It is very hard to surprise users of TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earbuds these days: we have already seen every day and sports earbuds, high-end and low-end models, gaming and “audiophile” earbuds. It is getting harder and harder to stand out from the crowd as competition increases, but LG has once again succeeded.
To be blunt, even then, there was some skepticism about the function. However, LG has it, while others do not, and users who require this feature can obtain it. It is likely that the device’s creators reasoned, “Let the audience be not the biggest, but all ours.” And, presumably, it was successful because the Korean manufacturer went even farther with the addition of unique “features” in the new LG Tone Free FP9.
With the included USB-C cable, the new LG FP9’s casing can be connected to any device’s analog output to function as a signal transmitter that sends sound to headphones. This means that it’s a wireless headset that works with non-Bluetooth gadgets like TVs and home computers, as well as media systems on flights and treadmills in fitness centers. And that is definitely cool and practical.
The remaining features have also not escaped the developers’ notice. Meridian Audio’s British engineers are still in charge of sound tuning, and they’ve done it once more with success. Additionally, the manufacturer reports that the speaker diaphragm’s effective area has increased by 75.5% over the previous model. While the LG Tone Free FP9’s active noise reduction and customizable “transparency mode” make it appealing, its claimed 10-hour battery life between charges and its basic water resistance make it a worthy addition to the lineup. All things considered, its unique features make it a worthwhile investment.
If you want, you can also read our short review of three other models wireless earbuds with charging case: Jabra Elite 65t, Samsung IconX, and Sony WF-1000X.
- LG Tone Free Model FP9
- Speaker dimensions: approximately 8 mm
- Analog with a case, Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity (Google Fast Pair)
- Bolster AAC and SBC codecs
- Touch-screen interface
- One option is active noise cancellation
- 68 mAh headphone battery capacity
- The case’s 390 mAh battery capacity
- Headphones take one hour to charge, while cases take two hours
- Quick charging takes five minutes for an hour of work
- Up to ten hours of battery life
- Battery life of up to 24 hours when charging from the case
- USB Type C charging connector
- The case measures: 54,5 x 54,5 x 30 mm
- Weight of case: 36.7 g
- Dimensions of headphones: 21,2 x 28,3 x 23,2 mm
- One earphone weighs: 5.2 g
- IPx4 water defense
Bundling and packaging
The earbuds is enclosed in a square cardboard box that is white and thick. An image and a summary of the device’s features are printed on the detachable cover. A cardboard spoon is used to hold the headphones inside the case.
A set of silicone tips, documentation, a USB-A to USB-C cable for charging, a mini-jack to USB-C cable for connecting the case to audio sources, and a case with headphones are all included in the package.
Out of the three pairs of tips in the set, one is automatically installed. Because “medical silicone” is hypoallergenic and generally the best material, the manufacturer places a lot of emphasis on this feature. To be completely honest, we don’t recall any instances of allergies associated with silicone ear cushions; however, the primary feature of the ear cushions is their pleasant texture and comfort.
There are no doubts regarding the reliability of the cables because they are manufactured to the appropriate standard of quality. The one meant for charging is 45 cm long, and the one meant for connecting to the sound source is 65 cm long.
Creation and assembly
The manufacturer’s website states that the headset is available in three colors: gold, white, and black. However, only the first two versions have been available for purchase thus far; we tested the more refined and rigorous black variant.
Although there are some obvious differences, the new model is similar to its predecessor, the LG Tone Free HBS-FN6. Specifically, the headphones’ “legs” are now 4.4 mm shorter.
With measurements of just 54 x 54 x 28 mm and a weight of less than 48 g, the case is still incredibly small and lightweight; you could easily fit it in your pocket. The top portion is slightly convex, while the bottom portion is flat. The layout will appeal to minimalists. The case bears no manufacturer’s emblem whatsoever, save for the small inscription Tone located in the middle of the lid.
There are no inscriptions at all on the bottom. Because the case is composed of matte plastic, fingerprints are completely invisible on it. Two indicators are located on the front panel: one indicates the charging and working status, and the other notifies users that the UVNano disinfection function has been included.
Although there is a signature on the lower indicator, it is incredibly small and hardly noticeable. An easier-to-open cutout is located beneath the cover. A switch for Bluetooth and connectivity modes that use the case as a base device is located on one side. A moderate amount of force is needed to switch; accidental switching is not included.
A USB Type C port is located on the rear panel and is used for charging. The hinge that allows the cover to open is visible above it.
The lid opens with a deliberate, light touch. The door closer is activated approximately halfway in both directions. It operates with extreme delicacy, soundlessly and softly shutting the lid. Removing the headphones from the case is simple: just slide the bottom section slightly sideways, and they will “pop out” of their slots. However, they are securely held inside; even if you purposefully shake the case, they won’t make a sound.
