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Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Reviewed Oct 14, 2022 at 10:05 am
Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless Picture
7.1
Neutral Sound
8.1
Commute/Travel
8.2
Sports/Fitness
7.3
Office
5.7
Wireless Gaming
5.5
Wired Gaming
6.5
Phone Calls
Type In-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Truly Wireless
Transducer Dynamic
Noise Cancelling Yes
Mic Yes

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.

Our Verdict

7.1 Neutral Sound

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.

Pros
  • Customizable via companion app's graphic EQ and presets.
Cons
  • Bad passive soundstage.
8.1 Commute/Travel

The Sony LinkBuds S are great for commute and travel. Thanks to their ANC system, these buds can block out a great 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.

Pros
  • Comfortable, stable, and well-built design.
  • Great overall noise isolation, thanks to ANC system.
Cons
  • Bad passive soundstage.
8.2 Sports/Fitness

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.

Pros
  • Comfortable, stable, and well-built design.
  • IPX4 water resistance.
Cons
  • Bad passive soundstage.
7.3 Office

The Sony LinkBuds S are decent 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.

Pros
  • Comfortable, stable, and well-built design.
  • Great overall noise isolation, thanks to ANC system.
Cons
  • No multi-device pairing support.
5.7 Wireless Gaming

The Sony LinkBuds S are Bluetooth headphones, and their latency is likely to be too high for wireless gaming.

5.5 Wired Gaming

The Sony LinkBuds S are Bluetooth headphones, and you can't use them wired.

6.5 Phone Calls

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 a great job blocking background noise, meaning you can focus on your call.

Pros
  • Great overall noise isolation, thanks to ANC system.
Cons
  • No multi-device pairing support.
  • Mediocre overall microphone performance.
  • 7.1 Neutral Sound
  • 8.1 Commute/Travel
  • 8.2 Sports/Fitness
  • 7.3 Office
  • 5.7 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.5 Wired Gaming
  • 6.5 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Oct 14, 2022: Review published.
  2. Updated Oct 05, 2022: Early access published.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

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.

Compared To Other Headphones

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.

Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless

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.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Truly Wireless

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.

Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless

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.

Beats Fit Pro True Wireless

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.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Type In-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Truly Wireless
Transducer Dynamic

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'.

7.5
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.02 lbs
Clamping Force
0 lbs

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.

7.6
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use Good
Feedback Decent
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control Yes
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control On/Off
Talk-Through
On/Off
Additional Controls Voice Assistant

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:

  • Single tap: Cycles between ANC mode and talk-through mode. This function can be customized in the app so that it also allows you to turn these features off.
  • Press and hold: Activates 'Quick Attention' as long as you have your finger on the earbud. Turns down your audio and allows you to hear ambient sound.

On the right earbud:

  • Single tap: Plays and pauses audio.
  • Double tap: Skips the track forward.
  • Triple tap: Skips the track backward.

On the either earbud:

  • Double tap: Answers and ends a call.
  • Press and hold: Rejects an incoming call.

9.5
Design
Portability
L 1.2" (3.1 cm)
W 1.0" (2.6 cm)
H 0.9" (2.4 cm)
Volume 1.18 in³ (19.30 cm³)
Transmitter Required No

The Sony LinkBuds S are very portable. Since they're truly wireless headphones, they have a small footprint and can easily fit into most pockets or bags without a problem.

7.5
Design
Case
Type Hard case
L 2.4" (6.0 cm)
W 1.7" (4.3 cm)
H 1.1" (2.7 cm)
Volume 4.25 in³ (69.70 cm³)

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.

7.5
Design
Build Quality

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.

7.5
Design
Stability

The Sony LinkBuds S have a stable fit. Once you find the right fit, they won't move around your ears or fall out. However, you may still need to replace them in your ears over long periods if you find that they're popping out.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Sony LinkBuds S earbuds
  • 4x tip sizes
  • Charging case
  • USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • Manuals

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-1.09 dB
Treble Amount
-3.94 dB

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.

