Skip to main content

Sony is finally adding multipoint to its earbuds

Sony has long been a leader in the world of wireless earbuds, pioneering features like active noise cancellation (ANC) and hi-res audio, but it has never produced a set of wireless buds that can do Bluetooth Multipoint — the ability to connect a set of earbuds to two devices simultaneously. This omission has become even more notable in recent years as brands like Jabra, Anker Soundcore, 1More, and JBL have all adopted it, even on models costing less than $100.

At last, however, Sony has decided to do something about it: starting in November, the company will add Bluetooth multipoint to its LinkBuds, LinkBuds S, and its flagship WF-1000XM4 earbuds via a firmware update.

Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony WF-1000XM4 noise-canceling wireless earbuds. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Similarly to multipoint on wireless headphones, these models will be able to receive music from one device, say a PC, and then switch seamlessly to a second device like a phone, in order to answer a phone call — reverting back to the PC automatically when the call is done. Though according to Sony’s press release, you have to download and install a second app called Auto Play if you want to automatically revert to the first device.

Multipoint is a very handy feature that has been thrust into the spotlight since the pandemic forced a huge number of people to work from home, alternating between Zoom calls, phone calls, and their favorite media. So what took Sony so long to bring multipoint to market?

The company hasn’t said, but I suspect it’s been faced with a technological hurdle due to its support of its in-house hi-res audio codec, LDAC.

LDAC is capable of delivering lossy, but nonetheless hi-res 24-bit/96kHz audio from a compatible device to a set of compatible earbuds (under ideal conditions). But to do that, LDAC eats up a huge amount of Bluetooth bandwidth. At its most demanding quality level, LDAC consumes 990kbits per second — almost the entirety of what Bluetooth can handle. That leaves precious little bandwidth for things like a second, constant Bluetooth connection.

In fact, on every set of wireless earbuds I’ve tested that offer both LDAC and Bluetooth multipoint, the two features are mutually exclusive — enabling one of them disables the other. Even on Sony’s wireless headphones like the WH-1000XM4 and XM5, which support both features, a choice must be made — you can’t use them simultaneously.

It’s possible that Sony was looking for ways to avoid applying a similar set of rules to its own earbuds, but Sony tells Digital Trends that, just like on it s fullsize headphones, you won’t be able to use LDAC and multipoint at the same time.

One way that Sony could do multipoint and hi-res audio would be to adopt Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec, which offers a similar, if not an identical level of audio performance as LDAC, but with far lower bandwidth requirements. I’ve reviewed several great aptX Adaptive earbuds that also do multipoint. But Sony appears to be going in the other direction. When it introduced its WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones, it dropped support for aptX and aptX HD, which had been available on the XM4’s predecessors, the WH-1000XM3, and I’ve not seen a set of Sony headphones or earbuds since then that include any of Qualcomm’s codecs.

Sony LinkBuds S Earth Blue.
Sony LinkBuds S in Earth Blue. Sony

Sony’s multipoint announcement was actually something of a footnote within a press release designed to highlight two changes to the company’s LinkBuds products: a new $200 “Earth Blue” color for the LinkBuds S that is made using recycled water bottles, and a new version of the LinkBuds designed for enterprise use, called the LinkBuds UC ($250).

The LinkBuds UC come with their own dedicated USB dongle in the case, which lets them connect to a Mac or PC directly, without relying on Bluetooth. The buds are also certified for use with Microsoft Teams, and you can customize the earbuds’ gestures — including their clever wide-area tap ability — to perform Teams-specific tasks like raising a hand, instead of the usual playback and volume commands for music.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
Niche Canadian company takes on Sony with new wireless earbuds and headphones
PSB M4U 9 wireless ANC headphones and M4U TWM wireless earbuds.

Canadian audio brand, PSB Speakers, has released the details of its latest headphones: the $499 M4U 9 wireless headphones and $199 M4U TWM wireless earbuds. Both devices make use of audio personalization software from Audiodo, as well as PSB's own RoomFeel technology. The new headphones are expected to be available at retailers in June.

These are not the hi-res, UWB-based headphones that PSB teased earlier in 2023, which have yet to be released.

Read more
Skullcandy honors Purple Haze weed with its latest 4/20 earbuds
Skullcandy Grind Haze earbuds.

In 2022, Skullcandy joined forces with Doritos for a limited edition 4/20-inspired set of Dime earbuds -- a nudge and a wink to the infamous munchies people experience after smoking weed. This year, the company is clearly done with making thinly-veiled references: its 4/20 project for 2023 is called the Grind Haze, a set of wireless earbuds that take their inspiration directly from the Indica-dominant Purple Haze strain of cannabis.

Only 3,000 of these Grind earbuds will be made and Skullcandy is selling them for $90 (a $10 premium over its non-weed-inspired Grind model).

Read more
Sony debuts the WF-C700N, its most affordable noise-canceling earbuds
Sony WF-C700 with charging case.

Sony has announced its latest wireless earbuds, and they bring the cost of the company's excellent active noise cancellation (ANC) technology to a new low price. At $120, the WF-C700N are a step up from the entry-level $100 WF-C500, which lack ANC, yet they're considerably more affordable than the $200 Sony LinkBuds S or the $279 WF-1000XM4, the company's only other ANC models.

The WF-C700N can be preordered immediately in one of four colors (black, white, lavender, and sage green), with an expected delivery date of April 17 to April 18.

Read more