Sony already introduced three over-ear gaming headsets under the gaming label Inzone last year and recently expanded the lineup with the mid-range headset Inzone H5. However, those who prefer to feel the sound in their ears can now also get a suitable in-ear model. Our Sony Inzone Buds review clarifies what the Earbuds have up their sleeve.
|Sony Inzone Buds
|5.3; Bluetooth LE
|Maximum operating range
|10m (without obstacle)
|Up to 24 hrs (Bluetooth), up to 12 hrs (USB-C);
48 hrs total with charging case; (varies depending on volume level and audio content)
|2.4 GHz wireless via USB-C receiver
|6.2 g per earbud; 65 g charging case & earbud
|Most important features
|ANC; Transparency mode; Spatial audio
|€ 199.00 *
Sony Inzone Buds review: scope of delivery, design and workmanship
- Unusual but chic design
- Comparatively large
- Valuable workmanship
The Sony Inzone Buds come in the same purple and white cardboard box as the models in the Inzone series. Inside, we find the charging case, which contains the USB-C dongle in addition to the Earbuds. The manufacturer also includes a (very short) USB-A to USB-C charging cable, three additional pairs of silicone ear inserts in different sizes, and the obligatory paperwork.
In terms of design, the Inzone Buds take a fairly fresh approach and stand out visually from the other common in-ear models. With the elongated exterior, the Buds are somewhat reminiscent of Sony’s own WF-1000XM3, but the Inzone variant is a bit more curved and filigree and thus more modern.
With a length of around 30 millimeters, the Earbuds are undoubtedly among the largest in-ear headphones, while the weight of 6.2 grams per Earbud is roughly in the midfield. Thanks to an IPX4 certification, the Buds are also protected against splashing water.
Our test model in the Goji Black color comes with a matte finish that is not susceptible to fingerprints – the white variant, however, relies on a glossy surface. Only the outer surface relies on a glossy material, which is a pleasant contrast. Although dust and fingerprints collect here.
The charging case also relies on a different design with its tapered shape, but thanks to a flat base, it can easily be placed on the table without tipping over. With a maximum height of 45 mm at the back, it is also comparatively large and weighs 65 grams with the buds and dongle inside.
It has a USB-C charging port on the back, as well as a Bluetooth pairing button. Otherwise, there is nothing to complain about in terms of build quality. The Inzone Buds feel very sturdy and high-quality, as you would expect from Sony in-ears.
Wearability of the Sony Inzone Buds
- Very comfortable
- Quite light at 6.2 grams
- Good passive cushioning
Due to the idiosyncratic design, it takes some trial and error at first when inserting. After insertion and slight twisting in, however, a very comfortable fit can then be achieved which, in conjunction with the right silicone ear inserts, allows excellent wearing comfort. And that with small or even very large ears.
Thanks to the inwardly thickening body of the buds, a secure hold is also made possible, thanks to which the in-ears sit securely in the ear even during rapid movements.
At the same time, very good passive attenuation is achieved in conjunction with the right ear tips, which already block out some of the ambient noise. I don’t find the gaming earbuds quite as comfortable as the Sony LinksBuds S (our review) or the WF-1000XM5 (our review), but the wearing comfort is still absolutely convincing.
Features of the Sony Inzone Buds
- Bluetooth 5.3 with Bluetooth LE
- Low latency 2.4 GHz wireless
- ANC and transparency mode
In terms of features, the Sony Inzone Buds offer a good overall package. The Earbuds communicate wirelessly either via Bluetooth 5.3 (including Bluetooth LE Audio) or, as a special feature, in combination with the USB receiver also in the 2.4 GHz wireless band.
The latter allows for a significantly lower latency, which is under 30 milliseconds according to the manufacturer – the ideal solution for gaming.
Sony’s industry-leading active noise cancellation has also been adopted from the in-ear top models, and of course a corresponding transparency mode (which amplifies voices and ambient noise) should not be missing either.
Only gimmicks like Speak-to-Chat or the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine Extreme (DSEE Extreme) technology from the in-ear top models have to be dispensed with in the gaming earbuds.
Operation and practical test
- Weaknesses in compatibility
- USB-C receiver works in most cases
- Impeccable and customizable operation
With the focus on Bluetooth LE, a glaring problem arises with the Sony Inzone Buds: Thus, the Earbuds can only be paired with devices that support the LE standard – and you can currently still count them on two hands.
This means that if your device does not support Bluetooth LE, you can only pair the Inzone Buds with a USB-C dongle. Neither my iPhone 15 Pro nor my notebook or Nintendo Switch support the standard, so pairing was not possible for me.
However, with a Google Pixel 7 and 8, the Samsung Galaxy S23 series, or the Foldables and Sony’s own Xperia smartphones, pairing should be no problem.
