Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 review

The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 headphones are the company’s latest true wireless creation, and the open design lets you listen to music and hear what’s happening around you simultaneously without blocking your ear canals. Sounds innovative, right? Yes, except that these aren’t the first earbuds of their kind.

Some consider the original AirPods to be the first, while others find the more recent Bose Sports Open Earbuds to be a true representation of the ‘open earbuds’ sub-category. Sony just took the concept and figured out a more distinctive way to present it.

The LinkBuds WF-L900 uses Sony’s V1 chip (the same powerful chip as found in its WF-1000XM4 noise-canceling earbuds) and features include adaptive sound modes, and custom EQ, Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) support to improve sound quality on compressed files, and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. Quite how Sony stuffed this much functionality into such a striking, micro-sized package is remarkable and very impressive.

Price and availability

The LinkBuds WF-L900 come in black or white versions and are available to buy at Sony and Best Buy at the $180 MSRP, or for slightly less (at the time of writing) through Amazon. Inside the box, there’s a charging case, USB cable, operating instructions, reference guide, and five sets of different-sized Arc supporters.

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Design and comfort

  • Futuristic appearance
  • Incredibly small charging case
  • Uncomfortable and unstable fit

This is one of Sony’s most ambitiously designed audio products ever. Each bud has two circles: one is wide enough to house the internals and the other is a thin speaker unit that rests on the concha.

The exterior is composed of plastic and aluminum. Build quality is sturdy to take on lots of damage, and the buds come IPX4 sweat and splash resistant. Distinctive details like the silver accents add a touch a flair. I’m also digging the speckled gray version; the buds look like they were dipped in a bowl of cookies and cream ice cream.

Sony’s charging case is the smallest I’ve seen in the category and resembles an engagement ring box, displaying the buds handsomely when opened. It’s durable, super-portable, and light at just 1.2 ounces. My only concern is the push button on front that pops open the lid. The spring mechanism doesn’t have much recoil to it and could easily break, which, if it does, means you’ll have to pry open this sucker to get to the buds.

Controls and digital assistant

  • Versatile voice functionality
  • Limited input methods

The good news is Sony programmed the LinkBuds WF-L900 with a full suite of media controls. What’s the bad news? You can only perform double and triple-tap commands. There is no single-tap input. On top of that, you can’t assign functions individually. For instance, setting up one bud for Volume Control will automatically assign the multi-tap commands to raise/lower volume. You can’t mix and match. Other functions like the digital assistant let you enable the feature with a double-tap and leave triple-tap inactive.

At least Sony offers different features to control the buds. Auto-pause activates whenever removing the earbuds, Adaptive Volume Control increases sound when detecting loud ambient noise and Speak-to-Chat pauses music when detecting the user’s voice. One-touch Spotify grants instant access to the streaming service. Alexa integration comes to the rescue for hands-free voice control, and Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby are supported as well.

Everything works like a charm. The touch panels register input commands well, plus there’s an option in the app to expand the sensor area for greater touch accuracy. Mic intelligence is strong, so you’ll be able to fire up Alexa via wake-word phrase or manually enable your native assistant and execute common tasks without a hitch.

Audio quality

  • Customizable sound
  • Open design lets in too much ambient noise
  • Works with Sony wireless TV adapter

Remember that Sony developed these buds with the intention of letting you enjoy the quality sound, without blocking out surrounding noises. The results are OK, but there are alternative wireless earbuds that offer strong transparency modes via built-in mics and deliver superior audio.

Sony did everything possible to make the LinkBuds WF-L900’s listening experience worthwhile. That includes throwing proprietary technologies like 360 Reality Audio, DSEE, and the V1 processor into the mix. These are easily the best-sounding open wireless earbuds out there, though that isn’t saying much. You’ll need to be in completely silent settings for music to sound acceptable.

Most Sony earbuds come with a booming bass profile. Not these buds. The heart-pounding lows on Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” are light taps against the eardrum, while the ferocious bass riff on Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” left much to be desired. Switching the Equalizer settings in the app didn’t emphasize drum and guitar sounds the way I wanted; Bass Boost and Treble Boost increased the bass and low-mids a smidge.

Special features and app

  • Customizable user experience
  • Missing some high-end Sony features

Sony Headphones Connect is often reserved for more powerful Sony products, so it’s surprising to see to the LinkBuds WF-L900 join such an exclusive club. I already touched on most of the app’s standout features like 360 Reality Audio, Adaptive Volume Control, control customization, DSEE, EQ, Spotify Tap, and Speak-to-Chat, but let’s check out the rest.

Battery life and charging case

  • Poor playtime per charge
  • The charging case holds very little juice
  • No wireless charging

Popular Sony models like the WF-1000XM4 (8 to 12 hours) and WF-SP800N (9 hours) come with higher playtimes. Unfortunately, a full charge from the LinkBuds only claims 5.5 hours, which was really 5 hours in my tests when factoring in volume and special features. It falls short of the AirPods 3 (6 hours) and sits right next to the AirPods Pro (5 hours with ANC off). Even more disappointing is the charging case’s claimed capacity of just: 17.5 hours, which is several hours lower than any AirPods charging case, which claims between 24 to 30 hours dependent on the model.

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