You have no dearth of great premium truly wireless earphones now. The OPPO Enco X, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are a few that immediately come to mind. In this intensely fought space, how can another brand bring a product and stand out? The answer is the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7. The USP? A case with UV light to kill 99.9% of bacteria.
But, is that enough of a selling point? Let’s find out. P.S. I am going to call it FN7 for the rest of the review for the sake of my sanity. Brands should really start naming their products better.
Design and Fit
Let’s start with that case itself. It has a round-shaped nondescript design that looks like a puck. There are a couple of LED indicators on the front: one to denote the battery level and the other to denote that the UV filter is active. You also get a Type-C port on the rear. Although, LG goes for an unapologetically plastic material for the body with no use of metal anywhere, not even on the hinge. Now, that’s not very reassuring for something that costs around Rs 15,000 now. Although, in my two months with it, it has held up pretty fine. No worries there.
The design of the case is such that you cannot actually open it in one swift motion with your thumb. But, once you open it, you are greeted to a matte finish interior with the grooves for the earbuds. Plus, this is where you will see the Blue UV light cleaning the ear tips. The UV filter activates itself when you are charging the product.
I mean, there is really no way for me to test if it actually kills 99.99% of the bacteria. But, it does give you a sense of relief that something’s out there ensuring your ear stays clean. My wife, a cleanliness freak, is actually enamoured by that feature. Although, interestingly, my colleague Subhrojit tells me LG has massive kiosks to test the Tone Free
Now, the earbuds have a stem design and the fit was actually fantastic for me. But, for all the tech that it packs inside, the FN7 is actually big and juts quite a bit out of your ears. So, if you wear your earbuds inside a bike helmet or while sleeping on your side, you are bound to face some discomfort. These are also rated IPX4 for water resistance, so they should be useful to keep sweat at bay after workouts.
Controls and Features
Pairing the FN7 to any Android phone is super fast thanks to the support for Google Fast Pair. Now, for the controls, you get a raised button like structure on the top portion of the stem. It is just a touch panel but with haptic feedback and I think that is a sublime implementation. I absolutely loved the haptic feedback when tapping to play/pause music or double tapping to increase/decrease volume. Yes, you can control volume too. I found it very, very responsive. Plus, you also get wear detection to automatically pause music when you take one earbud out of your ears. In my testing, I found it to be slightly iffy though.
Now, there’s also a special app called Tone Free. This app lets you cycle through the many equaliser settings, change the ANC mode, update the software, and much, much more. I found it very well laid out and easy to use. It is definitely one of the better apps out there.
Sound, Mic Quality, and ANC
So, let’s talk about that special Meridian tuning. Honestly, it is a very coloured sound signature from the get go. I like the fact that you get a spatial soundstage with the Immersive equaliser setting. Therefore, I actually enjoyed watching movies on the FN7. But apart from the soundstage, the instrumentation was muddy, the dynamics were absent, and the FN7 struggled in complex compositions such as Do I Wanna Know by The Arctic Monkeys. You can hear some weight in the low end but the punch and tightness of bass is missing in a song like Enjoy Enjaami. But, the treble performance is pristine. Overall, I will give the sound signature a B+.
The mics on the FN7 are average at best. On many occasions, the person on the other end couldn’t hear me clearly. As for the ANC performance, it is pretty good and is pretty comparable to the Enco X and the Galaxy Buds Pro. But, the AirPods Pro and the Sonny WF-1000XM3 are better.
As for the battery life performance, LG claims 7 hours on the buds and 14 hours, or two charge cycles, from the case. And, in my testing, that number was spot on. I don’t know what sort of calibration magic LG has done here but every time I tested it, I got 7 hours or thereabouts from the buds. So, that’s great.
Should You Buy the Tone Free HB-FN7?
Here’s the funny thing about the FN7. When it launched, LG India had a sticker price of around Rs 25,000. Later, it immediately course corrected it and got it down to Rs 19,990. Now, two months later, you can buy one for Rs 14,990. The price has dropped drastically in the time I’ve taken to review the product. If you are planning on buying one now for the 15k price, note that the competition is intense. I’d suggest you pick up the Galaxy Buds Pro (for its sound) or the Sony WF-1000XM3 (for its ANC) instead. I am not saying that the FN7 is not a good option, but the competition is definitely better in many aspects.
I think of the FN7 as a jack of all trades, master of none.
What do you feel? Let me know in the comments below.