Sony launches the LinkBuds S, simplified but next-gen WF-1000Xm4s… and further confuses the issue

Sony LinkBuds S

Sony really does not make it easy for us with its nomenclature. If it was already not easy to find your way around the WH, WF and similar ranges, the appearance ofLinkBuds earbuds a few months ago was still clouding the tracks a little more. Today, the new LinkBuds S, quite close to the WF-1000Xm4end up messing up the manufacturer’s ranges.

That said, these new headphones look particularly interesting: smaller and less expensive than their elders, they are also and above all fully prepared for the future Bluetooth LE Audio standard.

The youngest, still in LDAC

We quickly understand why Sony gave this name to its new wireless headphones. Indeed, the LinkBuds S have some points in common with the previous LinkBuds, especially in terms of design and manufacture. Designed from recycled plastic, they are however sold as a less high-end version, the Xm4.

Sony LinkBuds S

The main difference with the latter lies in the compactness (3.2 cm3 for the LinkBuds S, compared to 5.4 cm3 for the WF-1000Xm4) and lightness (only 4.8 grams per earpiece). Inevitably, this format should allow these new earbuds to be more universal, and suitable for sports practice. The charging box, unfortunately incompatible with induction charging, follows this same size logic. Without too many surprises, the certification here is of the IPX4 type, which authorizes any projection of water.

For the commands, Sony is Sony, that is to say a mix of “commands + Sony Headphones application”, with integration of presence sensors on the headphones. The LinkBuds S thus enjoy most of the functions of their elders. Even more interesting, they are LDAC compatible, in addition to AAC and SBC. Too bad not to have integrated Multipoint connection.

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Since the headphones are announced as a kind of mid-range, or simplified high-end (difficult to navigate), they necessarily adopt the technological codes. In addition to the LDAC, the LinkBuds S include active noise reduction, which Sony claims is more adaptive and superior to that of the WF-1000Xm3. The headphones should therefore be a little less efficient than the Xm4s. We also note a few keys premiumsuch as the use of acoustic fabric to avoid saturation of the microphones facing the wind.

Sony LinkBuds S

The compactness of these headphones implies, like the WH-1000Xm5 headphones, a reduction in the size of the dynamic transducer. It thus passes to a diameter of 5 mm (6mm for the Xm4). If the size is quite small on paper, it could well be sufficient to bring a real seat in listening. As a sign of a certain standing, Sony associates the model with its most advanced sound processing, the DSEE Extreme.

But what is likely to really make an impression in the long term is the compatibility of the LinkBuds S with the future Bluetooth LE Audio standard. Thus, via an update scheduled for the end of the year, the LinkBuds S will be ready for what promises to be a small revolution, whether in terms of audio sharing, latency, or even autonomy (via much more optimized codecs).

To our knowledge, Sony is the first brand to announce a product compatible with this standard. Too bad not to have also applied this to the WH-1000Xm5. Note that for the moment the manufacturer only mentions “reduced latency” in his speech, but no doubt so as not to lose the user in the face of this new technology, which is necessarily little known to the general public.

Sony LinkBuds S

Finally, the autonomy of the headphones, compactness obliges, remains below very high-end references. The LinkBuds S should be able to operate for 6 hours with ANC (AAC codec), 9 hours without ANC, and up to 20 hours including the case. A figure quite sufficient, if not record, that we will still have to check in test. Note that a fast charging mode saves 1 hour of battery life in 5 minutes of charging.

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Available in white, black, and gold, the LinkBuds S will be available from the end of May, for a price of 199 euros.

Source: Sony press release

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