“The LG Tone Free fall wanting opponents of their value vary”
- Snug design
- 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 very good 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 the majority different true wi-fi earbuds don’t, however didn’t make an impression within the locations that mattered most.
Earlier than I break it down, a fast clarifying word: There are three completely 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 acknowledged. Alright, let’s get on with it.
Out of the field
Every part concerning the LG Tone Free earbuds are petite, proper right down to the packaging through which they arrive. Underneath 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 a good variety of guides which were largely brief on particulars. It could be slightly old fashioned however having one thing tangible to stroll you thru working these buds is a welcome inclusion that typically will get misplaced within the combine with opponents.
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 cellphone earlier than it could discover them, although it’s restricted to gadgets that help Android 5.zero or greater. Should you don’t have a tool that matches that description, you may go the extra conventional route and discover the earbuds in your cellphone’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 cellphone remained stationary.
As has been the case with so many pairs earlier than them, the Tone Free had been made — at the least partially — within the picture of the Apple AirPods. In spite of everything, Apple made the idea of sporting golf tees in your ears the hip factor to do, with opponents merely following the pattern. The Tone Free are barely bulkier (about 5 grams in comparison with the 4-gram AirPods) and solely are available black for now, however the visible similarities are obvious sufficient.
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 desire the spherical design of the Tone Free case. That could 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 scenario over the AirPods, although neither will current a lot of an issue in that regard.
The Tone Free are snug, becoming tightly in my ears with out placing an excessive amount of stress on my ear canals.
The Tone Free are snug, becoming tightly in my ears with out placing an excessive amount of stress 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 neater 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 fashion of management proper. Many buds that make use of this characteristic fall someplace between too delicate to the contact or not delicate sufficient. I feel the Tone Free are purposeful — with multi-press choices for answering or ending cellphone calls, switching via music, or altering the amount – however they do err nearer to the “too delicate” finish of the spectrum. They aren’t as unhealthy in that regard as others I’ve examined, but it surely nonetheless made for a handful of irritating moments.
With regards to their characteristic set, the Tone Free are a little bit of a blended bag. They do have the distinctive self-cleaning characteristic, one which by itself makes these buds intriguing, however whenever you broaden the scope and look at the extra commonplace, but arguably extra necessary options, the intrigue is all however misplaced.
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 linked to a charging cable. The case makes use of ultraviolet gentle centered on the buds’ eartips, although the method gained’t take away grime, particles, or earwax.
On the one hand, that is objectively cool. Particularly throughout a time when most people are as centered as ever about cleanliness, having buds that kill micro organism by themselves can solely be a very good factor. However, this all appears wildly pointless. Like what I assume are a lot 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 possibly future earbuds will observe within the Tone Free’s footsteps. Then once more, possibly not. It’s a characteristic that the common particular person can’t tangibly really feel the results of, and it’s the primary cause these buds are $50 greater than the Tone Free HBS-FN4. That looks like an enormous expense for a largely invisible perk.
With regards to their characteristic set, the Tone Free are a little bit of a blended 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 offers 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 finest. The RHA TrueConnect 2, for a similar value, offers 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 exhausting 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 reasonably commonplace benchmark for earbuds that offers 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 most likely gained’t want that type of safety in your on a regular basis life. However on the identical time, why wouldn’t you select this route if it didn’t price you any extra? That’s the issue LG is up in opposition to. Their options are high quality should you don’t put them side-by-side with an evenly-priced competitor. In that situation, it’s exhausting to search out an space that clearly favors the Tone Free. Until you wished to restrict the variety of micro organism you topic your ears to.
Audio high quality
Similar to their latest soundbars, LG is touting its partnership with Meridian in tuning the sound of their merchandise. Additionally in step with these soundbars, LG has saved 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 concerning the particulars or the design of the parts producing the sound we’re listening to. As an alternative, we’re purported 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.
Which, I need to admit, it does very properly. Similar to the soundbars that Meridian had a hand in, the Tone Free do produce an satisfying listening expertise. In response to LG, Meridian’s HSP tech is supposed to “create a sensible 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 may select between three different Meridian presets — Bass Increase, Pure, or Treble Increase — or customise the sound to your personal style with an in-app equalizer. Whereas LG’s effort to make its sound customizable for ears of all types is acknowledged, with presets like Bass Increase filling within the wanted low finish for extra trendy tracks, I did desire the sound of the default preset known as “Immersive.”
The Tone Free have completed a very good job of making satisfying sound.
I’ll say this, nevertheless: The Tone Free have completed a very good job of making satisfying sound, however on the identical 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, properly, a tone. They do sound superb, simply not adequate to cowl for his or her different shortcomings.
The decision high quality of the Tone Free is enough, 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 decrease undesirable noise, which it does moderately properly. 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 offers. Strive as they could, these ANC substitutes don’t contact the true deal.
The LG Tone Free don’t do something significantly poorly, they only don’t do most issues fairly in addition to a number of the extra notable opponents of their value vary. Profitable out on all the foremost touchpoints is a troublesome feat to perform with as quick as issues are transferring on the planet of true wi-fi earbuds, however should you can’t at the least keep on par with the remainder of the sector, you gained’t be making the leaderboard.
Are there higher alternate options?
The Tone Free might have a slight edge in sound, however not sufficient to miss the whole lot 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 most likely take the cheaper, $99 LG Tone Free HBS-FN4 over the FN6, because the essential distinction is the self-cleaning charging case through which we discovered marginal worth.
How lengthy will they final?
These buds do appear to have a high 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 preferred the design of those earbuds, plus their palatable sound, however there are too many choices on this value vary with higher options to have the ability to advocate the newest from LG. The Tone Free might be able to remove most micro organism that comes their means, however they don’t have the identical impact on the powerful competitors surrounding them.