Sony LinkBuds review: Rethinking headphones

We don’t appreciate nature enough, or the power to become natural. At a time when Active Noise Cancellation promises to suppress natural noise so you can listen to your music and calls in peace, Sony is taking a radical approach with its innovative LinkBuds wireless headphones. This unique open-ear design delivers sound at its natural best while keeping you well in context with your surroundings.

The design of the LinkBuds is unique in more ways than one. For example, the headphones don’t have buds with silicone tips to push into your ear canal. Instead, there’s a ring where the buds usually sit, and silicone fins on the edge to hold them in place. I wasn’t sure it would be good enough to keep the LinkBuds locked in if I’m running or even walking.

The headphones don’t have buds with silicone tips to push into your ear canal. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

On a quick trip to New York this week, I figured the best place to test the LinkBuds would be during a morning walk in Central Park. The 40-minute walk to the park in sunny New York made it clear that those buds wouldn’t budge easily. And considering the heat, the sweat resistance of the headphones also came into play. They’re also the smallest buds I’ve used and so light you soon forget you’re wearing them.

The face of these buds has no sensitivity to touch. Instead, you tap in front of your ears to pause a song or call. It’s really new and it works well too. A double tap pauses the song, while a triple tap lets you skip to the next song. But gestures don’t allow you to adjust the volume. However, you won’t have to, as the LinkBuds offer adaptive volume that adjusts based on your surroundings. And this feature works well enough as I discovered in an airport lounge where it automatically sped up to keep noise at bay and allow me to enjoy my Rabindra Sangeet. The other good feature is the pause option, which needs to be activated from the Sony Headphones app.

Sony LinkBuds review The 40-minute walk to the park in sunny New York made it clear that those buds wouldn’t budge easily. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

But with all this innovation it’s the audio quality that stands out in the end. I’m so used to noise cancellation now that I wasn’t expecting much in the way of clarity. But the LinkBuds were stunning, despite the chatter of children playing nearby and the drone of New York permeating the park’s thick foliage. To listen The other rhythm, I was surprised how I could enjoy the surround sound and playback of Shankar Mahadevan flipping from left to right despite where I was. When there was silence, the audio quality was as good as any high-end, rich, layered earbud. You wouldn’t guess it was from pill-sized headphones that don’t even show outside of your ears.

I could hear the helicopters flying above me as the playlist was in full swing Innum Konjam Neram, one of my favorite AR Rahman compositions. The song is mostly vocal driven, which was really nice with the drums carrying the song throughout. But when the helicopter chose to fly a little lower this time, I realized my volume was on max and I was testing the limits of these headphones.

Back in the room, switching to the same Biswaguru playlist, the experience was more like listening to over-ear headphones. The audio is both natural and versatile, but also devoid of the extra bass that Sony builds into most of its headphones. The open-ear design certainly offers a very different audio profile that isn’t typically heard in in-ear models. And I mean that in a very positive way. It could be the start of something big, a move to go open-ear, in-ear and more natural.

The natural sound profile means call quality is also more natural and you don’t get the tiny sound like in most ANC headphones.

Sony LinkBuds review Sony LinkBuds in their charging case. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

Because the headphones are small, they can’t store a lot of juice. So on a full charge you get over 17 hours of playtime with 90 minutes more juice in the small charging case. But you can get juice in just 10 minutes, which is really good.

The Sony LinkBuds have the potential to become the everyday-use headphones for anyone who doesn’t particularly like the vacuum of ANC headphones and likes the natural playback of open-back headphones. The only problem is that you feel a bit yelled at when you are in a noisy environment and you have to keep that in mind if most of your time is spent in such spaces. I would recommend it more to those who like to relax at home with their favorite music. The Sony LinkBuds are a new take on headphones with the potential to spark a whole new line of devices.

Buds are available at an introductory offer of Rs 12,990

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