The Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless are the upgraded variant of the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless. However, while the LinkBuds lineup are designed with ambient sound in mind, the S model are more comparable to the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless than to the original LinkBuds. For starters, they have an in-ear fit and an active noise cancelling (ANC) system to help block out ambient sound instead of an open-ear enclosure. Their build is also quite similar in look compared to the XM4 but is mostly made from recycled plastic, making them lighter and more comfortable. While not a 180-degree difference, Sony has inched away from the trend of favoring an overly bassy, boomy sound profile.
The Sony LinkBuds S are satisfactory for neutral sound. Out of the box, they have a warm sound profile. Although they lack a bit of low-bass, they have a neutral mid-range, so vocals and lead instruments are present and clear in your mixes. Sibilants like cymbals are dull due to a dip in the treble range, but luckily, you can customize their sound to your liking using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets. That said, since they have an in-ear fit, their passive soundstage doesn't feel very immersive.
The Sony LinkBuds S are great for commute and travel. Thanks to their ANC system, these buds can block out an excellent amount of ambient noise around you, like the low rumble of bus engines and passenger chatter. They also have a comfortable fit and are quite lightweight as well as portable, making them an easy choice to take with you on the go. Their over seven hours of continuous playback time will last through long trips, but if you need to top them up, their carrying case supplies an extra 2.3 charges.
The Sony LinkBuds S are great for sports and fitness. These lightweight buds have a comfortable as well as stable fit and are very portable, making them a solid choice for running or working out. They're also well-built and are certified IPX4 for resistance against water splashes.
The Sony LinkBuds S are good for office use. These buds have a comfortable fit and have an ANC system that can reduce noise like office chit-chat and the hum of AC units so that you can focus on your work. They also don't leak much audio at high volumes. While their over seven hours of continuous playback time may not last through your entire work day, their carrying case supplies an additional 2.3 charges, which is handy in a pinch.
The Sony LinkBuds S are Bluetooth headphones, and their latency is likely to be too high for wireless gaming.
The Sony LinkBuds S are Bluetooth headphones, and you can't use them wired.
The Sony LinkBuds S are fair for phone calls. These buds have an integrated mic, but it has some trouble separating your voice from background noise. Recorded speech also sounds thin and distorted, though you won't have too much of an issue being heard clearly. On the upside, they have an ANC system that does an excellent job blocking background noise, meaning you can focus on your call.
The Sony LinkBuds S come in the following color variants: 'Black', 'White', and 'Ecru'. We tested the 'Black' variant, and you can see our model's label here. If you come across another variant of these headphones, please let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.
The Sony LinkBuds S are the upgraded variant of the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless. Unlike their counterpart, they have a closed-back design and have an ANC system. In this regard, they're closer in performance to the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless and even outperform them when it comes to noise isolation. They're also more comfortable, lightweight, and are even tuned differently, which makes their sound more balanced, although they aren't as neutral as the Jabra Elite 7 Pro True Wireless.
Check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds, the best earbuds and in-ear headphones, and the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds.
The Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless have a slight edge over the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless. The LinkBuds S are more comfortable, thanks to their smaller, more lightweight design. Their sound profile is more neutral, which some users may prefer, and their ANC can block out significantly more ambient sound. However, the WF-1000XM4 are better-built, and they have better overall battery life.
The Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless are slightly better in-ears than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Truly Wireless. While both earbuds are comfortable and well-built, the Sony headphones have a significantly better noise isolation performance, a longer-lasting continuous battery life, and more robust sound customization features via their companion app. However, the Samsung headphones have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer.
The Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless are the upgraded variant of the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless. Both are designed for different purposes, meaning you may prefer one over the other. The original LinkBuds are open-ear, allowing you to easily monitor your surroundings without having to take the buds out. However, that means they won't block sound, and they leak audio. However, the S model are in-ears with ANC. They're able to block out a great amount of ambient noise. They're more comfortable, stable and have a more neutral and flat sound profile, which some users may prefer. They also have longer continuous battery life.
The Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless are slightly better in-ears than the Beats Fit Pro True Wireless. While both headphones are well-built, the Sony are more comfortable, they're able to block out significantly more ambient sound, thanks to their ANC system, and their continuous battery life is longer-lasting. Their sound is also customizable. However, the Beats have a more stable in-ear fit, and their sound profile is more neutral, which some users may prefer. They also have an H1 chip, so you can seamlessly pair them with your Apple devices.
The Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless are slightly better in-ears than the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 Truly Wireless. While both buds are comfortable, well-built, and support multi-device pairing, the Sony have a significantly better noise isolation performance and a longer continuous battery life. That said, the OnePlus have a stem design, which some users may prefer.
The Sony LinkBuds S have a very similar design to the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless but are made of recycled plastic and have a single color scheme. They come in three color variations: 'Black', 'White', and 'Ecru'.
The Sony LinkBuds S have a comfortable fit. Although they're similar in look to the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless, they have a smaller and lighter design that puts less pressure on the ears. Depending on the shape of your ears, you may notice a bit of pressure inside your ear, but it's very minor. That said, they don't have an especially deep in-ear fit, and there are lots of options to find the best seal.
The Sony LinkBuds S have good controls. They have the same control scheme on their touch-sensitive surface as the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless. There are beeps as feedback to let you know when you've registered a command. However, there aren't volume controls by default. While you can remap their control scheme to add this feature, you will lose either ANC or playback controls. In addition, the touch controls are very sensitive, and if you need to adjust the buds in your ears, you can accidentally register commands.
On the left earbud:
On the right earbud:
On the either earbud:
The carrying case is good. It's small, made with a matte plastic finish, and has a light in the middle of the case to let you know the battery status. There's also an indented pairing button at the back of the case. Unfortunately, like that of the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless, the lid feels a bit flimsy and it moves a bit.
The Sony LinkBuds S have a good build quality. They're mostly made of recycled plastic and are certified IPX4 for resistance against water splashes. However, they don't feel as sturdy as the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless. The plastic can also retain fingerprints if you have oily skin.
The Sony LinkBuds S have a warm sound profile. They sound a lot more balanced than the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless, thanks to their flatter, neutral mid and treble ranges. Although they lack a bit of thump and rumble, vocals and instruments are present and clear in mixes. Sibilants like cymbals lose their edge due to their rolled-off treble, but overall their sound is comfy without bloated vocals and instruments. You can customize their sound to your liking using the companion app's graphic EQ and presets, though.
The Sony LinkBuds S have great bass accuracy. They have an underemphasized low-bass, so mixes lack thump and rumble, but it's not as weak or lacking as the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless. The mid-bass is also a little underemphasized, which lacks a bit of punch. However, the high-bass is very neutral and flat, so mixes are warm without being boomy.
The Sony LinkBuds S' mid accuracy is excellent. The range is fairly neutral, so vocals and lead instruments sound clear and detailed. Although there's a dip in the mid-mid, which nudges vocals and lead instruments to the back of your mix, it's fairly minor.
The Sony LinkBuds S' peaks and dips performance is excellent. A dip in the mid-mid affects the right driver and pushes vocals and instruments to the back of the mix. A peak in the high-mid and another in the low-treble makes vocals and lead instruments sound a bit harsh in both drivers.
The Sony LinkBuds S' imaging performance is outstanding. Sony tends to have good quality control when it comes ensuring that their drivers match, especially when the products are high-end. That said, imaging can still vary between units. However, our unit's L/R drivers are well-matched in group delay, phase response, amplitude, and frequency response, which is important for accurately placing and localizing objects like instruments in the stereo image.
