ANC earbuds with UVnano, external device connection


LG launched the Tone Free FP series, the company’s new true wireless earphones, in India last week. Here we have the Tone Free FP9, the top-end model that has Active Noise Cancellation, comes with a UVnano charging case and also has a unique Plug & Wireless feature. Does it live up to the expectations? Let us dive into the review to find out.

Box contents

  • Tone Free FP9 in Modern Black colour
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • Ear tips in Small and Large sizes
  • USB Type C to AUX cable
  • User manual

Design and Hardware

Starting with the design, the headset comes in a round charging case that fits in your pocket. You can see the TONE branding on the front. The case is made of plastic, but it has a matte finish, so it doesn’t attract fingerprints. The charging case measures 54.5 x 54.5 x 20mm and weighs just 36.7 grams.

There is a plug and wireless mode switch on the left side. The USB Type-C port is present on the back.

You can see the battery status indicator on the front. Below that there is a small indicator along for UVnano.

The UVnano charging case uses ultraviolet light to eliminate 99.9 percent of E. coli and S. aureus bacteria on the earbuds’ inner mesh when stored in the case, according to the company. This works only when the case is connected to a charger, and it takes 5 minutes to perform the action. This is a good feature, but there is no way to test how good it has sanitized.

The headset has a plastic finish with a matte finish, same as the case, so it is not prone to fingerprint, but it is prone to small scratches. The earbuds measure 21.2 x 28.3 x 23.2mm and weigh about 5.2 grams. This has an Arc Design and the earbud stem is 4.4mm shorter than on previous models, says the company.

The earbuds feature an in-ear design and also come with medium-sized ear tips pre-installed. You can change to bundled Large or Small sized ear tips if you wish. You can see the inner noise-cancelling microphones near the Left (L) and Right (R) letters, and there is an Optical Sensor for Wear Detection so that it can automatically pause the audio when you remove it from your ears and play when you put it back.

On the other side you can find the Noise reduction and Echo Cancelling microphone. Below that there is a touch-sensitive area on the outer surface, to control play/pause, control volume, open Google Assistant and attend or disconnect calls. The lower microphone that is present on the bottom is used for calls. Overall, the headset offers a good build quality and fits your ears perfectly so that they don’t fall off your ears easily even when running or cycling. It is comfortable so that it doesn’t feel like you are using the earbuds even after several hours of use. The earbuds also have IPX4 rated for splash resistance, so that they can withstand splashes or light rain.

Connectivity, Pairing, and Controls

The LG Tone Free FP9 supports Bluetooth 5.2 with AAC code support, and the connection range is around 10 meters, which is common in most headsets. Since the headset doesn’t have a pairing key, you need to place the earbuds in the case, open the cover, press and hold the touchpad of the left or right earbud for 3 to 5 seconds until the battery status indicator blinks in blue to enter the pairing mode.

Now open the Bluetooth settings on the phone, and it shows up as LG TONE-FP9, and you can connect to it. Since it also has Google Fast Pairing support, it immediately connects to the phone when you open the case, if your phone is supported.

We tested it on the Samsung Galaxy S22 and the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G and never faced any pairing related issue. You can even disconnect the headset anytime from the phone and reconnect back without needing the case. The touch controls are easy to access and are very sensitive to touch.

Function Left earphone (L) Right earphone (R)
Answer call. Play / Pause Music Touch Once
Decrease Volume Touch Twice
Increase Volume Touch Twice
Play the next song Touch Three Times
Long Press Ambient Sound / Noise Cancelling

You can customize the single touch, double touch and triple touch controls from the settings in the LG Tone Free app on Android / iOS. However, you can’t control for receiving or ending the phone call and ambient sound / noise-cancelling using tap and hold.

The app also lets you enable gaming mode from the TONE Free LAB. There is also a whispering mode option that allows for greater call privacy and clarity, allowing users to hold the right earbud close to their mouths as a dedicated microphone for making and taking calls in environments such as a library or crowded subway.

Audio Quality,  Call Performance and Noise Cancellation

The LG Tone Free FP9 pack a 8mm custom-built driver unit and is tuned in collaboration with Meridian Audio that use Headphone Spatial Processing (HSP). The audio quality is good and the HSP offers a realistic soundstage and also delivers vocals with pristine clarity, but the volume might feel less for some.

The TONE Free app lets you choose Immersive, Natural, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, and 3D Sound Stage EQ presets, or customize your own EQ. It only has AAC and doesn’t have AptX or aptX Adaptive codec. The low-latency gaming mode that can be enabled from the TONE Labs is useful when gaming.

The earbuds offer a decent amount of noise isolation, and triple microphones help when it comes to voice clarity during calls, which is good. The earphones also reduces the background noise to a certain extent that helps in a crowded or noisy environment.

Regarding the Noise cancellation, the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) blocks the ambient sound that helps in most cases. You can feel the difference when you are listening to audio in a noise location. However, you can’t compare the level of noise cancellation level to Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro or Apple AirPods Pro.

Plug and Wireless mode (External Device connection mode)

One of the useful features of the headset is the Plug and Wireless mode that lets you connect the headset to a device that doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity such as a desktop computer, radio or when watching content on an Airplane. You just need to push the Plug and Wireless Mode Switch on the charging case to the right to activate the mode, connect the USB Type C cable to the case and connect the other end of the AUX cable to the headphone jack of the other device and start using the earbuds to listen. The rage is not as good as the normal Bluetooth connection, but it is decent.

Battery Life

The earbuds pack 68mAh  battery that promises about 10 hours of standalone battery life without ANC and 6 hours with ANC enabled.  During my use with AAC and noise cancellation enabled, I got about 5 and half hours with about 60% volume. With mixed use, I got close to 8 hours. It has fast charging support, so 5 minutes of charging offers 1 hour of playback without ANC. Full charge takes about an hour.

With the 390mAh charging case, it promises up to 24 hours of total battery life without ANC and 15 hours of total battery life with ANC.  The green light in the case indicates that the remaining battery is >80%, the yellow light represents it is 20 to 80%, and it glows in red if it’s below 20%. You can also see the charge left in the case in the TONE FREE app when the earbuds are placed in the case. Charging the case fully from 0% takes about an hour. Unlike the last year’s FP7, the FP9 doesn’t have wireless charging support, which is available in most premium headsets in the range.

Conclusion

Overall, the LG TONE FREE FP9 is a good premium headset with ANC that offers a good audio quality, has battery life improvements compared to FN7, and it offers a comfortable fit. The addition of gaming mode that lacked in the predecessor is a good option, but it misses wireless charging, which is common in most premium earbuds in the price range.

It is priced at Rs. 21,990, but you can get it on Amazon.in for Rs. 18,990. With cashback offer, the effective price goes down to Rs. 15,990, says the company.

Pros

  • Good audio quality and call quality
  • Good ANC with Ambient mode
  • External Device connection mode is useful
  • Lot of customizations with the LG Tone Free app
  • Excellent battery life with fast charging

Cons

  • No wireless charging
  • No aptX or Hi-Res audio codec


Author: Srivatsan Sridhar

Srivatsan Sridhar is a Mobile Technology Enthusiast who is passionate about Mobile phones and Mobile apps. He uses the phones he reviews as his main phone. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram





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