Introduction and full review of sony LinkBuds S
According to JBQ, Sony has a reputation for great wireless headphones, and the LinkBuds S have no shortage of positives, but they’re also not great sonic successes.
Sony wasted no time in introducing a new member of its LinkBuds wireless headphone family. The Originals launched in March 2022, with their innovative ring driver design offering something a little different from the norm in terms of both fit and sound quality. They weren’t perfect, but they did more than enough to get our attention and earn a four-star review.
Just a few months later, a new pair of LinkBuds arrived called the Sony LinkBuds S. However, looking at the design of this next model, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that they are from the same family.
+ Strong bass
+ Good noise cancellation
The dynamics can be improved
-No drive to sound
At £180 / $199 / AU$350, the LinkBuds S sit just above the original LinkBuds (£150 / $180 / AU$300). Given that they bring active noise cancellation to the party, it’s no surprise that they cost more than the LinkBuds and some of the non-ANC competition.
Sony LinkBuds S (Black) at Amazon for £119.99
Compared to the ‘tested’ price of the premium Sony WF-1000XM4 (£250 / $280 / AU$450), you can see a natural progression to the more expensive pair, although you can now find the XM4 for around £199. / $230 / AU$299 If you shop around, the gap is hardly wide.
Around that price, if you want something with a sportier edge, you’ve got the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 (£219 / $249.95 / AU$399.95) or the JBL Reflect Flow Pro (£160 / $180 / AU$299). . Of course, you can also throw the original AirPods Pro into the equation, as they now cost just over £200 / $200 / AU$300. Meanwhile, the five-star AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are comfortably above the LinkBuds S’s price range.
JBQ says, While the original LinkBuds were all about the open-loop driver and intentionally let in outside sound, Sony has returned to a more traditional wireless headphone design with a new 5mm driver for the LinkBuds S. Gosh and Sony have also added active noise cancellation (ANC) to help keep out the outside world.
Despite the change in design and implementation of this additional technology, Sony has still managed to keep the phone small. Very small. When these headphones were released, Sony claimed they were the world’s smallest wireless noise-canceling headphones. Sony says they’re 41 percent smaller than the WF-1000XM4 and 33 percent lighter.
And they feel it both in your hands and in your ears. They’re easy to slide and twist into place to get a good seal (four different tip sizes are provided in the box). They’re also IPX4 water resistant, meaning the Sonys can handle your average gym and office commute.
The LinkBuds S came in white, black, and a beige color called Ecru, though Sony has since released an eco-friendly pair in Earth Blue, made from recycled water dispenser bottles. This gives the outer surface of the buds and body a “one-of-a-kind” marble effect, reminiscent of Global Hypercolour t-shirts.
In addition to active noise cancellation, LinkBuds S also offers ambient sound, or transparency mode, which lets you hear more of what’s going on around you. In fact, if you use Sony’s headphone app, there are 20 levels of adjustment, which is more than generous flexibility.
They come with the same integrated V1 processor found in the LinkBuds and WF-1000XM4, and the same DSEE Extreme processor that can upscale digital music files to near-high definition quality.
Speak-to-Chat is on the LinkBuds S, allowing you to start a conversation with the headphones still in place. They will automatically pause when you start talking and resume playing music when you stop talking. You can customize the sensitivity of this feature so it won’t be triggered by coughs, as well as how long they wait before the music returns to your ears.
Another way to chat is to tap and hold the headphones to activate Quick Attention, which immediately lowers the volume so you can have a quick chat. Remove your finger and the music level will return to normal.
Technical specifications of SONY LINKBUDS S
- Bluetooth SBC, AAC, LDAC
- Battery life 6 hours (+14 hours from the box)
- USB-C charging
- Transparency mode yes
- Built-in microphone and controls: Yes
- Finishes Black, White, Ecru
- Weight 4.8 grams (per bud)
The surface of each headphone offers touch controls and are customizable. Out of the box, the right earbud controls playback, while the left earbud switches between noise canceling and transparency mode. They’re responsive and easy to use, though these LinkBuds lack the original’s Wide Area Tap feature, which lets you control them by touching the surface of your skin right in front of your ear.
As with Sony’s wireless headphones, there’s no support for aptX HD, but they can handle songs in Sony’s LDAC format, played via Bluetooth from a compatible source (such as the Sony Xperia 1 III smartphone ), enables high image resolution. Audio files are transferred at up to 24-bit/96kHz with a data rate of up to 990 kbps.
With ANC enabled, battery life is 6 hours per charge. By turning off the noise cancellation, this time can be extended up to 9 hours. The included charging case provides an additional 14 hours. During testing, we found the Sonys to be nearly foolproof, surviving almost a solid day of use at our desk without needing to be returned to their case.
Pairing starts as soon as the case is opened, and Sonys are also compatible with Google Quick Pair (for Android devices) and Swift Pair for Windows 11 or Windows 10 devices. There’s a button on the back of the device (next to the USB-C charging socket) to help you pair with other devices if you want. We were disappointed that the LinksBuds S omitted Sony’s ‘Multipoint’ connection feature, which lets you connect to two devices at once and features Sony’s premium wireless on-ears – but this feature is now being added via the November 2022 firmware update. has been
Packed with noise cancellation is wind noise reduction that helps with phone calls. Sony has really upped its game in the call quality department in recent years, and while the LinkBuds S aren’t quite as crisp and full as the WF-1000XM4, Sony’s Precision Sound Pickup technology still does a good job of hearing your voice. Interference Reduction – The noise canceling system sends out traffic noise and train sounds are heard without noise. Look closely at the side of each bud and you can actually see the mesh structure covering the outer microphones.
We know where the LinkBuds S rank among Sony’s current wireless headphones, but where do they rank on the sound quality front? Well, there is nothing wrong with their overall balance. Sonys tend to hover over the midrange, and that’s another monotonous performance you’ll welcome here.
There’s no twang in the treble, and the bass isn’t tubular or fat either. The lows are tight and tightly controlled, and have no problem weighing down the bass notes that pierce the records of Luniz’s I Got 5 On It. There is texture there and you get a deep feel to each note. At the other end, the percussion is clear and precise. Sandwiched between these two is a song rich in attitude.
Cut to the orchestral version of Royal Blood’s Limbo and the Sonys paint a clear enough picture. They are good at painting with broad lines and provide a lot of detail from the classic rock collection. They don’t feel as open and roomy as regular Linkbuds, which is something we miss.
We’re a little more disappointed by the apparent lack of drive and dynamic thrust to the sound. All the elements are there and right, but the drum beats don’t hit home like they should and the timing doesn’t sound like it should. They also don’t quite provide the dynamic penetration of key competitors. Everything looks a little flat.
As the track builds to a climax, the best paid wireless headphones really ride the drums, strings and house vocals, but the Sonys seem to lack the energy to really push the track. All the different textures of the instrument sound a bit samey to headphones that strive for clarity and separation.
We’ve been underwhelmed by Sony’s recent adventures in wireless headphones. The WF-1000XM4 set a new standard for premium wireless headphones, and the original LinkBuds brought something new to the party.
All in all, the LinkBuds S sound good, have decent noise cancellation, boast some useful features, and are lightweight and comfortable to wear. But they’re a little disappointing on the audio front, lacking the fun factor and rhythmic drive that Sony’s wireless headphones usually have in spades. So it’s solid, but not Sony’s best.
- Voice: 4
- Convenience: 5
- Construction: 5