As I sit here listening to Brandy’s last album B7 with Sony’s Linkbuds, I am highly impressed with what they offer in terms of sound quality. The Linkbuds are Sony’s attempt to entice music listeners who still want to be connected to the outside without having the earbuds enhance the sound but allow it to become more natural. The unique design of the Linkbuds will enable you to enjoy the outside world and deliver a well-balanced audio experience. This experience comes at the cost of $179, which puts it up there with the Apple Airpods without some of the bells and whistles you expect at that price.
Design and fit
- Open design
- Small and light
- May not fit all ears
The design of the Linkbuds is quite unique, and there is not anything like it on the market. Sony is known for creating experiences that are slightly different than what is typically found on the market, and they did not shy away with the design of the Linkbuds. These earbuds feature a hole in the speaker enclosure, which in return leads to the sounds around you penetrating your listening experiences. The small size of the earbuds will come as a surprise as many earbuds with unique designs tend to be big than average. The fantastic thing about the Linkbuds is that they are made from 100% recycled plastics, and the box is fully recyclable.
The donut-shaped speaker is connected to a rounded housing that sits in the conch of the ear, while the speaker sits in the ear canal. The buds include multiple fin sizes that attach to the rounded housing; without these fins or figuring out the perfect fin size, the Linkbuds will fall out every time.
There are only two color options to choose from, black and gray. At first, I was somewhat disappointed in the color options, but now recognizing the reason behind the earbuds, the color options fit the aesthetic of what Sony wanted to accomplish with these earbuds. The buds are about 50% smaller than the Sony WF-1000XM4 and very light in comparison also. I noticed that they did not feel overbearing when I had them in my ears.
The charging case is very small and, may I say, cute; one gripe about it is that the case locks, but that’s not a significant issue. However, the case is just that, a case, there is no wireless charging present, and for $179, I expected wireless charging at least.
The Linkbuds aren’t particularly the best when it comes to battery life. They sport a small battery giving you about 5.5 hours of battery life before needing to charge. However, the case extends that life to about 17.5 hours and can quickly charge the buds for about 90-minutes of playback in a matter of 10 minutes. The battery life that Sony has presented is based on if you have Wide Tap Area turned off, volume set to 50%, and disabling other extra features. It is kind of disappointing to know that is all you gain from a pair of earbuds at this price point and are made for working from home.
- Clear sound
- Would like more bass
- Wide soundstage
B7 is such a great album to test the sound quality of audio devices because this album is perfect for hearing the intricacies of a voice intertwined with beautiful music. The Linkbuds are surprisingly excellent at handling music at its core. The soundstage is relatively wide, and every time I start up a new song, I’m shocked at how great these buds produce sounds. The design of the earbuds does not cater to bass-heavy songs at all. The bass is not deep like you would find in other earbuds, but its presence is welcomed because it caters to the target market of the Linkbuds.
Being open-back earbuds allows the sounds to be airy, natural, and full of life to some degree. However, the sound is not overbearing, and sitting on my porch in the country allows me to still experience the beauty of nature surrounding me. Unlike Galaxy Buds Live, which creates an immersive music experience, the Sony Link Buds creates a pure experience not found with Buds Live.
I can honestly say that I enjoy the audio quality found here; I prefer bass, but hearing some of my favorite songs that are not drowned out by bass was very welcoming. The subtle approach to bass is very welcome and in line with what Sony is presenting here. The mids and highs are clear and bright without being overbearing; Sony did a fantastic job creating a pair of buds that offers a well-balanced audio experience. 3D audio is also quite an enjoyable experience with these earbuds; just finding the right songs to take advantage of that is quite interesting.
This open design does, however, lead to audio being heard by people beside you, and do not expect to have an experience that blocks out external noises. The Linkbuds are designed to ensure that you are aware of your surroundings at all times, so living in a busy city like New York, you will hear your music and the bustling city surroundings. Sony does include an optional auto volume feature that will adjust volume based on your surroundings, and it works well enough to keep things sounding great as clean as possible. However, this feature works as well as the design that it is attached to; you will not block out all sounds.
Sony has included several EQ presets in the Sony Headphones app to enhance the sound quality to your liking. There is also a DSEE, a technology designed by Sony to improve the sound quality of compressed audio files. However, the open-back design makes it hard to distinguish when DSEE is utilized.
The call quality of the Linkbuds is really excellent; just like many mics, windy conditions are annoying, but the Linkbuds do a great job of isolating any instances that would distort the voice quality.
Ease of Use
- Wide Area Tap
- Speak to Chat
- Voice Assistance
Like most modern earbuds, the Linkbuds feature touch controls on the rounded housing. However, my favorite feature about these earbuds is that I do not have to tap that specific part of the housing, but I can tap the front part of my ear to control various features. Wide Area Tap is called, but it only comes with two gestures per earbud.
You can choose Playback Control, Volume Control, Select Song, Voice Assist Function, Amazon Alexa, or None per earbud. However, if you select Control Volume for one earbud and Playback Control for the other, that is all you get. The other features are voided out until you change the earbud settings. As Android users, you do gain access to Google Assistance.
Sony’s speak-to-chat feature helps blend in Sony’s open design. However, the earbuds will stop playing with this feature once they detect that you are speaking, so if you like to sing along to music while listening, I suggest turning this feature off. The music will start playing again after 15-seconds of you not speaking anymore.
Like any other Bluetooth earbuds, the Linkbuds utilize Bluetooth to connect to your device. It also includes Google Fast Pair, but traditionally connecting them is just as simple. I am disappointed that no Bluetooth Multi-point feature would allow me to transition from my many devices without any problems. Unfortunately, I have come to expect that from any audio device in today’s age.
Should you buy them?
My verdict is that they are a great purchase when they are on sale, especially if you like bass in your music. Granted, I think the soundstage is very clear and pure; the subtle bass can be a drawback for some people. The battery life is also slightly disappointing, but I do not envision a moment in which you would want pair of open-back earbuds in your ear all day.
The best case for using these are for people who like to experience the outside world but are still connected to the digital world. For example, parents with young kids can still enjoy their favorite song or podcast but keep an eye on their young ones.
Overall, it’s a great product, and I would recommend them whenever they go on sale, but as of right now, they can be a bit too pricey for the lack of features presented in other earbuds for the same price.
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