In a world where we have been looking to eliminate the noise around us, Sony has decided to take the reverse route; provide us with a way to enjoy our music and the ambient sound. For exactly this experience, the company has brought to us the new LinkBuds truly wireless earbuds in India. With an open ring design, these earbuds urge you to let the background noises in while you groove to the new BTS track. So, is the new combination we need? Is it bye-bye ANC? Read on our review of the new Sony LinkBuds earbuds to know more.
Sony LinkBuds Review (2022)
In this review, I will talk about the design, the fit, how the earbuds performed, and a few more things. In case you want to jump to any specific section, check out the table below.
What’s in The Box?
The Sony LinkBuds come in a small, eco-friendly box, which refrains from using plastic in the packaging. To further promote a sustainable outlook, Sony has used recyclable plastic materials for the earbuds and their charging case. The box contains:
- Sony LinkBuds (WF-H800) earbuds
- USB Type-C charging cable
- User Manual
- 5 sizes of arc support for the earbuds
|Sony LinkBuds||Tech Specifications|
|Frequency Response||20Hz -20,000Hz|
|Drivers||12mm ring drivers|
|Audio Format||SBC, AAC|
|Water Resistance||Yes, IPX4|
|Weight||4.1 grams (each earbud), 34 grams (case)|
|Charging||USB Type-C port|
|Virtual Assistant Support||Yes, Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa|
|Added Features||DSEE, Adaptive Volume Control, 360 Reality Audio, Speak-to-Chat|
Design and Build
In a market that isn’t low on TWS earbuds that look more or less the same, I didn’t see a reason to say no to a unique proposition like Sony LinkBuds. The new LinkBuds try to be that offering and don’t really fail to do so. The new open ring design does stand out and so does the whole concept of staying connected to the world.
These different-looking earbuds are a mixed bag, though. While I love myself a new, unique design, this isn’t the best for my comfort. More on this in the section below. Now, if you are wondering how will these weird-looking earbuds fit your ears, the ring part goes at the bottom part of the ear (Antitragus) and the circular part with the Sony logo stays near the ear canal.
The build quality is fairly decent. Although, having used previous Sony TWS earbuds, I feel Sony could have done a better job. There aren’t any silicon tips to go into your ears but a rather unique design that you just place to begin listening to music. And these earbuds are really small too. With a weight of just 4 grams, they won’t feel bulky.
The earbuds come in a small case (I do appreciate the teeny-tiny size!), which has a gradient texture if you are a fan. The charging case here is easily pocketable, and sometimes, you might even forget they are there. It has a clamshell design with a USB Type-C port, a button to pair it up with your devices, and a button to open and shut the lid. Yep, no magnetic effect here! And this is where my first complaint comes in.
I have been using the Sony LinkBuds for a few days now and the constant need to manually shut and open the case is a hassle. All I wish from a TWS earbuds’ charging case is to shut the case and forget about it, and many would agree with this practice. So, you need to be really careful for these little earbuds can fall off, and you may not even be aware. There’s an LED light, which is an indicator of the charging; green is when the charge is full and orange is when you would need to charge the case.
Comfort and Fit
A unique design doesn’t necessarily speak comfort. And this is where my disappointment reached its peak. While trying to stand out, Sony forgot how important comfort can be for people. And the LinkBuds is just not that. When you first try to wear the earbuds, they would feel intriguing, but wait, for the earbuds will soon become annoying.
Initially, I just couldn’t get a grasp of how to wear the LinkBuds. There’s a tutorial on the Sony Headphones Connect app and even on the website and while the first round of trial made me confident, I soon got a reality check. These earbuds feel like a locker with different password combinations each time you want to open them. Every time I tried using them, at least 15 minutes were spent trying to get the hang of plugging them in your ear the right way.
Even when I did wear the LinkBuds right, they never felt too comfortable. Usage for a long duration caused pain, and all I wanted was to reach out to my daily driver, the AirPods 2. This is also a reason why the volume levels can feel low when it is totally fine if you get the fit right.
My colleague had a similar experience with the earbuds and despite using a different pair of in-box arcs, the discomfort stayed with me all during my testing period. That said, I can’t deny the fact that this comfort could be subjective. Many may find this open ring design a little too convenient as compared to the regular in-ear earbuds. My experience wasn’t the best, but I will leave it to people to decide the fit they like!
The Sony LinkBuds support Google’s Fast Pair and Swift Pair, making it easier to pair them up with an Android or iOS device or a laptop. I mainly used the earbuds with my iPhone and the pairing process was a cinch, exceeding my expectations, to be honest.
Although, there were slight hiccups when I tried to pair it with another iPhone. Some issues did prevail while connecting the LinkBuds with an Android phone, but the task took just a few extra seconds. Overall, Swift Pair ensures easy connectivity with a laptop, and for those who often struggle connecting their TWS with their laptops, this functionality feels like bliss.
I may not be a fan of the fit, but I certainly like the audio quality. The LinkBuds offer a balanced music experience and don’t overdo anything. I juggled between multiple genres: Bollywood, Rock, and even EDM. Each time, the earbuds brought out the details. So, be it the guitar sequence of the famous Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns & Roses or the dreamy vocals of Jhoom by Ali Zafar, all appear delightful.
