Imitation at Its Finest
LG is a not a brand one generally associates with premium portable consumer audio. Sure, their V-series smartphones are the last great headphone-jacked devices out there, but they generally haven’t spent much time developing headphones and earphones. With the release of the Tone, that changes. They released three individual models total, the Tone’s arrival signals LG’s entrance into the market as a serious contender.
You can find the Tone for sale here, on LG’s official website, for $99-$149.
About My Preferences: Heads up, I’m a person! As such, these words are my opinion, and they are tinged by my personal preferences. While I try to mitigate this as much as possible during my review process, I’d be lying if I said my biases are completely erased. So for you, my readers, keep this in mind:
- My ideal sound signature would be one with competent sub-bass, a textured mid-bass, a slightly warm midrange, and an extended treble.
- I have mild treble sensitivity.
Source: The Tone was tested in the following configurations:
- LG V40 -> Bluetooth -> Tone
- HTC U11 -> Bluetooth -> Tone
All music was served as MP3 @320Kbps or as FLAC.
- Model: LG TONE Free HBS-FN6
- Bluetooth Version: 5.0
- Microphones: Dual
- Fast Charging: Yes (5 minutes of charging for 1 hour of playtime)
- Google Assistant Compatible
- Charging: USB-C
The Tone has a typical consumer V-shaped sound signature. While this is not by any means a bold sound tuning, I think that it is well-executed. Unlike many, many, other “truly-wireless” earphones I’ve been sent for review, the Tone is able to join a select few “true wireless in-ear monitors” (TW-IEMs) at the table of sonic coherence.
The Tone’s treble expression is pretty good for a device with such a small driver. While upper-treble production is somewhat lacking, the decay from mid-treble into upper treble is a smooth gradient that hides much of the loss. Only a highly-trained ear would ever notice this nit-pick.
As for the Tone’s treble quality, I have to say that I am pleased. There is little smearing and blurring. High-hats and cymbals are defined, and while somewhat truncated, they generally do not lose definition in the majority of my test songs. Show Me How To Live was particularly enjoyable, as the Tone’s sound-stage is both wide and deep, much to the benefit of the treble-bound acoustic instrumentation in live recordings.
Poorly-mastered songs such as Satisfy pose no threat of sibilance when played through the Tone — much to the credit of the tuners at Meridian who collaborated with LG on the design of this product. I was unable to get any sort of treble-based discomfort from the Tone, regardless of song or volume.
I’d have to say that my favorite aspect of the Tone is its midrange. It is expressive and wide without being overbearing or smudgy. Precision seemed to be of much concern to the designers of the Tone, so they took care to make sure that they brought the best out of the little driver that they ended up using.
Vocals are particularly well staged by the Tone. Male vocals in Jacked Upand Little Black Submarines really shone in my listening tests, outstripping some TW-IEMs that cost much more than the Tone.
Instrumentation is very well layered. There’s a signficant amount of air present between the various components of my test songs, especially in Jacked Up and Flagpole Sitta. The Tone’s warmer presentation lent depth to Flagpole Sitta’s dry mastering style, further improving the song’s enjoyability.
Given the class of earphone that the Tone is, I had dim expectations for its bass response. I underestimated the engineers at LG and Meridian as I was surprised by the Tone’s quantity and quality of bass. It reproduced the filthiest drops in Gold Dust with grace and cleanly navigated the aggressive chaos of War Pigs. The Tone absolutely nails the sense of impact needed for a satisfying midbass.
Trouble, in the most tame sense of the word, first appeared with In For The Kill’s bass line. Skream’s remix hits very, very low tones. While they were present in the Tone’s rendition of the song, it did blur and produce a small bottoming-out effect in the sub-bass.
Packaging / Unboxing
The Tone’s packaging is suitably minimalist. I can’t say much here, since there isn’t much to comment on, but the packaging is protective-enough and doesn’t feel cheap in the hands.
The Tone is housed in a standard plastic clamshell. It is free from unsightly seems and manufacturing defects, just as one would anticipate from an experienced company such as LG. Inside each of the lower columns hides the charging pins, a magnet to help seat and align the Tone in its case, and the battery. On the outer face of the lower column lies a tactile detection surface that is used to issue the Tone playback commands.
For example, tapping the left earbud twice lowers the volume, while tapping the right earbud twice raises the volume. Taping either earbud a single time results in pausing or playing the music. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the tap commands to work well reliably. Perhaps it’s an issue of use error, but either way, it is irritating.
As far as durability goes, I’d have the say that the Tone doesn’t have any glaring flaws. I usually find more to complain about with the design of the charging case, but the Tone’s case passes with flying colors. It’s easy to seat the earbuds in it for charging — so no worries there about misalignment. The lid’s hinge is solid and appears to be sturdy enough to survive the long haul. Of course, this part is the most likely thing to fail during normal wear-and-tear, so any signs of weakness early on will generally lead to warranty claims.
One thing of note is that my model, the FN6, features UV-ray disinfection built into the case. This is a great feature, especially for someone who may be handling these earphones a lot in their workday, but its implementation puzzles me somewhat. Upon opening the lid, the Tone’s case blasts the eartips with UV light. This is a cool visual effect, but it risks the user’s eyes — looking directly at a source of UV light is a great way to lose your eye sight. While this is clearly not strong enough to hurt you from one, two, or even ten exposures, I’m worried that some people who find the blue hue of the light visually appealing might stare at it a little too much over time (i.e. children). Noteably, and to the credit of LG, the light does not come on when you open the case without the earbuds inside it.
Another feature of the Tone’s charging case (excluding the FN-4 model) is that is supports wireless charging! This is a nifty little addition that allows me to simply dump the Tone’s case onto a nearby charging pad and forget about it — truly a must for a device claiming to be “truly wireless”.
The Tone is incredibly comfortable. LG’s marketing materials describe the Tone as “simple” and “easy to use all-day”, and I’d have to agree. After using the Tone for 4+ hours every single day for three weeks, I have to say that I have never even once had discomfort with the Tone. Even users with smaller ears should find the Tone both easy to seal and wear for long periods of time.
The Tone’s accessory package is sparse. Inside the box you’ll find:
- 2x Pairs extra silicone eartips
- 1x USB-A to USB-C charging cable
- 1x Charging case
And that’s really it. For the price of the FN-6, I at least expected a couple more pairs of eartips, but I suppose that’s what you get with a larger brand such as LG.
While at first glance the Tone looks like a simple AirPods clone, the imitation is only surface-level. The case is far more advanced, featuring UV-light disinfection, USB-C fast charging, and wireless charging, the sound quality is undeniably better, and the companion app brings a whole new level of customization to the table. While its touch controls could use some work, the LG Tone is an overall very well-polished device and I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for a well-rounded truly-wireless experience!
As always, happy listening!