A combination of good sound quality and comfort? Sign me up. Getting excited about true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds is hard these days. When Sony announced that the WF-LS900N (better known as the LinkBuds S globally) was coming to town, I leapt out of my seat.
It was back in September when the Sony LinkBuds landed on Indian shores. That was when I was last left mighty impressed by a pair of TWS earbuds. It wasn’t because they were the best in the business (that title is reserved for the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro from Samsung), far from it. It’s because they dared to do something no other manufacturer had done to date. The original LinkBuds let the outside world in and allow it to mingle with your music. It makes you more aware of your surroundings, and thus, safer. They’re able to do this thanks to their unique open-ring design.
When you hear the name WF-LS900N (LinkBuds S), you’d assume they’d have a similar design at a more economical price point. Well, that’s not the case at all. Sony might try to convince you that the WF-LS900N belongs to the same family as the LinkBuds, but they’d never succeed. In fact, the box prominently says LinkBuds S, but the company is only going to be referring to them as the WF-LS900N in India and are available for a launch price of ₹13,990.
The WF-LS900N earbuds are actually closer to the flagship WF-1000XM4s from Sony. The WF-LS900N have a more traditional closed-back earbud. While they still let in outside noise (thanks to a vent and some microphone tech), they are more about active noise cancellation (ANC) and audio performance. Sony is pitching them as a “never off” wearing experience and I can see why. The WF-LS900N have a smaller and more compact design that makes them much more comfortable to wear for longer periods than the original LinkBuds.
A familiar approach
The WF-LS900N feature an ergonomic shape and comes with four different sizes of ear tips. The earbuds are made from recycled plastic parts of old automobiles (two thumbs up for that).
Thanks to the sealed design, the user gets two direct benefits as opposed to the original LinkBuds. First, you may not be able to hear your surroundings as well, but you can actually listen to music (bass, and tempo) with decent instrument separation. Second, you needn’t go full volume just to drown out the sounds of your surroundings.
If you’ve previously used a Sony audio product, you’d feel right at home. You just download the ‘Headphones’ app from Sony, turn on your Bluetooth and pair the TWS earbuds to your smartphone. The ‘Headphones’ app may not be mandatory, but it’s definitely useful.
Inside this app, you can check each earbud and the case’s (on a side note, the charging case gives a very satisfying snap when closed) battery levels. You can also adjust noise cancellation or switch to ambient noise, play with the equaliser and some features like Spatial Sound Optimisation, among other things.
Having a smaller footprint means they’re easier to fit in one’s ear canal. They’re small, lightweight and very comfortable. The earbuds are available in black, white and beige. This is one area where Sony didn’t need to be cautious. The more colour options, the merrier, I say (including the outlandish ones).
It feels as if Sony’s main aim with the WF-LS900N was for them to be comfortably worn all day long. On that front, they’ve succeeded with a flourish. I took them out for an hour’s walk and a couple of hours at a cafe and I didn’t feel the need to remove them every so often just to give my ears a break. The WF-LS900N do an impressive job of staying inside your ears. Even with vigorous head movement, the earbuds didn’t fall out.
Do they sound better than the original LinkBuds?
The answer is a resounding yes. There’s good, detailed sound that comes out from the WF-LS900N. There’s also a well-defined bass (that was almost nonexistent on the original LinkBuds) and the sound is natural, while there is good clarity in the voice. The fact that these small earbuds pack a punch says a lot. Not many TWS earbuds of this size can match up to the WF-LS900N in sound. Yes, they’re nowhere near the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro or even Sony’s WF-1000XM4s, but they still hold their own.
The ANC isn’t as clear as with the WF-1000XM4s. While you can notice the difference between the noise-cancelling and ambient sound modes, it’s very subtle. I took the WF-LS900N and went to a noisy street outside the Kalkaji Mandir metro station in Delhi. I toggled between the ambient sound and noise-cancelling modes several times and didn’t notice a difference. While the honking may have reduced while ANC was on, I could still hear buses whizz by every few minutes.
For the most part, I had little to no complaints when listening to music as the bass was solid (albeit not enough to stimulate a live-gig scenario), the vocals were clear and phone calls sound great on both ends of the call.
As a bonus, the WF-LS900N come with multipoint support. This means that they can be paired with two Bluetooth devices at the same time for more convenience.
Extra sensitive touch controls, shaky Bluetooth, average battery life
The WF-LS900N, however, are far from perfect. There were two distinct areas where I had issues. The outer-touch sensitive surface may be large, but it’s also super sensitive. I noticed this as I was walking home from the metro station. I brushed across some leaves dangling from a tree and my music randomly paused. At first, I discarded this but then it happened again and again. That’s when I was fully convinced that the WF-LS900N touch controls are super sensitive.
The other problem I had was with the Bluetooth connection. There were several times when the left earbud (yes, the left one in particular) would not respond to any touch. For several minutes I would try to toggle the ambient mode and it didn’t work. I had to take it out and put it back in my ear a couple of times for it to work. There was also, on one occasion, when the phone told me the left earbud was connected, but I couldn’t hear any music coming from it. A quick second in the case fixed it all. Maybe a future software update will help stabilize the Bluetooth connection.
With ANC activated, the battery life is rated at six hours per charge. With ANC switched off, battery life is stretched to nine hours. During my time testing the WF-LS900N, I got about 5 hours and 45 minutes before needing to pop them in the case. Sony is spot on and these earbuds can be used for almost an entire day without any problems. The charging case adds 14 hours of charge for a total of 20 hours. These are just average, and again, far from the best.
Are these earbuds worth it?
The WF-LS900N may not stand out like the original LinkBuds but they do appeal in more ways than one. They’re lightweight, comfortable and have most of the features one could ask for. They’re a solid mid-tier pair of earbuds. If you care more about how your music sounds and voice call clarity, then the WF-LS900N are a much more appealing buy than the original LinkBuds. Also, the fact that the WF-LS900N are the most comfortable pair of earbuds in Sony’s lineup, says a lot. I’m not sure how they’re in the same family, but they’re the better and more refined of the LinkBuds.
Think of these earbuds as smaller and cheaper WF-1000XM4s and they become an easier sell. Compare them to the competition and they narrowly miss out on being at the top in this price range. The Enco X2 from Oppo edge out the LinkBuds by being cheaper ( ₹8,999 on Flipkart) and having a fuller, more power-packed sound. Add about 4K to your budget and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro from Samsung are there for the taking.
When you need all-day comfort, good voice call performance, and a well-balanced sound profile, then look no further than the WF-LS900N. Maybe, when the earbuds are discounted and are priced under ₹10,000, they’ll be able to sell much more than at their launch price of ₹13,990. The WF-LS900N are good earbuds, no doubt, but they fall short of being the best out there. If you’re set on the WF-LS900N as your next (or even first) pair of TWS earbuds, then wait for a discount before you grab them.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist