Bridging the gap between Linkbuds and the WF-1000XM4 – Technology News, Firstpost

– Good sound quality
– Compact design, comfortable in-ear
– Impressive ANC and Ambient Mode
– Wear detection, multi-point support
Support for LDAC codecs even when paired with two devices
– A useful companion app
Good battery backup with ANC on

– Configuring touch controls could have been smarter
Average call quality
– Expensive

price: 16,990 rupees

Rating: 3.8/5

Sony launched two notable TWS headphones this year in India. First, the flagship WF-1000XM4 was still the best TWS earphones under 20,000 rupees here and the benchmark for Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) in this segment. Then came the very unusual Linkbuds that served an entirely different purpose. While the former was about cutting out outside noise, the latter was about staying connected all the time.

Sony WF-LS900N (Linkbuds S) review. Main photo

Image credit: Tech2 | Amia Dalvey

The company’s latest release, the Sony WF-LS900N, also known as Linkbuds S globally, not only looks to bridge the gap between the two but strives to offer the best of both worlds. In many ways, one could also call it the 1000XM4 Mini (unofficially) due to the similarity in appearance and feature list. Could this be the mid-range player Sony needs to take on the likes of the Oppo Enco X2 and some others? Let’s find out.

Sony WF-LS900N TWS Headphones: Design and Comfort (8/10)
These earphones look like a compact version of the WF-1000XM4 with the same shape and design. These buds are 40 percent smaller than the flagship Sony TWS and weigh just 4.8 grams each. They feel more comfortable in the ear because of the smaller footprint and fit, too. They don’t stick out in the ears as much as the 1000XM4 and stay in place while you’re running. The silicone ear tips provide a good seal, and as a result, passive noise isolation is very good.

Sony Buds WF-LS900N (Linkbuds S) review

Image credit: Tech2 | Amia Dalvey

A few more pairs of tips are bundled in case the default tips don’t work for you. Don’t spend a few minutes choosing the right one. The build quality of the product is solid with a smooth matte finish and large touch areas on the back of the buds. The same hue extends to the compact, pocket-friendly charging case that weighs 35 grams. The case houses a USB-C charging port, a Bluetooth pairing/reset button on the back, and a charging status LED on the front.

You can get three color variants of the LS900N – black, white, and beige. Sony says the buds are made from plastics recycled from auto parts. Just like in some of the recently launched products, the packaging material is free from any plastic to keep things eco-friendly. We appreciate this initiative.

Sony WF-LS900N (Linkbuds S) Charging Case Review

Image credit: Tech2 | Amia Dalvey

Sony WF-LS900N TWS Headphones: Features and Specifications (8.5 / 10)
Despite the smaller footprint, the earphones host a 5mm driver each, along with Sony’s V1 processor found in the 1000XM4 as well, as well as the ANC circuitry. Keeping the weight of each bud under 5 grams despite all this and without compromising the battery backup is commendable. Sony Linkbuds S support SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs via Bluetooth 5.2. You can choose between sound quality or a stable connection, and a codec is set accordingly. As long as the buds and the source device are in the same room, it’s best to choose the former and use LDAC codecs.

The earphones are touch enabled and allow you to perform a handful of tasks using single tap, double tap, and triple tap gestures. Functions can be configured using the Sony Headphones app. However, things are not as accurate as I would have hoped. As on most Sony earphones, functions are available in groups and you can’t assign a specific function to a particular gesture. For example, if you choose ANC modes for the left buds, only one tap is used to cycle through them, while double tap and triple tap are left unused, and you can’t assign anything to them.

The companion app also provides you with several audio presets and an equalizer to create your own sound. These earbuds have an IPX4 sweat resistance rating and can be worn during workouts without worry. You get wear-detecting sensors to pause the sound when you remove the buds from your ear and resume when you put them back in. You also get multipoint support here to pair these speakers with two devices at once. Even better, unlike older Sony hardware, you can use LDAC codecs even when using multiple points.

Sony WF-LS900N TWS Headphones: Performance (7.5 / 10)
Wireless range is good even with LDAC encoding with audio remaining smooth even at 10m away with a clear line of sight between the speakers and the source device. But that drops to less than half with a concrete wall in between. There were no latency issues while streaming videos. You get three listening modes here — noise-canceling on, ambient sounds on, and normal mode (both are off). You can choose any two or all three from the Headphones app.

The ANC may not be on the same level as the 1000XM4, but it’s very effective and reduces a lot of low- and mid-range sounds like a fan or AC hum. Even outdoors, it greatly reduces traffic noise and human chatter. As I mentioned earlier, the smaller sized earbuds combined with the appropriately sized silicone tips provide good passive noise isolation which makes the ANC more effective. Ambient mode here is one of the best as things look natural. This product does not belong to the Linkbuds series after all it believes in staying in touch with your surroundings.