9.2
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.16 dB

The Sony LinkBuds S have fantastic frequency response consistency. Once you get a good fit and seal, you'll receive consistent bass and treble delivery each time you use them.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
8.3
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.09 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
56.57 Hz
Low-Bass
-3.99 dB
Mid-Bass
-1.49 dB
High-Bass
0.33 dB

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.

8.9
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.53 dB
Low-Mid
-0.5 dB
Mid-Mid
-2.29 dB
High-Mid
-0.01 dB

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.

6.8
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
4.67 dB
Low-Treble
-3.61 dB
Mid-Treble
-6.24 dB
High-Treble
-12.98 dB

The Sony LinkBuds S' treble accuracy is fair. The response is underemphasized across the range, so vocals and lead instruments are veiled and dark. Sibilants like hi-hats are also dull and lispy.

8.5
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.1 dB
Dips
0.57 dB

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.

9.1
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.09
Weighted Phase Mismatch
1.73
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.94
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
0.83

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.

0.6
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
N/A
PRTF Distance
N/A
Openness
1.8
Acoustic Space Excitation
0.8

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.

4.1
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
On/Off
Speaker Modeling
On/Off
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
360 Reality Audio

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.

7.6
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.347
WHD @ 100
0.127

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.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
1.1.0
Power
On
Connection
Bluetooth 5.0
Codec
LDAC, 32-bit, 48kHz
EQ
Off
ANC
On
Tip/Pad
Silicone (small)
Microphone
Integrated

These are the settings used to test the Sony LinkBuds S. Our results are only valid when used with these settings.

Isolation
8.2
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-22.5 dB
Noise Cancelling Yes
Bass
-16.52 dB
Mid
-22.04 dB
Treble
-29.45 dB

The Sony LinkBuds S have a great noise isolation performance. Unlike the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless, they have an ANC system. Surprisingly, it 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. However, like the XM4s, they offer fairly similar performance, whether the ANC is on or passively when it comes to the mid and treble range. They can still reduce a lot of ambient chatter and the hum of standing fans, though.

9.3
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
25.17 dB

The Sony LinkBuds S' leakage performance is outstanding. Leakage is spread out but is very hard to hear, even in moderately quiet environments. It's unlikely that you'll disturb others around you if you like to listen to audio at high volumes.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
Mic Yes
5.4
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
257.68 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
4.44 dB
HFE
7,896.12 Hz
Weighted THD
1,274.475
Gain
-46.22 dB

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.

6.9
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
31.81 dB
Noise Gate
Always On
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
7.5
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
6.0
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample

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.

Active Features
7.3
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
7.1 hrs
Additional Charges
2.3
Total Battery Life
23.4 hrs
Charge Time
1.7 hrs
Power-Saving Feature
Auto-Off Timer
Audio While Charging
Yes
Passive Playback
No
Charging Port USB-C

The Sony LinkBuds S' battery performance is decent. The manufacturer advertises them to last six hours continuously, 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, which will last long days on the go. 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.

8.0
Active Features
App Support
App Name Sony| Headphones Connect
iOS Yes
Android Yes
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
Graphic + Presets
ANC Control
On/Off
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
Yes
Button Mapping Yes
Surround Support
Yes

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.

Connectivity
7.1
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
5.2
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
233.92 ft (71.30 m)
PC Latency (SBC)
228 ms
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
11 ms
Android Latency
86 ms

The Sony LinkBuds S have satisfactory Bluetooth connectivity. Unfortunately, they don't support NFC or multi-device pairing. However, they do 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. Some devices and apps compensate for latency.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length N/A
Connection
No Wired Option
Analog/USB Audio Latency
N/A

These headphones come with a USB-C to USB-A for charging their carrying case. You can't use them wired, though.

Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
No
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No

The Sony LinkBuds S are fully-compatible with Bluetooth-enabled PCs. However, you can't connect them to your PC in any other way.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
No
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
No
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
No
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No
2.2
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
Charging Case
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
Yes
Power Supply
USB-C

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, it doesn't support wireless charging.

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