We’re entering new territory in the Walled Garden earbud wars: To get the best audio quality out of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, you need to use them with a Samsung phone. It was always going to come to this. Among other earbuds developed by companies with a keen interest in the smartphone world, Apple’s AirPods, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, Google’s Pixel Buds and more, we’ve already seen a number of convenience-minded features – one-touch setup, automatic devices switching, tracking head -spatial audio, and others – that encourage consumers to match their brand of buds with the phone in their pocket. The goal is to lock you into that ecosystem as you slowly upgrade one device and then another forever.

But the $229 Buds 2 Pro sports better sound quality as the bigger exclusives first. Connect them to any recent Samsung phone, and you can wirelessly stream “24-bit Hi-Fi audio” from services like Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, and others that offer lossless and high-resolution Provide music catalogue. Samsung claims that it delivers much richer audio and better listening experience than it was before.

I’ll dig into all of that more later, but the important thing is that the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro will, thankfully, be on no matter what kind of phone you have. In more than a week of testing, I’ve found them to be the best, most comfortable buds Samsung has ever seen.

The Buds 2 Pro are 15 percent smaller than the original Galaxy Buds Pro, and both the earbuds and the case now have a matte soft-touch coating. I prefer it over glossy plastic: The case stays smudge-free, and the buds are easier to hold with the coating. The new earbuds are also lightweight (now up to 5.5 grams per earbud), and have a larger vent on the exterior for better airflow and to reduce any unpleasant “plug-up” feeling. In the days I’ve been using them so far, they’ve proven to be nothing but comfortable and have stayed in my ears reliably.

Battery life is completely unchanged from the prior model, promising five hours of listening time with ANC enabled and eight with it – plus another 18/28 via the charging case. That’s enough stamina for most situations but nothing special in 2022. The Buds 2 Pro maintains the same IPX7 water resistance rating as its predecessors.

It doesn’t take long to conclude that these earbuds have great sound. With dual-driver design and tuning by AKG, they eclipse the AirPods Pro by a country mile—it’s no surprise that Apple’s buds are turning three years old. But they also outpace the excellent Pixel Buds Pro in this department and are close to my favorite earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3 and Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They are supreme artists with a level of depth and detail that their larger techno contemporaries can’t quite match.

The Hold Steady’s “Heavy Covenant” showcases their isolation and clarity, giving the guitar, horn and Craig Finn’s recognizable vocals enough room to breathe. As a ’90s music fan, I came back to “Omaha” by counting the crows, and the Buds 2 Pro brought out the warmth of the accordion and mandolin while giving the drums a natural kick. Returning to modern life with Orville Peck’s “The Curse of the Blackened Eye”, I was impressed by the elaborate soundstage Samsung provided to these buds.

But is it real “hi-fi” sound? After more than a week, I’m still trying to solve this. Samsung says its new seamless codec lets the Buds 2 Pro wirelessly stream 24-bit, 48kHz audio over Bluetooth. But the company has been less transparent about the bitrate of that audio. For reference, Sony’s LDAC codec tops out at around 990kbps, which is still less than lossless CD quality. Samsung spokesman Jordan Guthman told The Verge by email that the Samsung Seamless Codec can reach bitrates of up to 2304kbps, which will work for truly lossless, high-resolution sound.

That number has me skeptical. It’ll be a huge leap over existing earbuds, and there’s nothing in the Android developer settings menu that confirms the bitrate details – only the 24-bit/48kHz portion. High-quality streaming works with any Galaxy smartphone running Android 8.0 and One UI 4.0 or later (with 1.5GB of RAM or higher).

That’s a lot of phones, which adds to my confusion about bitrate and how Samsung could possibly hit 2304kbps. More to follow, expect, but don’t get lost in the numbers: These earbuds actually sound great as long as you’ve got a good seal and fold them up comfortably. They will also support Bluetooth LE audio down the line, though Samsung hasn’t specified what benefits it will bring.

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