However, a connection via USB-C dongle is then again possible without any problems in most cases – both on said iPhone 15 Pro as well as on notebook, Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 5. Which brings us directly to the next problem, at least in the smartphone area:
If I connect the buds via USB receiver, adjusting the volume, for example, is only possible via the Earbuds themselves. The volume rocker then refuses to work. This is a bit strange and makes using the Buds an unnecessarily complicated affair.
The operation itself works very well thanks to the touch control. You can switch between ANC, transparency mode and normal sound by pressing the left sensor surface, and keeping it pressed mutes or activates the microphone.
On the right, the volume can be increased (press once) or decreased (press and hold). However, in conjunction with the companion Inzone Hub software for the PC, the controls can also be configured completely freely – very commendable.
Strong battery life
- Excellent battery life with and without ANC
The battery life of the Sony Inzone Buds turns out to be convincing. According to the manufacturer, the Earbuds last up to 24 hours (without ANC) or 18 hours (with ANC) via Bluetooth, via USB-C are still up to 12 hours without and 11 hours with active noise cancellation in it.
In combination with the charging case, the already strong runtimes are doubled to up to 24 hours via 2.4 GHz and 48 hours via Bluetooth.
In practice, we can definitely confirm these excellent values. However, depending on the volume level, it sometimes ends one or two hours earlier. Nevertheless: The battery life is an absolute house number.
Audio quality, ANC and microphones
- Very good and detailed sound
- Good bass response; however, a bit spongy
- Spatial audio and Tempest 3D surround sound
Fortunately, the Sony Inzone Buds also cut a good figure sonically and score with comparatively rich bass and clear mids. Sonically, the earbuds allow a good separation between low and medium sequences, as well as pleasantly airy and clear trebles.
The mix is basically quite warm and lively, without putting the basses too much in the foreground. However, the Buds lack real details in the basses, especially in the low bass segment, which is transmitted a bit too spongy.
This is made possible by the 8.4 mm Dynamic Driver X, which we already know from the WF-1000XM5. It also does a good job in the Inzone Buds, but cannot quite reach the clarity and richness of detail of the ANC in-ears, which are still around 100 euros more expensive.
Still, I really like what’s coming out of the earphones sound-wise. Both when listening to music and when playing games – which the Buds naturally place special emphasis on.
The Inzone Buds can fully convince with titles like Apex Legends on the PC or Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Gran Turismo 7 on the PlayStation 5, only the already mentioned bass could be more precise.
Thanks to Spatial Audio on the PC and the Tempest 3D Audio Engine on the PS5, virtual surround sound can be added, which improves the sound’s three-dimensionality a bit. However, the difference is not quite as big as with the over-ear models.
ANC and transparency mode
- Very good active noise cancellation
- Successful transparency mode
That Sony can fall back on enormous expertise in the field of active noise cancellation, we have already been able to ascertain several times in tests. Fortunately, the Inzone Buds also benefit from this, and their ANC is on a very good level.
In my eyes, the ANC is somewhere between the LinkBuds S and the WF-1000XM4, so the level of the current top model XM5 is not quite reached. Nevertheless, most ambient noise is effectively suppressed or greatly reduced.
The transparency mode is also pleasing and scores with a clear voice intelligibility and a quite natural sound image. Compared to other gaming in-ears, the Inzone Buds show what they are capable of here and position themselves very clearly above the competition.
Microphone Quality of the Sony Inzone Buds
- Good microphone quality
I was also pleasantly surprised by the microphone quality of the Earbuds, which is absolutely worth listening to for in-ear headphones. Of course, you can clearly hear during recordings and voice chat that you are not speaking with a dedicated larger microphone, but we are still clearly understandable at all times.
Test recording of the Sony Inzone Buds:
Test recording of the Sony WF-1000XM5:
App connectivity: Inzone Hub
- Overwhelming app
- Good feature set
Surprisingly, Sony does not include a smartphone app with the Inzone Buds. The Earbuds cannot be found in the Headphones Connect app either. Instead, the already familiar Inzone Hub is used on the PC, which comes up with a tidy interface.
The companion app informs about the Earbuds’ and the case’s charging status and allows for a complete adjustment of the device’s settings, for example. In addition, a short test can be used to check whether the ear inserts used seal well against ambient noise.
In the sound settings tab, various sound profiles can be created and adjusted with the help of a 10-band equalizer. Furthermore, the surround sound can be activated and personalized here, for example, while additional settings for microphone or transparency mode are possible.
Sony Inzone Buds review: conclusion
With the Sony Inzone Buds, the manufacturer really delivers excellent gaming in-ear headphones that make most competitors look pretty old. Sound quality and active noise cancellation are on a very high level and the battery life is also outstanding.
I also like the wearing comfort very much, but there is one big problem. The requirement for Bluetooth LE means that the Earbuds cannot be used with most older, but also modern Bluetooth devices – or only in combination with the USB-C dongle, which works without problems in most cases.
Those who are looking for dedicated gaming in-ear headphones and do not have a problem with using them via the USB dongle will be very well served by Sony’s Inzone Buds. A successful hybrid that cuts a very good figure both when gaming and listening to music.