“The LG Tone Free fall in need of rivals of their worth vary”
Neat self-cleaning characteristic
Nice sound high quality
Subpar battery life
Overly delicate contact controls
There may be seemingly no higher time to launch a product that kills micro organism as a part of its characteristic set than proper now. Due to that, LG actually ought to get credit score for its wonderful, if coincidental timing of the discharge of the Tone Free HBS-FN6.
After all, it’s by no means a great time to launch a product that doesn’t match as much as the competitors in essential areas, and LG deserves the credit score for that, too, whether or not it desires it or not. The $150 Tone Free HBS-FN6 do just a few issues that almost all different true wi-fi earbuds don’t, however did not make an impression within the locations that mattered most.
Earlier than I break it down, a fast clarifying observe: There are three totally different Tone Free fashions, the HBS-FN6, HBS-FN5W, and the HBS-FN4, every with incremental variations. I’ll be reviewing the HBS-FN6 and for the needs of this story, I’ll consult with that product because the Tone Free until in any other case said. Alright, let’s get on with it.
Out of the field
Every thing in regards to the LG Tone Free earbuds are petite, proper all the way down to the packaging during which they arrive. Below the lid of the predominantly white field are the buds and their case, with a separate compartment beneath them housing a USB-C charging cable, further eartips, and a surprisingly thorough guide. I say surprisingly solely as a result of I’ve seen an honest variety of guides which have been largely quick on particulars. It could be just a little old skool however having one thing tangible to stroll you thru working these buds is a welcome inclusion that generally will get misplaced within the combine with rivals.
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The Tone Free have a Quick Pair characteristic just like Google’s Pixel Buds 2 or Apple’s AirPods, the place the earbuds seemingly discover your telephone earlier than it might discover them, although it’s restricted to units that help Android 5.zero or larger. In the event you don’t have a tool that matches that description, you’ll be able to go the extra conventional route and discover the earbuds in your telephone’s Bluetooth settings to make the connection.
The Tone Free have Bluetooth 5.zero know-how, and like most earbuds I’ve reviewed with this tech built-in, had been issue-free when it got here to strong connections. I used to be in a position to freely transfer round the home, and even into the yard, whereas my telephone remained stationary.
As has been the case with so many pairs earlier than them, the Tone Free had been made — not less than partly — within the picture of the Apple AirPods. In spite of everything, Apple made the idea of carrying golf tees in your ears the hip factor to do, with rivals merely following the pattern. The Tone Free are barely bulkier (about 5 grams in comparison with the Four-gram AirPods) and solely are available in black for now, however the visible similarities are obvious sufficient.
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I actually like how compact the charging case for the Tone Free is. It’s really a shade lighter (at 39 grams) than the AirPods’ 40-gram charging case, and I personally favor the spherical design of the Tone Free case. Which may be an unpopular opinion since Apple’s Zippo lighter-shaped case has been copied by many producers following it. However I’d completely take LG’s round case in a stow-and-go state of affairs over the AirPods, although neither will current a lot of an issue in that regard.
The Tone Free are comfy, becoming tightly in my ears with out placing an excessive amount of strain on my ear canals.
The Tone Free are comfy, becoming tightly in my ears with out placing an excessive amount of strain on my ear canals. The one occasions I bodily adjusted them throughout morning walks or afternoon jogs was to make the most of the buds’ auto-pause characteristic when passing different people. I might have used the earbuds’ Ambient Sound Mode to get round having to take away a bud, however I discovered that simply pulling them out was a better methodology than attempting to make use of the buds’ multi-touch controls whereas in movement.
Talking of these multi-touch controls, I would be the first to confess that it’s not simple to get this model of management proper. Many buds that make use of this characteristic fall someplace between too delicate to the contact or not delicate sufficient. I believe the Tone Free are practical — with multi-press choices for answering or ending telephone calls, switching by music, or altering the quantity – however they do err nearer to the “too delicate” finish of the spectrum. They aren’t as dangerous in that regard as others I’ve examined, however it nonetheless made for a handful of irritating moments.
In relation to their characteristic set, the Tone Free are a little bit of a combined bag. They do have the distinctive self-cleaning characteristic, one which by itself makes these buds intriguing, however once you broaden the scope and study the extra commonplace, but arguably extra vital options, the intrigue is all however misplaced.
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First, let’s hash out the distinctiveness of those earbuds. The Tone Free are self-cleaning buds, because of a UVnano charging case that LG says kills 99.9% of micro organism whereas the case is related to a charging cable. The case makes use of ultraviolet mild targeted on the buds’ eartips, although the method received’t take away grime, particles, or earwax.
On the one hand, that is objectively cool. Particularly throughout a time when most people are as targeted as ever about cleanliness, having buds that kill micro organism by themselves can solely be a great factor. Then again, this all appears wildly pointless. Like what I assume are lots of you, I used to be by no means overly involved with how a lot micro organism had been on my earbuds. Possibly LG is main the cost right here and uncovering a difficulty we didn’t beforehand know was an issue, and perhaps future earbuds will observe within the Tone Free’s footsteps. Then once more, perhaps not. It’s a characteristic that the common particular person can’t tangibly really feel the results of, and it’s the primary purpose these buds are $50 greater than the Tone Free HBS-FN4. That looks like a giant expense for a largely invisible perk.
