For the past few years, Sony has been at the forefront of innovation in consumer wireless audio products. This has mostly been done with their noise-canceling tech, DSEE implementation, and companion app features. Now, with the new Linkbuds WF-L900, Sony aims to innovate in design once more. These $179 earphones present a new unique design that is sure to inspire other brands going forward. Let’s see if they succeed in this new innovation.
What You Get
- Sony Linkbuds earphones
- 5 pairs of fitting supporters
- USB-C charging cable
Look and Feel
From the outside, the Linkbuds look like no other true wireless earbuds currently on the market. They look like two tiny circles molded together making you wonder where the sound actually comes out of. This is where the Linkbuds share a design similar to classic earbud designs that we’re all familiar with. That circular speaker unit is present here, now with a true wireless twist. The Linkbuds are some of the smallest wireless buds around with a design that puts comfortability first. Just looking at the Linkbuds, you might be confused about how you wear them exactly, but it’s quite simple. The silver-lined, housing of the earphone pretty much sits exactly where you think they would, except instead of inserting the earphone via ear tip, they remain stationary outside of your ear canal.
As expected, the Linkbuds almost feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. Of course, this sacrifices isolation, but it should be noted that that’s not exactly what the Linkbuds are for. It’s like the earphones are in constant ambient mode, inviting the environment into your music in a way that open-back over-ear headphones do.
Design and Functionality
Aside from noise-canceling capabilities, a lot of Sony’s staple features make a return here. Using their Headphones app, you have access to an assortment of Sony’s biggest staples like 360 Reality Audio, EQ, DSEE, and adaptive sound modes. New features also make an appearance, like speak to chat, fast pair, and Spotify tap. That last one gives you quick access to your preferred playlist through a single tap which you can set up within the app. You also have a wider tap range on the Linkbuds, which is definitely a feature I hope finds its way onto all Sony wireless audio products. It’s really one of the most impressive parts of the experience, as you don’t even need to touch the earpiece in order to operate playback. You double-tap the top of your ear and the functions all respond accordingly.
Version 5.2 of Bluetooth is supported here, with a great amount of range and bandwidth. However, it’s a little disappointing to see only SBC and AAC CODECs used and not LDAC or aptX. That being said, the Linkbuds pair unbelievably fast, and it’s probably the most stable Bluetooth connection I’ve experienced in a while. With the Linkbuds, the signal is transmitted to both earbuds at the same time rather than using a conventional relay transmission. The V1 chip is used here to stabilize this connection and it shows greatly.
You’ll be able to get a good five and a half hours out of one charge of the earphones, with a total of 17 hours when taking the case into consideration. I’d say this is pretty average for a true wireless battery life, but for the price, it should be okay to get you through a few days of commute or a long trip.
Without the use of Sony’s 360 Reality feature, the soundstage of the Linkbuds is still one of the best in their library. With Sony’s other industry-leading listening products, sometimes the standard imaging can feel a bit too congealed. The soundstage has never really stood out on Sony headphones, but they’ve been getting progressively better. I even praised the WF-1000XM4 for showing these improvements to width and spaciousness. Now with the Linkbuds, I feel as though the soundstage has never been better for Sony. It may be because the Linkbuds aren’t relying on isolation, but the imaging here appears a lot freer than past models. They offer a good amount of separation for stronger clarity in their layering, not being afraid to show off the space between instruments and vocals. The extreme left and right ends of the stereo field are especially depictive, making the sound more extensive in the process.
In exchange for limited isolation, the Linkbuds sacrifice the thick bass that Sony headphones are usually able to produce. There’s a considerable amount of low-end scooped out of the sound signature, but some details are still able to cut through the timbre and make themselves known. This is particularly true in the mid-bass region where the tone of the frequencies starts to show a bit more drive, but the region as a whole doesn’t exactly feature a ton of power. Even with EQ, and Sony’s clear bass option turned all the way up, not a whole lot of extra punch can be salvaged.
Some Sony wireless headphones can be a little bloated in the midrange, but the Linkbuds actually display some of the clearest frequencies in this region. They actually feel more articulate than most wireless products out there, as they appear far less strained by the mid-bass, and are able to resonate more accurately. Their timbre is exceptionally clean for wireless earbuds and features a fair amount of detail. Those details deliver a greater emphasis on the frequency response for a livelier sense of musicality. I was a particular fan of the forward presentation of vocals, and the clarity of crunchy electric guitars on specific alternative tracks.
There’s a respectable amount of treble to depict from the sound signature here, but the timbre has its flaws. Some details can prove to be a bit shouty, which disappoints more than it does harshen the tonality of the high-end. Sometimes it feels like the highs just can’t reach a crescendo in some track selections, as if there’s a hard limit on how far the frequencies can extend. Otherwise, the actual content of the frequencies provided is quite clear and enjoyable. They help out the sound signature by adding texture where that the bass misses out on.
When I first saw the Linkbuds, I knew they were going to be interesting, and now that I have had the chance to use them for a number of hours, I would say they are a great concept. In execution, there are definitely some areas I would like to see improved, but for what they are I can see the use for them over Sony’s WF1000 series. They’re a comfortable, non-distracting pair of earbuds that don’t isolate you from the environment, which is definitely something people want without wearing a larger earpiece and turning on ambient mode. They’re also a great price and an overall solid alternative for those who are still looking for the Sony experience.
The Sony Linkbuds WF-L900 is available at Audio46.