There’s a multitude of wireless earbuds on the market, with more seemingly arriving each day. LG’s latest entry, the LG TONE Free FN6 Wireless Earbuds were announced in August as a premium option in the LG audio range.
Priced at $279 the headline specs for the TONE Free Wireless Earbuds are the tuning by Meridian Audio and, perhaps a feature very much in line with the times, a UVnano case which has a pair of UV-C LEDs which the company claims will kill 99.9% of E. coli and S. aureus bacteria.
The case isn’t just for killing germs, it’s also for charging with the Tone Free wireless earbuds offering a combined 18 hours of battery life – 6 hours for the buds and a further 12 in the case.
LG and Meridian promise clear and spatial audio, with the buds also supporting Passive Noise Cancellation to help block out surrounding noise. You can however choose to remain aware of your surroundings, with an ambient sound mode which lets you hear your surroundings when you press on a bud.
The buds themselves have swappable silicone ear gels which come in three sizes – small, medium and large – to ensure a comfortable fit, and a head-centred design to keep even the minimal weight of the buds distributed so as to keep them in your ear.
The buds are super quick to pair to a phone, with the option to pair popping up on Android without prompting after opening the case. The Tone Free app – available for Android and iOS – can also step you through the setup process, as well as offering more custom options.
After a week using the LG Tone Free wireless earbuds here’s my thoughts.
Design and Fit
Design wise the LG TONE Free are stalk type Truly Wireless Stereo (TWS) buds available in black only – although there’s a white model available in other markets.
The plastic is a nice soft-touch which rests nicely against the ear without any rubbing or chafing. The bud sits slightly out from the ear, though not overly so, with the head-centred design coming into play and the buds resting comfortably in the ear.
I’m not such a huge fan of the stalk type style of TWS bud, but it does allow for more battery, so there’s that.
The buds are fairly simple with pogo pins in the base of the stalk for charging, but no buttons mar the lines of the bud. Instead LG uses a touch panel for answering calls, controlling music, podcasts, audiobooks and the ambient sound mode.
The touchpanel is very hit and miss. I found myself repeatedly grabbing my phone to pause music after several attempts to pause or play audio. There’s no real tactile target to ensure you’re hitting a touch panel, so it’s hard to gauge if you just missed the panel, or it didn’t respond.
For fit I played around with the included ear gels settling on the medium gels already attached, which both plugged my ears while not being too tight. This snug fit ensures the passive noise cancellation and it works pretty well.
The buds feel good in the ear and don’t feel even remotely like they’re about to come out. Even working up a sweat during a workout the buds still felt secure.
The sound quality that LG and Meridian Audio are pulling out of the custom-built 6mm drivers in the Tone Free is pretty good.
There’s a rich mix of mids and highs with sound reproduction clear. Bass is ok for such a small earbud, though some may want a bit more grunt.
The Meridian Audio tuning – settings found in the LG Tone Free app – is offers for presets including Bass and Treble Boost modes as well as Immersive and Natural offerings.
My personal preference was the Immersive mode which the app will tell you offers ‘an expanded sense of space’. Listening to a fairly expanded playlist including stereo focused songs like Pink Floyd – Money, the buds managed to play the spatial effects as well as producing a good, clear sound.
You can customise your own EQ settings in the app – with two programmable slots available. I adjusted settings but found the Meridian tuned settings doing the best job for me.
I’m usually listening to something all the time, so the Ambient Sound Mode is actually pretty handy. It lets in sound without the need to quickly remove an earbud while talking to someone, possibly dropping it in the process. It takes a minute or two to adjust to hearing your voice through the mics back to your ears, but you get there pretty easily.
UVnano charging case
The Tone Free charging case is made of a nice soft-touch plastic with a matte type feel. There’s a charge indicator light at the front, and a pairing button on the left.
The lid can be a bit finnicky to open, but the buds are front and centre though getting them out can be a bit fiddly. Placing the buds in the case is a bit hit and miss too with magnets lining up the POGO pins for charging, but you’ll need to push the buds in firmly to get a good placement.
The case can be charged through USB-C or wireless charging and can carry an additional 12 hours of battery life for the Tone Free buds.
The case includes an LED status light giving you an insight into the amount of battery left, or pairing status and any other issues.
You can also check the battery status of the Tone Free buds in the app – and you’ll get audible ‘Battery Low’ alerts for each earbud at 20%, before a more emphatic audible warning starts up at 10% which lets you know ‘Battery very low, please charge now’.
The 6 hour battery life claim for the buds is hard to gauge as you recharge them each time you return them to the case. I wore them for a week using them for a few hours a day before the case required charging.
One of the splashy specs for the Tone Free wireless earbuds is the UVnano case. The case is equipped with UV-C LEDs which LG claims kill 99.9% of E. coli and S. aureus bacteria on the earbuds after 10 minutes of charging. The claim has been independently verified for those specific bacteria, but only those bacteria. UV-C lamps have been found to have effect on viruses and bacteria – but bear in mind the only verified claim is for the E. coli and S. aureus bacteria.
There’s a blue glow from what LG calls a ‘mood light’ when you open the charging case but that isn’t the UVNano case at work – but it looks very cool.
To activate the UVNano clean feature you’ll need to plug the case into a power source – no, you can’t do it while wirelessly charging – and leave the case closed for 10 minutes. Given the negative effect exposure to UV light can have on the human body, having the UV-C LED active only when the lid is closed as a precaution isn’t a bad thing.
I’m not qualified to talk about the testing, so I look at this feature as a nice thing to have and I’ll still maintain a rigorous cleaning regime on my buds. The Tone Free buds have an IPX4 rating, so a wipe with a clean, damp cloth won’t hurt them.
Tone Free App
The LG Tone Free app offers options for customising the TONE Free buds. Customisations include changing the Meridian Audio tuning between Immersive. You can also customise the touch controls, as well as locking the pad if you want.
I activated the messaging notification feature which was handy, with an ability to whitelist apps you want to notify you.
I also liked the inclusion of a ‘Find my earbuds’ because as anyone who has owned TWS buds will know these things go missing easily. The Tone Free buds emit a good annoying sound instantly heard if you’re in a 5-10 metre range, though stuck down the back of the couch may muffle it a bit.
Should you buy them?
If you’re in the market for premium TWS buds the LG Tone Free are right up there in terms of quality. I really enjoyed the crisp, clean sound from them and though they lack a bit in Bass they’re still very good.
The pass through mode for listening to your surroundings is very handy when using them while shopping, though takes a minute to get used to it.
The UVNano Case is a little bit of a gimmick, but in this day and age it seems like something I’m happy to have as an additional layer of hygiene.
At the premium end of the range, the LG TONE Free FN6 Wireless Earbuds are a good buy. The only spec I’d like to see is Active Noise Cancellation, but for now Passive does a good enough job.
Given the comfort, sound quality and features you’d do well to check out the LG Tone Free Wireless Earbuds, you can find them online through Amazon, Catch and Appliances online.