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Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review - Long-lasting headphones with powerful sound

The fin is back! For the first time, Samsung is releasing a fan version of its in-ear headphones, the Galaxy Buds FE. They have a rich sound and active noise cancellation. Find out more in this review.

In terms of the recommended retail price (RRP), the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are positioned below the Galaxy Buds2 Pro and Galaxy Buds2, yet they still promise first-class sound for everyone. 

These true wireless headphones (TWS) come equipped with ANC and HearThrough features, and can also be tracked using SmartThings Find.

Specifications

Wearable In-Ear
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2
Range 32.8 ft
Speaker 1 way speaker
Audio codecs SBC, AAC, SSC
Battery capacity 60 mAh (earphones), 479 mAh (charging case)
Charging port USB-C
Wireless charging No
Weight 5.6 g (earphones), 40 g (charging case)
Firmware version R400NXXU0AWHF
Delivery content Charging case, earbuds, ear tips (S, M, L), wingtips(S/M, M/L), documentation
Price (RRP) US$69.99

Case and ergonomics - Galaxy Buds+ reloaded

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are available in black (Graphite) and white (Mystic White). The differences between the two versions are limited to the earphones and the interior of the charging case, as both versions come with a high-gloss white plastic case. Despite the slightly bulky appearance, the earphones weigh less than 0.21 oz and bear a resemblance to the Galaxy Buds+ from 2020, particularly due to the replaceable fin, known as wingtips by Samsung.

The overall quality is good, with no notable issues. While the plastic used in both the charging case and the earphones may not exude a high-end feel, they present a solid feel. Despite the high-gloss surface, the case is resistant to fingerprints. 

When inserted into the ear canal, the earphones penetrate quite deep, especially with the smallest attachment size. The pre-installed medium size may feel a little tight for some users. Notably, the fin provides additional support behind the Anthelix, ensuring that the Samsung headphones stay securely in place, even during sports activities or rapid head movements. 

Features and operation - Galaxy Buds FE with a neat overall package

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE boasts a comprehensive set of features, including active noise cancellation (ANC), HearThrough for ambient noise awareness, and Bluetooth-based localization. However, it's important to note that these in-ear headphones lack IP certification for water and dust resistance and do not support wireless charging. Additionally, the Dual Bluetooth feature is not available. 

Setting up the Galaxy Buds FE is a swift and straightforward process using Microsoft Swift Pair on Windows PCs. Unfortunately, Google Fast Pair is not supported. Samsung smartphone users will experience seamless pairing, as the device automatically recognizes the headphones and suggests pairing. For Apple product users, conventional pairing methods apply. The Galaxy Wearable app, available on the Galaxy Store or Play Store, facilitates firmware updates and allows users to configure basic functions such as touch controls, noise controls, and the find function.

The latter helps locate misplaced earphones by making them emit a ringing sound. Samsung smartphone users can also leverage SmartThing Find to display the last known location of the Galaxy Buds FE on a map. This feature extends to individual earbuds, allowing users to actively search for them via Bluetooth. 

An additional practical feature is the control widget for Android. This widget provides at-a-glance information about the charging status and offers buttons to toggle sensor surfaces and control noise settings.

Bluetooth settings on non Samsung smartphones
Bluetooth settings on Samsung smartphones
Galaxy Wearable app
Galaxy Wearable app
Galaxy Wearable app
Galaxy Wearable app
SmartThings Find
SmartThings Find

Sound - Samsung headphones with SSC

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE differs from the Galaxy Buds2 Pro by featuring a single one-way speaker per earphone, as opposed to a two-way system. Despite this distinction, the pink noise measurement reveals strikingly similar characteristics. Subjectively, the drivers of the Galaxy Buds FE impart a more robust and richer impression compared to the top model, resulting in a compelling audio experience for both music and movies. It's worth noting that the more potent SSC codec is exclusive to Samsung products; others are limited to SBC or AAC.

Equipped with three microphones per earphone, these Galaxy headphones offer favorable conditions for both ANC and telephony. The in-ear design inherently provides passive noise isolation, further augmented by the ANC. While the ANC performs satisfactorily, some background noise may still be perceptible. The HearThrough function effectively allows external voices to be heard clearly, but ambient noise remains prominent. 

In terms of telephony, the Galaxy Buds FE delivers a somewhat average performance. In quiet environments, voice quality is good, though the user's voice may sound slightly muted. In busier surroundings, such as main roads, comprehension can be challenging, accompanied by occasional dropouts. If used in a home office setup, for instance, the TWS headset can also be employed with a single ear. 

