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Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review: sometimes the fit is everything

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Folks can get very connected to the way in which sure earbuds match into and really feel of their ears. When design modifications do inevitably occur, producers typically inform us journalists how a lot consideration went into the smallest of tweaks — they usually love to debate how a lot information (and what number of ear scans) knowledgeable these selections. However what? There’ll all the time be a subset of shoppers who most popular the outdated method as an alternative. And that is the place Samsung’s new noise-canceling Galaxy Buds FE are available. 

Priced at solely $99.99, they’re now the corporate’s entry-level earbuds. The lower cost naturally means you’re getting a smaller set of options in comparison with the flagship Galaxy Buds 2 Professional. Buying and selling frills for baseline worth is what the Samsung FE product household is all about. However probably the most intriguing factor about these buds is their design: in contrast to Samsung’s newer rounded efforts, the Galaxy Buds FE are a non secular successor to the Galaxy Buds Plus and include silicone “wings” that assist them keep firmly planted in place. Their flattened touchpad space can be simpler to press and makes controlling them extra foolproof. 

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Let’s get the omissions out of the way in which, the Buds FE go with out Samsung’s 360 Audio (learn: spatial audio) options, there’s no dialog mode, they usually lack extra superior gesture controls like the flexibility to faucet your cheek close to the earbuds as an alternative of truly thumping the buds themselves. I believe what’s most essential to potential consumers is that they don’t embody wi-fi charging. That’s outdoors the norm for Samsung earbuds — the aforementioned Buds Plus provided Qi charging again in 2020 — and the clearest signal of price chopping that went into the FE. One other is their ruggedness: these buds are rated simply IPX2 for water resistance in comparison with the established order IPX4 (or the IPX7 of the Buds 2 Professional).

The flatter floor makes it simpler to make use of the earbuds’ controls.

However Samsung nonetheless preserves the necessities like energetic noise cancellation and a transparency mode for ambient sound passthrough. The previous is sort of good contemplating what the Buds FE price, however the transparency mode is a step down from the Buds 2 Professional and sounds extra synthetic. Seems it is advisable to spend greater than $100 if you need the skin world to sound convincingly pure. Samsung additionally throws in recreation mode (for diminished latency) and auto-switching between Galaxy gadgets, so all isn’t misplaced on the software program entrance. Sadly, they don’t embody true multipoint Bluetooth, and I don’t view fast-switching inside Samsung’s personal ecosystem as an awesome substitute. With the corporate’s SmartThings app, you may find the buds and get notifications in case you go away them behind someplace.

However what’s with the setup course of right here? I proceed to be dumbfounded by Samsung’s strategy to establishing earbuds by its Galaxy Wearable app. Step one is downloading that app, which is sensible. Each earbud producer has its personal companion software program as of late. However then, you’ve obtained to obtain an add-on that particularly permits help for the Galaxy Buds FE. Why is that this a multistep course of? Shouldn’t every part simply be constructed into the Wearable app? I can’t consider another firm that does issues this manner in 2023. What’s even stranger is that it really works the identical method on Samsung telephones, the place you’d count on there to be extra native integration.

You configure the earbuds with Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app.

The entry-tier Buds FE solely are available black or white; there’s no flashy purple coloration right here. Three sizes of ear ideas and two pairs of wing ideas come within the field; you’ll wish to strive each sizes of the latter to see if the fins show helpful for a extra steady match. The shiny white carrying case is so shut in form and dimension to that of the Galaxy Buds 2 Professional, Buds 2, and Buds Reside that equipment for these circumstances will possible be appropriate with this one. 

Sound high quality is improved in comparison with the older Galaxy Buds Plus however not fairly on par with the Buds 2 Professional. The Buds FE observe Samsung’s normal tuning curve, which most listeners will discover completely pleasing. Treble feels a bit recessed on these out of the field in comparison with the Professional buds, however this additionally helps keep away from disagreeable sibilance. And you may all the time customise the audio with a number of EQ presets within the Galaxy Wearable app. The Buds FE don’t embody head-tracking spatial audio; that’s reserved for Samsung’s pricier earbuds, however I can truthfully take or go away the function at this level; it feels gimmicky a lot most of the time. Total, the Buds 2 Professional present richer constancy and wider instrument separation, however the Buds FE are not any slouch — particularly for $100. Voice name efficiency was passable over a number of cellphone chats and Google Meet periods, and you’ll configure the buds so it’s simpler to listen to your self throughout calls. 

This design bears an in depth resemblance to the Galaxy Buds Plus.

Battery life is one other power, with the Buds FE marketed for as much as six hours of listening time with ANC on and eight.5 hours with it off. (The case brings these totals to 21 hours and 30 hours, respectively.) My real-world expertise was a bit shorter than Samsung’s estimates, however I nonetheless clocked over 5 hours of steady playback with the earbuds on a number of events. They by no means left me wanting for extra, which is all I actually ask of earbud endurance.

With the Galaxy Buds FE, Samsung is filling out its earbuds lineup with a much-needed entry-level mannequin. In the event you’re nonetheless carrying round a pair of the Buds Plus with battery life that isn’t what it was, these are a really wise improve. I’d nonetheless go for the Buds 2 Professional for the broader set of options and better constancy sound — and the fins on these earbuds don’t supply a lot profit in my case. 

However for lots of people, a cushty match ranks above all else. And if Samsung’s past-gen earbuds had been a greater match in your ears than the present crop, the Galaxy Buds FE might be a welcome return to that older design. There doesn’t all the time must be some flashy new function. These are already , reliable discount at $99.99, and may they arrive down additional over the vacations, they’ll be a no brainer for Android customers who need a stable pair of buds with out breaking the financial institution.

Images by Chris Welch / The Verge

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