Samsung Galaxy Buds FE Offer Surprisingly Good ANC for $199

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE Offer Surprisingly Good ANC for $199

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE is marketed as a pocket-book-friendly option and makes for a pretty decent gift. They don’t offer all the bells and whistles you like the Galaxy Buds2 Pro, but for the price, I think I am ok with that.

As it turns out, much like the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE, there’s definitely a place for a no-frills, no-nonsense pair of earbuds that sound good and won’t cost you an arm and leg. And you still get a pair of earbuds with quality ANC that are perfect for your commute.

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE Design

Not What You’d Call Eye-Catching

The Galaxy Buds FE comes docked in a small, inconspicuous 40-gram charging case. With a glossy exterior, the case is thankfully not a magnet for fingerprints, which is a common issue on a lot of earbud cases. The FEs are available in Graphite (basically black) and White. It would been nice to see some other colorways like that really fun Bora Purple on the Buds2 Pro.

It is lightweight and small enough to easily fit into a pair of ladies’ jeans, which are notorious for being extremely small and non-functional (a different rant for a different day). The case is a teeny bit thicker — around 0.2 inches — than Apple’s AirPods case, so there will definitely be a little bit of bulge, though.

The buds don’t have much going on either and are very template-y in aesthetics. Their all-matte, plastic body is interrupted by a rubber wing tip right in the middle of the bud that goes all around it and is one of Samsung’s most touted features on these buds.

The wingtip somewhat helped with grip, especially when putting the bud inside of your ear or taking it out. It assisted me in grabbing onto something with more friction compared to the plastic, resulting in a firmer, more stable grip. It also gave me more surface area on the bud to work with, making navigating them easier.

The package has a spare pair of wing tips, along with the usual spare earbud tips in varying sizes and a Type-C to Type-C charging cable. Like the straightforward charging case and buds, the accessories are very no-frills. But for a $199 product, it makes perfect sense.

Image: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE Fit and Controls

A very snug fit with surprisingly good noise isolation

The Galaxy Buds FE fit pretty snugly, and it’s a surprise that that’s coming from me because my ears hate in-ear buds. I can still only go for on-ear ones since they fit me better. I replaced the medium tips on these buds with the small ones, and they hugged my ears pretty tight the entire time. I wore these buds outside for quite a while and did laundry and a lot of groceries with them. Despite all the movement that I put them through, they stayed glued to my ears throughout.

Closely related to their snug fit, and probably a consequence of that, is the fact that they feature great passive noise isolation. While that is expected from over-the-ear headphones, I obviously wasn’t expecting this from earbuds, especially at this price. With the tight seal that they form with your ears, completely covering your ear canal, they (almost) cancel the amount of noise some budget over-the-ear headphones’ memory foam ear cup padding would.

Image: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

The controls on the buds are pretty straightforward. Tapping them once plays/pauses music, double tapping skips to the next track and answers/ends a call, and triple tapping takes you to the previous track.

I didn’t really make use of the triple-tap one. Unless using my phone is inconvenient for me, I’d do that instead of tapping on my earbuds three times and running into the risk of only two out of the three being detected, resulting in an action I didn’t want. The most helpful controls I found were play/pause and the tap-and-hold one to switch between ANC and Ambient Mode.

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE Sound and ANC

The sound’s just fine, but the ANC is extremely good

The Galaxy Buds FE sound serviceable okay for their budget-friendly price. I wasn’t really blown away by any aspect of the sound. Don’t expect the kind of sound imaging that allows you to listen to every layer in the orchestra separately. The elements cannot be located very precisely in the orchestra, and there certainly is a bit of clustering (of performers and acoustic material) going on. The bass and treble are decent, with the bass being a little better than the treble. Again, don’t expect it to push you out of your seat. The buds also support mono-listening, which is always a nice feature to have.

However, the ANC on these buds is excellent and pretty good for their pocket-book-friendly price. I used these buds in the noisiest settings I could think of and was pleasantly surprised. Like most ANC modes, this works better with canceling a low-frequency hum all around you instead of a high-pitched sound that’s very close to you. For instance, it did a fantastic job of muting the Laundromat’s dryers and washers. I was able to enjoy my music without having to tolerate a constant, annoying buzz.

The buds did a scarily good job cancelling the extremely loud traffic when I walked to the Laundromat. The cancellation was so good that I had to switch to ambient mode to be safe. But it didn’t cancel ambulance sirens the same way, and that makes sense. Such high-frequency sounds are barely (completely) cancelled. Since I live close to a hospital and have to hear an ambulance siren every few minutes, I doubt it’s an issue most people will encounter.

The overall sound of the people and trolleys at the supermarket were cancelled pretty well, but the loud chatter of a group of people right in front of me in line was fairly audible. You get the point.

Image: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

Samsung Galaxy Buds FE Mic and Battery Life

It has an impressive battery life with a not-so-impressive microphone.

When using the mic, my voice wasn’t as crisp as it could be, and environmental noise cancellation still picked up a lot of background noise. Unless you’re particularly looking for buds to handle your Google Meet meetings, you’ll be fine using the mic on these for just phone calls.

The battery life is pretty in line with most other earbuds in this price range. In fact, and impressively enough, all thanks to the 60 mAh battery, it is slightly better than the battery life on the Galaxy Buds 2 and the Buds 2 Pro, both of which are considerably more expensive than the FE buds and host 53 mAh batteries. You get nine hours with ANC off and six with it on. And the buds give you an additional 30 hours with ANC off and 21 with it on.

Image: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

Should You Buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE?

A solid pair of budget earbuds with great ANC.

If you don’t have a lot of bucks to spare or want to buy your child their first pair of buds, this is an excellent entry-level product to go for. The ANC is way more impressive than you would expect on a pair of buds this cheap, and the sound isn’t what you’d call bad. It may not feature the kind of layering one would expect, but that’s forgivable at this price point.

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