Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) review.
If you’re looking for a truly premium wireless headset and you’re looking for options from Sony, you’ll probably notice its flagship WF-1000XM4 first, and rightly so. Sony’s true wireless headset is among our picks in this space, thanks to its generally good noise cancellation performance, features, and sound quality. However, about Rs. 20,000, no doubt it is expensive and would be out of reach for many. Sony’s latest wireless headset, the LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N), may offer something of a solution.
The price of Rs. 16,990 in India, the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) costs less than the flagship WF-1000XM4 but promises an almost as good experience, thanks to advanced Bluetooth codec support, active noise cancellation, and a lightweight form factor. it has been a viable ‘all day wear’ option. Does this unique case make the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) worth the price? Find out in this review.
Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) design and features
While the naming convention might suggest that the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) is a successor to the original Sony LinkBuds (WF-L900), the new headphone is very different. The design is decidedly more traditional, with a proper in-canal fit and ears that don’t look unusually odd in any way.
That said, the LinkBuds S earbuds are much smaller and lighter than many competing options in the premium segment of true wireless earphones. The earphones are available in three colors – black, white, and ecru. The black review unit I received had a nice texture and feel.
Sony touts the LinkBuds S as an all-day wearable wireless headset, and the 4.8g weight and compact shape of the earpieces help with this. Although it’s quite comfortable in terms of channel fit, the Sony WF-LS900N isn’t as comfortable as the original LinkBuds, and I found it difficult to keep the earphones on all day as Sony might suggest. That said, wearing the earphones for 2-3 hours at a time was no problem at all.
The common form factor and style of the Sony WF-LS900N allows for a secure fit with good sound isolation and effective noise cancellation. However, compactness means that Sony has had to go with dynamic drivers that are 5mm smaller than usual in earpieces. The exterior of each ear is flat to allow easy use of touch controls (can be customized through the app), while the interior has a proximity sensor that controls the auto play-pause function, among other things. The earbuds are IPX4 rated for water resistance.
The Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) charging case is straightforward, with the same case color as the earbuds. It’s a compact, convenient shape and size, with an indicator light under the lid, and a USB Type-C port and pairing button on the back. Notably, there’s no wireless charging on the Sony LinkBuds S, which is a bit disappointing given the headset’s price.
The eco-friendly retail package includes four pairs of silicone ear tips, and a USB Type-C charging cable. Other features on the headset include support for Spotify Tap and personal Endel soundscapes, Google Fast Pair, and multi-point connection for up to two devices at once.
Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) app and features
Sony’s excellent Headphone Connect app handles communication with all of its wireless headsets, including the LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N). The app is available on iOS and Android, and has the same interface and options regardless of platform, adding to Sony’s continued approach to platform agnosticism.
That said, the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) are best used with an Android device, to benefit from LDAC Bluetooth codec support. This, and associated functionality, are the only points where the app experience differs between the two operating systems. In fact, during my time with the Sony LinkBuds S, a software update for the earphones allowed for multi-point Bluetooth connectivity, as well as introducing a separate integration stage for services like Spotify Tap.
Other important features in the application include music playback controls, flexible ANC sound control and customization of ambient sound mode, talk-chat, customization of Bluetooth connection quality (allowing sound quality or connection strength), customization of touch controls, auto play pause. when the earphones are on or off, and a graphic display of the battery life of the earphones and charging case, among other things.
The app includes almost everything you would need from the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N), but perhaps the real downside is the lack of detailed customization of the controls. The Sony WF-LS900N lets you select ‘sets’ of controls for the right and left earpieces separately — these include ANC and Ambient sound controls, playback controls, and volume controls. This means you will have to choose two of the three key sets, while not including one, and make sure you remember the confusing controls going forward.
Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) have 5mm dynamic drivers, with a frequency response range of 20-40,000Hz (with active LDAC codec). For connectivity, there is Bluetooth 5.2, with support for SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. The headset uses Sony’s Integrated Processor V1 for connectivity and ANC functionality.
Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) performance and battery life
Sony features the LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) as a more affordable alternative to the flagship WF-1000XM4, and it actually has all this to offer in terms of features, but at a price of around Rs. 3,000 less. However, there are significant differences that explain the difference in price and positioning, the biggest of which is the sound quality.
The Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) use 5mm drivers, which are smaller than the 6mm drivers in the WF-1000XM4. Although the actual size of the drivers may not be noticeable, there is a noticeable difference in the sound of the WF-LS900N, compared to the more expensive and better-sounding WF-1000XM4.
The sound proved straightforward in terms of tuning, conforming to the widely used U-shape frequency response curve for the most part, well suited to popular music genres. The lows and highs were more prominent than the midrange on tracks like David Guetta’s Stay (Don’t Go Away), deviating slightly from the WF-1000XM4’s more balanced approach. This also tends to affect tonal accuracy and levels of audible detail, compared to Sony’s true wireless earphones.
Listening to Je M’amuse by the French electro-jazz group Caravan Palace, the sound was aggressive, impressive, and progressive, while remaining comfortable and completely effortless. The dubstep-style electronic elements had a distinct sense of thunder and attack, while the swing-style vocals and instruments carried a fair amount of detail that felt right for the headset’s price.
However, despite the significant bandwidth benefit brought by the LDAC Bluetooth codec, the Sony WF-LS900N seems unable to make the most of it. The tone, drive, detail, and sense of polish present in the WF-1000XM4 were absent here, with many similarities between the Sony WF-LS900N and its more expensive stablemate. This is where the difference in price and positioning between the two TWS headsets becomes more apparent.
The active noise cancellation on the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) is very good, and is very beneficial for passive noise isolation and equalization of the headsets. There was a significant reduction in indoor noise; the hum of overhead air conditioning was almost completely blocked out.
There was a significant reduction in ambient and external noise, which helped to focus on what was playing even at low volume. Music, audiobooks, and video chat sounded decent in loud environments even at 50 percent volume. Calls were handled just as well, with decent microphone performance ensuring I was heard the way I was meant to be heard.
Battery life on the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) comes close to advertised claims; I was able to get just under six hours of listening time from the earpieces. The charging case adds two full charges in addition, for a total runtime of approximately 17 hours per charge cycle. Fast charging claims to provide an hour of listening time and five minutes of charging.
There’s very little to complain about with the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N); This is a capable, well-equipped, and well-priced pair of true wireless earphones, and it offers better comfort and ANC performance than many other options in its price range. It’s hard to argue with the proposition here on a practical level but on an emotional level, there’s a bit missing from the WF-LS900N, and this mainly comes down to a lack of anything special in the sound.
The Sony LinkBuds S sound good enough for true wireless headsets, but they don’t push the boundaries when it comes to true headsets. This is the only real result for a fun, functional, and reasonably priced pair of true wireless earphones.
Maybe spending that much less on options like the WF-1000XM4 or the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 might be worth it, if you can afford it. If you use an Apple or Samsung smartphone, AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) or Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro respectively, it can make more sense from an ecosystem point of view. However, if the size, form factor, and promise of great ANC performance on the Sony WF-LS900N appeals to you, you won’t be disappointed at all.