Sony’s been in the audio business for decades now, and it’d be an understatement to say that its audio products have come a long way. The company is primarily known for its WH/WF-1000XM series of noise-canceling headphones/TWS earbuds but doesn’t shy away from experimenting with different form factors, sizes, and types.
Around a year ago, the company launched the first device in its LinkBuds series named, well, LinkBuds, and they were well-received worldwide. Although they were mid-focused earphones lacking in lower frequencies due to their open-back nature, thanks to their donut-shaped design, they were incredibly comfortable, which more than made up for their other shortcomings, like the lack of ANC. Overall, they felt a bit niche and targeted an audience that likes transparency while listening to music.
Fast forward to almost the end of 2022, Sony launched the WF-LS900N, AKA LinkBuds S, but weirdly they do not comply with the philosophy of the original LinkBuds and what they stood for. The WF-LS900N are a pair of TWS earphones with ANC, like the Sony WF-1000XM4’s, but way less chunky and way more balanced. Here’s our WF-LS900N review.
The WF-LS900N will appeal to people who prefer a balanced sound signature atypical of Sony’s boomy sound signature. Paired with excellent active noise cancelations and comprehensive controls both via the app and the earbuds, these blow out a lot of players from the competition at Rs 15,000. However, we would’ve liked a sturdier case and wireless charging in its successor.
What’s in the box?
- LinkBuds S
- Short Type-C charging cable
- Three sets of ear tips
- A user guide
The packaging is super minimalistic and eco-friendly, with no plastics. Props to Sony, as they’ve been doing this for a long time.
WF-LS900N Review: build quality & comfort
The case and the buds are made of plastic. The construction of the buds is pretty solid, but the case isn’t very sturdy and doesn’t spark confidence. The first thing I noticed after taking them out is I could feel the lid of the case moving and making creaking sounds. The buds, case, and packaging are all manufactured using recycled materials.
The overall footprint of the case and earphones is smaller than the XM4’s, but the AirPods Pro remains one of the most pocketable TWS earphones. What’s also fantastic about the LinkBuds S is the comfort. I do not intend to oversell them by saying this, but these are one of the most comfortable TWS earphones that I’ve ever tried. With the default ear tips, they fit snugly and flush into my ears, and as they’re lightweight (4.8 grams per earbud), you can wear and forget them.
Sony sent us the beige color model. It’s a tad bit beigy than my WH-1000XM4s, but I’m a big fan of the same. A darker beige means less visible gunk build-up, and unlike white, it doesn’t lose its shine over time, provided you clean it regularly. The ear tips are plush and didn’t irritate my ears even after prolonged usage. The outer shell of the earbuds has a small speaker grille, probably for the ambient noise feature, while the other side has three copper contacts for charging, a proximity sensor, and a microphone. The earbuds are labeled right and left, with the right R inside a red circle; a nice touch.
The case has a nice thud to it, but it feels flimsy. The LED indicator has three colors – orange, blue, and green. The Type-C charging port is located at the back alongside a physical pairing button. As someone who hates touch pairing functionality, I prefer a physical pairing button as it’s much more convenient.
If I had to describe them in one sentence, that’d be, “Warm sound signature with focus on the mid and high frequencies,” a long, long departure from Sony’s usual, bass-heavy and treble-lacking sound signature. The WF-LS900N was fun to listen to and is probably one of the most balanced pairs of earphones the company has made in a while.
The treble response of the XM4’s (“WF.” Please fix your product naming Sony.) left us much to be desired, but the WF-LS900N’s treble response, while still a bit recessed on the extreme high end, is much better. For example, in the song Inferno by Mrs. Green Apple, the hi-hats in the pre-chorus sound pretty okay, but in comparison, they’re nowhere near as good as my Tin T2’s or even Blon BL-03 (These are IEMs, so it’s understandable). Similarly, the low-end bass is ever so slightly lacking, but I feel like that’s a good thing for people who love balanced music.
