Sony LinkBuds S review
The Sony LinkBuds S act as a kind of stage name. The actual type designation of the true wireless earphones reviewed by STEREO GUIDE is less memorable and does not sound cool at all: The wireless in-ears hide behind the nerdy abbreviation Sony WFLS900NB.CE7. But this sounds pretty cool: Sony claims them to be the world’s smallest and lightest wireless hi-res headphones with noise cancelling.
On the fly, we can neither confirm nor refute this statement. Since we at STEREO GUIDE don’t want to waste time on such academic research, but also don’t feel like putting our foot in our mouth, we’ll just keep it simple: These things are damn small and, at 4.8 grams per earpiece, also very light. The compactness is also reflected in the particularly handy or pocket-friendly charging case.
Functions about functions
Despite their compactness, the Sony LinkBuds S are packed to the brim with features. The control is done via touch surfaces and via the Sony Headphones Connect app, as is generally the case. What is offered here is largely the same as the more expensive Sony WF-1000XM4 that we recently reviewed.
The Sony LinkBuds S offer adaptive active noise cancelling (ANC) that can even remember preferred locations and also detect whether the wearer is moving or lingering. To do this, the user must agree and release the location services of the smartphone.
If you are worried about data privacy, the next function might make you wonder: The Sony Headphones Connect app prompts users to take photos of their ears and upload them. According to the manufacturer, this is to optimize the “360 Reality Audio” 3D sound (it requires the use of certain apps like 360 by Deezer, nugs.net or Tidal ) for the individual wearer. However, we can assume that the Japanese will certainly also anonymously incorporate this field data into their development. Finally, they also drew on a trove of different ear shapes, cultivated since the world’s first in-ear headphones in 1982, to optimize the fit.
The Sony LinkBuds S can be inserted with a half turn and convinced us with low pressure and a loose, but in normal everyday life secure fit while at the same time good sealing of the ear canal for noise cancelling and rich bass reproduction.
The ANC also has an ambient mode that sends sounds through via microphone in certain situations so that the wearer is not completely disconnected from the environment in traffic, for example. But even with ANC enabled, it is very convenient and quick to start a conversation: You only have to say something and ANC and music playback are stopped.
The smart little in-ears also detect when you take them out of your ears. Also then the playback stops automatically. And those who wake up Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa via Wakeword can request a variety of support from the voice assistant. The Sony LinkBuds S also support Apple Siri. The practical Spotify tap function is also available via touch command to start playback without detouring via the app of the popular music streaming service. The same works with Endel, a lesser-known online service for AI-controlled ambient sounds for relaxing. By the way, the touch commands of the two Bluetooth in-ears can be customized with the app. And the sound can also be individualized with it thanks to equalizers and presets.
Sony LinkBuds S have to be returned to the case for recharging after six hours at the latest in ANC mode. In the test also sometimes earlier. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
Appetite for data: Sony collects everything worth knowing for the development around the use of its headphones. Equalizer with presets for the Sony LinkBuds S. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
The adaptive ANC even takes into account what the wearer is doing. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
The ANC of the ony LinkBuds S is very sophisticated. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
The Sony app even wants to analyze the ear shape based on pictures. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
Equalizer with presets for the Sony LinkBuds S. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
Charging inhibition: The app insists that the phone continues charging first before the new firmware can be loaded and installed. Equalizer with presets for the Sony LinkBuds S. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
The firmware download takes half an eternity despite the WLAN connection from the iPhone to the Internet. Equalizer with presets for the Sony LinkBuds S. (Photo: Stefan Schickedanz)
Useful utilities in the Sony Headphones Connect app
Via Google Fast Pair, you can find the earpieces by means of a hint tone if you have misplaced them. The Sony Headphones Connect app also allows you to choose between a Bluetooth connection optimized for stable signal transmission over longer distances or one optimized for maximum sound quality. However, we were also able to move freely from the cell phone in the rooms with the latter in the test.
However, patience is required before hearing rewards. The app wanted to upload a firmware update to the Sony from the Internet. To do this, we first had to connect our iPhone to the power supply to charge it. The download could only be started with a sufficiently charged battery. After that, the reason for the required minimum charge was clear: The firmware download alone took almost an hour despite a stable Wi-Fi connection to the internet, and the transfer from the smartphone to the earphones via Bluetooth took another estimated quarter of an hour.
Can even Dolby Atmos
If you connect the Sony WLA-NS7 wireless transmitter to a BRAVIA XR TV, you can even listen to Dolby Atmos 3D sound with the Sony LinkBuds S. If you don’t want to settle for a movie, you can expect up to around 6 hours of battery life, even 9 hours without ANC. The charging case holds another 14 hours of battery charge in reserve. Just five minutes in the case pumps capacity for a good hour of playtime into the in-ears. However, you should allow a good two hours of inactivity in the case for a full charge. By the way, the plain little transport box is made of recycled plastic, just like the earphones, and the very plain packaging even manages without any plastic at all.
This is how the Sony LinksBuds S sound
It can be summarized that Sony paid attention to a whole range of aspects in the LinkBuds S, making the splash-proof earphones interesting for a large user group. IPX4 protection class signals that fact. Only the essential question of sound remains. We investigated this in detail in the listening test. Here, the Bluetooth earphones, but also the decent effect of the ANC noise cancellation made a good impression.
Especially the very crisp, dry bass reproduction stood out, which is not bought by unpleasant pressure of the pads in the ear canal like some competitors. Acoustic drums in rock music or electronic beats come with the Sony with a lot of punch and precision. The lively, but not too sharp high-frequency reproduction matches this.
And the resolution at high frequencies is also impressive. Only voices had a hint of roughness. This is fine for rock and pop, especially since the comparably priced Jabra Elite 7 Pro is not 100% neutral in this respect. If you like classical music and jazz, you don’t need to worry about larger colorations, but you should listen to the Sony LinkBuds S carefully with suitable music before buying, if possible.
Conclusion and alternatives to the Sony LinkBuds S
In terms of features, Sony really sets off fireworks in the 200 euro class. And most of them make sense, too. In addition, there is a high wearing comfort and long playing time. Those who like dynamic impulses, lively and dry as dust in the bass will also be thrilled. Only friends of ethereally breathed voices have to be prepared for minimal cutbacks. The same could be said about the closest alternative, the Jabra Elite 7 Pro, which follows a similar midrange tuning and comes across a bit fuller but softer in the bass.
If the personal focus is on the most gripping, authentic voice reproduction possible, the Grell TWS/1 would be the most interesting alternative to the Sony LinkBuds S in this price range. However, with the direct sales product designed by Axel Grell (ex-Sennheiser head developer), you have to do without the huge range of functions and the particularly high practicality of the Japanese.
Specifications: Sony LinkBuds S
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: 200 EuroType: In-EarTransducer principle: DynamicWeight: 4.8 g each, Case 35 gFeatures: adaptive active noise-canceling, IPX4 water-resistant, app control, Spotify tapMore at: www.sony.de
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Sony WF-1000XM4 in testSony WF-C500 in testJabra Elite 7 Pro in test
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