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Sony Link Buds vs WF 1000XM4 (2022): Comparing Sony’s Top-of-the-Line Truly Wireless Earbuds

Compared to your usual truly wireless earbuds, the Sony LinkBuds are a bit of an oddity in that they have a ring hole that makes for a listening experience similar to what you’d get with open-backed headphones. On the other hand, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are relatively more traditional, exceeding expectations and setting new standards in the space with their noise canceling and sound quality.

The question is, which one is better? From the look of things, they’re geared towards different users. The LinkBuds are newer and cheaper, and they’re clearly not targeted at audiophiles. Meanwhile, the WF-1000XM4 have more features and an excellent track record, delivering solid audio and the capability of effectively letting external noise in or out when needed. Since each one has advantages and disadvantages over the other, we compare the two to help you decide which pair will give you the most bang for your buck.

Sony Link Buds vs WF 1000XM4 Comparison Chart

ModelSony LinkBudsSony WF-1000XM4
 Sony Link Buds vs WF 1000XM4Sony Link Buds vs WF 1000XM4
PriceCheck Price at Amazon.comCheck Price at Amazon.com
Frequency Response20 Hz – 20 kHz20 Hz – 20 kHz (20 Hz – 40 kHz using LDAC sampling)
Ear FitOpenIn-ear
Noise CancelingNoYes
ChipsetV1V1
Bluetooth VersionBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.2
Supported CodecsSBC, AACSBC, AAC, LDAC
Battery LifeEarbuds: Up to 5.5 hours
Case: Up to 12 hours
Earbuds: Up to 8 hours
Case: Up to 16 hours
Water ResistanceIPX4IPX4
ColorsWhite, GrayBlack, Silver

Design and Fit

Both the Sony LinkBuds and WF-1000XM4 are sweat and water resistant and have a comfortable fit.

Sony Link Buds vs WF 1000XM4 Design and Fit
A closer look at the Sony LinkBuds’ (left) open-ring design and the WF-1000XM4’s (right) more typical form factor.

Owing to their design, the LinkBuds easily stand out from the crowded sea of truly wireless earbuds. That’s thanks to their open-ear fit and ring hole that beats any form and shape of transparency mode. In other words, it’s the most “natural version” of the feature, as they inherently let sound in at all times. Along the same line, they’re made to be worn all the time, and for that reason, Sony would have to make sure they’re comfortable to wear—and it did just that. Surprisingly, they’re not fatiguing to have on your ears for long periods.

Also, the LinkBuds have a companion app that’ll show you how to wear them properly for a secure and comfortable fit, but it’s really more of a trial-and-error experience. On that note, there are five fin sizes in total: XS, S, M, L and XL.

In comparison, the WF-1000XM4 have a more typical form factor, and an in-ear fit that passively blocks out external sounds better, needless to say. Unlike the LinkBuds, they don’t have fins but rather varying sizes of ear tips, and picking the right one determines whether they feel uncomfortably jammed into your ears or not. It should be mentioned that they’re on the bulky side, so they might not fit everyone’s ears, particularly if you have small ones. In their defense, they’re still an improvement over their predecessors, the WF-1000XM3, in this regard, as they’re more compact and don’t protrude too much.

If you’re planning on using either one for working out, both have an IPX4 water resistance rating and a secure fit to boot. That means they can handle a little sweat and light rain, and they won’t fall out of your ears when you, say, go out for a run. Color options for the LinkBuds include White and Gray, whereas the WF-1000XM4 come in Black and Silver.

Click here for our Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 vs Sony WF-1000XM3 comparison.

Audio Performance

The Sony LinkBuds don’t hold a candle to the WF-1000XM4 when it comes to sound quality.

Sony Link Buds vs WF 1000XM4 Audio Performance
The Sony WF-1000XM4 (in photo) have top-notch noise canceling and LDAC codec support.

Right off the bat, the WF-1000XM4 sound a whole deal better than the LinkBuds, and their in-ear fit as opposed to an open-ear fit plays a pretty big role here. That’s not to say the latter sounds bad, though. They can still provide a decent listening experience, but expecting them to be on par with the WF-1000XM4 is a stretch. For starters, the WF-1000XM4 supports LDAC, a nearly lossless codec that replicates a quality close to what you’d get from a CD. The LinkBuds don’t have support for the codec, as they can only handle SBC and AAC.

In their default settings, the WF-1000XM4 emphasizes lows and gives a modest bump to mids. That’s pretty much expected since this combination makes for a consumer-friendly sound, but it does run the risk of missing details in the highs. In contrast, the LinkBuds have a strong focus on highs, which come through clear without getting muddied. Sure enough, they’re lacking punchiness in lows, but they do come across well in quiet environments.

