Galaxy Buds 3 Pro spec comparison.

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Source: cnet.com

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