Aside from HTC's phones that launched during the now-defunct partnership with Beats, even high-end phones have historically come with a pretty crappy pair of headphones in the box. Many mid-range phones — and even more pricey devices like the Nexus 6P — eschew headphones altogether, understanding that folks aren't likely to use them and it can be an area of cost savings.
But what about your $700 Galaxy S7? Sure it comes with a pair of headphones nestled in the box, and nobody would blame you for being skeptical that they're worth a damn. Recently I set down my many pairs of nicer headphones to take the Galaxy S7's included earbuds for a spin — here's what I found.
Design and comfort
Rather than go with a super-basic earbud design, Samsung has opted for a far more ergonomic styling with a kidney-shaped earbud that's made to nestle deeper and point sound directly into your ear. This immediately improves comfort compared to the basic designs that rest further out on your ear, and also helps a little with noise cancelation — though these headphones don't particularly excel in that respect.
There are two different sizes of silicone covers for the earbuds, and the smaller pair worked surprisingly well for my larger ears. The relatively hard silicone added to the comfort of these earbuds, putting them a large step above other cheap (and not so cheap headphones that are just hard plastic.
The plastic that makes up the housing itself is light, flimsy and kind of slick feeling, but what can you expect for "free" headphones, I suppose. I don't expect these to be able to handle abuse for an extended period. The entire cable doesn't feel particularly robust either, and has a somewhat-rubbery coating that's bound to get tangled easily as its sheen wears off.
There's a really good in-line remote on the cable leading to the right earbud, with play/pause button and a volume rocker. Samsung has made a proper design decision here to separate that play/pause button from the volume rocker, rather than putting it in the middle where it's far too easy to hit when all you want to do is adjust the volume. The mic found on the remote opposite the buttons is there for calls ... but it's not anywhere near the quality you'd get just from using the mic on the Galaxy S7.
Here's where we get to the real meat and potatoes — the audio quality. Sure the headphones aren't made to last forever, but you can hope that whatever money was saved in the cheap plastic was instead spent on the components that make these earbuds worth putting in your ears.
Coming from the base line of basically zero expectations when it came to audio quality on these headphones, I was pleasantly surprised after listening to them for over a week.
They're more than good enough for podcasts and other spoken word audio, but also usable for streaming audio and even serviceable for local audio playback — across the board, far higher quality than I expected. Music in particular can push past what these little earbuds are capable of, especially in bass response, but even at high volumes I never thought they were particularly tinny or hollow — they just couldn't produce bass like better earbuds can.
If you already have a pair of in-ear headphones that you like, and they set you back more than about $30, you aren't going to be too impressed by what comes in the box of the Galaxy S7. By spending additional money on headphones prior to this, you've already established that you're willing to pay for a bit more quality — both in the design and audio.
But if you just lost your previous pair of headphones, or have done so before and bought the best-looking $5 pair you could find on Amazon you to get you through some time while you shop for something nicer, you should give the headphones in the Galaxy S7's box a chance. They're extremely comfortable, have good in-line controls and sound pretty good.
I can guarantee you they feel and sound better than that pair of cheapo earbuds you bought to replace your old pair, and while they probably aren't built to last you as long as you'll have your Galaxy S7 they're a good pair of headphones to have around, even after you've decided its time for something nicer for everyday use.
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