Sony WF-LS900N (Linkbuds S) Earbuds Review

Image credit: Tech2 | Amia Dalvey

You can switch between modes by tapping the left earbud once. You can touch and hold the back of the left earcup to momentarily let ambient sounds in, just as in the case of Sony’s 1000XM headphones. You can also choose Adaptive Sound Control to automatically switch ANC and ambient modes on and off based on your location and surroundings. Features like talk to chat, DSEE Extreme audio upscaling, 360 Reality Audio, and support for several voice assistants are also available on these Hi-Res Audio certified headphones.

The sound of the Sony WF-LS900N is loud enough at a volume level of 60-70%. While these buds look like the WF-1000XM4, they don’t look quite like it. These headphones are noticeably heavy in sound. The bass is reasonably tight but affects the low-midrange frequencies. Vocal clarity is very good but the instrument separation could have been better. The highs are sharp with a good amount of sparkle. They don’t look abnormal but they do kick in a little sooner than they should.

The overall detail in the audio is good but not as good as the XM4 or even the Oppo Enco X2 for that matter. The sound stage is reasonably wide for TWS buds, and I get the impression that it feels a little wider when turned on in ambient mode. Most popular genres of music sound good on these speakers. The LS900N’s overall sound quality is pleasant, but given its price, it’s only fair to expect more subtleties in the sound.

Sony WF-LS900N TWS Earbuds: Call Quality (7/10)
The WF-LS900N’s call quality is average at best. The person on the line was clearly audible, and the other person heard me with reasonable clarity, but the transmitted voice lacked sharpness. When outdoors, the microphones pick up some ambient noise but not excessively. So the noise suppression algorithm works reasonably well but will likely end up affecting vocal clarity as well. It’s nowhere near as bad, but I would expect better on premium products.

Sony WF-LS900N (Linkbuds S) review Linkbuds vs Linkbuds S.

Sony Linkbuds S (left), Sony Linkbuds (right). Image credit: Tech2 | Amia Dalvey

Sony WF-LS900N TWS Earbuds: Battery Life (7.5 / 10)
Sony claims a 6-hour battery backup for the buds and an additional 14 hours with the charging case, with ANC on throughout. During testing, I got just over 5 hours of shoots with ANC turned on most of the time at a loud 60 to 70%. The case can recharge these buds two more times with some juice still left in the tank, so the total battery backup took about 17 hours with ANC on, which isn’t bad at all.

Overall, I’d set 17 hours as an average, but considering I’ve been using the LDAC codec all the time with ANC turned on, those are pretty good numbers. With ANC off, these headphones should easily pass the 20 hour mark, possibly as high as 24 hours. The battery status of each earbud as well as the charging case can be seen on the phone. The app prompts you when the charge on the tray drops below 30%.

It takes just over two hours to fully charge the earphones and case from scratch using a standard USB-C charger. These headphones support fast charging as well, and just 5 minutes of charging can give you about an hour of playtime; A useful feature when you are in a hurry. The wireless charging that was present in the WF-1000XM4 is skipped here.

Sony WF-LS900N (Linkbuds S) See USB port and pairing button

Image credit: Tech2 | Amia Dalvey

Sony WF-LS900N TWS Headphones: Price and Verdict
Sony WF-LS900N TWS headphones are priced at Rs 16,990 with a one-year warranty and can be purchased for Rs 13,990 inclusive of cashback using certain credit and debit cards until the end of this month. Sony could have been more competitive here, and in our opinion, the price after cashback should have been the official price ideally. Now, the company has been known to stick with the introductory price for much longer than the set date, and I hope they do the same with the LS900N as well. I will explain why.

At Rs 16,990, it’s uncomfortably close to the WH-1000XM4, which is clearly a superior product in most departments. If someone is willing to spend that kind of money, they might spend 3k more and go for a flagship product that not only looks a lot better but also offers better ANC. And this is just internal competition. There are few TWS earbuds available in this price segment, but the LS900N mainly needs one – the Oppo Enco X2.

The Enco X2 retails for ₹10,990 and actually looks better than the LS900N, with more subtle details and better balance. Sony comfortably beats it when it comes to ANC but there’s a lot more that Oppo will have besides superior sound quality like call quality and better design to make it a better all-round option for your money, given the 6K price difference. If Sony can reduce the price gap by at least 3K, the competition will be more even and provide the WF-LS900N with enough head and legroom to be a solid player in the sub-15K category.

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