As Bluetooth headphones become more a part of everyday life, there is more need than to find a way to blend media with the outside world. Companies are constantly working on ways to do this, from the ability to turn on a “transparency” feature, to using your body to conduct audio. While these all do the job, few have felt as elegant and comfortable as the Sony LinkBuds.
I love listening to podcasts, music, and all manners of audio as I work. I find it is a great way to focus on the task at hand—I am doing it as I type this as a matter of fact. But when you work in an office, being able to hear your colleagues is important. There is nothing worse than being jolted out of a focused workflow by someone tapping your shoulder, only to find out they have been trying to get your attention for a plurality of minutes.
This is where the Sony LinkBuds come into the picture. The relatively unique design allows the outside world to seamlessly blend with your audio. While most headphones block your ear canal, effectively only letting you hear what they are playing beyond the standard bleeding of audio that headphones tend to do, the LinkBuds are different. They suspend themselves using changeable silicone ear loops that let the buds sit just above your ear canal, with the audio coming through the inside of the ring.
This also means the outside world will pass through the opening in the buds, making it a much more natural feeling experience. When fully set up it just feels like music is playing in your environment. At lower volumes, this gives the feeling of your audio as background noise to your everyday life, with this blending of the audio and reality changing as you crank the volume up. I found at around 60% volume with my Google Pixel 6 Pro, I enjoyed a good trade-off, being able to hear the people around me, while never letting the office noises distract from writing. Although, I will say, due to the headphones design, at higher volumes, you will be giving your office mates a peek at your musical taste.
“The Sony LinkBuds seem tailor-made for people looking to live an outdoor lifestyle.”
The Sony LinkBuds seem tailor-made for people looking to live an outdoor lifestyle. When walking around downtown St Catharines, I found they let just enough in to keep me aware of my surroundings, but never took away from what I was listening to, be it due to wind, or other ambient noises we take for granted in our daily lives. These would be fantastic for people enjoying the outdoors, from running or hiking, giving just enough audio to feel as if you are bringing your own personal concert, while never taking you out from the activities you are outside to enjoy.
The Sony LinkBuds are also unique in how you control the playback. To play or pause a song, you simply need to touch your head twice in front of the LinkBuds. This means you don’t really need to touch the buds directly while out and about, and frankly it is just a very futuristic way to control your music. The included app will adjust the volume automatically based on your environment, so they make the process easy if you decide you don’t want to live in the Deus Ex like future the LinkBuds offer.
While I love the concept, the audio is not as good as other Sony headphone offerings and is worse than some other Bluetooth headphones we have tested at CGMagazine, but that makes sense. Without that isolation provided by being directly in your ear canal, it can’t deliver the same level of audio fidelity. Having said that, the Sony LinkBuds are able to reproduce your favourite music or audio well, delivering a crisp, clear sound. Mids and highs all sound fantastic, giving a rich audio experience. The biggest trade-off will be with the bass, as the LinkBuds just don’t deliver the heavy bass people have come to love. It is not bad, but people that are used to how Beats audio delivers music may find the LinkBuds a bit lacking.
“At the price of $180, the Sony LinkBuds are a unique audio experience.”
The case for the LinkBuds is incredibly small, making them fantastic to take on a trip or while you head out for some physical activity. With 5.5 hours of playback on average, and the case giving more when they are not in use, they are not the longest living headphones we have used, but more than enough for a good run or a walk through your local downtown core. Sadly, the case does not offer wireless charging, meaning you will be relegated to the USB-C connector to juice up the LinkBuds when they finally run out of power.
The Sony LinkBuds are IPX4-rated so there should be no issue of getting caught in the rain or sweating while wearing them. The only issue I had while testing the LinkBuds was how they fit in my ear. While they make the process as painless as possible, I found it a bit new to fit them in, with me worrying they would fall out at any minute when I first put them on. They thankfully did not fall out at all while testing, but you will need to ensure you pick the right sized loop, or they simply won’t be comfortable to wear.
At the price of $180, the Sony LinkBuds are a unique audio experience. For people that love to live outdoors, or work in an office, they are invaluable, letting you feel connected to your environment while listening to music in a way most headphones simply don’t allow. For people that love the mind-melting bass of other headphones, these are not the best choice, but for everyone else, the Sony LinkBuds are a fresh take on headphones that I simply can’t live without.