It was possibly the wisest decision for LG to get out of an oversaturated smartphone manufacturing business where only two-three brands end up calling the shots. The strategy has allowed the company to focus more on other products, including those related to audio.
Recently LG had sent its Tone Free wireless earbuds — to be exact the Tone FP9 — for review. We have reached a point where it’s difficult to separate one inexpensive pair of earbuds from another but on the higher end of the spectrum plenty of innovations are taking place, some of which ultimately trickle down to entry-level category. Tone FP9 is one of the finest devices in the category, ticking many boxes and going toe to toe with the likes of Samsung, Apple and Sony.
The LG Tone Free FP9 looks similar to last year’s FN7, which brought UV Nano sanitisation technology to the earpieces. It was a nifty addition because during the worst of phrases of the pandemic we were all looking for devices that were free of bacteria.
This time, there is a slight evolution. And the feature that caught my eye first is the wired connectivity option. There is a USB Type-C to 3.5mm wire in the box. There are devices that don’t have Bluetooth connectivity, like treadmills or in-flight entertainment system. When you connect the charging case to such a device using the wire, the case begins to work like an external Bluetooth dongle. For example, we tried connecting it to the Xbox controller and it worked flawlessly. It’s a nifty addition to wireless earbuds.
I wouldn’t get too much into the design because things remain more or less the same. There are two LED indicators on the front — one for battery status while the other is for UVnano status. Inside the case there is a blue accent light that lights up when you open the case and it also give you a feel that UVnano tech is working.
Most of the magic happens via the LG Tone Free app which you need to download. The active noise cancellation is among the best. There is none of the vacuum-y feel when you turn on ANC. Most ambient noises disappear and the ones that remain are muted. You will see people move their lips but not hear them at all. Good riddance all that chatter! Be it the coffee machine coming to life at a café or the usual din, all of that gets cancelled while using this set of earbuds. The design is such that the earbuds simply “disappear” into your ears and there is no discomfort.
That’s one part of the deal. You also get an awareness mode, which is the opposite of ANC. Instead of deleting sounds, all the sounds around you are amplified; it’s particularly helpful when you go for morning walks or while walking down streets. There is also Find My Earbuds, which will come in handy for those who tend to leave things here and there. The earbuds give out a chirping sound to locate it.
The equalizer settings come with five modes — immersive, natural, bass boost, treble boost and 3D sound stage. And there are two custom modes that you can work on. Personally, I stuck to immersive mode for fuller sounds and vocal clarity. There is a good deal of bass but it doesn’t come in the way of vocals. When it comes to sound tuning, LG has worked with Meridian ensuring a balanced soundstage. The brooding, scowling sounds of Miles Davis comes through as brilliantly as the danceable quality of Drake’s new album Honestly, Nevermind.
Of course, you must be wondering about call quality. It’s very good and most of time the person on the other end won’t realise that you are using earbuds. The special feature here is Whisper Mode, which allows you to have private conversations by holding the right earbud to your lips. Whispering is enough to get your voice across. It works well if you are on the bus or at a public place. But the feature is hidden in the Tone Free Lab section, which could be difficult to spot.
Should you buy it?
With LG no longer having to worry about the mobile phone business, the company has put in all their efforts into a pair of earbuds that work with all phones. Features come in heaps. And so does battery life. With ANC on, you can easily get seven hours and 10 hours with ANC off, plus more charge from the case. In other words, enough to last you an entire day of calls and music. For those who get bored with black cases, there are customisable covers. LG Tone Free FP9 can certainly make you jiggle and wriggle when the music comes on.
To get the most out of the wireless earbuds use the LG Tone Free app
At a glance
Device: LG Tone Free FP9
Price: 16,990 (Amazon.in)
- UVnano charging case
- Can connect to systems without Bluetooth capabilities
- Excellent battery life and soundstage
- Whisper mode difficult to find on the app