LG Tone Free FN6 review: the silent assassin

LG Tone Free FN6 review: the silent assassin

When it comes to smartphones, LG does seem to miss the mark more frequently than hit the bullseye. Having said that, the consumer electronics giant is unwilling to miss the boat when it comes to mobile accessory trends such as True Wireless headphones. With the LG Tone Free FN6, the company has a very interesting proposition for those who decide to take the plunge. It sports UV-C light-emitting diodes in the charging case that will get to work disinfecting the headphones' surface area while it is charging, and in theory, that ought to eliminate nasty germs. However, it is still primarily a listening device, so what about its performance, capability, and battery life? In order to find out, I reviewed the LG Tone Free FN6 during the recent lockdown.

Rating

Good

  • Built-in UV light within the case
  • App features many functions
  • Adjustable volume via the earbuds
  • Charging case supports wireless charging

Bad

  • Volume levels can be suspect
  • High price point for its performance capability

LG Tone Free release date and price

This pair of true wireless headphones, known as the LG Tone Free or via its model name HBS-FN6, has been available in Germany since July 2020. In the beginning, they cost €149. In the meantime, there are online dealers who have put up this pair of bad boys for as little as €125. You can choose between a white and black finish.

LG Tone Free design and build quality

Just like the Oppo Enco W31, LG ensures that the Tone Free FN6 will capture your attention at first glance in a charming round case. Open it, and the high-tech pillbox reveals a pair of rather theatrical devices that have a design from the future. For a few moments, light-emitting diodes will light up in a bluish-purple hue, providing you with a foretaste of what kind of treatment the headphones receive while it is charging in the case with the lid shut tight. The LEDs will emit an ultraviolet spectrum that ought to be able to kill off most germs. A ccording to LG, the UV light will kills 99.9% of coli and staphylococcal bacteria that tend to congregate on the silicone caps and inner mesh. Giving your earbuds a good clean certainly can't hurt, simply because those things tend to be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria - far more than a kitchen chopping board, claims LG.

NextPit LG Tone Free case open
UV light cleans the LG headphones while it charges. / © NextPit

The compact earbuds themselves look so cute that it would not have crossed your mind that they would end up dirty - even though you make use of them all day long. The area that carries the loudspeaker, as well as the seamlessly attached bridge, are both nice and small, and when they are in your ears, rest assured they will be discreet in nature. The design, however, does not leave much room at all for a thorough seal to keep exterior noise out. In accordance with the IPX4 standard, the earbuds are able to withstand splashes of water but will not keep dust out. All of these would eventually add to the final weight tally. With five grams per earbud and tipping the scales at 50 grams overall, LG ensures that you end up with a pleasantly light mobile accessory should you decide to bag a pair for yourself.

NextPit LG Tone Free headphones close up
Thanks to flexible silicone tips, the earbuds fit well in the ear canal. / © NextPit

Setup and operation

These true wireless earbuds will be able to pair to a smartphone as easily as you would expect from a model that supports the Bluetooth 5 connectivity standard. Using it is deceptively simple: open the lid, turn Bluetooth on, connect to it via the menu, and you're good to go. However, you can only pair them to one device only at a time. In order to connect it to another device, you will first need to unpair it from the existing device.

The earbud's housing design provides you with a pleasantly versatile and precise touch operation. By default, it relies on touch-sensitive operation. Tapping left or right once will begin or stop playback. Thanks to the built-in motion sensor, it is capable of detecting whether you have removed the Tone Free FN6 from your ear or not, pausing music playback in the process. Double-tapping it on the left will lower the volume, while doing the same on the right will increase volume levels. This is great, because such volume control on the earphones is par for the course - but the Oppo Enco Free and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, for example, offer a similar function. Tapping on either right or left earbuds three times in quick succession will skip to the next track.

The companion app for Android and iOS is comprehensive and well designed, where it allows you to assign the music control buttons according to your fancy. For example, you can also activate voice assistants such as Siri and Google Assistant to work alongside it, if you choose to do away with other functionalities instead. You are unable to influence call controls though - where one tap lets you accept the call, while two taps would let you hang up.

