Billy Steele

Sony’s LinkBuds S are $200 noise-canceling earbuds with auto on | Engadget

It hasn’t been a great spring for Sony in terms of new product leaks. The company’s new flagship headphones, the WH-1000XM5, broke the cap early, as did their latest earbuds. Today, the company officially announced the LinkBuds S: a set of $200 true wireless earbuds with Active Noise Canceling (ANC) and a host of useful features. Sony says it’s designed for “a never-ending wearing experience,” with Transparency Mode that lets you adjust your contour as needed.

Joining the open-to-wear LinkBuds that debuted earlier this year, the LinkBuds S have a more “traditional” closed design. The shape is similar to Sony’s other recent earbuds, the flagship WF-1000XM4 and the $100 WF-C500. However, the LinkBuds S are much smaller, which makes them more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time, which also serves Sony’s mission of all-day use. In fact, the company claims that the LinkBuds S are “the world’s smallest, lightest, noise-canceling, high-fidelity true wireless earbuds”. The IPX4 rating means they can withstand workouts, too.

Inside, 5mm drivers deliver “powerful bass and amazingly clear bass,” according to Sony. The company’s integrated V1 processor, also found on the WH-1000XM5 headphones, maintains sound quality, reduces distortion, and enhances noise cancellation. LinkBuds S also support HD listening via Sony’s LDAC codec and DSEE Extreme upgrade. The latter technology recovers minute details that are usually lost to compressing digital audio content. Putting low latency in the way for gaming, Sony works with Niantic to bring spatial audio and head tracking to mobile AR game Entry.

Another major difference from the first set of LinkBuds is the addition of ANC. In the LinkBuds S, there’s enough noise-canceling to reduce background noise, but Sony is clear that the technology isn’t as powerful as the WF-1000XM4. Although this new model does not let the outside world in by design, it is equipped with a transparency mode to get the job done. Furthermore, the company’s adaptive sound control system can be configured to change noise cancellation and ambient sound settings based on your activity or location. Plus, Sony’s handy Speak-to-Chat feature is here, which automatically senses your voice, pauses the audio, and activates ambient mode when you start speaking.


The main feature that Sony makes in LinkBuds S is called Auto Play. According to rumors, this tool automatically plays or resumes audio based on your activity when you put on the earbuds or complete a call. If you’re on a picnic, for example, you can define a specific playlist for this behavior. Autoplay is now limited in two ways. First, it’s only available in the Sony Headphones Connect app on Android at the moment. The company plans to bring it to iOS in early June. Second, it only works with Endel Spotify and soundcape app.

For calls, Sony says the Precise Voice Pickup technology “perfectly controls the microphones on both earpieces.” In combination with a mesh cover for the microphones, the company makes it clear that you can expect clarity when walking down a busy street or on a windy day. These claims vary widely from product to product, so we’ll be sure to put this in its stride during our review. Other convenience features include compatibility with voice assistants, a full suite of customizable touch controls and support for both Google Fast Pair and Windows Swift Pair.

In terms of battery life, Sony says you can expect up to six hours of use with active noise cancellation enabled. There are another 14 hours in the charging case as well, but the company hasn’t specified any listening times other than ANC. The case does not support wireless charging, but it does offer a fast charging option. Just five minutes will give you an hour of use.

LinkBuds S are available for pre-order starting today with general availability starting May 20. You’ll have black and white options to choose from at most retailers, but Best Buy will carry an exclusive beige (Ecru) version. This $200 model will fall in the middle of Sony’s true wireless lineup, with the flagship WF-1000XM4 at the top and the reasonably priced WF-C500 below. The open-design LinkBuds also take the mid-range for $20 cheaper, and Sony plans to offer Auto Play functionality for this model via a firmware update.

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2022-05-18 16:02:43

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