In the market flooded with true wireless headphones, Sony’s LinkBuds have an unconventional design (what Sony calls an open-ring design). Technically, each bud has a transparent hole to let in sound from the outside environment, even when listening to music or on calls. But are they comfortable to wear and do they sound good? Let’s find out.
Design and fit
Sony LinkBuds have a unique design. A circular ring with the 12mm driver attached to a round case that houses the battery and other components. Yet, considering the design, each bud weighs just 4.1 grams.
To wear the LinkBuds properly, I had to hold and slide the driver housing down into the earlobe to get the ring to fit smoothly. It is worn so that the open ring does not cover the ear canals. And the ring is almost hidden, with only the buds visible. Surprisingly, the fit is comfortable making it convenient to wear continuously for hours. Sony has also added four additional mounting brackets in the box to adjust – tighten or loosen the fit.
The buds are housed in a compact rectangular case, which is much smaller than the Apple AirPods or any of the Samsung Buds. The case contains a button on the front for opening and closing (no it’s not magnetic) and there is a reset button as well as an LED indicator on the back which helps pair the buds .
Focusing on the environment, Sony has used recycled plastic for the housing and earpiece. Even the packaging is made from recycled materials without the use of plastic. The buds come with a small cable – for charging the case.
Tap to control
Considering the compact size, I was a little worried about the bud controls. But Sony handled everything smoothly. The sides of the buds are tender to the touch. This means double tapping can pause or play media, and triple tapping can advance a track.
However, commands can be customized and assigned using the Sony Headphones Connect app. For example, I switched the control to the left for volume control. Luckily, tapping on the bud doesn’t make the donut-like ring sitting on the creases of the ear uncomfortable.
But if so, there is an interesting alternative – the wide tap area. Yet another unique feature, with this the same controls are accessible by pressing just in front of the ear. For some it might be weird and for others it might be cool.
While playing media on noise cancellation buds, there were situations where my co-workers and family tried to talk to me, and I wasn’t even aware that they were standing next to me. until they tap on my shoulder. With the LinkBuds, this is not the case. The hole in the ring ensures that ambient sound passes into the ear. So whether it was crossing the road, sitting in a cafe or in the office, or ringing the doorbell at home, when I was wearing the headphones, I was always aware of my surroundings.
And while that’s the only selling point, it also turns out to be a downside. Especially in a noisy environment, because it can’t block noise. Given the design, there’s also no active noise cancellation feature.
Besides the default settings, you can explore more with the Sony Headphones Connect app. For example, equalizer settings, custom controls, firmware updates and more. The aforementioned “wide zone tap” and “adaptive volume control” can also be accessed through the app. The 360 Reality Audio feature provides an immersive experience like watching a live performance, but only works with certain apps.
These headphones are designed to let sound in and do not support active noise cancellation. However, this did not compromise the sound output. I tested the buds with a mix of Hindi, English and instrumental music. I got a clean output with pronounced vocals and well-balanced highs. But Sony’s signature bass was a failure in different genres of music. With outside noise coming in, the only respite is the adaptive volume control feature which automatically optimizes the volume based on ambient noise. But even then, I couldn’t enjoy the music when I was sitting in an outdoor cafe because it drew in all the unwanted noise.
The pair of headphones lasted me almost 5 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge. And the case had enough juice to charge the buds twice. But when you’re in a hurry, a quick 10-minute charge provides over an hour of playback.
Priced at Rs 14,990, the LinkBuds are perfect for those who often wear headphones outdoors, such as for running, biking, biking or spending a lot of time in the field. But if you’re looking for buds with active noise cancellation, you might want to consider Sony’s WF-1000XM4 with active noise cancellation and ambient sound mode for Rs 19,990.
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