The Linkbuds keep you aware of your surroundings in any scenario with their trademark “donut hole” design, which shapes the drivers into tiny circlets with a hole in the middle. As you can imagine, that makes these buds pretty excellent for lots of outdoor activities, including running, but also hiking and biking in areas where you don’t want to lose your aural awareness (i.e. surface streets, highways, and biking trails). What’s more, the Linkbuds manage to offer relatively clear and full sound, though bass response suffers due to their lack of a tight seal in your ear canal.
Apart from their holey, infinity design, the Linkbuds stand out for their lightweight (only 4 grams per bud) and relatively stable fit, though their hard plastic design can wear on the ears after a while. In place of ear tips, they employ little ear wings in multiple sizes to keep them in your ears, and their IPX4 rating gives them decent sweat and water resistance.
They also offer a fair few features, controllable through Sony’s headphone app, including a 5-band EQ, Sony’s Speak to Chat feature that pauses sound when you speak, and Adaptive Audio which ramps up the sound automatically when your environment gets loud. How important those are to you will vary by user.
We found their tap controls—which allow you to tap on the buds themselves or your face to control playback—hit or miss. But when they’re tracking well, it’s a very simple way to control basic functions when you’re on the go. Battery life is pedestrian but workable at 5.5 hours per charge, with an even less impressive 17.5 hours total with the case.
Overall, we wish they were a bit slicker in operation and offered better next-gen features for their price. And of course, you’ll have to give up any form of noise canceling. That means they won’t be your best option for noisy gyms, among many other scenarios.
That said, if you’re the type who does a lot of jogging (or biking) on busy streets and you find microphone-controlled transparency mode features to be insufficient, the Linkbuds could be the earbuds you’ve been waiting for. They’re pricey for earbuds with limited use cases, but there’s also nothing out there quite like them.