Sound controls

LinkBuds review: Sony’s new AirPods rivals sound pretty unique

Sony LinkBuds review (Picture: NEWSPAPERS EXPRESS)

Every tech company on the planet is now making wireless headphones, the most promising for blocking out the world around you with active noise cancellation (ANC). It’s an incredibly crowded market now, but Sony has come up with a brilliant idea to help it stand out from its rivals. The Japanese firm’s new LinkBuds buck the noise-canceling trend by actually allowing ambient noise into your ears rather than blocking it all out.

Sony hopes this concept will allow users to wear the headphones all day without ever having to take them out to hear conversations in the office or someone knocking on the front door.

It’s a neat idea and the donut-shaped design – which helps achieve the desired effect – certainly gives them a very unique style unlike anything else on the market. The big question is does this concept really work and is it worth £149 of your hard earned money?

Express.co.uk have had them for a few weeks and there’s certainly a lot to like about the LinkBuds.

Once you figure out how they plug into your ears (Sony actually has a YouTube video to help you out), the LinkBuds are really comfortable and you’ll have no problem wearing them for hours on end.

In fact, despite the hard plastic design, it’s pretty easy to forget you even have them inserted into your head.

Sony LinkBuds review

Sony LinkBuds review (Picture: NEWSPAPERS EXPRESS)

Sony LinkBuds review

Donut shape lets ambient sound into the ears (Picture: NEWSPAPERS EXPRESS)

To help keep things firmly in place, Sony provides a number of rubber mounts that clip onto the buds. It’s worth spending a few minutes trying them all on, as it will help ensure you get the perfect, most stable fit.

So you made them feel comfortable, but how do they sound? The answer is, really good. We were extremely impressed with the audio quality that comes out of these buds with playlists that sound crisp, clear and full of detail. All thanks to a specially designed 12mm annular driver that delivers a rich and very well balanced sound.

To help make things even better, there’s also DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) technology which helps bring almost all music down to a high-quality format and Sony’s built-in processor V1 reproduces every detail of your music with minimal distortion.

It’s all pretty impressive, although one thing we’d say is that the LinkBuds don’t explode with bass, so best avoided if that’s the type of sound you like to hear.

Sony LinkBuds review

Sony’s LinkBuds feature a recycled plastic casing (Picture: NEWSPAPERS EXPRESS)

Of course, most people now connect to their playlists via their phone and Sony has made it super easy to connect, especially if you’re using Android.

That’s all thanks to the inclusion of Google’s Fast Pair technology which links these buds together simply by placing them near the phone.

If you want to start tweaking the settings and get the best performance, the LinkBuds are fully compatible with the Sony Headphones app.

It works on both Android and iPhone and lets you adjust audio, check battery levels, and perform a test to analyze your ear shape. The app also lets you change the smart controls for each bud, which is especially handy.

These touch controls are really good with users able to tap anywhere near the bud – including the face – to pause music and skip tracks. It works very well and puts an end to the need to hit the actual pimple, which can be quite uncomfortable.

If battery life is important to you, you’ll find the LinkBuds offer around five hours of playtime, which is pretty standard, although some rivals do, like Samsung’s latest Galaxy Buds, now offer performance much longer.

Sony LinkBuds review

Sony’s LinkBuds feature a very unique design (Picture: SONY)

Sony LinkBuds review

Once you find the right fit, the LinksBuds are really comfortable (Picture: SONY)

When low, an additional 12 hours of battery life is available thanks to the neat, eco-friendly battery case made from recycled plastic.

Other features include adaptive volume control, which automatically optimizes the volume depending on where you are and they are IPX4 water resistant. We can confirm that she will survive some serious punishment after successfully knocking one of the buds into a teacup (don’t ask how!) without taking any damage.

So that’s all good, but are there any issues with the LinkBuds? We have a few worries, including this unique open design. There’s no doubt that the LinkBuds are great for the office and working from home as they let you hear noise, conversations, and alerts you might miss when wearing ANC headphones.

However, hop on the subway or sit in a busy cafe and the only way to hear music or a podcast is to crank the volume all the way up, which isn’t ideal.

Most ANC headphones, including Apple’s AirPods Pro, also offer transparency modes that allow sound to mean you get the best of both worlds – that’s something the LinksBud can’t match.

Other issues include the lack of a base, the charging case that can’t be charged wirelessly and the £149 price tag that seems a little steep – Apple’s entry-level AirPods are currently on sale for just £99.

SONY LINKBUDS VERDICT:

BENEFITS: Good sound • Unique design and features • Neat eco-friendly charging case
THE INCONVENIENTS: Not great in noisy environments • Battery life of 5 hours is pretty average • Lacks bass

The wireless headphone market is overwhelmed with products right now and it’s great to see Sony trying something different. The LinkBuds look unique and the concept of letting ambient sound flood your ears at all times will certainly meet the needs of some consumers.

They are also very comfortable, have great touch controls and surprisingly good sound.

There’s a lot to like but the LinkBuds, but they’re quite expensive and we wouldn’t recommend them if you want your headphones to block out the hustle and bustle of city life. Battery life is about right, and it’s a shame the case can’t be charged wirelessly.

That said, the LinkBuds are a neat idea that definitely stands out from an ever-growing crowd.