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Leaked images might be Sony’s next wireless earbuds

Is Sony about to follow up its highly unusual open-air LinkBuds wireless earbuds with a new model called the LinkBuds S? That’s the rumor being promoted by the leaker account SnoopyTech on Twitter. The account posted a variety of images on April 21, 2022, that show what appear to be promotional photos for an unreleased set of Sony earbuds, in two colors — black and a beige/sand option. The images are the second purported Sony leak this month — earlier a German tech blog released images that it claims are of the unreleased Sony WH-1000XM5, the latest version of Sony’s flagship noise-canceling wireless headphones.

An image that might be Sony's unreleased LinkdBuds S in beige.
Snoopy Tech / Sony

What’s interesting about the latest batch of leaked images is that they show a design that appears to be a hybrid of sorts. They’re the same general shape as Sony’s existing WF-1000XM4 noise-canceling wireless earbuds, but a perhaps a bit smaller, and they use a silicone eartip to seal the ear canal. However, they also have what looks like a large, perforated vent immediately in front of the sound tubes that lead to those ear tips. It’s that feature that gives these images credence as belonging to the new LinkBuds line — the original LinkBuds placed a heavy emphasis on being aware of your surroundings, and a large vent would help an ear-canal sealing design accomplish the same thing.

In fact, if the vent succeeds at letting in a good amount of external sound and air into the ear, the LinkBuds S (if that’s in fact what they’re called) could fix several of the problems I experienced when reviewing the LinkBuds. Specifically, the LinkBuds lack a strong physical connection to your outer ear, which means they have a tendency to come loose and even fall out. The silicone ear tips would likely solve that. Also, when the LinkBuds weren’t positioned just so in your ear, the sound quality would suffer significantly, especially in the low-end frequencies. The silicone ear tips could once again come to the rescue, ensuring that there will be a consistent fit and seal. The vent could also go a long way in fighting the occlusion effect that some people find bothersome when using ear-tip-based earbuds.

As for the rest of the design of these earbuds, the details all appear to be classic Sony. Muted colors, integrated touch controls, and an infrared sensor to detect when you’re wearing the earbuds, so that they can auto-pause music when you remove them. I really enjoyed the wide-tap feature that Sony introduced on the LinkBuds, which let you tap the side of your face near your ear instead of the earbud itself, but there’s no way of knowing if it will be present on these new earbuds.

Snoopy Tech claims the buds will possess an advanced form of active noise cancellation, and “automatic playback that learns from your behavior,” though it’s not clear what that means in practice. We can likely expect some level of IPX water protection, and given that the current LinkBuds sell for $180, I’m guessing that these new earbuds will be priced a little higher, but no more than $220. As to when these still unannounced earbuds will be available, I think there’s a good chance we’ll see them before the end of June 2022.

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