Open Back Earbuds Are Here

Goodbye AirPods 3…

Sony Link Buds
Open Back Ear Buds

What are Open-Back Headphones?

Open-back (as opposed to closed-back) headphones are typically over-ear headphones found in the high-end audio space that sacrifice noise isolation for a wider sound stage and better sound separation. I personally own an open-back Audio-Technica r70x headphones that I love.

Enter the Sony Link Buds! They are attempting to bring the benefits of open-back headphones to earbuds, and while I don’t know that they succeeded in creating better sounding wider sound stage, they did solve some serious problems that I have had with earbuds in the past. I will compare these to my AirPods 3 since they are in the same price category and I feel target similar markets.

The Sound

These have a bit more base than the AirPods 3 with a slightly wider sound stage. I would say the AirPods have just a bit more clarity in the highs, but both headphones can have a drastically different sound depending on how they fit/sit in your ears, so your mileage may vary. It is worth noting that they do not get as loud as most ear buds I’ve used in the past. It is totally fine for most listeners, but if you really need max volume all the time, these might not be for you.

The Fit

I HATE rubber dome tipped ear buds (hence why my previous daily drivers were the AirPods 3rd Gen and not the Pros). This is a huge win for the Sony Link Buds. They rest gently in your ear and the majority of the pressure sits on a less sensitive part of your ear. No more cramming suction cups into your ear drums. I’ve listened to them for 3–4 hours comfortably with no issues. They also come with 5 different size bands to keep them firmly in your ear, although because of the air flow they do feel a bit like they are going to fall until you get used to the feeling.

The Openness

Openness is obviously the selling point of this somewhat polarizing design. With previous earbuds, I typically would only use one at a time because I don’t like the sound isolation/void of noise feeling that comes with rubber dome tips. These are the first earbuds that I actually enjoy using both at the same time because I can still hear my surroundings very clearly. Even with music playing softly, I can hold conversation and not need to pause. Like over-ear open back headphones, the Sony Link Buds do have a little sound leak. It’s not overbearing, and I don’t think it is enough to annoy someone nearby, but I wouldn’t take a top secret call at max volume.

The Battery

This is one department that concerns me. Sony claims:

Up to 5.5 hours of battery and a total of up to 17.5 hours with the charging case

I have used them for moderately loud music for nearly 4 hours and had some battery left over. What concerns me is that they really are comfortable enough to leave in your ears all day, but the battery can’t make it. The charging case is USB-C only, no wireless charging, but honestly I like having one cable to rule them all. As soon as Apple gets their stuff together with their mobile devices…

The Connectivity

The Sony Link buds have Bluetooth 5.2. I don’t have a lot to say here, and that’s a good thing! Connected easily to anything that has Bluetooth with no issues.

The Functionality

They connect to the Sony headphone app, which provides quite a bit of customization. It comes with a few preloaded EQ options as well as a custom setting to create your own. The “Adaptive Volume Control” adjusts the levels of your audio when you start/stop talking. I haven’t had enough time to test this setting thoroughly. They also come with a “Wide Area Tap” feature that lets you tap on the side of your head to trigger actions rather than on the headphone itself. Wide Area Tap does work great, but I did have quite a few accidental actuations, so I have it disabled for now. I could see myself re-enabling this in the future.

Sony Headphone App
Sony Headphone App

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, you may also be interested in my first impressions of the 3rd generation AirPods .