headphones

Samsung Level In Headphones Review

A premium choice for media-hungry consumers—audiophiles steer clear.

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The Samsung Level In (MSRP $149.99) are Samsung's first attempt at standalone in-ear style headphones, and they're a huge step up compared to the default buds included with the company's smartphones and tablets.

Much like Microsoft's "premium" Zune in-ears, you're paying a little more for device parity and branding, but the Level Ins aren't all flash. Behind their sleek Galaxy design is a sound that's perfectly tailored to suit mobile audio, lending credence to trilling trebles and booming bass—at the expense of mid-tone detail.

There are better choices for audiophiles, but the Level Ins are a great-looking, portable option if you want to get the most out of your mobile media consumption.

The Looks

If you're familiar with Samsung's mobile options, you'll feel right at home here.

Sporting a white coat with silver highlights, the Samsung Level In are reminiscent of the company's mobile devices. The ear pieces are one-half reflective silver, one-half arctic white, and handsomely contoured. The flat white cable features a three-button mic/remote combo and neck-split adjustment, and terminates into a straight, gold-plated jack. It's a sexy design that just might turn heads.

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The Level Ins are designed with a white-and-silver aesthetic that's identical to many of Samsung's mobile options. They look great, but could stand to be a little more durable.

Unfortunately, the materials are primarily plastic and rubber, and don't feel as sturdy as they could for the price. Yes, flex points are reinforced with a little extra padding, but I've seen much better protection in this price range. The harder plastic of the ear buds adds some welcome armor, but it also makes for an uncomfortable in-the-ear feeling if you push them in too far. If you plan to go out-and-about with the Level Ins, be careful where and how you stow them.

Flex points are reinforced with a little extra padding, but I've seen much better protection in this price range.

There are a few extras, too, but nothing exciting. Samsung promises portability with an included zip-up carrying pouch, and there's a staggering number of sleeve options: three pairs of moldable foam tips, and four pairs of silicone tips. The in-line remote will let you take/end calls, adjust volume, and skip through tracks in a playlist—all the standard functionality.

The Sound

Great for casual listening, not recommended for audiophiles

The Level In headphones are billed as mobile accessories on Samsung's website, and that's where they shine. What I would call basic audio sources, like PlayStore games and music apps like Pandora, are treated to plenty of dynamic range. Rumbling bass tones are brought to the forefront, and trilling highs are given plenty of emphasis. Basically, these in-ears sound great when they're playing the simpler stuff.

I found that turning up to my usual listening levels made me wince more than once.
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The Level Ins sound best when paired with mobile devices like a smartphone or tablet.

They're a little aggressive when it comes to high-quality audio, however. The added bass/treble resonance can be a bit overpowering, drowning out certain mid- and high-mid range sounds like male vocalists or supportive middle brass like saxophones. It's bearable at lower volumes, but I found that turning up to my usual listening levels made me wince more than once. If the audio track is mixed at maximum quality, the Level Ins tend to blow out the top and bottom.

That's not to say they're poorly engineered. Cheap in-ears often struggle with distortion-free playback, but the Level Ins are as good as any audiophile cans in that regard. From bass instruments like tubas, to high-pitched flutes and piccolos, these Samsung buds maintain a clean sound without clipping or distorting elements.

The only issue with close listening is that the left speaker is just a little louder than the right, and trained ears will pick up on this after a few rounds with familiar content.

With a good fit, the Level Ins naturally block sounds like office chatter and squealing brakes.

One great thing about in-ear style headphones is that they're natural isolators—they block out ambient noise while keeping your music in. The Level Ins are a testament to that feature, and with a good fit they naturally block sounds like office chatter and squealing brakes. Likewise, they keep lots of sound locked in, so no one around you will ever hear those screeching avians in Angry Birds.

For a more in-depth look at our hard data and test results, check out the Science Page.

The Verdict

Perfect for the smartphone and tablet crowd—if you can find a deal.

Whether you use them for phone calls or to listen to Spotify during your commute into the city, the Level Ins provide an enjoyably punchy sound that adds dynamic range without introducing distortion. They'll absolutely blow away your stock ear buds, that's for sure. The real hangup here is the price; paying $150 for "mobile accessory" headphones that don't provide truly audiophile-quality sound is just way too steep.

The Level Ins will absolutely blow away your stock ear buds.

If you get them for a cheaper price or as a gift, then they're perfectly serviceable in-ears. Just understand that a big part of the price equation here is the sexy style, rather than raw performance. If you're just on the prowl for the best-sounding in-ears that money can buy, take a peek at the JBL Synchros S200 in-ears. They're not as sleek looking, but they're more durable, product much better sound quality, and they can be found for a cool $100.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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