The Sony LinkBuds S have a bad passive soundstage, but that's normal for closed-back in-ear headphones. They bypass your outer-ear by design. However, the outer-ear needs to be activated by sound resonances in order to create a more immersive sound. As a result, sound seems like it's coming from inside your head rather than from speakers placed in the room around you. Their soundstage doesn't feel very open or immersive either.
Like the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless, the Sony LinkBuds S are compatible with Sony 360 Reality Audio. In order to use this feature, you need to be subscribed to compatible services like Tidal or Artist Connection, though. When on, it can help create a more immersive experience, especially with songs like Pink Floyd's Money, which have sound objects that move between the L/R drivers.
The weighed harmonic distortion performance is good. There's a couple of small peaks in the treble range at normal listening volumes, but this can be very hard to hear with real-life content. The rest of the frequencies fall within good limits, resulting in clean and pure audio reproduction.
These are the settings used to test the Sony LinkBuds S. Our results are only valid when used with these settings.
The Sony LinkBuds S have an excellent noise isolation performance and unlike the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless, they have an ANC system. While we originally tested these buds using the small ear tips, we were able to achieve a better seal by using the medium ear tips instead, which improved their noise isolation performance. However, keep in mind that in real-life use, once you get a good fit, you'll also experience excellent noise isolation.
Surprisingly, these buds can block out more background noise than the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless, as they tackle more of the low rumble of bus and plane engines. They're also able to cut down ambient chatter well. However, when it comes to the treble range, and sounds like the humming of AC units, the buds offer a better isolation performance passively compared to the ANC.
The integrated mic has a noise gate, which cuts down almost all noise, which caused issues with testing. The noise gate can also take a few seconds to adjust. There's distortion present, especially when compared to the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless. Overall, your voice sounds clear but thin and a bit distorted.
The microphone's noise handling performance is fair. The noise gate takes a couple of seconds to kick in, but it can separate your voice from moderate background noise, although speech quality declines. However, when there are loud sounds, like a train passing, the mic cuts out your voice as well as the subway voice.
The Sony LinkBuds S' battery performance is decent. The manufacturer advertises them to last six hours continuously when using the default SBC codec, which is longer than the 5.5 hours they advertise for the original Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless. However, we measured over seven hours from the S model when using SBC, which will last long days on the go. If you switch to LDAC, the battery will drain quicker, and Sony advertises roughly 3.5-4.5 hours of playback when using this codec. Keep in mind that battery life can vary depending on use, though. Their carrying case supplies roughly 2.3 additional charges if you need a top-up, and they have a quick-charge feature that supplies an hour of playtime after five minutes of charging.
The Sony | Headphones Connect is great. You can access a graphic EQ and presets as well as their virtual soundstage feature to help you customize their sound. In addition, there's a 'Spatial Sound Optimization' feature, which measures the optimal angle of the headphones in your ear for spatial audio, as well as quick access to certain features like Spotify or even connect to Ingress Prime, which is a mobile augmented reality (AR) game. You can also turn Speak-to-Chat, auto-off, and smart-pause on and off. After updating the headphones to firmware 2.0.2, you can even toggle multi-device pairing on and off.
The Sony LinkBuds S have excellent Bluetooth connectivity. Thanks to firmware 2.0.2, these buds support multi-device pairing, so you can connect them to your PC and smartphone simultaneously. They also have Fast Pair, allowing you to quickly pair Bluetooth devices together. While they have high wireless latency on PCs, their latency on iOS and Android devices is much lower, so your audio and visuals stay in sync while streaming. If you like to stream audio in higher quality, these buds support LDAC, which is Sony's proprietary codec for Hi-Res audio. Keep in mind that some devices and apps compensate for latency, though.
The Sony LinkBuds S are fully-compatible with Bluetooth-enabled PCs. However, you can't connect them to your PC in any other way.
The Sony LinkBuds S come with a carrying case that supplies 2.3 extra charges. It has a USB-C port for recharging the case. However, unlike the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 Truly Wireless' carrying case, it doesn't support wireless charging.