Sony’s newest earbuds with Active Noice Canceling are the LinkBuds S, arriving as a cheaper alternative to the more premium WF-1000XM4 earbuds.
The Sony LinkBuds S are the Japanese company’s newest pair of earbuds and the second to carry the LinkBuds name, arriving just a few months after the oddly-designed LinkBuds. The earbuds also arrive just one week after the launch of the WH-1000XM5, headphones aimed at those who prefer an over-the-ear style to truly wireless earbuds.
Sony’s new strategy of launching more affordable earbuds with premium features should help it capture more of the audio wearable market. It has already built a reputation with its premium models that are out of reach for many. However, with these new affordable options, those who can’t afford its more expensive models have alternatives that might better fit their budget.
The LinkBuds S joins the WF-1000XM4 as Sony’s earbuds offerings with active noise cancellation. The design of the new earbuds can be best described as a cross between the premium WF-1000XM4 and the budget WF-C500. Sony has put a high focus on making the earbuds comfortable. The company claims they are not only the smallest, but at 4.8 grams per earbud, they are also the lightest earbuds with ANC. That claim holds true when compared to the Galaxy Buds Pro and the Pixel Buds Pro which weigh 6.3 grams and 6.2 grams, respectively. The earbuds, made from recycled plastic materials, also come with an IPX4 water-resistance rating. While they are available in Black and White in the United States, a third variant—Off-White—is available in Europe.
Sony Didn’t Cut Too Many Corners
At $199, the LinkBuds S earbuds are definitely cheaper than the WF-1000XM4 earbuds which sell for $279, and Sony has tried to avoid shaving off features in the process. The LinkBuds S earbuds use the same Processor V1 for noise canceling, support LDAC codec, as well as Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio (spatial audio). Pairing with Android and Windows devices is also pretty easy as the earbuds have support for Google Fast Pair and Swift Pair. Furthermore, Adaptive Sound Control allows the earbuds to not just automatically switch between noise canceling and ambient modes, but also learn when to do so based on the user’s location. There is also a Speak-to-Chat feature which will automatically pause playback when it detects the wearer begins to speak and resume once the conversation is over.
Each earbud has a 5mm driver and comes with four sizes of silicone tips. They can be controlled via touch, have in-ear detection, and support Google Assistant and Alexa hands-free. The battery life is listed at six hours which is slightly less than the eight hours offered by the WF-1000XM4. The carrying case adds an extra 14 hours for a total of 20 hours. There is support for fast charging, with a five-minute charge providing up to one hour of playback. Similar to the use of smaller drivers and silicone instead of polyurethane foam tips, Sony has cut a corner by removing support for wireless charging. A feature often now found on even cheaper earbuds, such as the OnePlus Buds Pro. As a result, wearers of Sony’s new earbuds will need to rely on USB-C charging, which takes three hours to fully charge when the earbuds and case are completely depleted.
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