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The best wireless earbuds are great for a lot of people: they’re discrete, highly portable and can sound great. But for some wearers they can be extremely uncomfortable because they jam into the ear canal painfully or just feel plain uncomfortable. To cope, manufacturers are now making much more comfortable earbuds. This open style of earbud no longer protrudes directly into the ear canal, and it leaves the area open, resting instead inside the larger ear concha.
I recently purchased a pair of Sony Link Buds (model WFL-900-W to be exact) and in this review, I’ll tell you about their fit, how they sound, their special features and if I can recommend them to you.
Sony Link Buds are IPX 4 water-resistant and they also have some cool touch controls that don’t work when you touch the buds, they work when you touch your face in front of the buds. More on this in a bit.
While the open design does allow you to keep an ear on background noise, there’s no noise canceling in these earbuds, meaning there’s no way to block out exterior noise if you need that kind of focus.
For early adopters and audiophiles, these earbuds are compatible with 360 Reality Audio and Spatial Sound Optimization, too.
In the package, you get your pair of Link Buds, a super tiny charging and storage case and a power cord for charging. Set up was a breeze; just a few clicks in my phone’s Bluetooth menu and I was listening right away.
The headphones look smooth, soft and comfortable. They’re a bit odd to insert the first time, with the open ring over your ear canal and the small bud towards the back. Tuck the tiny silicone loop in for stability and you should be ready to go.
These headphones sit almost completely flush with your ear and would actually be outstanding for sleeping in, even on your side. It doesn’t feel like anything whatsoever is plugging my ears, and it definitely feels natural.
There’s also surprisingly little noise bleed out: Even with these earbuds playing at a moderate volume level, someone standing right beside you will only barely be able to hear it. In other words, despite their design, they’re really not any different in terms of noise bleed from your average pair of AirPods.
Touch Controls … But Better
The Sony Link Buds don’t just have touch controls, they have Wide Area Tap. With this feature, you can double or triple tap your jaw in front of either ear to control your music playback. This feature works astonishingly well and I think it’s much better than touch controls, mainly because touch controls on earbuds can be finicky and require you to place your finger in the exact right sport or they aren’t responsive.
From the first moment I slipped these into my ears, I was in love. The bass is beautiful, the levels are perfectly set, and the overall balance is very even. These headphones sound fantastic no matter what I was listening to.
When it came to phone calls, the Link Buds were able to slip seamlessly between music and calling. My callers said I sounded great and really clear, as well.
Automatic Audio Adjustment
The Link Buds have Adaptive Volume control which is supposed to automatically optimize volume based on how loud it is around you. I was actually quite impressed with how well this worked; the audio adjusts rather gradually, meaning no jarring snaps between levels.
Another well-worth it, feature that worked great? With the Speak to Chat feature, the LinkBuds will automatically pause your audio as soon as you start talking to someone so you can have a conversation without taking the headphones out. When you’re done, the Link Buds are smart enough to resume playback.
Battery Life & Charging
The Sony Link Buds will deliver up to 5.5 hours of battery and a total of up to 17.5 hours with the charging case.
In my opinion, that’s actually a bit on the average-to-low side of earbuds these days. So not outstanding, but not a deal-breaker, either. Quick charging does you up to 90 minutes of playback after just a 10-minute charge, which is usually enough for your average day-to-day strolls. However, if you’re on a cross-country flight, we’d recommend fully charging the case before setting off.
I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed my Sony Link Buds. These headphones sound great, they’re ultra-comfortable to wear and I love the open feeling. The size is perfect for travel or commuting, and all of the special features work outstandingly well. Downsides? The Sony Link Buds aren’t breaking any barriers when it comes to battery life but you should have more than enough to get you through a day or two between charges.
So Should You Buy Them?
I really really love these earbuds and they have earned a place in my ears and perhaps even my heart as my new go-to headphones.
- Amazing sound
- Unique, comfortable open fit
- Packed with features
- Automatic level adjustment works great
- Ears never feel plugged
- Battery life is average-to-low
- No noise canceling
- Can’t adjust amount of ambient noise coming in
How Long Will They Last?
The smooth edges, beautiful craftsmanship and attractive good looks all seem to indicate a solid build. The case is tiny but feels weighty for its size. I’d worry about the plastic exterior of the case if it was dropped from a great height, but you can say that about most electronics today. Overall it seems like these headphones are built well, but with all those small parts it will be hard to know for sure.
What Are Some of the Alternatives?
Looking for something else in the wireless earbud space? We’ve listed a few of our favorite options below.
Bose Sport Open
You can find some other open earbuds out there, including over-ear hooking Bose Sport Open which uses bone conduction to get the sound into your ear. Be warned: The hard plastic hooks can be painful after awhile.
Though not as sleek as the Sonys, we couldn’t leave out the ubiquitous AirPods Pro when discussing some of our favorite earbuds.
AfterShokz Aeropex Bone Conduction Headphones
These may look old school, and you could probably pull off going as Data from Star Trek for Halloween in these, but they do jam eight hours of battery in among all that band. They also use patented bone conduction technology to deliver premium audio through the cheekbone (which is not as frightening as it sounds), allowing you to listen to music while remaining aware of your surroundings.