Sony’s New LinkBuds Are Different From Any Bluetooth Earbuds You’ve Used

Sony’s New LinkBuds Are Different From Any Bluetooth Earbuds You’ve Used

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Most earbuds and headphones try to block out any noise that isn’t being filtered into your ears through the drivers, but Sony’s new LinkBuds embrace outside sounds as a part of its identity. LinkBuds are aimed at listeners who want or need to both hear their private audio and the world around them. The unique earbuds are available to order in gray or white for $180 at Amazon, Best Buy, and Sony.

Given the fact that many of us have traditionally shopped for a solid pair of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds, it’s understandable to be skeptical of LinkBuds’ premise. Who exactly are these earbuds for? A few examples: Mobile gamers scouring the augmented reality world of Pokemon, parents who want to listen to something other than Sesame Street but still need to be available to hear their children ask for another snack, office workers who can’t completely ignore their nearby coworkers, or anyone who regularly only has one AirPod in at once.

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LinkBuds have a novel form factor, as they are shaped like an infinity symbol–basically two circular pieces put together. Instead of going into your ear canal, these buds rest gently but securely on your ear with the help of rubber hooks that tuck under the ridge above your ear canal. There are five different hook sizes to help you get the right fit. The lower circle has an open ring design to allow sound to sift into your ears from the outside.

Since LinkBuds are designed for an always-on lifestyle, it makes sense that the form factor aims for long-lasting comfort. I put this goal to the test by wearing them for eight mostly uninterrupted hours (small gaps for charging). As someone who thinks traditional earbuds become bothersome after a couple of hours of use, I was extremely impressed with the fact that I felt zero discomfort. In fact, sometimes I forgot they were even attached to my ears, which is probably partly due to their lightweight design.

Sony Linkbuds
Sony LinkBuds

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More importantly, LinkBuds succeed as a listening device. I wore them around my kids and found that I could both hear my music and them clearly. I could carry conversations without falling into the trap of speaking louder than I intended, and I generally felt both plugged into the audio in my ears and the sounds around me. I was worried that the design would lead to my music being heard by everyone in my vicinity, but that wasn’t the case at all.

With the help of DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine), LinkBuds deliver clear and impressive audio through their 12mm drivers. When using the Sony Headphone Connect app, sound levels are adaptive to your situation, so volume automatically lowers when in quiet places and goes up if there’s commotion around you. You can pause your media or skip to the next track by simply tapping in front of your ear rather than the buds themselves.

Sony partnered with multiple companies while developing LinkBuds, including Pokemon Go developer Niantic, Microsoft, and Spotify. LinkBuds support Microsoft Soundscape to provide audio cues based on your surroundings. Soundscape uses LinkBuds’ gyro sensors to detect and focus on sounds based on what you’re looking at. It’s essentially an audio map that keeps you in-the-know about your surroundings, which aligns with the LinkBuds’ design. For instance, you could set up routes for runs around the neighborhood. If you’re a Spotify subscriber, LinkBuds support Spotify Tap, which is a one-touch way to get back into your music where you left off.

Like most Bluetooth earbuds, you use LinkBuds to make calls. Voice isolation technology drowns out ambient noise so that you can have a clear conversation. You can also enable a setting that automatically pauses your music when you start talking. Android and iOS users can use Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and Google Assistant is also available for Android users.

You can get up to 5.5 hours of playback on a full charge, and the included charging case adds a dozen more hours. With fast-charging tech, you can pop the LinkBuds in the charging case and get 90 minutes of playback after a 10-minute charge.

If you prefer and have the luxury to block out noise from your surroundings and other people, LinkBuds likely won’t appeal to you. But if you game on the go a fair amount, need to be present at work, or have kids at home, LinkBuds offer a great way to stay plugged in.

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