At any rate, you can always fine-tune their sounds on the equalizer settings via their companion apps. For instance, you can tweak the lows and mids on the WF-1000XM4s to get a more neutral sound. But it’s worth mentioning that adjusting the equalizer on the LinkBuds doesn’t do much, only changing the sound slightly. But hey, it’s something.

In terms of audio features, the LinkBuds have a few noteworthy ones. First off, there’s Adaptive Volume Control, and as its name suggests, it adjusts volume levels depending on how loud or how quiet it is where you are. Like the WF-1000XM4, they also have DSEE upscaling, which basically brings back details removed from the compression process for a better overall audio quality. They don’t have noise canceling and, by the same token, transparency mode, as mentioned earlier. 

As everyone knows by now, the WF-1000XM4 have active noise cancellation, and they’re among the best in the business. In fact, they’re arguably on par if not better than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds here. In the same vein, they also do a stand-up job when it comes to ambient noise, offering 20 levels for you to make adjustments accordingly. Last but not least, they feature 360 Reality Audio for an immersive, home theater-like listening experience.

Click here for our comparison between the Bose Sport Open Earbuds and QuietComfort Earbuds.

Other Features and Battery Life

The Sony LinkBuds and WF-1000XM4 have a similar set of features.

Sony Link Buds vs WF 1000XM4 Other Features and Battery Life
Here are the Sony LinkBuds’ (in photo) Wide Area Tap feature and rated battery life.

Both truly wireless earbuds have a V1 chip under the hood, as well as Bluetooth 5.2. But neither one has multipoint pairing, which allows you to connect to two devices at the same time. They do have ear detection, so there’s that. When you remove one earbud, they pause media playback, and when you put it back on, they resume your content. On top of that, they support single earbud use, meaning you can leave one earbud in their charging case and play music on the other one you took out.

Another stand-out feature these earbuds share is Speak-to-Chat. For the uninitiated, they pause media content whenever they detect that you’re speaking so you can talk right away without tapping on them or hitting pause on your device. Moreover, they’ll automatically resume whatever you were playing after a couple of seconds of you not talking. It goes without saying that this feature works a bit differently on the WF-1000XM4s since they also turn on transparency mode, which doesn’t apply to the LinkBuds.

Interestingly, the LinkBuds have a feature called Wide Area Tap, letting you control them by tapping on an area right in front of them. Essentially, you can tap the side of your face to control them. It’s a nifty functionality, but whether or not it’s a step toward the right direction innovation-wise is anybody’s guess.

Battery life is another front where the WF-1000XM4 beat the LinkBuds. They can go for up to 8 hours on a single charge with 16 hours’ worth of additional juice from their charging case. Also, you can get 60 minutes of playback time in only 5 minutes with their quick charging feature. The latter can only last up to 5.5 hours, and its case can only hold up to 12 hours of extra power. But it does have fast charging too, providing up to 90 minutes of playback time in 10 minutes.

Lastly, the two have Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration for voice controls, as well as Google Fast Pair to make pairing a breeze.

Verdict

Sony LinkBuds, Sony WF-1000XM4—different earbuds, different target audience.

In general, the Sony LinkBuds are more for everyday use, particularly for listening to music or podcasts while cleaning or lounging about at home. They also come in handy whenever you’re walking around town or exercising outside and need to hear your surroundings for safety reasons. The Sony WF-1000XM4 are better for listening to music, and they’re also better for when you’re traveling on an airplane or when you’re at a not-so-quiet place, thanks to their active noise cancellation.

If you have to pick between these two, choose the one that better suits your needs, as each one has the upper hand over the other in their own ways.

FAQs

📌 What’s the difference between the Sony LinkBuds and WF-1000XM4?

The Sony LinkBuds have an open-ring design that lets outside noise in naturally. Meanwhile, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are more traditional in that they have an in-ear fit, but they do have active noise cancellation to block out external sounds and an ambient sound mode to let them in.

đź“Ś Which is better, the Sony LinkBuds or WF-1000XM4?

The Sony WF-1000XM4s are arguably better because they have a longer battery life and superior sound quality, as well as features like 360 Reality Audio and LDAC codec support. However, the LinkBuds’ ring hole lets you hear your surroundings at all times without the need for a transparency mode typical in noise-canceling earbuds, which has a muffled quality to it.

đź“Ś Does the Sony LinkBuds have noise canceling?

No, the Sony LinkBuds don’t have active noise cancellation or an ambient sound mode, which they don’t need since they naturally let sound in.

đź“Ś Does the Sony WF-1000XM4 support single earbud use?

Yes, the Sony WF-1000XM4 lets you use only one earbud at a time, allowing you to leave the other earbud in its charging case.

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Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.