Sony interview: How LinkBuds lets you hear your surroundings

Sony has taken a whole new direction with the LinkBuds, focusing on canceling noise while you’re wearing them instead of the more traditional feature of keeping it out.

This ear-hole loop produces continuous, transparent sound making it easy to keep them in your ears while doing things like talking to people, listening to your flights at the airport, or exercising outside. And while they may not be for everyone, they’re worth a look if you value your ability to hear what’s going on around you as well as the quality of your sound.

You can see ours Full review of LinkBuds here, but to better understand where they fit in the broader audio environment, I spoke with Hiroshi Nakamura, head of mobile products business, HES Business Group, Sony Corporation. Here’s what he had to say about the origin of the idea and where you might end up using this unique technology in the future.

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“I wanted to create a new headset style to create [a] Nakamura said. “The key is linking online and offline, and then the question is how to realize that.” And indeed, the LinkBuds have a unique design unlike any other in-ear headphones currently on the market.

The result is a literal hole with a ring-shaped driver to gently allow that offline noise in. However, beyond the freedom this always-on audio transparency offers, Nakamura was quick to talk about the kind of technology these headphones could offer in the future.

One of the experiences that Sony is particularly interested in is what Nakamara calls audio AR (augmented reality), which is capable of overlaying online audio into the real world. “For example [with] For navigation, you can use Apple Maps or Google Maps on your smartphone, and when your phone announces a right turn, Audio AR will allow sound to come from the right side of the headset. ”

The top layer of LinkBuds open acoustic environment, which can be extremely helpful for city dwellers and especially tourists. Not only can you hear things like traffic, but you also get extra direction if you’re not paying enough attention (like most of us, most of the time). And, from an accessibility standpoint, audio AR can help people with visual and hearing impairments.

Another example Nakamura discussed is gaming, specifically with Niantic’s Pokemon Go – a game that overlays Pokemon on the real world that you view through your phone.. LinkBuds can help you identify better where the characters come from, as they have a bud-by-bud gyro sensor built in. Developers can harness these sensors to create similar spatially aware experiences.

This isn’t Sony’s first foray into locational audio – 360 Reality Audio, a separate standard from Apple’s Spatial Audio, performs a similar feat. For example, you might get drums to the left and back, but vocals to the right and front of you. To some extent, it mathematically mixes the sound and places it around you, almost creating the effect of a surround sound system.

Are LinkBuds Scalable?

Jacob Krol / CNN

Nakamura notes that the original concept behind LinkBuds came from Sony Over-ear headphones WH-1000XM4use the talk to chat feature that amplifies the outside noise when you start talking.

In our testing on the 1000XM4s, we found that the Sony headphones allowed us to clearly hear all kinds of environmental sounds (like human voices, knocks on doors, or even a pulsing robot vacuum). around) in the earcup. It’s actually a smart transparency mode that’s on when we start speaking.

But Nakamara sees the future of LinkBuds and the possibility of extending this technology to other areas?

“We will continue to focus on the concept of linking online and offline, so we are looking for the best form factor for this concept, especially with always-on functionality.”

It’s not guaranteed that we’ll see a pair of over-ear headphones with a similar hole in the earcups, but this is clearly an area where Sony wants to get in.

Ultimately, LinkBuds does not replace other Sony earbuds and is seen as a new option for people to choose from. For $179.99, they’re focused on letting you hear the world around you with rich, crisp sound in a comfortable, lightweight construction. And while they cut the 1000X series down on the price, they focus more on great sound and equally great noise cancellation to block out the world around you. We Rated $279 WF-1000XM4 headphones and $349 WH-1000XM4 headphones topped their respective categories.

After weeks of testing, Sony Link really the opposite of noise-cancelling headphones. They have the unique ability to provide always-on transparency, and for those who like to hear their surroundings, they fit the bill. Compatible with the rest of the Sony lineup, they offer rich sound and quick connectivity. Transparency is definitely the flagship feature, and we’re waiting to see how these AR-like experiences will come to fruition from Sony and its partners.

For now, we won’t be using the smart navigation experience, but we can safely walk at night and hear our surroundings, work from home without worrying about missing out. knock on the door and still be able to listen to some nice tunes with LinkBuds in.

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