Linkbuds and SRS-NB10: Sony's new way of listening

Our resident 'unker' tries to make sense of new-fangled audio tech from Sony.

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I’m always on the lookout for quirky gadgets to review as laptop reviews generally send me to sleep. So I perked up when two earphones—no, headphones?—no, earbuds? Maybe?—landed on my desk.

These are the Sony LinkBuds (WF-L900) and the poorly named Sony SRS-NB10 (for real Sony, cut this sh** out).

Naturally, these two items piqued my interest. Being left-field and non-traditional, Uncle Influencer just had to try them out.

The Experience of the “neckpeakers”

First up, we have the SRS-NB10. This neck-worn speaker, which I will hereby dub neckpeakers. To be strictly frank, this isn’t exactly novel. Bose, too, offered neckpeakers some years ago. I was always intrigued but did not have the chance to try.

Introduced this year, Sony actually has two different models of neckpeakers: the SRS-NB10 and the SRS-NS7. Hold this thought for a minute.

Firstly, why would you pick neckpeakers over headphones? A few reasons. If you have a big head like me, you would know that headphones hurt after long hours. They can also get really warm and sweaty. Lastly, some of them perform so well in blocking out noise, you can’t really hear the wife screaming for you, which will land you in a lot of trouble. Go ahead and ask me how I know.

Anyway, the neckpeakers solve a lot of these problems. The SRS-NB10 (this is getting tiring) is light and svelte, and the rubbery soft texture makes it really comfortable to wear on your neck throughout the day. Because it doesn’t clamp onto your head like a medieval torture device, you don’t get those ear sweat issues.

For work days from home, this is a godsend as I found that I could wear them all day and essentially forget about them. These neckpeakers have microphones as well, so transitioning from music, to videos and then to video calls is simple and it works, fuss-free. BTW, if it wasn’t already obvious, these things work wirelessly.

When the wife calls out to me, I can hear her, this keeps me out of trouble.

So the pros for me are definitely the ergonomics. The battery life is pretty good, I managed three work days before I needed a charge. Though with battery life, YMMV.

OK, so the cons next. Firstly, you should only use this device when you are alone. It’s no good if you are using it in bed when the wife is trying to sleep. It’s no good when you are in the office with your co-workers because everyone can hear that you are on YouTube. It’s also useless on the commute because you can’t hear your content.

Ed: wearing the SRS-NB10 on behalf of uncle
Ed: wearing the SRS-NB10 on behalf of uncle

So consider very carefully your personal use cases before you peel out the Yusoff Ishaks for this.

Also, specifically for the SRS-NB10, they do seem underpowered. I found the max volume still a little too soft for my liking. There is no bass to speak of and sound quality is decidedly tinny if you are coming from full-sized headphones or IEMs.

But look past the sound quality and the experience of using neckpeakers in specific use cases is actually very good.

So now… if the SRS-NS7 is double the sound quality of the NB10… Then I would probably urge you to set aside more Yusoff Ishaks to get that. (Editor’s note – uncle saying uncle things again… wait for a review first).

Speakers for your ears

Now, the LinkBuds are essentially tiny speakers which you stuff into your ears. I know; you are thinking, earbud say earbud lah, what earspeakers.

The truth is, most earbuds seek to create a seal between their drivers and your eardrums, blocking the world out.

The Linkbuds are different as they are designed to let outside sounds in. So when you are listening to music or watching a video, you can still hear the wife shouting for you. I understand that this might not be a feature you are looking for, but for me, this is a plus.

For the brave among you who are using audio devices to block out the wife, I salute you. I will press F for you soon.

Through my time using the Linkbuds, I found certain use cases that worked well for me. On walks or runs, you can listen out for traffic, which is a lifesaver. (No sh**, sherlock)

You can order your kopi or teh without taking these off because you can hear the kopi uncle calling out for you. When you are driving and need to take a call or a zoom meeting, the design also lets you listen to stuff that’s happening in your general vicinity, which is important.

Did I also mention that you can hear your wife when she wants you to chase the lizard out of the room? (Ed – yes, like 1,000 times already, enough lah please)

Sound quality-wise, these are of sufficient quality that I would not hesitate to recommend to be used for casual music, movies or meetings. Simply put, they are solid but not spectacular. But. These have no bass. And I don’t mean low; I mean no. However, for me at least, this characteristic actually adds to the charm of using these Linkbuds. These buds are great when you are not scrutinising the sound quality. I am not being derogatory but when was the last time you did critical listening?

Ergonomics-wise, despite this funky doughnut design, I had no trouble getting them to stay in my ears. But I do have quite big ears. I am not sure if this would fit petite ears. I asked my wife to try, but she said it’s gross to share earbuds. So that’s that. The Linkbuds are fairly comfortable, but when I wore them for around two hours, my ears started to hurt. So it might not be a good idea to wear these for extended periods.

One major difference between this and the NB10 is that people around you can’t hear what you are listening to. So it is a good device to use in the office or in bed. When commuting, it’s OK, but not stellar.

The Linkbuds have this control scheme where you tap the side of your head to control your playback. I HATED these. I found them impossible to use accurately and sometimes, just moving your jaws are sufficient to trigger these controls. This control scheme sounds good on paper, but for me, I did not like that.

So just like the SRS-NB10, there are use cases and scenarios where the Linkbuds absolutely shine. And likewise, when it comes to traditional use cases, both these devices are lacking in certain areas.

But if you ask me, I think it’s better that we have these choices. Not everyone wants to be shut off from the world and not everyone wants to ignore their wife. So for those who fall under this category or those who share my pain, Sony’s new way of listening does make sense.

I hear my wife calling already, bye-bye.

*EDIT: Apologies for the error as the SRS-NB20 does not exist; it should be called the SRS-NS7. For some reason, none of us thought it was amiss. We’re embarrassed for this oversight but as Unker would say, see lah, told you about the name liao.

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