Sony didn’t waste time launching a new member of the LinkBuds family of wireless earphones. Launched in March, the original features an innovative ring driver design that offers something a bit different from the standard in terms of both fit and sound quality. They weren’t perfect, but they did more than enough to intrigue us and get a 4-star review.
The new LinkBuds are called Sony LinkBuds S, but when you look at the design of this pair, they don’t necessarily belong to the same family.
The LinkBuds S is priced at £ 180 / $ 199 / AU $ 350, just above the original LinkBuds (£ 150 / $ 180 / AU $ 300). Given that they bring active noise canceling to the party, it’s not surprising that they cost a premium.
Compared to the “tested” price of the premium Sony WF-1000XM4 model (launched at £ 250/280/450 AUD), you can see a natural advance to a more expensive pair, but the XM4 costs around £ You can find 199 / $ 230 / AU $ 299 (if you are shopping). To be precise, it’s not a big leap.
If your budget grows a bit more, there’s also the 5-star Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 (£ 219 / $ 249.95 / AU $ 399.95), and if you need something, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro (£ 160 / $ 180 / AU). There is also $ 299). With a sportier edge. Of course, you can also incorporate the Apple AirPods Pro (£ 249 / $ 249 / AU $ 399) into the equation. This assumes that the Apple AirPods Pro hasn’t been used for some time and the price is regularly dropping to £ 200 / $ 200 / AU $ 319.
While the original LinkBuds were all about its open ring driver and deliberately incorporated external noise, Sony has returned to the traditional wireless earphone design with the new 5mm driver for the LinkBuds S. This means that the eartubes and silicone eartips are inside. Ears and Sony have also added Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) to help keep the outside world out.
Despite redesigning and implementing this extra technology, Sony was still able to keep the earpieces small. Very few. At the time of writing, Sony claims they are the world’s smallest noise-cancelling wireless earphones. According to Sony, it is 41% smaller and 33% lighter than the WF-1000XM4.
And they feel it both in their hands and in their ears. They can be easily slid and twisted in place to get a good seal (4 different sized chips are available in the box). It’s also IPX4 waterproof, so Sony can train in the gym. When Normal commuting to the office.
The LinkBuds S comes in three finishes: white, black and the new beige (ish) color ecru.
LinkBuds S provides ambient sound and transparency modes in addition to active noise canceling. This allows you to hear more about what is happening around you. In fact, Sony’s Headphones app allows for 20 levels of adjustment. It is flexible enough.
It has the same Integrated Processor V1 found on LinkBuds and WF-1000XM4, and the same DSEE Extreme processor that can upscale digital music files to near high resolution quality.
Speak-to-Chat is on LinkBuds S, so you can start a conversation with your headphones on. If you stop the conversation and then start and resume playing the music, it will be cut off automatically. You can customize the sensitivity of the function so that it is not caused by a cough. You can also customize the waiting time before feeding back the music to your ears.
Another way to talk is to enable quick attention by tapping and pressing the earphones. This will quickly lower the audio level and allow for quick chat. When you release your finger, the music level will return to normal.
SonyLink BudsS technical specifications
bluetooth SBC, AAC, LDAC
Battery life 6 hours (+14 hours from the case)
Transparent mode yes
Built-in microphone and controls yes
end Black, white, beige
weight 4.8g (per bud)
The surface of each earphone provides touch controls, which are assignable. Out of the box, the right earphone handles the playback, and the surface of the left earphone switches between noise cancellation and transparency mode. These LinkBuds don’t have the original wide area tap feature, but they are responsive and easy to use, so you can control them by touching the surface of the skin just in front of your ears.
As is often the case with Sony wireless earphones, aptX HD is not supported, but it can be streamed via Bluetooth from a compatible source (such as a Sony Xperia 1 III smartphone) to enable high resolution audio. Can handle Sony LDAC format tracks. Files up to 24-bit / 96kHz sent at data rates up to 990kbps.
Battery life is 6 hours on a single charge with the ANC active. This can be extended up to 9 hours with noise canceling turned off. The included charging case provides an additional 14 hours. During testing, Sony found that it was doing pretty well and almost survived a solid desk day of use without having to put it back in the case.
Pairing starts as soon as the case opens, and Sony is also compatible with Google Fast Pair (for Android devices) and Swift Pair for Windows 11 or Windows 10 devices. The buttons on the back of the unit (next to the USB-C charging socket) help you pair it with other devices as needed. It’s still a shame to report that it doesn’t have the “multipoint” connectivity feature found in Sony’s premium wireless over-ear. This allows you to connect to two devices at the same time, such as a computer and a phone.
Noise canceling is included to reduce wind noise when making a call. Sony has significantly improved its games in the call quality sector in recent years. The LinkBuds S isn’t as clear or complete as the WF-1000XM4, but Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup Technology listens to you and reduces interference – noise canceling creates traffic noise and makes trains fuss. It will ring without sound. If you look closely at the sides of each bud, you can actually see the mesh structure that covers the external microphone.
We know where the LinkBuds S fits in with Sony’s current wireless earphones, but where does it fit in with sound quality? Well, there is no problem with the overall balance. Sony tends to float halfway, and here’s another fair performance.
The treble doesn’t feel spicy, and the bass doesn’t sound tabby or fat. The bass is solid and well controlled, and there’s nothing wrong with weighting the bass that punches the Luniz page. I Got 5 On It.. There is a texture there, and each sound has a sense of depth. Percussion, on the other hand, sounds crisp and detailed. Sandwiched between the two is a vocal with a rich attitude.
Switch to the orchestra version of Royal Blood Limbo And Sony draws a picture that is clear enough. They are good at painting with a wide range of strokes and provide a lot of details from rock and classic ensembles. It doesn’t sound as open and spacious as regular Linkbuds, but this is something we miss.
We are a little more disappointed by the apparent lack of drive to sound and dynamic thrust. Everything is present and correct, but the drum sack doesn’t go home as hard as it needs to, and the timing doesn’t feel like it’s nailed. It also lacks the dynamic influence of its major rivals. Everything sounds a little flat.
As the truck is built into the crescendo, the best wireless earphones for money actually ride on drums, strings and vocal homes, but Sony seems to lack the energy needed to actually move the truck forward. The textures of the various instruments all sound a bit like earphones struggle with clarity and separation.
We have been quite spoiled by Sony’s recent adventures in wireless earphones. The WF-1000XM4 sets a new standard for premium wireless in-ear, and the original LinkBuds bring something fresh to the party.
By itself, the LinkBuds S delivers great sound, has good noise canceling, has some useful features, and is lightweight and comfortable to wear. But they are disappointed in terms of audio. They lack the fun elements and rhythmic drives that Sony wireless headphones usually have in spades. It’s solid, but it’s not Sony’s best work.
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