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Halfway through working on Esquire’s Best Earbuds of 2020 ranking earlier this fall, I was on the lookout for a weird headset. But almost every earbud I tried was designed one of two ways: like a little bulb, or like a button with a stem on it, AirPods-style. How boring, I thought. Then I found them. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live, which are shaped like lima beans and quite unique. They don’t go into your ear canal so much as onto it—take a look at people wearing them on Samsung’s website to see what I mean. It’s really hard to describe. You’d never think they’d fit in there, but after wearing them for a bit, you begin to wonder why all earbuds aren’t shaped like this.
I knew right away that the Galaxy Buds Live, which are fairly priced at $140 (or $120, if you take advantage of Samsung’s trade-in program) would be perfect for our Funkiest Design category. What I didn’t expect was for them to end up becoming the earbuds I use most often. These beans, really, are magic.
They feel right for every part of the day.
Most earbuds you buy only serve one or two purposes. Your fancy audiophile buds are good for listening to music but too heavy for bringing out on a run. If you get some active earbuds, you might start to miss out on sound quality. What surprised me about the Galaxy Buds Live was—despite underperforming in the realm of noise-cancelling, if that’s important to you—they work in almost any setting. Since they don’t tunnel into your ear canal, you can actually hear yourself talk. That alleviates the feeling of walking underwater that most earbuds tend to induce. You can throw them on at the start of your day and take your morning Zoom calls. Then, you can pop on some music. And if you need to run out for a coffee, the buds will stay put in your ears, and you’ll actually be able to hear the street noises around you, so, you know, you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car. Best of all, with the weirdly perfect ergonomic design, they don’t irritate your ears, even after you wear them for a while. The Galaxy Buds Live kind of remind me of those futuristic (and unseen) headsets that everyone’s always wearing in The Avengers. You could have a bud in all day long and forget it’s even there.
They’re the podcast-listener’s buds of choice.
Long have I searched for a pair of earbuds that makes sense for listening to podcasts. I don’t need a suffocating pair of over-the-head cans to catch the latest Terry Gross. I don’t care about sound quality when I’m laughing along to Comedy Bang Bang. If I’m salivating to one of my foodie podcasts, I just need a headset with a good battery life (these will give ya 29 hours with the charging case) and reliable Bluetooth connection that won’t fall out of my ears. I’ve taken to sliding the Galaxy Buds Live onto my earholes and walking out into the park, letting a podcast play out over the crunchy leaves and chirping birds, which I can actually still hear because of the way these beans are designed. On a bike ride, on an evening stroll, I’ll always bring the Galaxy Buds Live, and their charging case—which is small enough to slide into your chest pocket—along for the ride. They’re my go-to buds.
Finally, earbuds that are actually hands-free.
I often find issues with the buttons or touch pad controls on true wireless headsets. They’re usually too hard to push, which will stick them painfully deep into your ear canals, or they’re too sensitive and end up activating anytime you reposition them at all. The controls on the Galaxy Buds Live—which are actually pretty customizable thanks to the Galaxy Wearables app—feel just right. They don’t have physical pushy buttons, but the touch pad is responsive (and beepy) enough to make it feel like your fingers are in control of your media playback. If you’re on the iPhone, the app I mentioned unlocks a lot of functionality. But these buds, really, work best on Android phones, where there’s a built-in function for Spotify playback and an onboard voice assistant (Bixby). And hey, before I forget, you can also charge these puppies by placing the charging case right on top of your phone (if it supports wireless charging, that is). The whole package feels futuristic as hell.
Photography by Allie Holloway. Prop styling by Claire Tedaldi for Halley Resources.
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