The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 are real, but you might not believe it until you see them. These eye-catching wireless earbuds break with convention by having a hole in the middle of the buds that makes them look entirely unlike any other 'buds on the market.
Update March 2: our review of Sony's LinksBuds WF-L900 is live. Find out what we made of this unique approach to always on awareness.
Colors: White, dark gray
Active Noise Cancelling: No
Battery life (rated): 5 hours, 12 with charging case
Connectivity: Bluetooth: 5.2
Water resistance: IPX4
Weight: 0.14 ounces (each earbud)
But the hole isn't just a marketing gimmick; instead, Sony says the 'open-ring' design will let users hear the outside world without having a negative effect on whatever they're listening to.
Design apart, Sony's new true wireless buds have plenty of interesting features, so read on as we explain what the Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 are and what you need to know about them.
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 release date and price
The LinkBuds WF-L900 are on sale now at a MSRP of $180 (£150 U.K. / €180 Europe).
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 design and concept
We can't help thinking that the hole in the center of the LinkBuds makes them look a lot like Life Saver candy (or a Polo Mint in the U.K.), and the unusual donut-shaped design breaks with the more conventional earbud styling of the models in our best wireless earbuds and best noise-cancelling earbuds roundups.
It's the kind of design that's likely to get you curious stares from passers-by if you're wearing the LinkBuds out and about, but this is exactly the environment they're built for.
Aimed at anyone not entirely comfortable with the passive neutralization and isolation from background sounds you get from placing headphones over your ears, or inserting earbuds into the ear canal, Sony's Always-On design ensures you're fully aware of your surroundings at all times.
Whatever you make of the quirky looks, the intriguing hole design is a crucial part of how the LinkBuds ensure you remain connected to the outside world. Music and podcasts play in the background yet, as the earbuds are open to allow ambient noise through, the wearer can continue to hold conversations and be actively involved and aware of their surroundings.
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 fit and comfort
Although we've yet to try out the earbuds for ourselves, we understand the hole part of each earpiece is intended to sit above the wearer's ear canal to allow external sounds to pass through to the eardrum. Sony says the design is comfortable enough to stay in place all day while working, traveling, gaming and even socializing.
The buds are held in place by the domed section and what Sony calls a ring loop, which sits in the upper part of the ear. Five different loop sizes are supplied and the overall effect should be far less intrusive than stuffing silicon eartips into your ear canal.
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 tech
As you'd expect from Sony, there's plenty of sophisticated tech onboard, but as an Always-On design, active noise cancelling isn't one of them. From the information we've seen so far, we know that the ring part of each bud incorporates a special 12mm driver arrangement that 'fires' sounds into the ear canal. Tiny microphones assess ambient noise and adapt the volume level to suit your surroundings or auto mute playback when it senses that the wearer is in conversation.
Incorporating Sony's V1 chip (the same chip as found in the Sony WF-1000XM4) the LinkBuds deliver powerful amplification with 360 Reality Audio and Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) support to help get the best audio quality from compressed music files. AI support is provided with Google Assistant and Alexa onboard.
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 battery life and features
Battery life is quoted at 5.5 hours (plus an additional 12 hours from the charging case), and a 10-minute Quick Charge is said to give up to 90 minutes of playback time. That's on the low side, considering they don't have active noise cancellation, but still on a par with other wireless earbuds including the AirPods 2.
There's also Google Fast and Swift Pair connect to Android devices devices, plus wear detection, sensory controls and tap for playback control. Add in IPX4 water resistance and you have a compelling package.
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 outlook
The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 look like they offer a 'hole' load of reasons to get excited. Whether that unusual design is successful, however, will rest upon two things — namely how well they let external sounds into your ears, and whether that has an impact on overall audio quality.
It's certainly a bold attempt to reinvent the true wireless earbud design, but we'll reserve judgement until we've tested them ourselves. A review is on the way very soon, but in the meantime make sure you read our recently updated roundup of the best wireless earbuds based on our in-depth testing.
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As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.