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    Do you really need Sony’s best buds?

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    Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony LinkBuds S

    Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

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    I’ve been using the Sony WF-1000XM4 for a good year now, and I can safely say they are a great set of true wireless earbuds. Everything works as intended. Battery life and Bluetooth connectivity are super reliable, app features are plenty, and sound quality is exemplary. Clearly, they are Sony’s best for a reason. So when Sony sent over the LinkBuds S to test, I was a bit skeptical. I like my audio tech to be top-of-the-line because I don’t like compromising on quality or features. If I’m buying the best, there’s a certain guarantee I won’t regret my purchase.

    When the LinkBuds S came to me, I wondered what sacrifices Sony made to make the buds notably cheaper than the WF-1000XM4. Does a $130 price difference really make a huge difference when it comes to the Sony buds? Here’s my experience of testing the cheaper Sony wireless earbuds compared to their more expensive siblings.

    Sony LinkBuds S vs WF-1000XM4: Reasons to buy the WF-1000XM4

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    Let’s get the not-so-great bits out of the way first. The LinkBuds S are cheaper than the WF-1000XM4 for multiple reasons that are evident from the get-go. Let’s just say you’re paying a premium for the flagship earbuds for good reason. However, I must say that these compromises I talk of are not so difficult to digest.

    Plastic vs foam tips

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    Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony LinkBuds S

    Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

    The Sony LinkBuds S come with silicone ear tips designed to seal the ear canal. You get a selection of differently sized tips in the box to choose from, which is essential for the earbuds’ passive noise-cancelling performance (more on that later). In contrast, the more expensive Sony WF-1000XM4 feature soft polyurethane foam tips that do a better job of sticking to the wall of the ear canal. So no matter your ear shape or size, the foam tips can expand inside your ear for an ideal fit. They are also much better at sound insulation and cut out more noise, especially in the high-frequency range.

    That said, the LinkBuds S also allow you to gauge the best tip size for your ears using the accompanying Sony Headphone Connect app. This cool feature borrowed from the WF-1000XM4 measures the air-tightness of the earphones once you’re wearing them. If your ears aren’t properly sealed, the app will suggest a different tip size.

    Bluetooth pairing through the case

    Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony LinkBuds S

    Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

    Two of my biggest qualms with the Sony LinkBuds S have to do with Bluetooth pairing and voice guidance. The first one is an irksome feature when you first start using the earbuds with multiple devices.

    Unlike the WF-1000XM4, which let you press and hold the touch surface on the buds for five seconds to enable Bluetooth pairing mode, the LinkBuds S have to be in their case for pairing with a new device. There’s a button on the case that needs to be pressed for a few seconds to put the earbuds in pairing mode.

    The LinkBuds S have to be put in their case for Bluetooth pairing.

    For someone like me who switches devices all day long for multimedia playback, this was quite annoying. Every time I had to move the connection from my iPhone to Android phone to TV to laptop, I had to keep putting the earphones back in their case to be able to pair with each new device. Once connected, though, the LinkBuds S support multipoint connectivity like the WF-1000XM4. That means you can stay connected to two devices simultaneously.

    Voice guidance

    Sony WF 1000XM4 voice guidance

    Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

    The bigger annoyance is that there’s no voice guidance on these things. There’s a voice guidance setting in the Headphone Connect app, but it only switches on notification tones. So when you take the earbuds out of their case and snap them into your ears, there’s no voice telling you if Bluetooth is connected, or what the battery level of each individual bud is, or if ANC is turned on or off.

    You are left to sound alerts to figure these out for yourself. I get that it’s something many budget Bluetooth buds do, but I expected more from the $148 LinkBuds S. Maybe Sony will add voice guidance to the buds with a future update or something, but for now, it’s sorely missed. Thankfully, you get voice guidance for everything on the WF-1000XM4.

    Sony LinkBuds S vs WF-1000XM4: Reasons to buy the LinkBuds S

    While I had a few issues with the LinkBuds S, I also found a lot to like about the earbuds. In fact, if you’re looking to pick them up, you’ll be happy to know they come really close to Sony’s premium WF-1000XM4 buds.

    All the same features as the WF-1000XM4

    Sony LinkBuds S upturned bud

    Even when you’re not paying top dollar, Sony has made sure the LinkBuds S inherit almost all of the coolest features of the WF-1000XM4. That means you can pop out the buds to automatically pause the music and pop them back in to start playback. The LinkBuds also have the same Speak-to-Chat feature I love on the WF-1000XM4. It pauses playback when the earbuds detect you’re having a conversation and restarts it a few seconds later.

    Sony has made sure the LinkBuds S inherit almost all of the coolest features of the WF-1000XM4.

    You also get Adaptive Sound Controls that automatically switch how much ambient sound the buds take in depending on your actions, like running, walking, commuting, or resting.