Within the headphones slots are two LEDs. All it takes to be there is a simple dark blue light source that serves both as a visual cue that UV radiation is present and can be used for disinfection. However, the second, whose radiation is focused inside the silicone nozzles, is present and hardly noticeable from the outside. However, he is the one who performs all of the work. The headphones’ “sticks” have spring-loaded charging contacts visible in their indentations.
The headphones are constructed in the universally recognized “with a stick” form factor. Only the exterior of the “foot” is glossy; the body is likewise composed of matte plastic.
A tiny volumetric dot on the glossy insert designates the sensor’s location, making it simple to locate by touch.
The “sticks” in the new model are noticeably shorter, as was already mentioned. Since they are currently only 21 mm long, there is very little possibility that they will stick to anything, like the hood of an outfit or loose hair.
The microphone holes are visible in the bottom portion of the “foot” and on the top surface of the rounded element of the headphones. While the second performs the task of active noise reduction, the first facilitates voice communication.
Three microphones total—an additional one is tucked away inside the case and records the user’s current auditory input to enhance the effectiveness of noise reduction—in the LG Tone Free FP9.
The charging contacts are located at the bottom of the “sticks”. The right and left earbud designations are visible on the inside of the case, along with windows displaying wearable infrared indicators.
There is a tiny hole next to the designations. It appears that a third microphone is located behind it.
It is evident when viewed from both above and below that the interior of the case has a complicated shape that is intended to give the ear cup a stable and comfortable support.
Although it is not the longest or intended for a deep dive into the ear canal, the sound guide leaves the case at a small angle.
There is a flat, easily cleaned mesh covering the sound guide’s outlet. The silicone ear cushions stay perfectly in place and are easy to take off and put back on.
A notch on the spout keeps the ear cushions in place. A compensation hole, used to release excess pressure during speaker operation, is visible next to it.
Establishment and linkage
Installing the Tone Free app is the first step, which we discussed in our review of the previous model. Of course, you can live without it, but a great deal of useful and enjoyable features will be lost. The application offers to read the connection instructions once it has been installed.
Google Fast Pair makes it simple and easy to connect to Android devices. After we open the case and accept the invitation to connect, the process is completed in a matter of seconds. You will need to utilize the conventional approach via the gadget menu on iOS. In the event that—as occasionally happens—Fast Pair suddenly stopped working, Android users can also utilize this option.
You only need to replace the second headphone into its case in order to use any of the headphones in mono mode. There are no interruptions to the dialogue or track playback during switching. However, it was discovered that the LG Tone Free FP9 does not support multipoint when it was attempted to be connected to a Windows 10 computer and smartphone. Though it only connects to one of the paired devices, the headset has the capacity to “remember” up to five.
We also obtained a list of compatible codecs and their modes by using the Bluetooth Tweaker utility at the same time. Once more, there are two codecs: the simpler SBC and the somewhat more “advanced” AAC. Naturally, I’d also like to see aptX. However, it’s important to remember that AAC capabilities and Meridian specialists’ efforts should not be undervalued—the headset, at the very least, sounds interesting.
Of course, the most fascinating and significant feature here is the ability to use the case as a Bluetooth adapter to connect to devices lacking wireless modules. After using the supplied cable to connect the case to the minijack output on the source and adjusting the side switch to the proper position, we can hear sound emanating from the headphones in a matter of seconds. The feature appears “very extra” at first, but it turns out that it has applications in its own right. We were able to establish connections in this manner with an outdated game console, a long-distance bus media system, and a fitness club trainer during our testing.
Software and Controls
Touch pads on the outside of the case are used to operate the headset. They function flawlessly and consistently register touches—even multiple touches—correctly. Additionally, throughout the entire testing period, there were no false positive issues. The wearable sensors also perform admirably; if you remove any earphone from your ear, playback automatically pauses and resumes when you replace it.
The Tone Free app provides a quick tutorial after installation. Specifically, there is a default control profile, as shown in the screenshot that follows.
The handbook is definitely worth reading because it also explains the indicator’s colors and provides a diagram of the primary connections.
And we launch the application right away. The equalizer is, of course, the first thing that catches our attention there. You can easily customize the sound to suit your preferences thanks to the many presets and the eight bands that let you make your own. Naturally, the active noise reduction control comes next; here, we should focus on its two modes of operation. Although we are referring to higher and lower activity, the terms “high” and “low” are difficult to translate.
There are two modes for the surround sound function as well: one lets you hear what’s going on around you, and the other is meant to let you talk to people without taking off your headphones. In the second scenario, the headset clearly highlights the midrange, improving speech comprehension—a very comfortable and practical choice. Additionally, you have the option to completely disable the touchpad or switch on and off the auto-pause feature.
In particular, the control profile can be altered and customized. To activate the voice assistant, simply “hang” on one of the supported touch-sensor types. There is a specific “game mode” in the “labs” section. We were never able to test it, but in games without it, there was no sound delay. Additionally, there is a whisper mode that lets you use the right earpiece close to your mouth to have a quiet phone conversation. We attempted to have quiet conversations in noisy rooms a few times, and we were pretty successful at it. This is really interesting.