The imaging is great, but the audio separation is pretty okay-ish, which is generally the case with closed TWS earphones. For example, in the song Friction by Imagine Dragons, the pre-chorus feels like it’s happening in your head rather than coming from an outside medium. The first set of lyrics, “Get down with the victim,” sound clear, perfectly separated with the pre-chorus, and then mid-background kicks in, which buds handle very well. Bear in mind this is after fiddling with the ten-band Poweramp equalizer, which I highly recommend using.
The slightly lacking high and low ends are fixable by the equalizer in Sony’s Headphones app. Its five-band equalizer doesn’t allow comprehensive tuning but is more than sufficient to adjust the required frequencies to bring the best out of the earbuds.
WF-LS900N Review: ANC and Microphone
Sony’s headphones/TWS are known for their best-in-class Active Noise Cancellation, and the WF-LS900N is no different. The isolation itself is pretty good as it blocks out a significant amount of noise, but when ANC is turned on, it removes most of the sounds from the environment. For example, I wore them while driving a motorcycle in Indian traffic (Not recommended!) and was pleasantly surprised by how many vehicle noises it managed to block. Overall, the ANC performed really well.
The microphone, though, is a different story. It works as intended indoors, i.e., cancels out most of the chatter, but in areas with lots of noise, the party on the other side often reported breaks in the speaker’s voice. Hence, don’t expect to take important calls or meetings on this thing on a busy street. I hope Sony fixes it in software updates. The ambient noise feature also works great and feels natural, unlike some of the earbuds that try to bump up the speech frequencies of both parties while speaking, which makes the voices a bit… squeaky?
Battery and Touch Controls
The battery life on the WF-LS900N (LinkBuds S) is excellent. Sony rates the earbuds at 6 hours, and the case provides 14 hours of playback, but in our testing, the earbuds lasted for around 5 hours and 50 minutes, with a combined usage of AAC for streaming and LDAC for lossless audio. With both the earbuds and the case down to zero percent battery, we were able to charge them in 2 hours and 25 minutes. Overall, for their size, the battery life is excellent. However, there’s no wireless charging, which you’d usually expect from premium TWS earbuds.
The touch controls are okay. Due to the size of the earbuds, it’s hard to get them right each time, but getting used to them is easy. You can edit and customize the triple tap or hold tap; I set the right one for playback controls and Google Assistant and the left to toggle the ANC, quick attention and playing music on Spotify.
Headphones app and features
The app and features work great. The home page houses the battery percentage of the earbud and the case alongside the current active codec. Below that, you get Adaptive sound control, media buttons, and a “current sound pressure” reading, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
The Sound tab contains the ambient sound controls, speak-to-chat, an equalizer, 360 reality audio setup, connection quality, DSEE Extreme, and spatial sound optimizer. Speak-to-chat is great, and thank you, Sony, for adding the 5 seconds time option until the mode closes. For those unaware, the minimum value was 15 seconds a few months ago.
The System tab houses the option to enable multi-point connectivity and the option to edit the touch controls. It also contains the “Determine Optimal Earbud Tips” option to test if you’re wearing the right size of ear tips for your ears. The WF-LS900N also supports Spotify tap, where you can double-tap one side of the earbud to quickly start playing music on Spotify.
I’m not sure if the Safe Listening feature is exclusive to the WF-LS900N, but it does a great job of reminding you when you’re way above the recommended listening sound pressure. It calculates the average decibels and shows whether your 7-day usage is near what WHO recommends. Very cool. Overall, I’ve had no issues using the app. Also, if you’re on Android 13, the battery widget works.
Closing Thoughts: LinkBuds S Review (WF-LS900N)
The WF-LS900N offers great sound, atypical of Sony’s boomy sound signature, excellent ANC, and great battery life at a much lower price than the WF-1000XM4’s. If you want balanced sound, great ANC, a battery that can last for days, and are willing to forgo features like wireless charging, the LinkBuds, for an asking price of Rs 15,000, are easily one of the best TWS earphones that you can get.