Sony LinkBuds review: Sony's new AirPods rivals sound very unique


Sony LinkBuds review

Sony LinkBuds review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Every tech firm on the planet is now making wireless earbuds with most promising to block out the world around you thanks to Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). It’s now an incredibly crowded market but Sony has come up with a neat idea to help it stand out from rivals. The Japanese firm’s new LinkBuds are bucking the noise-cancelling trend by actually allowing ambient noise into your ears rather than blocking it all out.

Sony is hoping that this concept will allow users to wear the buds all day without ever having to take them out to hear conversations in the office or someone knocking at the front door.

It’s a nice idea and the doughnut design – which helps achieve the desired effect – certainly gives them a very unique style that’s like nothing else on the market. The big question is, does this concept really work and are they worth £149 of your hard-earned cash? has been wearing them for the past few weeks and there’s certainly plenty to like about the LinkBuds.

Once you’ve got your head around how they plug into your ears (Sony actually has a YouTube video to help) the LinkBuds are really comfy and you’ll have no issues wearing them for hours on end.

In fact, despite the rigid plastic design, it’s pretty easy to forget you even have them popped inside your head.

Sony LinkBuds review

Sony LinkBuds review (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Sony LinkBuds review

The doughnut shape lets ambient sound into the ears (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

To help keep things firmly in place, Sony supplies a number of rubber supports that clip onto the buds. It’s well worth spending a few minutes trying them all out as this will help make sure you get the perfect and most stable fit.

So, you’ve got them feeling comfy but how do they sound? The answer is, really good. We’ve been left hugely impressed by the audio quality that belts out of these buds with playlists sounding crisp, clear and packed full of detail. That’s all thanks to a specially designed 12mm ring driver that provides rich and very well-balanced audio.

To help boost things further there’s also DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) technology which helps bring almost all music back to a high-quality format plus Sony’s Integrated Processor V1 reproduces all the detail in your music with minimal distortion.

It’s all pretty impressive although one thing we would say is that the LinkBuds don’t boom with bass so they might be best avoided if that’s the type of sound you like to hear.

Sony LinkBuds review

Sony LinkBuds feature a case made from recycled plastic (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Of course, most people now tune into their playlists via their phone and Sony has made it super easy to get connected – especially if you use Android.

That’s all thanks to the inclusion of Google’s Fast Pair technology which links these buds simply by placing them near the phone.

If you want to start tweaking settings and get things working to their optimal performance the LinkBuds are fully compatible with Sony’s Headphone app.

This works on both Android and iPhone and lets you adjust the audio, check battery levels and run a test to analyze your ear shape. The app also lets you change the clever controls on each bud which is pretty handy especially.

These touch controls are really good with users able to tap anywhere near the bud – including on the face – to pause music and skip tracks. It works really well and ends the need to whack the actual bud which can be quite uncomfortable.

If battery life is important to you then you’ll find the LinkBuds offer around five hours of playback which is pretty standard although some rivals do, such as Samsung’s latest Galaxy Buds, now offer much longer performance.

Sony LinkBuds review

Sony LinkBuds feature a very unique design (Image: SONY)

When they do run low there are a further 12 hours of power available from the neat eco-friendly battery case which is made from recycled plastic.

Other features include Adaptive Volume Control, which automatically optimises volume based on where you are and they are IPX4 water resistance. We can confirm the will survive some serious punishment after we managed to drop one of the buds into a cup of tea (don’t ask how!) without it suffering any damage.

So that’s all the good stuff but are there any issues with the LinkBuds? We do have a few niggles including that unique open design. There’s no question that the LinkBuds are great for the office and working from home as they allow you to hear noise, conversations and alerts that you might miss when wearing ANC buds.

However, jump on the tube or sit in a busy cafe and the only way to hear music or a podcast is to ramp the volume up to the max which is not ideal.

Most ANC-packed earbuds, including Apple’s AirPods Pro also offer transparency modes that let sound in meaning you get the best of both worlds – that’s something the LinksBud can’t match.

Other issues include the lack of base, the charging case that can’t be refilled wirelessly and the £149 price which feels a little steep – Apple’s entry-level AirPods are currently on sale for just £99.


The wireless earbuds market is overwhelmed with products right now and it’s great to see Sony trying something different. The LinkBuds look unique and the concept of letting ambient sound flood into your ears at all times will certainly suit some consumers’ needs.

They are also really comfy, have great touch controls and sound surprisingly good.

There’s lots to like but the LinkBuds but they are pretty pricey and we wouldn’t recommend them if you want your earbuds to block out the hustle and bustle of city life. The battery life is just about OK and it’s a shame the case can’t be refilled wirelessly.

That said, the LinkBuds are a neat idea that definitely stand out from an ever-growing crowd.


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