Sony LinkBuds S review: Light enough to be your best gym buddy
The Sony LinkBuds S is Sony's latest addition to their already-stacked lineup of wireless earbuds.
Not to be confused with their also recently released LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S looks like your typical in-ear wireless earbuds that isn't anything special.
I will have to admit, during my first few hours with the LinkBuds S, that is how I initially felt with these earbuds — that there was simply nothing special enough to warrant buying it over the something like Sony's own WF-1000XM4, that you can now find for just S$10 more than the new LinkBuds S.
Although the XM4 is older, it has better sound quality, better Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), and very similar controls and convenience as the LinkBuds S.
The only two downsides of the XM4 are simply the larger charging case, and the heavier earbuds.
Lo and behold, the weight and comfort of the LinkBuds S were more than enough to convince me that I would rather have the LinkBuds S as my daily driver than the XM4.
Why? Read on.
Some basic specs, the LinkBuds S comes with your typical fanfare for Sony wireless earbuds these days:
Active Noise Cancelling
Microphone for calls
Sony sent in the original LinkBuds to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore for comparison as well, but I am going to disregard this comparison because, although they share the same family name, the LinkBuds and LinkBuds S are two polar opposites when it comes to their sound signature and design.
The original LinkBuds has an "open-back" design, unlike the LinkBuds S.
The open-back design allows for ambient sound to travel through the earbuds naturally, instead of artificially inducing it like the in-ear closed-back design of the LinkBuds S.
For a more accurate representation, I will be using the Sony WF-1000XM4 in comparison instead.
WF-1000XM4 vs LinkBuds S
Like I mentioned earlier, if all you care about is sound quality, the XM4 wins hands down. Packing a 6mm driver as opposed to the 5mm driver in the LinkBuds S, the XM4 has a much better sound stage and detail in the music and things that you listen to.
Not to mention, the ANC in the XM4 is superior, and is able to block out way more ambient sound than the LinkBuds S.
But if you are someone who uses your earbuds for everyday use, and if you move around a lot (which, let's face it, is almost all of us), the LinkBuds S excels tremendously in this area.
Weighing in at only 4.8g per earbud, this is Sony's lightest in-ear earbuds yet.
For comparison, the XM4 is 7g per earbud, and is absolutely chunky compared to the LinkBuds S.
Oh, what's that you say? The XM4 was already light to begin with? Yes, but the 4.8g of the LinkBuds S is on a whole other level.
When I wore the LinkBuds S for an extended period of time (literally from 100 percent battery charge to 0, which is about 6 hours), there were moments that I actually forgot that I was wearing them when I turned the ambient mode on to talk to the people around me.
Because it is so light, it also places less strain on the ears to keep the earbuds in place.
I never knew that a 2g weight reduction would mean so much for the comfort of an earbud.
Have you ever had the unfortunate incident of your earbuds flying off while you were in an intense gym session?
Have you ever had your earbuds distract you so much while on a run because it was on the clasp of dropping?
I personally have had that happen with the XM4, but not with the LinkBuds S.
In fact, I was intentionally trying to get the LinkBuds S to fly off my head by doing vigorous headshakes while running (and I was sweating buckets, mind you), but no dice. The LinkBuds S stayed in place like a champion.
That was the moment I was a convert.
When going through my daily routines and work, there were only a handful of times that I would go "Oh this sounds really good" with the XM4, as opposed to the countless times that I would go "My ears hurt" when I pulled it out at the end of the day.
For something that is for everyday use, comfort and mobility is king, and the LinkBuds S is the undisputed champion for this.
Not to mention, the charging case is also so small and light, to the point that you may even struggle to find it should you misplace it.
The LinkBuds S has functions that are similar to the other earbuds from Sony.
The earbuds are touch sensitive, and are able to pause, skip or replay your music with just a few configurable touch commands on the right earbud. A long-touch can activate Google Assistant, if you are into that.
You are also able to choose between ambient mode and ANC mode by touching the left earbud, and a long-touch on it will lower the music and automatically send it into ambient mode if you need to hear and converse with the people around you.
Bluetooth connectivity is great, though I did experience a few dropouts in crowded areas. I would attribute that up to interference more than anything else.
That said, the microphone is alright. While usable for calls and for meetings, it is nothing ground-breaking. It functions as it is intended to.
One minor thing I do miss from the XM series is the NFC pairing feature.
All I had to do to pair my XM4 to my phone was to tap the case to it, and it was paired. For the LinkBuds S, you have to manually pair it by searching for it on your phone.
While it is slightly inconvenient, once that is done, it is paired forever, anyway.
You can also download the Sony "Headphones" app on your mobile phone to check each earbud's battery percentage, as well as the case's.
If you do use the app, you will also have access to a myriad of features, like the equalizer and improving the sound quality.
Speaking of the case, it holds a good 14-hour charge for the earbuds, effectively making it able to fully recharge your earbuds about two and a half times before it fully depletes.
I didn't expect the LinkBuds S to impress me this much. On paper, it does nothing special.
The XM4 does everything much better, and like I said, you can find it for S$309 at retail these days, only S$10 more than the LinkBuds S, which retails at S$299.
To be clear, the ANC and sound quality of the LinkBuds S aren't bad.
They are perfectly fine, it is just that it is currently priced a little too close to Sony's flagship wireless earbuds, which has better versions of these features.
But the comfort and weight of the LinkBuds S makes it all worth it.
The LinkBuds S is a great companion for everyday use, and is one of the most comfortable earbuds out there in the market right now.
I wouldn't hesitate to replace my XM4 with the LinkBuds S for my day to day, and I am personally looking forward to getting a pair of them for myself.
Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting headshotted in VALORANT or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.