Noise-cancelling true wireless earphones are all the rage now and companies such as Sony, Bose, Apple, Sennheiser and a few others are the top brands one thinks of when it comes to class-leading performance. Active Noise Cancellation, however, has pervaded through to the mid-range segment as well, allowing users considering almost all price points to experience the technology. To kick off 2021, LG has launched the LG Tone Free FN7 true wireless earbuds that come equipped with ANC and are priced similar to the premium competitors. The earphones are priced at Rs 18,990 as per the company, although LG’s own website lists it for Rs 19,990 which is the same cost as the undisputed noise-cancelling champ, the Sony WF-1000XM3. While the LG Tone Free FN7 comes with some standard features that you often see in true wireless earbuds, they do stand apart since they also come with UVnano sterilisation technology that can get rid of 99 per cent of bacteria on the buds. Let’s see how these earphones perform and fare against the competition.
Build and comfort
The LG Tone Free FN7 features a compact-mirror-shaped, circular charging case that slips easily into most pockets without bulging out too much. The earphones come in two colour variants – Black and White. The black coloured variant has a matte finish while the white one comes with a glossy finish. We prefer matte finishes, but we got the glossy white one for review. The case is lightweight, easy to open and glows blue to highlight its UV sterilization capabilities. Interestingly, the blue light is only for aesthetic purposes, the actual sterilisation only occurs when the case is closed and on charge, which means you can’t watch the magic happen.
The case houses an LED indicator for charging, a UV indicator that lights up when the case is on charge, and a USB Type-C charging port. There’s also one pairing button on the left side of the case. The branding is kept to a minimum, with ‘Tone’ being displayed on top of the case rather inconspicuously, which gives the case a nice minimalist look.
The earphones sit neatly within the case and the magnets that hold them in are quite strong. The buds are easy to remove and place as well. The case shuts audibly with a nice snap, which is pretty satisfying.
The buds’ design didn’t tickle our fancy. They looked too commonplace and monotonous for our liking. The earbuds are in-canal ones with downwards extending stems. The top of the stems houses a touch button that allows users to control music playback and calls. The LG Tone Free FN7 packs in IPX4 water-resistant certification, so it can withstand some sweat and light splashes.
The company has provided two extra pairs of silicone tips in the box users can choose from. The silicone tips, while looking perfectly ordinary from the outside, actually have a spiral design on the inside that enhances the fit and allegedly makes the tip fit the contours of your ear. We found the fit to be extremely comfortable and secure. Even when the reviewer shook her head violently, they earbuds stayed perfectly in place, which is commendable. It’s safe to say that you can use these buds without worry during gymming, running or other physical activities just as long as you don’t sweat too profusely.
Each earbud weighs merely 5g and is extremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time. LG has done extremely well with the fit of these buds, but we would have appreciated a bit more creativity in the design of the buds.
Tone Free app and other features
If you are spending almost 20K of your hard-earned money on TWS earphones, you’d expect them to have a great accompanying app that allows users to control the buds on a more granular level. LG does offer this with their Tone Free app that allows you to do numerous things such as select an EQ preset, customise the EQ according to your needs, control ANC and Ambient Sound, customise controls, and more.
There are four EQ presets available in the app – Immersive, Bass Boost, Natural and Treble Boost. We found the Natural preset to be the most pleasant to use for most genres of music. You can also apply custom EQ settings, however, when we tried it, the sound had an odd reverb no matter how we moved around the frequency settings. So, we chose to stick with the Natural preset. Within the app, you can also set the volume, turn on notification settings, and lock the touchpad. There’s also a ‘Find my earbuds’ command that plays a loud, chirping sound on the misplaced earbud for users to find them easily. The app is easy to use and intuitive with minimal clutter.
The touch controls on the Tone Free FN7 are relatively intuitive, but still, if you’re more comfortable with a different command set, you can customise them via the app. The touch panel is in a rather small area on the top of the stem, but it has a raised surface which makes it easier to find. Music playback can be controlled with a single tap, volume can be adjusted with double taps, and three taps skips a track by default. Pressing and holding either side cycles between Ambient Sound and ANC.
