justin duino

A lots of truly wireless headphones they just mimic Apple’s AirPods. They don’t bring new ideas to the table. The sony linkbuds they feature a tremendously unique design and approach to wireless headphones. Fortunately, the risk paid off.

Sony LinkBuds are part of a subgenre of headphones with what is called an “open” design. This technique is an alternative to the type with rubber tips that create a seal in the ear. They’re designed to block out ambient noise, while “open” earphones let it in.

While most “open” headphones just don’t create a seal, Sony took the idea very literally. The LinkBuds have an actual opening directly in the middle of the speakers. For certain situations this is ideal, but it is not for everyone. Let’s find out if it’s for you.

Note: At the time of writing this review, I’ve been using the Sony LinkBuds for over three weeks as my only headphones. I have used them with various phones and computers in that time. I bought the LinkBuds on my own.

Design and Fit

Sony LinkBuds headphones held in a person's hand.
justin duino

The Sony LinkBuds are nothing like a “regular” pair of headphones, that much is obvious. Where you would normally see the speaker casing, there is a literal hole. LinkBuds are essentially the polar opposite of headphones like the Apple AirPods Pro .

This unusual design is what allows outside noise to enter your ear. The ring-shaped speaker aligns with the ear canal so there is nothing to block outside sound from entering. The other internal parts are located in the offset spherical housing.

It took me a few days to understand how the LinkBuds are supposed to fit together. My first instinct was to put the ring as deep in my ear as I could. However, they kept slowly coming out of my ear.

Sony LinkBuds in a person's ear
justin duino

The ring should fit smoothly behind the little bump in the front of your ear and the flexible support arches should tuck behind the creases; sony has a helpful demo video . It should feel like the LinkBuds are floating in your ear. Once I figured that out, they have been super safe and I can wear them for hours without my ears hurting too much.

Sitting at your desk is one thing, but what about staying active? I have used many headphones that don’t stay in my ears while running. Fortunately, I haven’t had that problem with the LinkBuds. They are stable in my ear and allow me to hear the people around me, more on that later.

There is definitely a steeper learning curve than you might be used to due to the unorthodox design. Sony includes four different sizes of support bows to help you dial in the fit for your ear shape. Like any earbud, LinkBuds may not fit the specific shape of your ear, but make sure you wear them correctly before deciding they’re not right for you.

Charging case and battery life

Case size of Sony LinkBuds compared to AirPods Pro.
AirPods Pro vs Sony LinkBuds justin duino

An important part of every pair of truly wireless earbuds is the charging case. The LinkBuds case is smaller and larger than you might expect. The footprint is small, but it’s decently taller than most headphone cases.

That’s probably my least favorite thing about the Sony LinkBuds. The charging case isn’t comfortable in my pocket, and I don’t wear skinny jeans. It’s not ridiculous, but it’s enough for me to opt to put them in my shirt pocket or backpack if I can.

The main purpose of the case is to charge the earphones, so let’s talk about battery life. Sony claims that the headphones last 5.5 hours on a single charge and an additional 12 hours with refills from the case. You’re looking at around 17 hours of listening before you need to charge the case again.

Those numbers have been relatively accurate for me in real life. I have been getting about three total recharges from the case. That works to charge the case almost every day for me. You can certainly find earphones with better battery life, but the LinkBuds are very compact and lightweight. It’s a trade you have to make.

The charging case uses USB-C for charging Unfortunately, there is no wireless charging here. The case also seems to charge very slowly considering the battery isn’t that big, reaching top speeds of 1.5W in our tests.

Sound quality

Sony LinkBuds headphones vs. AirPods Pro headphones.
Sealed (AirPods Pro) vs Open Design (LinkBuds). justin duino

Let’s talk about the sound. Can headphones with a big hole in the middle of the speakers sound good? They can and they do. I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality.

Listening with LinkBuds is actually a bit of a strange experience. Earbuds typically have rubber tips to create a seal or sit loosely in your ear. With rubber tips and noise cancellation, you only hear the music. The loose earcups let you hear more around you, but there’s a speaker blocking your ear, so it’s still a bit muffled.

The hole in the LinkBuds allows you to hear your surroundings very clearly. You might think that would make the music hard to listen to, but that’s not the case. Environmental noise and music can coexist without canceling each other.

will you get the better sound quality absolute of the LinkBuds? No, that’s not really possible without a good seal. Most wireless earbuds have issues with bass, and the open design of the LinkBuds doesn’t improve that issue. Overall, though, I’d say the sound quality is above average.

Of course, certain situations are more suitable for them than others. The aforementioned run is a perfect activity for LinkBuds. I can listen to music or podcasts and if someone says “to your left!” I can still hear them perfectly. It’s also nice not having to choose between listening to music or enjoying the sounds of nature.

Where open design is not good is in places like coffee shops. They have their own music playing, which will interfere with yours. If someone is having a conversation at the next table, you will be able to hear every word. However, that is what LinkBuds are designed for. You have to know when to use them.

Touch controls and additional features

Controls are an incredibly important part of using wireless headphones. They can make or break the entire experience. Fortunately, Sony has equipped the LinkBuds with some of the best controls I’ve ever used.

Each headphone has fully customizable double-tap and triple-tap touch control (using Sony’s Headphone Connect app available at Android Y iPhone ). They can be used for volume, playback, skipping songs, and the Google Assistant or Alexa. The controls are separate, so you could have the left earbud for volume and the right for playback.

The LinkBuds also have integration of Spotify Tap which is quite clever. Let’s say you have the LinkBuds paired with your phone and PC. If you’re listening to Spotify on your PC, the LinkBuds will automatically know to connect to that device when you open the case. Also, if you switch the LinkBuds to your phone while listening, Spotify will automatically switch to your phone as well.

The Sony LinkBuds Lifestyle
Sony

I haven’t mentioned the best part yet: you don’t actually have to touch the headphones. You can simply touch the area immediately in front of your ears. This works surprisingly well and is by far the easiest way to control headphones that I’ve come across.

As mentioned, LinkBuds are compatible with Google Assistant Y Amazon-Alexa . This isn’t my first pair of headphones with Assistant integration, but it’s the first pair that’s been good enough for me to actually use it. The “Hey Google” alarm clock is detected about 90% of the time and responds quickly at those times.

Overall, touch controls and Assistant integration are features that can make a good pair of headphones a great one. If you’re constantly annoyed by the interaction, you won’t want to use them.

Should you buy the Sony LinkBuds?

Sony LinkBuds case held in a person's hand.
justin duino

Now it’s time for the big question: should I buy the sony linkbuds ? Let’s get the price out of the way first. At launch, the LinkBuds cost $180 and are available in white and dark gray. For comparison, Apple’s AirPods are also $180.

Wireless headphones are very subjective. Whether or not you like LinkBuds will depend on your personal use cases and the shape of your ears. That said, I think the LinkBuds are a super solid pair of earbuds from Sony.

If you value being able to hear your surroundings while still having good audio quality, LinkBuds are a great option. You’ll have to play with the fit at first, but eventually you should be able to find the right combination of support arches and positioning.

LinkBuds are unusual, and that means they’re not for everyone. If you are one of the people who is attracted to this design, I think you will be completely satisfied.

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