LG Tone Free
In the app, the choice of settings is extensive. / © NextPit

If you wish, you can have the LG Tone Free FN6 automatically read out SMS aloud should you activate this function in the app. You can also activate the Ambient Mode via the app. External microphones will allow ambient noise to pass through, letting you hear your surroundings while you continue to listen to your favorite tunes. On the earbuds, you can toggle this transparent mode on or off with a long touch.

And another useful feature would be this: Like all other True Wireless headphones owners, there are some of us who tend to lose things easily. It would be a shame if that happened to the LG Tone Free FN6 considering it isn't a pair of entry-level earbuds.  You can locate the LG Tone Free FN6 in an easier manner via a search call in the app. At the touch of a button, they will chirp at constantly increasing volumes, and it does get really loud!

LG Tone Free audio

All that is fine and fair, but how do they fare in terms of audio quality? Right out of the box, the LG Tone Free FN6 leaves a somewhat cool and hazy impression. I'm missing both warmth and clarity. LG's sound software supplier Meridian would probably claim they have tuned the speakers in a neutral manner to cater to hi-fi purists. I'd say, "It's just not fun that way."

The four selectable sound profiles do very little to change the final outcome. It does get audibly better with the equaliser, whose configuration I can save in two personal profiles. Hopefully, you are able to live with that. At least it allows you to tweak a little bit more to eke out better performance. When I amplified bass and treble in this manner, the LG Tone Free FN6 at least delivered decent audio in the review.

NextPit LG Tone Free headphones front
The LG Tone Free will not knock everyone's socks off, soundwise. / © NextPit

Hence, it is safe to agree that audio tuning by Meridian is definitely effective. However, when compared to other headphones in the same price range, the audio quality of the LG Tone Free FN6 remains thin, weak, and quiet - which makes it somewhat powerless and listless, even though it has implemented the use of algorithms to help it out. It lacks volume, brilliance, and depth. The miniaturized sound hardware of the extremely tiny six-millimeter drivers ends up limiting the sound potential to a very narrow band, which obviously cannot be exceeded despite making use of digital signal processing. This is probably the price of having a compact design, in which aesthetics resulted in drawing boundaries for a broader acoustic performance.

If you listen to only speech-enhanced audio pieces where absolute sound quality is not important, you might be pleased to know that the headphones' passive noise insulation keeps the environmental noise out well. However, the LG Tone Free FN6 does not have ANC electronic sound technology on board.

LG Tone Free battery

The LG Tone Free FN6 scores better in terms of battery life. With up to six hours of music playback time, these earbuds get a lot out of your 55 milliampere-hour batteries. As for the case itself, they can deliver a full charge twice via the 390 mAh battery. This twelve-hour reserve is fine for such a compact portable case.

If you're short on time, five minutes of quick-charging is enough for one hour of playback. The earbuds and case will be fully charged after two hours. It takes longer if you charge the portable case via induction. Just like the Samsung Galaxy Buds+, the LG model supports the Qi wireless charging standard. Wireless charging is still a rarity, simply because it is an unimportant feature where true wireless headphones are concerned.

There is also a practical aspect to this: An LED with a three-level color code indicates just how much power reserve remains in the charging case. The remaining battery life of the earphones can even be depicted as a percentage in the companion app.

Final verdict

The LG Tone Free FN6 is a fine piece of consumer electronics, which contains a lot of technical implementations and quality components. Featuring LEDs with antibacterial UV light, wireless charging capability, and a great app with a wide range of configuration options, these earbuds offer a whole lot more than other models. Its touch operation capability and charming design are also impressive. LG was only ambitious with one core element, which would be the audio hardware. Even the sophisticated audio signal processing is powerless against the limitations of the small form factor. The manufacturer certainly outdid itself by delivering so much at such a price point.

For far less money though, you are able to obtain the Huawei Freebuds 3i that delivers better sound and ANC capability. Touch controls, protection against water splashes, a good app on Android, and also a decent compact form factor are part of the deal. However, it loses out on features such as wireless charging and a germ killer.

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