Compact, Never Off.
A less expensive true wireless with the looks of the flagship.
Sony’s latest true wireless earbuds are called LinkBuds S, but have a totally different design and use case from the first LinkBuds. In fact, the new LinkBuds S more closely resembles the WF- 1000XM4, minus a few premium features, for instance, no wireless charging, a less superior ANC (obviously), and slightly shorter battery life (20 hours vs. 24 hours). On the flip side, the LinkBuds S are smaller and more compact to carry around. The case and earbuds’ surface are slightly rough, so it has a better grip and is not prone to grease marks.
The LinkBuds S is touted as “Never Off”, so naturally, the earbuds must come with noise-cancelling and ambient modes so that wearers can keep them in-ears under any circumstances. The ANC level on the LinkBuds S works well for mid to low-range frequencies, while the upper frequencies are still audible, but they don’t get heard much once the music is piped in. As for Ambient Sound mode, the ambience sounds processed and not so natural. With Voice Focus enabled, the higher frequency ambient noises are slightly reduced and sound less distinct, yet the ambient voice sounds are not boosted.
For audio quality, the LinkBuds S is brighter sounding compared to WF-1000XM4 but you can EQ to your preferred balance on the smartphone app. The bass is not very heavy, the overall sound is not warm, the midrange is controlled, treble brightness is also not harsh, well-controlled detail even with the sibilant saxophone, as the main instruments are not too forward. It’s a generally balanced sound tuned towards the clearer spectrum. Sound staging is wide and close, L-R panned instruments are positioned towards the sides of my ears, while mix-channel instruments are at the front. It delivers comfortable staging without sounding too tight and pushy.
Testing the mic quality, the LinkBuds S manages to handle ambient noises pretty well. In urban spaces, the other party can barely hear any traffic noises, not even a rattling motorbike zooming past. But there is always a limit to how intelligent noise elimination can work. Occasionally, at enclosed noisy places like food centres, the noise can be overwhelming such that while the earbuds can remove background noise and leave only my voice, it does not sound consistently clear.
We say: The LinkBuds S allow consumers to enjoy the comfort of the flagship Sony WF- 1000XM4, balanced with the right features without charging a premium.
Driver Unit 5mm Neodymium
Frequency Response 20-40,000 Hz (LDAC 990kbps mode) Bluetooth Codec 5.2, SBC, AAC, LDAC
Water Resistance IPX4
Battery Life 6 hours (ANC on), 9 hours (ANC off)
Size 42.8 x 60 x 27.6 mm
Weight 35 g (charging case), 4.8g x 2 (earbuds)