    Besides that, the LinkBuds let you manually tinker with the equalizer, prioritize sound quality and Bluetooth connectivity, use your preferred voice assistant, and more, thanks to the expansive Sony Headphone Connect app.

    Essentially, you’re getting complete app feature parity between the cheaper and premium Sony buds.

    More compact than the Sony WF-1000XM4

    Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony LinkBuds S

    Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

    The first thing that struck me and that I immediately liked when I started using the Sony WF-1000XM4 was how compact they are and how well they sit in my ears. The LinkBuds S outdo them. They weigh just 9.6g compared to the WF-1000XM4, which come in at around 41g. Of course, the latter has larger 6mm drivers, which contributes to their bigger size.

    However, the difference in the weight and the smaller form factor of the LinkBuds makes them extremely comfortable to wear. They will not pop out of your ears during a run or when you’re just turning sides in bed. They just fit so securely that I prefer them over the bigger WF-1000XM4 in many situations. Moreover, the earbuds are also IPX4 rated, so they can totally become your gym partners.

    Great sound and battery life

    Sony WF-1000XM4 vs Sony LinkBuds S

    Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

    I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality of the LinkBuds S. They are almost as good as the WF-1000XM4. Most music should sound great from the earbuds. However, I found the bass to be a bit dull compared to the 1000XM4. As noted in our sister site SoundGuys‘ full LinkBuds S review, high-pitched instruments and sounds also feel a little less prominent than they should. But other than that, the LinkBuds are a great pick at their price.

    If you get a good fit, the LinkBuds S should be able to block out most regular ambient noises.

    Noise cancellation is also decent. More so because the LinkBuds rest so snugly in the ear. If you get a good fit, you should be able to block out most regular ambient noises. However, things like whistles, screaming, glass breaking, etc, still come through. The 1000XM4 deal with such high frequency sounds much better.

    That said, with Active Noise Cancellation turned on, the buds can easily last for about six hours. They go on to deliver over eight-nine hours of playback with ANC turned off. Add to that the charging case, and you’ve got a good amount of extended battery life that should last you over 20 hours of listening time. I find myself using one bud at a time a lot. It’s very convenient because even if I run out of juice on one bud, I can just pop out the other one from the charging case and start using a fully charged bud all over again.


    Sony LinkBuds S vs WF-1000XM4: Specs

    SpecsSony LinkBuds SSony WF-1000XM4
    Specs

    Size & Weight

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Approx. 4.8g x 2

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    Approx. 41g

    Specs

    Driver Unit

    Sony LinkBuds S

    5mm

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    6mm

    Specs

    Frequency Response

    Sony LinkBuds S

    20Hz-20,000Hz (44.1kHz sampling)
    20Hz-40,000Hz (LDAC 96kHz sampling 990kbps)

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    20Hz–20,000Hz (44.1kHz sampling)
    20Hz–40,000Hz (LDAC 96kHz sampling, 990kbps)

    Specs

    Waterproof

    Sony LinkBuds S

    IPX4

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    IPX4

    Specs

    Magnet

    Sony LinkBuds S

    High power neodymium magnets

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    High power neodymium magnets

    Specs

    DSEE Extreme

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Yes

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    Yes

    Specs

    Battery

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Charge time: Aprrox. 2 hours

    Battery life continuous playback:
    Max. 6 hrs (NC On) / Max. 9 hrs (NC Off)

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    Charge time: Approx. 1.5 hrs

    Battery life continuous playback:
    Max. 8 hrs (NC On) / Max. 12 hrs (NC Off)

    Specs

    Bluetooth

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Bluetooth 5.2
    Effective range: 10m

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    Bluetooth 5.2
    Effective range: 10m

    Specs

    Supported Audio Formats

    Sony LinkBuds S

    SBC, AAC, LDAC

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    SBC, AAC, LDAC

    Specs

    Noise Cancelling

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Yes

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    Yes

    Specs

    Charging Case

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Yes

    Sony WF-1000XM4
    Specs

    Colors

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Earth Blue
    Ecru
    White
    Black

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    Black
    Silver

    Specs

    What’s In The Box

    Sony LinkBuds S

    USB-C cable
    Tips

    Sony WF-1000XM4

    USB-C cable
    Tips

    Sony LinkBuds S vs WF-1000XM4: The verdict

    The WF-1000XM4 remain a Sony flagship for many reasons, most of which I’ve listed above. Because they’ve been on sale for a while, you can usually pick up the WF-1000XM4 on a pretty good deal for below $200. But if it’s a matter of paying the full MSRP, at $130 less, the LinkBuds S won’t disappoint. In fact, they are a very capable set of earbuds at that price. Which buds would you buy? Let us know in the comments.

    $148.00 at Amazon

    Sony LinkBuds S

    25%off

    Sony LinkBuds S

    Noise canceling
    Effective isolation
    Good sound quality

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