Not to be overlooked is the option to have alerts read aloud. The user selects which applications the headset can read messages from. It is very convenient to be aware of your surroundings and not be distracted by your phone when jogging or training.
The manufacturer highlights in marketing materials that the headphones have a unique form that was created by analyzing hundreds of ear lobes. Once again, the scientific method proved to be successful; the LG Tone Free FP9 fits perfectly and is incredibly comfortable. We will always stress the significance of this point: the silicone ear tips should only be chosen in the proper size.
Free FP9 were the primary headset used during testing for a few weeks. They withstood numerous workouts and jogs, and throughout this time, not even severe strength exercises or twisting were enough to cause them to fall out of the ears. The headphones stay in place even with abrupt movements like burpees or jumping rope, but the attachment gradually loosens. All things considered, the gadget is ideal for sports and other activities because it holds tightly and has water resistance. Just IPX4, but it will already be effective in protecting against sweat and light raindrops.
Regarding using UV nanotechnology to rid oneself of bacteria… Although it is challenging to assess the effectiveness of the work being done here, many users will undoubtedly find this option to be pleasing. It is said that if the stars are out, then someone is in need. As we’ve already discussed, the lovely blue backlight serves as decoration. However, the charging case must be closed and connected to the power source in order for the ultraviolet LED to turn on. There is a small indicator on the front panel that alerts you to its operation. As per the device’s developers, it effectively eradicates 99.9% of bacteria in just five minutes of operation.
Among the earbuds we have seen, the noise reduction is not the best. However, it also does a good job of handling its task; in high activity mode, low-frequency sounds, such as the clamor of crowds and the sound of passing traffic, are perfectly suppressed. But in this mode, fatigue and the sensation of “pressure in the head” set in rather quickly; this is a personal issue, though, as many people have never experienced it. The “light” mode offers significantly more comfort during extended headset use and much more delicate noise reduction.
The microphones on the last model we tested performed “very average”; you could talk, but it wasn’t very enjoyable. The authors of the new one have obviously “worked on mistakes” as the communication quality has significantly increased. Even so, occasionally interviewers observe that there is an unpleasant resonance to the voice, as if you have switched on the speakerphone. However, there are no doubts regarding the comprehensibility of the statements made, so you don’t need to say them again. Though we occasionally used other earbuds, the ability to whisper into the removed right earpiece was enjoyable. It also functions without the need for any additional settings or technical gimmicks.
Independence and charging
It was particularly interesting to verify the manufacturer’s claim of up to 10 hours of headphone operation in music listening mode—for a TWS-headset, this is a very reliable figure. Let’s review our methodology for evaluating wireless headphones’ autonomy in brief. Although 75 dB is thought to be the safe sound pressure level when listening to music, most listeners actually prefer 90–100 dB. We set the SPL level of the headphones to approximately 95 dB and broadcast white noise into them. We then immediately began recording the signal from the measuring stand, and it is easy to determine how long each pair of headphones lasted by looking at the length of the resulting track.
The headphones have unequal discharge patterns, with the left one functioning considerably less than the right. It is most likely the “master” by default and is utilized for smartphone communication. Few listeners use headphones in mono mode; instead, most of the time, disconnecting one of them calls for charging the other one. We will thus concentrate on the earphone that had a shorter battery life when calculating the average battery life.
It’s fantastic that Active Noise Reduction allows for over 5 hours of sound—enough for a long walk, a workout, or even a commute. The LG Tone Free FP9 lasted an amazing eight and a half hours without the need for a noise-canceling device. You can also easily achieve the manufacturer’s stated 10 hours, but you’ll need to turn down the music. But since fast charging is available, there’s no reason to save the charge. The headphones are supposed to last for an hour after five minutes in the case, but on two occasions we were able to get even longer—roughly 1.5 hours—when we turned off the noise reduction.
Generally speaking, you won’t be able to discharge the headset during regular use if you keep it in the case at least occasionally. If you don’t use ANC, the case easily charges the fully dead headset twice, giving us even more autonomy than the advertised twenty-four hours. That is, roughly eighteen hours when using the “noise modifier”—enough for a full day’s work, anyhow.
As stated in the introduction, LG chose to place their wager on distinctive “features” that would draw attention to their earbuds. And it worked pretty well: many prospective customers might be interested in the case’s ability to function as a wireless adapter to connect to the analog outputs of sound sources. Best of all, the LG Tone Free FP9 excelled in other areas as well. While the lack of multipoint functionality is unfortunate, all other features are present and functional, including fully functional touch control, efficient noise reduction, strong autonomy, fully featured software, and intriguing sound. All in all, the apparatus proved to be quite balanced in addition to being unique.