Like nintendoSony has a long history Try weird products. Sometimes these experiments are a failure, but other times they lead to truly smart, useful and innovative products. The new Sony LinkBuds headphones fall into this latter category. THey, it won’t completely replace your favorite pair of headphones, but You may actually find yourself using it much more.
Five years after the original Apple AirPods helped make wireless earbuds a (relatively) affordable flagship product, headphone makers now need to bring something new to the table if they want people to upgrade. For the most part, this has included minor improvements to sound quality, battery life, or noise cancellation, but the new Sony LinkBuds don’t really include improvements on any of those fronts.
Instead, Sony took into account where and how most consumers use their wireless earbuds — at work, on the subway, on the street, and so on — and came up with a new design that makes it much easier to hear the world and the people around them while you take calls or listen to music and podcasts. It appears to be a niche product, but Sony has implemented the LinkBuds so well that I was surprised at the number of times I used them.
A new approach to transparency
Up until this point, there were actually two ways to make it easier to hear what’s going on around you while wearing the wireless headphones: Transparency modes, where wireless earbuds use a built-in microphone to enhance ambient sounds like the earpiece, or bone conduction Where headphones transmit sounds through Cheekbones using vibrations, leaving your Ears completely exposed.
With LinkBuds, Sony offers a third solution. Instead of cramming the headphone drivers into a file Ear canals (often paired with spongy tips to create a tight seal that prevents this from happening Other Voices from Entry) Sony has created a 12mm ring-shaped driver with a hole in the middle.
Most earbuds go out of their way to prevent any other sounds from getting into your ear, but LinkBuds allow them to pass through. Without removing the earphones from your ears, you can easily carry them talks Or you hear a cyclist’s bell sounding behind you While you are still enjoying music or podcasts. This is assuming you don’t have a very high volume, because even with a hole, LinkBuds still emit sound right at the entrance to your ear canals And it can still easily drown out anything else you hear.
small buds big sound
After the slot, the other thing you notice about the LinkBuds is their size. They are definitely the smallest and lightest wireless earbuds I have ever tested.
I often recommend 3rd generation Apple AirPods For people who are looking for a comfortable set of wireless headphones where they just sit in the outer folds of the ear rather than deep into the ear canal. I also know some people It struggles to keep AirPods securely in their ears, making LinkBuds are a solid alternative when convenience is a priority.
Instead of noise-canceling silicone or memory foam tips that also help hold wireless earbuds in place, LinkBuds rely on a silicone ring with a crush.A protruding bump that slides under one fold of your ear for a secure fit. Sony includes five of these grommet rings in different sizes so you can find a secure fit that doesn’t put too much pressure on your ears that can cause pain over time.
With the appropriately sized silicone ring in place, the lightweight Sony LinkBuds provide a secure and extremely comfortable fit, even if you’re jumping around during a workout.. This is important for a wireless earbud designed to last all day, but there’s still a bit of bulge coming out of your ear to accommodate a battery that delivers 5.5 hours of use when charged, or 17.5 hours in total when paired with an equally small charging case.
That’s less use per charge than third-generation AirPods provide, and while a 10-minute nap in the charging case will give the LinkBuds another 90 minutes of power, I feel a slightly larger battery would have come in handy here, even if the earphones increased in size and weight. ear slightly.
Sony doesn’t put the LinkBuds as a replacement for your favorite pair of wireless earbuds, but as a secondary pair that’s better suited for certain use cases, like the workday people spend in an office where people constantly want to talk to you. And while not, they don’t sound anywhere with the quality of my voice Favorite wireless earbuds Which I use when I really want to enjoy music, I am really amazed at the sound quality of LinkBuds.
The sound is crisp, clear and can be pushed to uncomfortable listening levels without any distortion, and the highs and lows are well balanced with default settings. The audio profile can be customized using presets or manual EQ adjustments through the Sony Headphones mobile app, and while I think this gives them an edge over the third-generation Apple AirPods, what the LinkBuds are totally lacking is that satisfying cadence of lower bass frequencies. The low end is there, you can hear it, but you don’t feel it, and that seems to be the biggest sacrifice the LinkBuds have had to make.
The best way to take advantage
LinkBuds bring with them features from other Sony headphones that make it easy to leave them on all day, including a talk-to-chat function, The earbuds automatically turn off when you start talking, and then resume again after a preset period of time once you’ve finished speaking. They work very well, which is a feature I want to have on every pair of wireless headphones I use.
But my favorite feature of the LinkBuds is something Sony calls the Wide Area Tap. The ability to control music playback and other functions Directly through a pair of wireless earbuds without having to reach for your phone is a useful feature, but it often requires users to tap or touch the earbuds themselves, easily dislodging them from the arms already restless in your ears. I’ve he-goatTed many of These click shortcuts to reviews in the past few yearsBut I simply never use it in real life They usually only rely on a smart watch as a remote control.
A wide area tap changes that. Instead of having to tap directly on the LinkBuds to activate the shortcuts (you can if you wish), users can instead tap the area around their ears, and the buds will recognize the gesture. The shortcuts can be configured in the Sony Headphones app, but double clicking the area in front of my left ear raises the volume, triple clicking lowers it, and clicking around my right ear to play music. I’ve found that taps are easily detectable in front of my ears, above them, and even below them, and the LinkBuds will recognize even the slightest of hops. It’s a feature that works great, and frankly might be a bigger selling point than the LinkBuds’ open-ear design.
Not worth the upgrade, bIt’s still worth it
This is where I usually tell you if a pair of wireless earbuds is worth ditching your current pair for, but even Sony doesn’t try to sell LinkBuds that way.
like a shoe bone-By connecting wireless headphones, LinkBuds are more than a companion for you Apple AirPodsAnd Google Pixel Budsor Master and Dynamic MW08s. They sound surprisingly good, but not quite as good as other earbuds in terms of audio performance – and you won’t be active Noise canceling With LinkBuds. What they do offer is a better experience if you are tired of constantly having to take out your earphones every time someone stops at work for a personal conversation, or if you I’m not a fan of the synthetic sound-enhanced transparency modes when you’re out riding a bike and want to be able to hear cars, other cyclists sharing the road, or other hazards.
LinkBuds are doing what they promise very well, and I really want features like Wide Area Tap to stand out over competitorss’ products. Their $180 price tag is the real sticking point. If Sony could get the price down to around $100, I think it would be much easier to sell consumers the idea of buying them as a secondary pair. However, if I was someone who didn’t work from a quiet home and was forced to partake in office life, I’d seen myself using LinkBuds more often than my favorite pair of buds. So perhaps Sony’s marketing should instead insist on this competitor The earbuds are actually the companion to the LinkBuds.
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