Sometimes you see a product launch and think to yourself, “It’s a bit of a stupid idea. It will never take root! ” Then you try the product and you see what a hype it is and all your ideas and experiences are challenged. An approximate case happened this week when I managed to get my hands on a couple of new LinkBuds from Sony. You can read the news announcement here, but today I will focus on an overview of how these unique headphones work and how they sound in real life.
Sony LinkBuds use a unique ring driver in each headphone instead of the more common tip placement. LinkBuds sit in your ears and are so incredibly light that you don’t even know you’re wearing them. The ring driver looks like a tiny gray piece, and all the electronics and headphone battery are stored in a round plastic case connected to the ring driver.
With these headphones it is important to choose the right ear wing size. When the right wing is installed, LinkBuds feel like the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. I don’t get along with the style of earpod headphones, but these LinkBuds are a revelation. You can wear them all day and your ears will never itch or sweat.
LinkBuds come in a tiny charging case made of recycled plastic and rock dust. It’s an amazing finish, but by no means unattractive. The case can withstand another 12 hours of charge, and the headphones can play for up to five and a half hours on a single charge.
What’s so different about LinkBuds is that there’s a hole in the middle of the ring driver that allows outside sound to reach your ears, but not annoying. It’s like magic, and it’s hard to explain, but it’s noise-canceling headphones without noise-canceling. This ring driver is powerful enough and loud enough to block out sounds you don’t want to hear, but you can hear enough if someone calls your name.
The real discovery with Sony LinkBuds comes as soon as you connect them to your smartphone. The sound created by the Sony ring driver is stunning. It’s an incredible experience with a well-focused sound scene, and even without adjusting the equalizer using the Sony Headphone app, LinkBuds sounds almost perfect to my ears. There are such good ones. I can’t praise them high enough.
The smartphone app, which you can download for use with LinkBuds, offers the ability to customize LinkBuds to work with Sony 360 Realist music. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Atmos audio used by Apple. This gives the listener the feeling that he is surrounded by music, and you can change the sound to make it look as if it is going in a certain direction depending on the movement of the head. Honestly, I prefer my music just in stereo, but maybe I’ll switch to 360 if I try more.
The Sony app also allows the user to enable DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) from Sony, which can restore compressed music tracks to much higher sound quality. The built-in Sony V1 processor plays music details from regular old MP3s and adds it to something more like a high-definition music track with minimal distortion.
When it comes to phone calls, LinkBuds are great. Sony technology filters out background noise that might otherwise be captured by LinkBud microphones. Accurate voice imitation technology performs advanced voice signal processing using Sony’s noise reduction algorithm, which was developed using AI machine learning. Sony has selected more than 500 million voices to create an algorithm that can suppress ambient noise and highlight the speaker’s voice with greater clarity. It really works.
Adaptive volume control is another feature of LinkBuds. When turned on, it automatically optimizes the volume depending on where the listener is. This allows the user to listen to favorite tracks at a comfortable volume in a variety of situations, making listening to music outdoors more enjoyable without being spoiled by unwanted sounds.
Despite their size, LinkBuds are easy to use, and touch controls, you can include some instead of touch controls, LinkBuds can be controlled by tapping on the face. I turned on this wide-tap feature and was able to press twice with two fingers in the area just in front of their ears. It perfectly paused the music. Two more taps and the music turned on again and I didn’t even have to touch the headphones.
With Speak-to-Chat LinkBuds can automatically pause audio as soon as a user starts talking to someone. Once the conversation is over, the music is turned on again without having to touch the controls. LinkBuds also comes with a hand extension so users can get information, connect with friends, set reminders and activate their chosen voice assistant by simply saying “OK Google” or “Alexa”.
LinkBuds from Sony supports Google’s Fast Pair feature for easy pairing with Android devices. There is also a feature that can help you find the place where you left your LinkBuds. Swift Pair makes it easy to pair LinkBuds with laptops, desktops or tablets in Windows 11 or Windows 10. Just remove the headphones from the charging case, and a window will appear on your computer ready to connect. Thanks to quick access, LinkBuds can even be set to resume Spotify playback with just a few taps and no need to touch your smartphone.
Improved LinkBuds capabilities are integrated with Microsoft Soundscape. Their open shape allows users to hear beacons and footnotes of buildings or intersections, all with natural ambient sound. Compass / gyroscope sensors inside the headphones can determine the direction of the user’s head and allow them to hear sound from the destination without holding a smartphone.
Like many major corporations in the consumer electronics industry, Sony works hard when it comes to sustainability. LinkBuds come in a very simple box and there is not a shred of plastic on it. The materials are recycled and even the seal on the box is made of paper. It’s nice to see that Sony is sticking to its environmental promises. That’s the way it should be.
Thanks to the waterproofness of IPX4, LinkBuds avoid splashing water and sweat when you are in the gym. With a game duration of 5.5 hours LinkBuds are also good for daily travel and training, and there are an additional 11 hours of backup charging available in the LinkBud storage case. Even better, a fast 10-minute charge can give up to 90 minutes of gaming time if a user forgets to charge their LinkBuds.
Verdict: When I heard about Sony LinkBuds, I was incredibly skeptical. Having a chance to try them out, I think these are some of the best genuine wireless headphones I have ever used. They are extremely comfortable and the sound is out of this world. The unique ring driver developed by Sony is awesome. This is where my superlatives end. Sony LinkBuds are worth listening to. If you need great sound quality headphones with an open back, but with the size of a tiny pair of headphones, then Sony LinkBuds is for you. Highly recommended.
Prices and availability: Sony LinkBuds will be available in gray and white finishes from mid-February 2022 for around $ 179.99 / £ 149 / € 180.
More information: www.sony.co.uk
- Style: Open, dynamic
- Magnet: high power neodymium
- Frequency response: 20 Hz -20,000 Hz (sample 44.1 kHz)
- Waterproof rating: Yes (IPX4)
- DSEE: Yes
- Battery charge: USB C
- Battery life (continuous): Max. 5.5 hours
- Battery life (talk time): Max. 2.5 hours
- Battery housing: 11 hours
- Bluetooth: version 5.2
- Range: 10 m
- Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
- Codecs: SBC, AAC
- Weight: 4.1 g per headphone
- Charger case weight: Approx. 34 years
- Housing dimensions: 41.4 x 48.5 x 30.9 mm
- Colors: white and gray