LG TONE Free FP9 wireless headphones review: Mostly good, but pricey


The LG TONE Free FP9 is a new addition to the audible range from South Korean electronics manufacturer LG. Successor of LG TONE free FN7 (test), the new model brings incremental but significant improvements in design, acoustics, connectivity, functionality and battery life. Like the predecessor, the headphones feature UVnano technology in the charging case, active noise cancellation and support for spatial audio. That said, the LG TONE Free FP9 wireless headphones come as a complete package. But how good are they in real life experience? Let’s find out:


Design




The LG TONE Free FP9 has the same design as the predecessor, but with some minor changes. Starting with the earphone charging cradle, it has increased in size but not significantly. It’s pocket-sized, but the changes in its dimensions seem unwarranted from a design standpoint. Nonetheless, the case gains a matte finish over the gloss of the predecessor, making it easy to handle and less susceptible to accidental drops. A new addition to the case is a sliding button on the left side which replaces the pairing button available on the predecessor. It is through this button that you activate the wired connectivity option to connect the box to non-Bluetooth devices such as treadmills, in-flight entertainment system, etc. Essentially, the box here functions as an external Bluetooth dongle but limited to use with TONE Free FP9 headphones. It’s a niche feature but well thought out. It is important to note that not all devices support this feature.

Other than the size, texture, and slider button, everything remains in the same order as on last year’s model. The case has two LED indicators on the front – one for battery level and the other for UVnano status. On the back, there’s a USB-C port for wired charging and connectivity. The case supports wireless charging. Inside the case there is a blue accent light that lights up whenever you open the case. The light is for aesthetic purposes, to make the case look like it has UVnano technology to kill bacteria from the earbuds. Speaking of UVnano technology, it’s built into the case to sanitize the earphone speaker and mesh through ultraviolet radiation. This feature only works when the case, with the headphones resting in it, is charging.

As for the headphones, they have the same stem-based design as the predecessor, but with a significantly smaller footprint. Plus, the new contoured design provides a better fit and grip compared to the previous model earbuds. Like the case, the headphones gain a matte finish, making them easy to handle and use. However, care must be taken when using them due to the low ingress protection (IPX4).


Free LG TONE app for smartphone

The LG TONE Free FP9 is supported by an easy-to-use smartphone app named TONE Free, which is available on Google Play Store for Android devices and Apple App Store for iPhones. The app is complementary, but essential to the experience. It’s through the app that you can customize the headphones’ sound profile and touch controls, and manage other settings. That said, the app simplifies things and makes a good companion to manage headphones without any hassle.



Free LG TONE App


Features and performance

Starting with the audio, the sound output lacks volume but not quality. The headphones have a balanced and clear sound with good channel separation for a stereo effect. For a personalized audio experience, there are five different preset equalizer settings accessible through the app – Immersive, Natural, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, and 3D Soundstage. It is the 3D sound stage equalizer, which enables spatial sound effects. While good, it falls short of Dolby Atmos in quality and surround sound experience. Besides the preset equalizers, there are two custom equalizer settings for manually configuring the audio output. For calls, the LG Tone Free FP9 has three microphones on each unit – two on the outer surface (one to cancel echo and reduce ambient noise and another to pick up voice) and one inside each. headset for active noise cancellation. The headphones work well for calls.

As for the features, there is an ANC with high and low mode for a comfortable experience. Likewise, there are two profiles for the ambient sound settings. ANC and Ambient Sound Mode work as expected, but they’re not the best in terms of experience. Along with these regular features, there are some cool value-added features like whisper mode. This mode is currently being tested, so available in beta via the smartphone application. As the name suggests, it allows the user to speak while holding the right earpiece close to the mouth. It works, but needs some serious work to mature.


Battery

Like other things, the improvement in battery life is gradual. The headphones work for about seven hours with ANC off and five hours with ANC on. These battery time figures are good but peers offer better. Considering the battery in the case, the earphones work for around 15 hours in mixed use. Charging the case with headphones takes about an hour which is again good but not the best.


Verdict

Priced at Rs 18,990, the LG TONE Free FP9 is pricey. It’s good for the most part, but not the best. In comparison, high-end wireless headphones (Galaxy Buds Pro) from Samsung offer better value for money.

Lance B. Holton