Sony WF-LS900N earphones review: Good sound, great features, but overpriced
A couple of months back we reviewed a highly unusual pair of true wireless (TWS) earbuds from Sony called the Linkbuds. Yes, those 8-shaped buds! We now have a successor for the device, but it sports a lot more traditional in-ear design. Gone are the ring drivers that stayed outside the ear canals and the extended touch zones that would let you tap your earlobe to register a touch input. The Sony Linkbuds S or the WF-LS900N, as the company prefers to call the product in this part of the world, shifts the focus back on sound quality and active noise cancellation (ANC) that Sony has mastered in this segment. What new elements does it bring to the table? How does it deal with the competition? And should you invest your precious money in these TWS earphones? Let's find out.
A compact version of the WF-1000XM4 with better in-ear fit
The Linkbuds S doesn't look anything like the original Linkbuds, and in fact the buds look a lot like a miniature version of Sony's flagship WF-1000XM4 TWS earbuds. They are a lot lighter too and weigh under 5g each. Thanks to the lightness and the smaller footprint, the earbuds feel comfortable in the ears with a snug fit. They stay in place during workouts and jogs and do not stick out of the ears much like their flagship cousin. The default medium-sized silicone ear-tips provide very good seal and passive noise isolation. Additional tips of different sizes are bundled along in case medium isn't the best fit for you. Do spend a few minutes choosing the right ones as it helps in achieving better noise cancellation. The build quality of the product is rugged with a smooth matte finish and circular touch zones at the back of the buds. The compact charging case has the same finish and it is fairly pocketable. The case has a charge indicator LED at the front and a USB-C charging port at the back along with a Bluetooth pairing button. The Sony WF-LS900N is available in black, white and beige color options. Sony states that the buds are made of recycled plastic materials, and the packaging material doesn't include any plastic to keep things environmentally friendly. A good initiative, that.
Support for LDAC codecs in multipoint setup, feature-rich companion app
Each earbud is fitted with a 5mm driver, along with the ANC circuitry, battery, and microphones, making 4.8g (weight of the buds) seem like an unreal number. It has Sony's V1 processor which is present in the 1000XM4 as well. The Sony WF-LS900N supports SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs over Bluetooth 5.2. These earbuds boast two things that were missing in the 1000XM4 at launch. Firstly, there's multipoint support here to connect these earphones with two devices simultaneously. And secondly, you can continue using the high-quality LDAC codec even when using multipoint. Its predecessors would switch to AAC codec when connected to more than one device. This is a more than useful development. Just like the flagship earbuds, the Linkbuds S are Hi-Res Audio certified too. In addition, you also have 360 Reality Audio and DSEE Extreme to upscale compressed audio files. The truly wireless earbuds are touch-enabled and let you perform multiple tasks using single tap, double tap, and triple tap gestures. The pre-assigned functions can be reconfigured using Sony's Headphones Connect app. However, unlike earphones from several competing brands, you cannot assign individual functions to each gesture. You have to assign the entire set, something I am not fond of. For example, you can choose any one out of ANC toggle, playback control, volume control, etc for each of the buds. So you will end up missing out on some functions at least. Other than configuring controls, the Sony Headphones app also offers you multiple audio presets as well a multi-band equalizer to create your own sound profile. These earbuds sport IPX4 rating for sweat resistance and can be worn during workouts or jogs without worrying about sweat damage. The buds have wear detection sensors to pause the audio when you remove the buds from the ear and resume when you put them back in.
Very good audio quality, even better ANC and Ambient mode
The wireless range is fine with a stable connection up to 10 meters with a clear line of sight. There was no lag between audio and video when streaming videos. The buds are sufficiently loud at 70% volume level. The sound quality of the Sony WF-LS900N is pretty good but not in the same league as the WF-1000XM4. These buds produce a distinctly bass-heavy sound. The bass is tight but does mask certain lower midrange frequencies. The voice notes don't get impacted as much and the vocal clarity is good here. The highs are generally sharp without sounding sibilant, but they roll off a bit too soon. The soundstage is not very broad, but doesn't feel crammed either. The overall detail in sound is pretty decent, but given its price tag, I expected better. Having said that, the output of these buds is enjoyable across various genres of music. What's even better than the sound quality is the ANC and Ambient mode. You get three listening modes - Noise Cancellation On, Ambient Sounds On and Normal mode. You can choose any two or all three to toggle through. Again, the ANC is not as good as that on the 1000XM4, but it is better than anything else we have tested in this segment. It cuts down on a lot of ambient sounds like that of a fan, and the traffic noise is greatly suppressed. A local train ride was quite peaceful with ANC on. The Ambient mode here is quite impressive, and the voices and other sounds that are let through sound natural. I would go to the extent of saying that it is marginally better than even the 1000XM4. When not in Ambient mode, you can tap and hold the left earbud to let ambient sounds through momentarily. You also have an option of Adaptive Sound Control to automatically toggle between ANC and Ambient modes depending on your surroundings.
Average call quality, good battery backup but no wireless charging
The call quality of the Sony WF-LS900N is not one of its strong points. It isn't bad, but again, it is only fair to expect better at this price point. The person on call was clearly audible, and while the person could comfortably grasp what I had to say, my voice lacked sharpness. In noisy areas, the microphones picked up some ambient noise but not enough to impact the conversation in a big way. So the noise suppression algorithm does a fair job here. Sony mentions battery backup figures of 6 hours for the buds and additional 14 hours with the charging case, but more importantly, with ANC on. During my testing, I got about 5 hours from the buds at 70% loudness with ANC switched on all the time. The case could recharge the buds fully twice and a bit more, thus taking the total battery backup in the 16 to 17 hours range with ANC on, which is quite good. And even more impressive given the compact size. Another point worth mentioning is the buds were being used with the more demanding LDAC codec throughout the course of the testing. With ANC switched off, these earphones may last closer to 24 hours. It's an educated guess; I did not clock it personally without ANC. The battery status of each earbud as well as the charging case can be seen on the phone. The app alerts you when the battery level of the case drops below 30%. The total charging time for the buds and case is close to 2 hours using a standard USB-C charger. These buds support fast charging too, with just 5 minutes of charging providing you with an hour of playtime. Not a chart-topping figure, but handy for sure. Unlike the WF-1000XM4, the Linkbuds S does not support wireless charging.
A good all-round product that needs to be more affordable
The Sony WF-LS900N TWS earphones are officially priced at Rs. 16,990 with a one year warranty. You often get a Rs. 3,000 discount or cashback to drop the price under Rs. 14,000, which we believe should have been the ideal price for this product at launch. The Linkbuds S is quite a likable product but Rs. 17,000 is a bit too stiff for what it offers. That also puts it quite close to the Sony WH-1000XM4 which sells for Rs. 19,990 and is far superior in terms of sound quality and ANC. For a Rs. 3,000 price difference, we would rather recommend the XM4. But that's not the only product the Sony Linkbuds S need to bother about. The OPPO Enco X2 which sells significantly cheaper for Rs. 10,990, has better sound quality than the LS900N with more detail and better tonal balance. The call quality is a little better on the OPPO too. It cannot match the Sony when it comes to ANC or Ambient mode, but for a Rs. 6,000 price difference, the Enco X2 certainly offers better value for money. All the more reason for Sony to drop the price of the WF-LS900N under Rs. 14,000 to make it a more compelling buy. Add another half a star to the rating if they do it.