Sony’s LinkBuds S are $200 noise-canceling headphones with autoplay | Engadget

Billy Steele
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It hasn’t been a great spring for Sony in terms of new product leaks. The company’s new flagship headset, the WH-1000XM5, broken cover early, just like his latest headphones. Today, the company officially announced the LinkBud S: a set of $200 true wireless headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) and a host of convenient features. Sony says they’re designed for an “uninterrupted wearing experience”, with a transparency mode allowing you to connect to your surroundings as needed.

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

Inside, 5mm drivers deliver “powerful bass and amazingly clear vocals”, according to Sony. The company’s built-in V1 processor, also found in the WH-1000XM5 headphones, works to maintain sound quality, minimize distortion and boost noise cancellation. The LinkBuds S also support Hi-Res listening via Sony’s LDAC codec and DSEE Extreme upscaling. This latest technology recovers finer details that are typically lost when compressing digital audio content. A low latency mode is on the way for gaming and Sony is working with Niantic to bring spatial audio and head tracking to AR mobile gaming Entrance.

Another key difference from the first set of LinkBuds is the addition of ANC. On the LinkBuds S there’s enough noise blocking capability to reduce background noise, but Sony is clear the technology isn’t as robust as the WF-1000XM4. While this new model doesn’t let the outside world in by design, it does come equipped with a transparency mode to do that job. Plus, the company’s adaptive sound control 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 available here, which automatically detects your voice, pauses the sound, and activates ambient sound mode when you start speaking.


The main feature that Sony offers for the LinkBuds S is called autoplay. True to rumours, this tool automatically plays or resumes audio based on your activity when you put on the headphones or end a call. If you’re taking a walk, for example, you can select a specific playlist for that behavior. Autoplay is currently limited in two ways. First of all, it’s currently only available in the Sony Headphones Connect app on Android. The company plans to bring it to iOS in early June. Second, it only works with Spotify and the Soundscape Endel app.

For calls, Sony says its Precise Voice Pickup technology “optimally controls the microphones of both headphones”. Combined with a mesh cover for the mics, the company says you can expect clarity while 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 that to the test in our review. Other handy features include compatibility with voice assistants, a full suite of customizable touch controls, and support for 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 turned on. There’s also an additional 14 hours in the charging case, but the company hasn’t specified a non-ANC listening time. The case does not support wireless charging, but it does offer a fast charging option. Five minutes is enough for one hour of use.

the LinkBuds S are up for pre-order starting today with general availability starting May 20. You’ll have black and white color options to choose from at most retailers, but Best Buy will offer an exclusive beige (ecru) version. This $200 model will sit in the middle of Sony’s true wireless lineup, with the flagship WF-1000XM4 at the top and the affordable WF-C500 below. The open-design LinkBuds also occupy the mid-range for $20 less, and Sony plans to bring autoplay functionality to this model via a firmware update.

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