Samsung has been actively developing a line of fully wireless headphones for the past few years, but focusing on mid- and high-end models. At the same time, the company has been rather poorly represented in the segment of relatively affordable TWS headphones, mainly due to the models of previous years that have become cheaper. The Galaxy Buds FE, the first generation of headphones in the Fan Edition line, which is best known for Samsung smartphones that get some flagship features but also a more affordable price, should fix this. I’ll tell you whether the Galaxy Buds FE did the same in this review.
Specifications of Galaxy Buds FE
|Range of action
|SSC, SBC, AAC
|3 for each earphone, noise cancellation support
|Protection against moisture
|up to 6 hours on a single charge with noise reduction, up to 30 hours with a case
|Recommended price in Ukraine
|3 499 UAH
Scope of delivery
The headphones come in a traditional Samsung white box, which contains the Galaxy Buds FE in a charging case, a USB-C cable, replaceable ear pads, and two rubber pads, which I will describe in more detail below.
In general, this is a standard set for modern fully wireless models, and as you can see, the FE prefix has not affected the configuration in any way.
Design and case
Galaxy Buds FE are Samsung’s cheapest TWS headphones with in-ear fit and active noise cancellation, but it’s not like the company skimped on design or materials.
The Buds FE are noticeably different from other Samsung headphones in terms of their simpler design, with a rather simple body shape and a glossy plastic outer part.
I was pleased to see a cartilaginous retainer in an affordable model, which provides a more secure fit, especially when doing sports. Due to the peculiar physiology of my right ear, I can run comfortably with few headphones, and Galaxy Buds FE turned out to be one of them.
However, if the cartilage retainers get in the way, they can be replaced with the aforementioned rubber pads, which also help the headphones stay in the ear canal better.
Galaxy Buds FE are quite compact, they don’t protrude too much from the ears and are a pleasure to use throughout the day and take with you in transportation, for a walk or to the gym. Each earbud weighs only 5.6 grams. In fact, this is a universal model “for every day”.
The headphone case is the same as in Galaxy Buds2, with a glossy finish, an LED charge indicator on the front and a USB-C port on the back. However, we can immediately say that the lack of wireless charging is a simplification.
The case measures 50x50x27.7 mm and weighs 40 grams. It is quite easy to carry around.
Another simplification in the design, the Galaxy Buds FE are IPX2 rated, compared to IPX7 for the top-of-the-line Buds2 Pro. IPX2 alone allows the headphones to survive contact with a small amount of moisture, meaning they can withstand sweat during a workout or run.
Bluetooth 5.2 protocol with A2DP, AVRCP, and HFP profiles is used to connect the headphones to a smartphone, laptop, tablet, or other compatible devices. However, to be able to customize the headphones and update their firmware, you will need the Wearable application, which can be downloaded from the Google Play store for Android smartphones and tablets. There is no iOS version, but nothing prevents you from connecting and using Galaxy Buds FE with your iPhone simply via Bluetooth.
For Samsung smartphones and tablets, the headphones support auto-detection, which means that you just need to open the lid of the charging case and the device will find Galaxy Buds FE and offer to connect to them. For other smartphones, the connection is also quite simple and fast, but not as automated.
Another simplification in the Galaxy Buds FE is the lack of the ability to simultaneously connect to multiple devices and, accordingly, instantly switch between them (the so-called multipoint), which is partially offset by support for faster switching between Samsung devices. However, this does not work for smartphones from other manufacturers.
The Wearable app allows you to change additional settings; it allows you not only to switch between noise reduction modes, but also to customize the equalizer, notification sound, and gestures. The latter, by the way, work quite well, allowing you to pause playback, switch between tracks, and turn ambient noise reduction on or off. To do this, just touch the outer panel of the right or left earbud with your finger.
Each action has its own number of taps. For example, if you tap once, playback is paused, if you tap twice, the next song is played, and if you tap three times, the previous song is played.
Galaxy Buds FE does not have the ability to adjust the volume through the headphones themselves, which, in my opinion, is not a problem, because doing it with gestures is not always convenient, and there is always a risk of accidental pressing. More critical, in my opinion, is the lack of automatic pause when one of the headphones is removed from the ear.
It is interesting that Galaxy Buds FE has built-in proximity sensors, but they are used only during an incoming call. The smartphone with the Wearables app determines whether the user is wearing headphones, and if so, the ringtone goes to them. If they are just lying on the table, the sound will come from the smartphone. It’s a useful feature, but adding an automatic pause to playback would be nice too. I hope Samsung will do this with the next firmware update.
The Galaxy Buds FE format with in-ear fit allows you to isolate some of the external noise if you choose the right size of the ear cushions. However, the headphones also have an active noise canceling system that works with the main 6 microphones and creates a counter-noise that blocks background noise, for example, from cars on the street or in public transport. In Galaxy Buds FE, this system works quite gently, without creating excessive pressure on the eardrums.
Some of the external noise is indeed cut off, which allows you to listen to music on a subway train with a slightly higher volume level; compared to older Galaxy Buds, noise cancellation works less efficiently, but considering the cost of the model, this is a very good result.
The built-in microphones are also used during a call, providing good voice quality in relatively quiet environments. In the presence of background noise, the headphones do not cut it off completely, but highlight the user’s voice, so that it can still be heard.
Galaxy Buds FE sound
Galaxy Buds FE supports SSC (Samsung Scalable Codec), AAC, and SBC codecs. Samsung’s proprietary codec theoretically allows the headphones to achieve dynamic bitrates of 88 to 512 kbps and higher quality audio at 24-bit and 96 kHz, while the standard AAC and SBC codecs provide support for more devices.
Unlike the older models in the line, Galaxy Buds FE do not support spatial audio. This is another simplification, but again not too critical.
As for the sound quality, Samsung has done a really good job on it, considering the entry-level of the model. Galaxy Buds FE reproduce a fairly wide scene with a good level of detail, tangible bass, and do not lose high frequencies. Of course, low frequencies are less expressive than in the more expensive Galaxy Buds2 Pro. But for this price category, the sound is really decent.
However, it should be borne in mind that users who are used to fine-tuning the equalizer to their own needs will not be able to do so with Galaxy Buds FE. The Wearables app has preset equalizer profiles, but there is no way to create your own.
I should also note that the headphones have a high volume margin, the control slider does not need to be turned to the maximum, a comfortable level is achieved when it is moved 1-2 steps above the average.
In general, Galaxy Buds FE provide good sound quality for everyday use, especially if the main source of sound is streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube Music, or Netflix.
Galaxy Buds FE battery life
Each earbud has a built-in 60 mAh battery, plus an additional 479 mAh in the charging case. The latter is charged via USB-C, but does not support wireless charging, as in more expensive Samsung models.
With the noise canceling system active, Galaxy Buds FE provide 6 hours of playback time, and with the noise canceling system off, they provide more than 8 hours of playback time. The battery in the charging case allows you to extend the playback time to 20 hours with noise canceling and up to 30 hours without it. Thus, the headphones last for several days of active use without the need to recharge.