Then there’s the distinguishing feature of the buds – the UVnano sterilisation technology that allegedly eliminates 99 per cent bacteria on the earphones. There’s no mention of the technology is effective against the novel coronavirus, but it’s a nice feature to have nonetheless. Our only gripe with this is that the case becomes exceedingly filthy due to the cleaning process.
The Tone Free FN7 also comes boasting other features such as Active Noise Cancellation (as we mentioned above), Ambient Sound, Bluetooth 5.0 with AAC and SBC codec support, IPX4 rating, USB-C charging, mono mode (where you can use a single earbud independently) and wireless charging. The charging case can be charged wirelessly on any Qi-certified charging pad including phones that support reverse wireless charging. Two features we did miss were aptX codec support, which allows for better sound quality and connectivity, and Bluetooth multipoint connection, where you can connect two devices to the buds simultaneously. At the 20K price point, it’s disappointing to see LG skimp out on these features.
Active Noise Cancellation and Ambient Sound performance
The LG Tone Free FN7 pleasantly surprised us with its noise-cancelling abilities. The earphones deliver solid noise cancellation, coming relatively close to the class-leading Sony WF-1000XM3. They do a great job at cancelling out low-frequency rumble as you may hear on a plane or during road commute. Human voices are also suppressed to an impressive degree, however, high-frequency sounds such as a fast fan and mechanical keyboard are audible even with ANC. Overall, it’s as good as the Jabra Elite 85t’s ANC and comes pretty close to the Sony and Bose TWS earphones.
Ambient Sound is pretty decent. The mode amplifies environmental sounds to a great degree but it can sometimes sound a tad unnatural, which is disappointing for the price. You also don’t have an option to control the degree of Ambient Sound as you see in other premium competitors at this price point.
LG has partnered with Meridian, a British manufacturer of high-performance, high-fidelity audio components and systems, for the LG Tone Free FN7. The company has lent its expertise to provide immersive spatial audio and Meridian-tuned EQ modes on the app. The earbuds employ tiny 6mm drivers that do some pretty solid heavy-lifting. The sound quality, for the most part, is clear, precise and natural. However, at times, the earphones lack a bit of a dynamic punch, especially in the high-mids and highs.
Uncompensated frequency graph of the LG Tone Free FN7 (Green) vs Reference IEM (Orange)
The bass response is well-balanced. It is slightly boosted but not to the level where it interferes with the clarity of the mids and vocals. Beats and thumps in EDM, rap and hip-hop tracks are punchy, with plenty of drive, while still maintaining the integrity of the sound. The mids are also pretty well reproduced. In Kanye West’s No Church in the Wild, the sub-bass synth hits come through well while still keeping the clarity in the vocals.
The high-mids and highs, however, are pretty underexaggerated which causes some genres of music to lack punch and drive. In Pull Me Under by Dream Theatre, the cymbals and hi-hats sound dull and lethargic. This impacts the overall effectiveness of the track. So, the earphones aren’t ideal for those who like to listen to rock music. Still, overall the sound quality is pretty good, the Meridian tuning works well in reproducing a nice spatial audio effect and the instrument separation is great, for the most part.
The LG Tone Free FN7 has lacklustre battery life for its exorbitant price. The earphones are capable of a decent 7 hours of battery life from the earbuds with an additional 2 charges from the case. However, if you do turn on Active Noise Cancellation, those numbers dwindle down to 4-5 hours of playtime on the earbuds with 2 extra charges from the case. These aren’t impressive stats and it seriously underperforms in this respect in comparison to competitors such as the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Jabra Elite 85t.
Still, you do get Fast Charging, where a mere 5 minutes of charging gets you more than an hour of playtime, which is pretty impressive.
The LG Tone Free FN7, priced at Rs 18,990, competes against premium offerings such as the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Jabra Elite 85t. While it does do pretty well keeping up with the competition when it comes to ANC, the lack of detail in the high-mids and highs and the mediocre battery life makes it difficult for us to recommend these buds over the Sony WF-1000XM3, which you can get for even cheaper on Amazon at Rs 13,990 as of writing this review. However, if UV cleaning technology is something that’s caught your eye, then the LG Tone Free FN7 is a pretty decent option to consider. Not only that, but you also get to have granular control over the buds with the Tone Free app and the earphones also have a great fit for most ears. So, weight what’s important to you in a pair of TWS earphones before taking the plunge with the Tone Free FN7.