Sony’s TWS range is growing faster than an 8-year old on an Oreo cookie diet and they aren’t afraid to experiment with new flavours. Like the WF-L900 open ring design which aims to be the all-day, wear-it-and-forget-it kind of earbud. Then you have the higher-end active noise-canceling WF-1000XM4 and lesser non-ANC models, which leaves room for an “affordable” ANC TWS in the portfolio. That’s the cue for the WF-LS900N to jump in, our protagonist for this review. The ‘S’ in the moniker presumably implies that this is a sealed design.
Sony Linkbuds WF-LS900N review
The AirPods Pro killer?
Borrowing heavily from the case design of the more expensive big brother, the LS900N feels lighter to hold and wear and that instantly translates into a more secure fit. Due to the weight and contouring of the WF-1000XM4, they never behaved well in my ears, always fidgety and eventually landed up on the floor, or worse. But the LS900N by contrast just stayed put no matter how maniacally I shook my head to Pantera or doing jumping jacks. But even more crucially, the LS900N is more conducive to being left in your lug holes all day, if you absolutely must do so. Using a similar V1 processor as on the flagship model, the only “compromises” here seem to be in the slightly lesser heft in design and materials and the level of ANC dialled in by Sony.
5mm drivers and 3 mics are specs that are a shade under the 1000XM4, which has 6mm drivers and 4 mics overall. But in most other areas, including the IPX 4 rating, the LS900N seems to be punching above its weight. Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control keeps getting more sophisticated in its implementation and through the Headphones Connect app, you can even assign locations that will trigger your preset configuration of ambient sound level allowed to trickle in and whether to focus on voice (or not). This is helpful if you frequent the same locations such as home, office, restaurant, coffee shops etc and your movement can prompt the LS900N to automatically switch to the optimal settings for each venue.
Easy tap controls on each earbud allow you to toggle between ANC/ambient mode on the left earbud and track changes and playback controls on the right. There’s even one-touch Spotify that will cycle through various playlists without ever touching your phone too! As expected, Google Assistant can be voice activated and the buds can be linked to an Alexa account too. Anyone familiar with the Sony Headphones Connect app would be able to navigate their way easily, making these TWS their own in a short amount of time. To check battery levels for the earbuds and the case, you do have to open the app on iPhones and even with regards to sound quality, the LDAC codec, which is Sony’s top-tier wireless audio transmission protocol, only a compatible Android device will play ball.
If you’re experimental, Sony persists with 360 Reality Audio as a platform to compete with the ubiquity of Dolby Atmos, but apps and content remain frugal. Thankfully, in plain old stereo mode, the passive seal provided by the LS900N is enough to catapult it straight to the top of the pile, even in this very crowded segment. The sound is rich, well-balanced and detailed, Sony having judged the frequency extremes beautifully. It won’t have any trouble playing back a Hi-Res audio file up to 24-bit/96kHz and if you set the Bluetooth connection for priority on sound quality, the even a well recorded 16-bit/44.1kHz signal should impress you. On Earthquake by FKJ, the LS900N exhibit the lightness in the top-end almost like an open ear design but manage to keep a tight leash on the bass, trapping the low-end energy inside your ear canal and giving the dynamics a propulsion that the open design of the Linkbuds S just did not possess. ANC is mighty effective too and on par with the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) which sell for almost twice as much! It does make human voices sound thinner and synthesized in transparency mode though, an area where the AirPods Pro decimate the competition.
Battery life with ANC on is claimed to be approximately 6 hours and that is pretty much in line with my findings, give or take a few mins, depending on volume level and what feature set you have on. I’ve always liked the Speak-to-chat feature on Sony headphones that automatically mutes the music when you start to speak to someone, but on the LS900N, it just seems to mute the music a second too late after you start talking and can be quite disorienting. Also, Sony should implement a user-adjustable revert time so there’s no awkward pause after you’ve said your piece. Currently, the shortest option is 5secs, but that feels like an eternity when you’ve just answered someone in a monosyllable.
With all the ingredients that are usually found in flagship level headphones but just cutting the right corners, Sony has effectively moved the game forward. The build-quality of the case might be a bit flimsy, but the earbuds themselves feel high quality. Similarly the transparency mode may not be the most natural sounding, but the ANC is top-level stuff. And the sound quality itself is entertaining enough to go through your playlists and continue to be impressed by old favourites. An absolute cracker that is better value than Sony’s own flagship WF-1000XM4!
Takes all of Sony’s greatest hits in terms of headphone tech and brings it to an affordable, excellent sounding package.
|Battery life:||6 hours (+ 20hrs case)|
|Quick charge:||5 mins=60 mins|
|Bluetooth:||5.2 with SBC, AAC, LDAC|
|Multipoint connectivity:||Yes (Quick Pair)|