Invariably, when you’re looking at the list of features for a set of earbuds, you’ll find right at the top “Active Noise Cancellation.” It makes sense that this would be one attribute that you would want to market. No one wants to be interrupted by outside noise when you’re listening to your favourite music or that riveting audiobook. At least, no one wants that until they do. That appears to be what Sony is banking on with its new LinkBuds.
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The new earbuds’ design is such that sound easily and persistently flows in. Why would you want that, you may ask? When you’re in the office or another public space, or even when you’re at home, and you need to be aware of your surroundings while still being able to enjoy preferred music, then you’ll want earbuds that let you keep track of what’s going on around you rather than blocking that all away.
The LinkBuds have a unique doughnut shape, what Sony refers to as an “open ring design.” The idea is that you insert the ring into your ear, and while the ring plays your music, the open hole lets in the other sounds of your surroundings. But while the earbuds let in the sounds of your kids playing in the living room while you’re working in the office, or of someone knocking on your door, they also offer a high-quality sound that you will appreciate as you work away to your music. The LinkBuds come in five sizes to match up to your ear canal.
The lack of surface area makes controls a bit of an issue, but Sony solved that with sensors that allow you to tap your cheek to initiate playback and other gestures for different controls. You also get great call quality thanks to Sony’s noise-suppression algorithm, which they claim came about after using 500 million voice samples to perfect the process of zeroing in on your voice.
Perhaps the one downfall—if your heart isn’t set on noise cancellation—is that the battery life for the LinkBuds is only 5.5 hours on a single charge. The case recharges an additional 17.5 hours. However, that sacrifice in battery seems to have allowed for a lighter weight and a more comfortable fit. There’s also the added benefit of a more affordable price—right at $180.