There’s hardly any distortion and the sound stage is fairly wide. Listen to Thriller by Michael Jackson, and you will be able to hear the footsteps approaching and the howling in the background just right! Mind you, these earbuds boast an open-ring design and aren’t bass-centric. So, while the thumping effect is there and noticeable at times, don’t expect a crazy output while listening to your favorite EDM tracks. I have mostly found myself drawn toward a balanced treble/ mid /low audio output. So, the Sony LinkBuds ticked the box for me!
As mentioned several times above, these earbuds aren’t a part of the ANC bandwagon and instead want you to stay connected to the people around you. The driver unit has a diaphragm with an open center to let the surrounding noises in, and to an extent, this happens. But in my experience, it wasn’t as smooth as Sony advertises. So I’m not a fan of this setup, and it didn’t fit the bill for me. But more importantly, now the purpose seemed defeated.
Moreover, a higher volume (which by the way, led to sound leakage) did passively cancel out the ambient sounds on most occasions. When Sony said we could hear other noises while listening to music, I was curious. But, that hardly happens. And then, earbuds with ANC also do just that with a dedicated transparency mode. So, why build something too uncomfortable if it doesn’t fulfill its purpose?
The LinkBuds is meant to provide a noise-free calling experience and trust me when I say this, this is an area hard to cover. However, the LinkBuds more often than not passes! My calling experience with the earbuds on has been smooth and I hardly encountered any voice breaks or a muffled voice. The person on the other side didn’t face issues either.
Sony uses the voice pickup technology for a clearer voice even with all the noise around and the LinkBuds delivered.
Sony Headphones Connect App and More Features
The Sony LinkBuds come with a companion app for you to control certain functionalities that are offered. The Headphones Connect app is available on both Android and iOS and lets you choose the EQ settings of your own. There are multiple options to choose from,
- Treble Boost
- Bass Boost
- Custom options
While I was intrigued by the choices I got, I couldn’t find major differences between similar modes like Vocal and Speech or Mellow and Relaxed. The Bass Boost did amp up the thumping effect but it wasn’t too drastic. I found myself using the Bright mode more often than not and for those who like an output of that sort, it is recommended.
The Headphones Connect app also offers options such as,
- DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine): DSEE does lend some help in making the sound quality better.
- 360 Reality Audio: This is something I couldn’t even try. The feature requires you to go through a weird analysis of your ears and after failing thrice, I decided to continue without the functionality. And I didn’t really feel I was missing out on something too major. Although, I wish there was an easier way to enable it!
- Sony’s famous Speak-to-Chat: This feature will stop the music when you speak and will continue when the conversation ends. Yes, the feature will stop the music if it hears you talk but forgets to replay the music when you stop. This can be an annoyance so I won’t recommend relying on it.
- Adaptive Volume Control: This will increase the volume of the music if the ambient noises are too loud and will go back to the usual level when the noises subside. This does work and dismisses the need for manually doing the job. But, this can be moody. At times it will work flawlessly and then there will be adjustments even when there’s no noise at all.
The app offers a lot of options to try out, thus, giving you more control. But, it can be overwhelming for people if they don’t require all these options at their disposal. The app also notifies you when the battery of the case is low, but Sony, here’s some feedback; multiple reminders are not what we want!
Other than this, there’s support for touch controls and these aren’t the usual tap-on-the-earbud scenarios. Once you enable the Wide Area Tap option on the app, you will be able to play/pause and change the songs by tapping (double-tapping for play/pause and triple-tapping for the next song) the area between your cheeks and the ear. As interesting and unique as it sounds, this can be a hit and a miss! There’s support for a hands-free virtual assistant too and Quick Access to Spotify as well.
One thing to point out is that while the LinkBuds has a model number, WF-L900, my review unit has the model number WF-H800.
Besides providing good sound quality, the Sony LinkBuds’ battery life is appreciated. I usually tend to start my day by listening to music on my commute and then spend more hours with the earbuds on while I write. In fact, I wrote this article while using the Sony earbuds.
The earbuds lasted for around 5 to 6 hours on a single charge and with the case in play, the audio accessory went on for more than 2 days. This, I feel is pretty decent. This was while the DSEE feature was enabled, which tends to decrease the playback time. So, there will be more juice if you disable these features.
The charge time is between an hour and two and that was fine too. As for the fast charging capability, I was able to use them for about 45 minutes after charging them for just 10 minutes and while this can be more too, even 45 minutes felt like a good deal when I was in a rush and badly needed the earbuds while I traveled to work.
Pros and Cons
|Good sound and mic quality||Non-magnetic case|
Sony LinkBuds: Should You Buy or Skip?
Throughout my review period, I struggled to come to a conclusion about whether or not the Sony LinkBuds is an attractive option right now. While it will definitely turn some heads owing to the new form factor and the thought of letting in the ambient sounds, I don’t see the purpose here.
For me, the earbuds are awfully uncomfortable, and allowing noises into my “music time” isn’t what I look for. Plus, at Rs 19,990, they stand at the expensive end of the spectrum, which not many would want to dive into. Again, some might like the whole idea, and if they are willing to spend this kind of money, the LinkBuds is your link to the world around and your music streaming apps.
And if you are looking for a more wholesome experience, the Sony WF-1000XM4 (Rs 17,990) and the Sennheiser Momentum 3 (Rs 19,989) are still great contenders at the same price, offering a more comfortable fit, ANC, and more features. And if you are lucky, you can get them at a further discounted price during the sales. What’s your take on the unique open design of the Sony LinkBuds? Would you be open to trying it out or going for a traditional in-ear design? Let us know in the comments below.
|Value for Money|