Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 review: Are these noise-cancelling headphones for you?

Sony’s LinkBuds are unlike any other pair of earbuds I’ve used – namely because there’s a donut-like ring that sits in your ear. This design allows continuous outside sound to flow in, making it ideal for returning to the office, studying in the library or around the house.

There are many headphones you can get with more features for LinkBuds $179 Price, but none of them are uniquely designed to always let in outside sounds. I spent over a week with Sony LinkBuds, selling AirPods 3, Beats Fit Pro and AirPods Pro for their unique design. So unpack them and see if they’re worth listening to.

Noise Canceling Headphones

Whether you’re a student going back to school, a worker heading back to the office, or you’re at home with a lot of family members, LinkBuds can be more useful to you than headphones. with active noise cancellation (ANC). You’ll just need to consider which features you value most.

Who, what and how?

Who is this for: Sony’s LinkBuds are best for people who don’t care about ANC and want to always hear their surroundings. They are ideal for people who work outdoors, people who love to run and parents who are at home working with kids.

What you need to know: LinkBuds offer the best transparency we’ve tested and deliver exceptional sound quality for their small size. They have a unique design that may not fit all ears, specifically those with smaller ear canals. You will want to take the time to find the right rubber tip that works best for you. And while these earbuds provide punchy sound, they don’t provide a secure cushioning and don’t feature active noise cancellation.

How do these compare: LinkBuds offer better transparency than other earbuds because they have a physical hole in the design to allow unfiltered conversations and environmental sounds. It’s a more natural ambient noise experience than Galaxy Buds Live and works better AirPods Pro with transparency enabled. The sound quality is on par with the more expensive Sony WH-1000XM4, but since they don’t seal your ears, it’s not the most immersive experience. Battery life is only about 5 and a half hours, far behind similar priced earbuds.

Jacob Krol / CNN

LinkBuds has a physical flaw and it is not by accident. Sony calls this an “open ring design,” but we like to call it a donut.

It took me a few days to get used to this design. My ears are slightly on the smaller side and I needed to try with the rubber tip that sits around the main hull. This transparent piece of elastic keeps the LinkBuds from vibrating inside your ears or, worst of all, from falling out. Sony includes five sizes in the box (extra small, small, medium, large, and extra large) and I recommend you try them all. After about two days, I found the fit, and for the most part, the LinkBuds stayed. They were even put in indoor cycles on the Peloton and running. The LinkBuds are also IPX4 rated, which means they can handle drenched sweat and even light showers.

And like most true wireless headphones, Link of Sony live in a small combined charging and carrying case. It can easily slip into a relatively small trouser pocket or even a breast pocket. You’ll need to charge it via USB-C, as Sony doesn’t include wireless charging here. The buds and shell are made from recycled plastic, which feels softer to the touch than regular plastic but is still quite durable. You can also choose white or black for the LinkBuds.

Jacob Krol / CNN

Due to the lack of space where the LinkBuds can be touched, the Sony control situation is a bit unique and strange at first. Thanks to built-in sensors, Tap Wide bud lets you touch your cheek or the area in front of the headset to control playback. It’s weird, but it’s also a good use of space.

You don’t have to be too forceful, but two quick taps on the edge of my face paused or resumed playback. The headset will sound a notification to let you know that they have recognized the command. You can also touch the top of the LinkBuds to control them.

Jacob Krol / CNN

It’s repeatable, but the LinkBuds don’t completely seal your ears and don’t offer noise cancellation either. That’s because these headphones are built to keep you in tune with the world around you.

Once I’ve squared the fit, I start using LinkBuds at the beginning of my workday, take them out for lunch, and recharge for the rest of the day. They are not as easy to forget as Beats Fit Pro or AirPods Probut they also don’t weigh heavily on the ears, especially since they usually sit upright.

While knocking on my desk, I could hear someone knocking on the door, even at about 70% volume. It also sounds quite natural, considering that LinkBuds Do not use the microphone to emit environmental noise. Sometimes I could hear my upstairs neighbor’s dog running across the floor, the HVAC kicking in, and even the dishwasher cleaning a pile of cups and plates. It makes you more aware of your space and is an absolute joy to use at home, even more so while working.

From a personal safety perspective, I can find this especially useful in situations where extra attention is needed, like walking at night, using public transport, or navigating new places.

However, there’s no way to block these noises, and if that’s a must, you won’t like or dislike the LinkBuds. Even when listening to music at a higher volume, you can still hear most of the noise from the environment. You’ll also experience more sound leakage at higher volumes – something to keep in mind if you’re in a shared space.

Sony has an Adaptive Volume Mode (which can be enabled in the included Headphones Connect app), which intelligently adjusts levels based on your location. It uses the microphone to listen to the noise levels around you, and set a good level in my testing.

Jacob Krol / CNN

The sound quality of the LinkBuds is strong, even for a pair of earphones with a hole in the middle.

Powering the audio experience here are custom 12mm drivers with Integrated Processor V1 debuting on Sony WF-1000XM4. The sound is crisp and clear, with solid bass that isn’t muffled.

With “The Waiting” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, you get an accurate reproduction of the track that gives equal attention to Petty’s shaker, drums, guitar, and vocals harmonizing on top. In a track as dense as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” LinkBuds doesn’t hesitate to let all aspects of the sound wall shine through, making several guitars, drums, pianos, and saxophones known. arrive.

Even when Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” plays at near full volume, the opening bass is rich, and the vocal assaults paired with drums and guitars are as powerful as ever.

Solid battery life and microphone

Jacob Krol / CNN

One area where we wish Sony had more to offer is battery life. The LinkBuds very small and only offers about five hours of battery life when listening. I was able to stretch it to almost 5 hours and 45 minutes, but that was at lower listening volumes. It’s behind similarly priced earbuds, like the AirPods 3, which lasted 6 hours and 10 minutes. Sony’s WF-1000XM4 beat these even more at 12:30. The charging case provides about 12 more hours of listening, and 17 hours in total – shorter of the two AirPods 3 at 30 o’clock and WF-1000XM4 at 24 hours.

Microphone quality is pretty solid, working best when you’re indoors. LinkBuds has an embedded microphone and a custom algorithm that works to recognize your voice, minimizing distortion and delivering clear results. And since you can hear your own voice while you speak, calls are a little more natural than with other types of earbuds.

The $179 Sony Link Stand as the first headset that doesn’t completely disconnect you from the world around you. They are unique and offer some very special use cases. Whether you’re a back-to-school student, a worker heading back to the office, or at home with a bunch of family members, LinkBuds can be more useful to you than earbuds with ANC.

In the end, you’ll need to consider what you appreciate most for this premium price. Those who want better noise cancellation should use $199 Beats Fit Pro or $199 Galaxy Buds Pro, both just $20 more than LinkBuds. But if you want powerful sound and the ability to hear the world around you, then the LinkBuds are worth considering. Just be patient with finding the right fit.

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