We covered the Sony Linkbuds on release and were perplexed by their design and how they might sound. Like all things that drive such speculation, we had to get our hands on a pair to try for a few weeks before compiling our honest thoughts. It’s hard enough to tell what these are just by looking at them, let alone assuming how they might sound.
In an effort to help you with your purchase we’re breaking down everything you need to know below alongside our general thoughts after using the Sony Linkbuds for four weeks – we’ll do our best to help you out.
Everything You Need to Know About the Sony Linkbuds
Headphones, Earbuds, Listening Devices – these are just some of the categories you might place the Linkbuds into. Sure, they look like headphones, but they truly fall into a category of their own. The general consensus is to call them ‘open-ring’ in-ear headphones or earbuds so we’ll take a similar approach and just call them transparent earbuds. After all, that’s what they’re designed to achieve.
Design and Fit
Calling them an ‘open-ring’ earbud would make the most sense when talking about design. Best described as an Apple AirPod with a ring hanging off the end of it, the Linkbuds are about half the size of our favourite earbuds from yesteryear – the Sony WF-1000XM3 – and far smaller and lighter than the latest WF-1000XM4.
Designed for everyday wear the Linkbuds weight (around 4g) is the first thing you notice when compared to traditional earbuds. The second thing you notice is how comfortable they fit in your ear, but it’s not the most secure fit. They might be IPX4 water-resistant, but we wouldn’t recommend them for serious physical activity outside of walking or jogging as they have a tendency to fly out of your ear in spectacular fashion should the rubber fin flex.
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Wondering how they actually fit? Sony has a video to illustrate, but in essence, the top side of the Linkbuds features a rubber fin that hooks into the upper cartilage of your ear. Included in the packaging are a number of different fin sizes. Those with large ears won’t find an issue with fit, however, those with very small ears might struggle to fit the device comfortably for extended wear.
The case is made from recycled plastic derived from car parts and features a button closure with an indicator light to tell you how much charge is left. Here, you’ll also find a USB-C charging port (no wireless charging available).
How Do the Sony Linkbuds Sound?
You’ll be shocked how the Linkbuds sound when you try them for the first time. Our expectations were reasonably low considering the open design (even though they include 360 Reality Audio), however, we’re happy to report that the soundstage is wide enough for you to enjoy music at all levels with general use.
Of course, don’t expect these to replace a quality pair of earbuds or headphones, but the 12mm drivers are powerful and do a great job combining with the in-house Sony Integrated Processor V1 to balance the soundstage without much distortion.
These earbuds exist to provide all-day wear in a mixture of environments that include the office chair and daily commute. As such, there has to be compromise. The open design lends itself to the most compromise; as there’s no seal between the earbud and ear, the bass is underwhelming if you listen to a lot of Hip-Hop or RnB. Turning up the music to make those heavy notes ring out results in excessive sound bleeding that will have your work colleagues nudging you politely – “turn it down would ya”. Environmental sounds such as cars driving past, buses, or talking at a cafe will leak into the soundstage and disrupt your listening a little.
So what are you sacrificing all this for? The shortcoming of the open design is a sacrifice you’ll want to make if you enjoy listening to music or a podcast at your desk, but don’t want to miss anything important (like someone calling your name). For us, this is reason enough to go out and buy the Sony Linkbuds. You can listen to music, transition to take a phone call, have a yarn with the person next to you, make a lunch order, say hello to a friend on the street, and then return to your desk without ever taking them off. It’s awesome.
Functions and Battery Life
The design might steal the spotlight but Sony has integrated an equally impressive feature into the Linkbuds that’s surely going to find itself in the earbuds of the future. While you can tap on the sides of the earbuds (to skip tracks, etc.) as you would any other on the market, the Linkbuds integrate a Wide Tap function that allows you to tap on the area just in front of them. Yes, that means you can tap your face to skip tracks and dictate other customisable controls through the Sony Headphones Connect app.
Like other models in the Sony Earbuds lineup, the Linkbuds will mute whatever is playing should you start talking to someone. If the microphones don’t detect anyone for more than 15-seconds they’ll resume playing the music.
The battery life of the Linkbuds is acceptable by today’s standards;
- 17.5 hours total.
- 5.5 hours from the earbuds.
- 12 hours from the charging case.
- 1.5 hours of playback in 10-minutes of charge.
When you consider the size of the device, we’re not surprised it doesn’t have the juice of a flagship pair. Bluetooth 5.2 means fast connection to devices (including laptops). iOS users will have to pair the Linkbuds via the pairing button at the rear of the device.
Should You Buy the Sony Linkbuds?
In a perfect world, the Linkbuds are a great second set of earbuds. If someone was looking for a pair that did it all we’d recommend something that leans into sound quality and noise cancellation like the Sony WF-1000XM4, however, if you’re lucky enough to own a pair of quality earbuds or headphones then these are the perfect second pair for wearing at your desk.
Buy the Linkbuds if;
- You hate the transparency function on your current pair of headphones.
- You want something to wear at your desk all day.
- You enjoy an open and wide soundstage.
- You look for weightless listening. At around 4g these are LIGHT.
Don’t Buy the Linkbuds if;
- You want one pair of headphones that do it all. We’d prefer to compromise transparency than sound quality.
- You want to drown out the world. These are the opposite of noise-cancellation.
- You enjoy thumping bass. While balanced, these won’t give you the low end that you’re looking for.
Price and Availability
The Sony Linkbuds are available in black and white right now for $249 AUD via the links below.
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