In relation to their characteristic set, the Tone Free are a little bit of a combined bag.
Battery life within the Tone Free is as much as six hours, with two further charging cycles included within the case for a grand complete of 18. Moreover, they’ve a quick-charging characteristic that provides you an hour of playback after 5 minutes within the case. Two years in the past, this might have been strong. Now, sadly for LG, it’s mediocre at greatest. The RHA TrueConnect 2, for a similar worth, supplies 9.5 hours of playback in a single cost, with 44 complete hours of battery life with its case. Seeing because the Tone Free started displaying low battery proper across the five-hour mark and barely approached their quoted six-hour lifespan, it’s onerous to see why you wouldn’t go for a clearly stronger battery within the RHA.
And whereas the Tone Free do supply an IPX4 climate resistance ranking — a fairly commonplace benchmark for earbuds that provides them strong safety in opposition to sweat and water splashes from any route — the TrueConnect 2 raised the bar by tossing in mud safety with an IP55 ranking. You in all probability received’t want that type of safety in your on a regular basis life. However on the similar time, why wouldn’t you select this route if it didn’t value you any extra? That’s the issue LG is up in opposition to. Their options are advantageous should you don’t put them side-by-side with an evenly-priced competitor. In that state of affairs, it’s onerous to search out an space that clearly favors the Tone Free. Except you wished to restrict the variety of micro organism you topic your ears to.
Audio high quality
Similar to their current soundbars, LG is touting its partnership with Meridian in tuning the sound of their merchandise. Additionally consistent with these soundbars, LG has stored quiet about specs on the precise drivers in these earbuds. From the sound of the corporate’s speaking factors, we’re not supposed to fret in regards to the particulars or the design of the elements producing the sound we’re listening to. As a substitute, we’re speculated to blindly depend on the truth that Meridian took the reins with the audio high quality of this product, and belief within the firm’s Headphone Spatial Processing (HSP) know-how to ship strong sound.
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Which, I need to admit, it does very nicely. Similar to the soundbars that Meridian had a hand in, the Tone Free do produce an pleasurable listening expertise. In line with LG, Meridian’s HSP tech is supposed to “create a practical soundstage that simulates the expertise of listening to actual loudspeakers.” I wouldn’t go almost that far, however after listening to choices like Led Zeppelins’ Ramble On or The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter, I do admire the stereo separation and vocal readability that these earbuds had been in a position to create.
With the LG Tone Free app, you’ll be able to select between three different Meridian presets — Bass Increase, Pure, or Treble Increase — or customise the sound to your individual style with an in-app equalizer. Whereas LG’s effort to make its sound customizable for ears of every kind is acknowledged, with presets like Bass Increase filling within the wanted low finish for extra trendy tracks, I did favor the sound of the default preset referred to as “Immersive.”
The Tone Free have carried out a great job of making pleasurable sound.
I’ll say this, nonetheless: The Tone Free have carried out a great job of making pleasurable sound, however on the similar time, they haven’t created extremely distinguishable sound. I’d have a tough time deciding whether or not these buds sounded higher than, say, the RHA’s I listened to final week or the Google Pixel Buds 2 I auditioned just a few months in the past. Touting the power to kill micro organism as a key characteristic that simply isn’t all that thrilling, the Tone Free actually wanted their sound to set, nicely, a tone. They do sound excellent, simply not adequate to cowl for his or her different shortcomings.
The decision high quality of the Tone Free is ample, because of the dual-microphone setup that LG constructed into the Tone Free. LG says it makes use of applied sciences dubbed Echo Cancellation and Noise Discount to detect and reduce undesirable noise, which it does moderately nicely. Simply don’t count on these traits and the minimal passive noise cancellation created by the match of the buds to reflect the type of expertise that true lively noise cancellation supplies. Strive as they may, these ANC substitutes don’t contact the true deal.
The LG Tone Free don’t do something notably poorly, they simply don’t do most issues fairly in addition to a number of the extra notable rivals of their worth vary. Profitable out on all the key touchpoints is a tricky feat to perform with as quick as issues are transferring on this planet of true wi-fi earbuds, however should you can’t not less than keep on par with the remainder of the sector, you received’t be making the leaderboard.
Are there higher alternate options?
The Tone Free could have a slight edge in sound, however not sufficient to miss every part else the RHA TrueConnect 2 does higher for the very same $150. For $50 extra, I’ve grown into fairly a fan of the $200 Sony WF-SP800N, which improves battery life over each the LG and the RHA, and provides efficient lively noise cancellation.
Actually, I might in all probability take the cheaper, $99 LG Tone Free HBS-FN4 over the FN6, for the reason that predominant distinction is the self-cleaning charging case during which we discovered marginal worth.
How lengthy will they final?
These buds do appear to have a top quality construct to them and reasonably good safety in opposition to the climate. I don’t foresee them breaking down quickly.
Do you have to purchase them?
Nope. I appreciated the design of those earbuds, plus their palatable sound, however there are too many choices on this worth vary with higher options to have the ability to suggest the newest from LG. The Tone Free might be able to eradicate most micro organism that comes their manner, however they don’t have the identical impact on the robust competitors surrounding them.