Comfortable, good ANC, great sound: Sony LinkBuds S rock the 200-euro class

The Sony LinkBuds S are lightweight and very comfortable earphones that you hardly feel.

Comfortable, good ANC, great sound: Sony LinkBuds S rock the 200-euro class

The Sony LinkBuds S are lightweight and very comfortable earphones that you hardly feel. In addition, they offer good sound, effective noise suppression and practical extras that are otherwise only found in more expensive competitors for a relatively low price.

With the WF-1000XM4, Sony has earphones in its repertoire that - in terms of sound, active noise cancellation (ANC) and functions - are top class. However, they are not exactly cheap at around 250 euros, and many users find them quite uncomfortable in the long run. On the other hand, the Japanese recently launched the LinkBuds, which with an uncompromisingly open design can hardly be felt, but also do not offer ANC and do without depth in the sound. The LinkBuds S should now represent the perfect compromise from both worlds. ntv.de tested whether Sony succeeded in doing this.

As for comfort, the Japanese have hit the mark. At 4.8 grams each, the small plugs are very light and so small that you hardly notice them. Nevertheless, they sit securely in the ear thanks to their ergonomic design, are waterproof (IPX4) and also quite sporty.

The charging case is also extremely light at 35 grams and fits in any trouser pocket with dimensions of 42.8 x 60 x 27.6 millimeters. Its partially recycled plastic is matte like the buds, which is pleasant to the touch and prevents streaks of fat. The workmanship is of high quality, the lid closes securely and holds the position when opened. The earphones attach magnetically, but can also be easily removed.

In contrast to the "perforated" LinkBuds, the S-Class offers nice basses with the right attachments, which are powerful but not uncomfortably punchy. The mids are cleanly defined, with the earphones coping effortlessly with a wide range of different music styles. The clear highs are also convincing, they provide many details and never catch your ear, even at higher volumes.

What is noticeable in comparison with, for example, the Sony WF-1000XM4 Sennheiser or the new Momentum True Wireless, is a somewhat narrower stage, which is probably due to the very compact design. Otherwise, the LinkBuds S are not far from the top class in terms of sound. And with the right material, they are even able to produce very convincing 360-degree sound.

Overall, the earphones are tuned rather warm. If you don't like that, or want more bass or clearer treble, you can change this in the extensive app, which offers, among other things, an equalizer with many modes or individual settings.

Apart from Sony's LDAC, the LinkBuds S do not support any high-resolution Bluetooth codecs. Sony's DSEE technology, which can be activated in the app, is intended to restore lost subtleties through compression.

The application also features settings for adaptive noise cancellation. This means that the earphones and app automatically recognize whether you are staying, walking, running or sitting in a vehicle. Depending on the situation, external noise is then suppressed or amplified. You can adjust how much or what (voices) you want to hear from the environment, but with the ANC there are only the positions on or off.

The adaptive noise cancellation works surprisingly well. Situations are recognized quickly and the ANC is very effective for earbuds, especially on trains and buses. Optional voice recognition is also useful, as it pauses playback and amplifies external noise as soon as you start speaking. You can also take out an earphone instead, since the LinkBuds S have a wearer detection. The noise canceling also does a good job during phone calls.

Touch control over the buds' outer surfaces is accurate and uncomplicated. From playback to volume, you can control everything with one, two or three taps and long touches. In the app you can specify which functions you want to assign to the left and right gestures.

With activated adaptive noise cancellation, the LinkBuds S last around six hours, without around nine hours - you can't complain about that. The box contains reserves for another 14 hours. After five minutes in the case, the buds have enough juice again to play music for up to an hour. The box cannot charge up electricity inductively, which shouldn't matter to most users, but is almost standard in the 200-euro class.

All in all, the Sony LinkBuds S are among the best earbuds you can find in the $200 range. As promised, they're ultra-comfortable, deliver good sound, and offer very effective adaptive noise cancellation. There are also other comfort functions and an excellent app.

But the LinkBuds S are not unrivaled either. If you don't want to compromise on sound and ANC, you can now get the Sony WF-1000XM4 or the Technics EAH-AZ60 for 215 euros. Apple Airpods Pro have also arrived in this price range after almost three years on the market. Almost the same advantages as the LinkBuds S can be found with the Sennheiser CX Plus, which currently only costs 110 euros.

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