In a world where everyone wants to be an Apple AirPods imitator, a refreshing and unique pair of TWS earbuds is highly appreciated.
Sony and audio go hand in hand and it’s no surprise the LinkBuds are getting a lot of attention. Sony already has the WF-1000XM4 (TWS headphones) and WH-1000XM5 (over-ear headphones) in their arsenal. You might not like Sony’s naming convention, but there’s no denying that these are premium products. Sony’s latest, the LinkBuds, are headphones like you’ve never seen them before.
LinkBuds are designed to let you hear ambient sound. Sony says they “connect your words online and offline”.
Having used them for about two weeks now, I can clearly see that Sony had a specific target audience in mind when R&Ding these headphones. Maybe those New York jaywalkers will benefit from wearing these oddballs.
Weird design, unusual fit that’s not for everyone
The LinkBuds take a while to adjust, and the fit isn’t for everyone. There are two sections in the design of these modules. There’s the ring (which houses a ring-shaped driver) and the pod (which houses the battery and other electronics). There is a “Wide Area Tap”, where you can tap for various commands. The LinkBuds are IPX4 rated, which means they are splash and sweat resistant.
At just 4g, these are tiny, lightweight headphones, and once you get a comfortable fit, they never feel like they’re falling out. Sony offers five sizes of wingtips – extra small, small, medium, large and extra large – for you to choose from.
The problem with the open design is that they lack bass and the treble is weak, which means the instruments lack a lot of detail.
Unlike most earphones where you touch a specific part of the earphone for commands, the LinkBuds are different. You need to pat the area on the side of your face, right next to the ear itself. It took me a while to get used to it. But once I did, it was pretty effective for the most part. I still find it a bit odd even after two weeks of tapping the side of my face.
One of the best things about the LinkBuds is that the charging case is incredibly compact. It can slip into any pocket and even into the coin pocket of your jeans. It charges via USB-C but these forgo wireless charging. Sony rated these buds for 5.5 hours on a single charge while the case still offers 12 hours of listening time. Plenty of battery life to spend an entire day at the office and more.
Let me hear the outside world
Thanks to the donut-shaped design, you can be fully aware of your surroundings wherever you are. Even while listening to music, the sound of car horns, yelling salespeople and arguing colleagues can be heard with relative ease. One can even have full conversations without having to remove the buds. I tried a few calls using the LinkBuds on a crowded subway ride and my voice came through clearly on the other end of the call.
Playing music is where the LinkBuds let me down. The buds struggled with deeper notes and the instrument separation wasn’t up to par. There is a full equalizer, thanks to the app, and I was able to get better sound after making some adjustments. However, if you are looking for pure musical quality, the LinkBuds are not for you. If you’re a fan of punchy bass, you better stay away from it. These LinkBuds are better for podcasts than listening to music.
The only downside to the open-form design is that there is no insulation. You can hear everything around you at all times. So if you want an immersive experience, the LinkBuds are going to be a bummer. But, as I said above, there is clearly an audience for these.
Playing music is where the LinkBuds let me down. The buds struggled with deeper notes and the instrument separation wasn’t up to par.
(Photo by Sahil Bhalla)
Prajakta Hebbar, a writer based in Pune, has been using the LinkBuds for over 8 months now. She was used to JBL headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) and there was an adjustment period in store for her. Eight months later, he does not miss the ANC at all. “No, I don’t miss the active noise cancellation as such. One of the things I’ve noticed, and I’m sure everyone here will agree, is that it doesn’t It’s not safe for a woman to walk the streets of Indian cities with earphones. We don’t feel safe, we feel a bit on the edge,” says Hebbar. “But these Sony earphones are perfect for that very reason. – they give you, what I like to think of as a personal background score, without erasing the sounds of the outside world. It’s great for music, but podcasts are a little hard to hear if you’re in a really loud environment.
I can’t think of a better way to sum up LinkBuds than Hebbar. “A personal background score” is exactly what these buds are.
Hebbar agrees, however, that the fit can be an issue. “I’m used to wearing them now, so it’s no longer a problem. But you need some time to get used to it and adjust the little plastic rings to suit your ear size,” says Hebbar. “I usually wear them for meetings and during the day, and unlike normal headphones, you don’t even have to take them off if you’re talking to other people, in person.”
Verdict: Are the LinkBuds Worth the Price?
There’s no doubt that Sony’s LinkBuds are a niche product. They retail for ₹19,990 (although you can get them for around ₹15,000 off) and they charge a lot for what they offer.
The LinkBuds are new, unique and a very interesting take on Bluetooth headphones. They sound decent, are good for voice calls, and provide a sense of security when you’re on the go on the streets. The fit takes a bit of getting used to, but beyond that, these are pretty comfortable headphones that you can wear all day.
The target audience is clearly joggers and cyclists, and they would be very happy with the LinkBuds. These headphones were designed to allow you to let the outside world in. If that’s what you want from your headphones, then there’s nothing better than the LinkBuds. Before you spend your hard-earned cash, just ask yourself if you fit into the “target audience” for these buds, then go for it. If you don’t fall into this group, there are plenty of alternatives on the market these days.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist