The Sony LinkBuds carrying an open-ear design have been polarising among reviewers. Yet, my colleague could barely fault them in her review, even going from sceptic to convert after spending just under a week testing them.
Part of Sony’s new audio rollout includes the LinkBuds S. Featuring eartips and a more bulbous design, they aren’t too different in looks from other common wireless earbuds on the market.
But as I’d find out later, it’s what they could offer that mattered more in the end.
Looks and feel
I received the LinkBuds S in white. Using recycled plastic materials from automobile parts, the texture of its charging case and earbuds were sanded to a fine matte finish and felt paper-like. Though smooth to the touch, they slipped out of my fingers way too many times than I’d like to admit, especially when flipping the case’s lid open and closed one-handed.
But hey, I’m generally a clumsy person in the first place, so it may be a personal shortcoming.
The charging case itself is of a nice size and easily pocketable, with an LED on the front to display its battery levels, along with a USB-C charging port and reset button on its back.
Battery life on the LinkBuds S is estimated to be around six hours with ANC enabled, and a total of 20 hours with case recharges. Throughout my testing so far, Sony’s claims have matched up to my experience.
Like most brands, the Sony LinkBuds S come with varying silicone eartip sizes to fit securely in different ears. I switched mine out to the XS ones, and they sat comfortably in my ear canals.
In terms of the in-ear fit, the LinkBuds S are delightfully comfortable, and I had no issue wearing them for hours at a time, as they weigh just 4.8g each.
Sounds good enough
My colleagues have been singing their praises for Sony’s audio products for a while now. One of them has been a massive Sony fanboy for years, and another just recently claimed that she might now prefer Sony’s audio devices better than Jabra’s. For context, the latter was the brand that converted her (and subsequently, me) from being non-believers in wireless earbuds to ones that can’t unplug our ears.
Doubtful, I plugged in the LinkBuds S and tuned into my usual Disney musicals and pop music. I was initially taken aback by how clearly I could hear every single vocal and instrument on the track, especially the airiness in the vocalist’s falsetto.
I’d say that the LinkBuds S excelled in the trebles and mid tones, though I found that the bass wasn’t giving me enough “oomph”, despite switching between various EQs in the app.
It didn’t take away from the audio clarity, but my tunes were missing some depth, depth that my trusty Jabra wireless earbuds offered me without fail.
As for the ANC on the LinkBuds S, I just wished it was more pronounced. While it did shut out some noises and chatter around the office, I could still hear muffled mumbling around me with my music on.
Then again, I can’t really fault the LinkBuds S for that as they were designed to be worn at all times, whether lounging on the couch or while walking down the streets (where actual safety is concerned).
Voice calls on the LinkBuds S have been pretty great. I could hear my caller loud and clear, and they reported the same on my end, since the LinkBuds S have a mesh covering over the outer microphones to help filter out surrounding noises.
I let them stay put in my ears
Because the S in LinkBuds S is supposed to stand for their “smarts”, Sony claims that the earbuds never need to be taken off while you go about your daily life. With Adaptive Sound Control, the company envisions people wearing them throughout the day, with the buds automatically reacting to different activities, changes in location, and so on.
I left the earbuds planted in my ears for a whole morning in a busy office. From writing, light discussions with my colleagues, walking around the office, and some snacking, all this happened while one of our colleagues was testing out a new vacuum at full sucking power.
With a single tap on the left earbud, I could toggle between ANC and ambient sound. It was a quick and convenient switch between focusing on my work and answering my colleagues’ questions, all without having to pause my music.
However, I am someone who finds it distracting to have audio in my ears while talking to people, so the Speak-to-Chat function on the LinkBuds S came in handy.
Via Sony’s Headphones app, Speak-to-Chat automatically pauses your audio for 5, 15, or 30 seconds when you speak, allowing you to converse. The LinkBuds S will then pick up where you left off after your conversation ends.
This feature is similar to taking off an earbud with auto-pause functions. It’s something the LinkBuds S has too, though it’s not always accurate.
My only wish was that Sony had built-in vents or some other way of alleviating ear pressure and the “plugged up” feeling. Ironically, as odd as the “8” shape of the Sony LinkBuds we previously reviewed was, it probably would’ve been the ideal solution to overcoming this “plugged up” feeling.
Testing the LinkBuds S for almost a week now, am I convinced that it’s worth an RM929 price tag?
Not really, for a few personal reasons.
I’m not somebody who keeps my earbuds plugged into my ears all day, so I do find its Adaptive Sound Control less beneficial to me.
With that, I’ll probably also switch off the Speak-to-Chat function and manually take an earbud out of my ear to auto-pause my tracks.
Reason being, I sing along to my music a lot and usually softly read out whatever I’m typing while writing articles. The LinkBuds S would annoyingly pause my audio even after I’ve lowered its sensitivity for the Speak-to-Chat feature.
Furthermore, the touch control functions on the earbuds would unintentionally trigger commands, pausing my music or switching out of ANC when I don’t intend to. Hence, my belief that tangible buttons are superior still persists.
Nonetheless, the great audio quality (albeit the lack of bass and depth) is something that Sony inarguably maintains well, and the LinkBuds S are a worthy contender for those looking to upgrade their current earbuds.
If I could pinpoint the right target market for the Sony LinkBuds S, I would say they best fit those who are constantly on the go and want earbuds that don’t entirely shut out their surroundings.
|Good sound and call quality||Sub-par ANC|
|Lightweight and comfortable to wear for long hours||Overly sensitive Speak-to-Chat feature, even on the lowest sensitivity|
|Seamless integration of digital audio and environmental noise|
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