Sony announces LinkBuds, an 'open ring' headphone to wear while working all day

Sony's new LinkBuds
The new buds launch in Aotearoa on April 22, the company said. Photo credit: Supplied / Sony

Sony has announced a new set of earbuds the company is heralding as a "new frontier" for headphones.

The LinkBuds, which will be available in New Zealand from April 22, are designed to be worn all day thanks to audio transparency that lets you hear what's happening around you.

The new earbuds have an open ring design Sony says allows you to experience the outside world without compromising your listening experience.

It's not instantly clear what the real-world difference will be between the new product and the 'transparency' option used by many other brands of wireless earbuds, including Sony's own 'Ambient Sound' feature. This is also not the first set of headphones to feature an 'open' design.

Over-ear headphones or earbuds with silicone-tipped buds and Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) can cut out background noise, while transparency mode lets it through or even amplifies it so you can hear conversations and traffic.

Other earbud designs - like Apple's basic AirPods and Samsung's Galaxy Buds Live - are 'open' and designed to let environmental noise in.

Sony says you can expect a full working day of charge from the LinkBuds, but goes on to specify that's actually 5.5 hours of use, with an additional 12 hours of charge in the case.

A 10 minute charge should give enough battery life for 90 minutes of play time, the company said.

The earbuds weigh just 4g and space has been saved by integrating the protective surface covering the speaker diaphragm in the housing, the company said.

"The overall shape has been crafted with the use of extensive ear shape data, collated since Sony introduced the world's first in-ear headphones in 1982."

Technology website The Verge reports the unique style of Sony's new LinkBuds is "very comfortable" and the voice calling performance is "fantastic", but isn't as fond of the battery life and says the earbuds are particularly unpractical in loud environments.

That voice performance uses advanced signal processing to ensure it's as clear as possible. Sony said its noise reduction algorithm was developed using AI machine learning, using more than 500 million voice samples to suppress ambient noise and extract your voice clearly.

The LinkBuds and their charging case are made using recycled plastic materials and plastic-free packaging, the company said.

They also offer IPX4 water resistance so they should be okay to use in New Zealand's inclement weather and at the gym.

Sony says the launch price of the LinkBuds in Aotearoa will be around $330. That's the same price that Apple currently charges for its third generation AirPods.

Well-reviewed ANC earbuds vary in price, from $380 for Sony's own WF-1000XM4s, to under $250 for the Technics AZ60s.