Loudspeakers
THD
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE (RMS: -3.0 dBFS)
0.55 % *
Jabra Elite 5 (RMS: -2.9 dBFS)
0.29 % *
Huawei FreeBuds 5i (RMS: -2.4 dBFS)
0.09 % *
THD+N
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE (RMS: -3.0 dBFS)
0.56 % *
Jabra Elite 5 (RMS: -2.9 dBFS)
0.45 % *
Huawei FreeBuds 5i (RMS: -2.4 dBFS)
0.41 % *

* ... smaller is better

THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): Harmonic distortion quantifies the distortion caused by non-linear components (harmonic content) in relation to the original signal. THD specifically refers to the fundamental component. It's important to note that while the term "distortion factor" is often used interchangeably, it actually refers to the overall signal, not just the fundamental component.
THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise): This value is comparable to THD, but in addition to measuring the interference power of harmonics, it also takes into account the impact of noise as an effective value. For the measurement, a low harmonic sinusoidal signal (typically at 1 kHz and > 0 dB) is played back through the headphones under test. This signal is then recorded by a linear measuring microphone (placed at a measuring distance of approximately 0.40 inches) in an artificial head.

Both values are expressed as percentages. The lower the value, the higher the fidelity of the signal. 

dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs2026.639.52524.539.83125.740.14029.645.65033.549.36317.9518014.350.21001948.212510.747.116011.554.120011.352.12506.853.13157.153.54005.956.65006.156.7630657.58006.759.210006.363.312506.669.216007.774.22000880.525008.586.631509.287.240009.182.8500010.278.7630010.275.9800010.972.71000011.365.81250011.362.11600010.957.6SPL20.993N0.375.5median 9.1median 63.3Delta2.310.52934.125.333.525.727.226.734.129.335.121.130.117.833.61738.513.142.212.648.111.746.711.146.31245.210.945.411.947.110.453.29.757.710.764.411.97011.175.311.78012.386.813.585.112.578.312.673.213.371.413.675.914.169.713.559.713.254.724.491.70.568.7median 12.3median 64.41.114.9hearing rangehide median Pink NoiseSamsung Galaxy Buds FEJabra Elite 5
Frequency diagram (checkboxes can be checked and unchecked to compare devices)
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (93 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(±) | reduced bass - on average 11.9% lower than median
(+) | bass is linear (4.2% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(±) | higher mids - on average 7.1% higher than median
(+) | mids are linear (6.2% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(-) | very high highs - on average 15.3% higher than median
(±) | linearity of highs is average (7.4% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (21% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 52% of all tested devices in this class were better, 8% similar, 40% worse
» The best had a delta of 4%, average was 25%, worst was 134%
Compared to all devices tested
» 52% of all tested devices were better, 8% similar, 40% worse
» The best had a delta of 4%, average was 25%, worst was 134%

Jabra Elite 5 audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (91.7 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 19.9% lower than median
(+) | bass is linear (5.6% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(±) | reduced mids - on average 10.8% lower than median
(±) | linearity of mids is average (8.3% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(±) | higher highs - on average 12.8% higher than median
(±) | linearity of highs is average (9% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (26.2% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 77% of all tested devices in this class were better, 4% similar, 18% worse
» The best had a delta of 4%, average was 25%, worst was 134%
Compared to all devices tested
» 77% of all tested devices were better, 4% similar, 18% worse
» The best had a delta of 4%, average was 25%, worst was 134%

Battery life - Over six hours during testing

The Galaxy Buds FE has a battery life of up to six hours, according to Samsung. They exceeded this estimate in our test at a loudness level of 65 dB(A). 

Three more charges are provided by the charging case. 

Battery Runtime - Spotify loop at 65dB/A (incl ANC)
Jabra Elite 5
70 mAh
397 min
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE
60 mAh
397 min
Huawei FreeBuds 5i
55 mAh
231 min

Verdict - Galaxy Buds FE focusing on the essentials

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE in review. Test device provided by Samsung Germany.
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE in review. Test device provided by Samsung Germany.

Samsung offers a reliable, genuine wireless headset that does not compromise on features with the Galaxy Buds FE. This encompasses effective ANC, which performs well but doesn't reach peak levels. The sound is both pleasing and robust, and the battery life is impressive.

If you prefer to listen to music or watch movies on the go, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are an excellent choice. 

However, it's worth noting that features like wireless charging or IP certification are not included. The absence of dual Bluetooth is a notable drawback, making the Buds FE less than ideal for home office use. This limitation is also reflected in the somewhat mediocre voice quality. 

Sennheiser CX True Wireless and Teufel Airy TWS are two decent alternatives to the Samsung headphones. 

Price and Availability

The Galaxy Buds FE can be purchased directly from Samsung, but are also available on Amazon.

Transparency

The present review sample was made available to the author as a loan by the manufacturer or a shop for the purposes of review. The lender had no influence on this review, nor did the manufacturer receive a copy of this review before publication. There was no obligation to publish this review.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > Reviews > Samsung Galaxy Buds FE review - Long-lasting headphones with powerful sound
Daniel Schmidt, 2023-11-24 (Update: 2023-11-25)