LG Tone Free Buds review: One unique feature isn’t enough to rival AirPods and Galaxy Buds
The wireless earbud market continues to get more competitive by the day and standing out from the crowd can be a pretty tall order. However, LG’s new HBS-FN6 have managed to do just that thanks to a unique grime-busting feature that’s tough to find on any of its rivals.
These small earbuds include a clever charging case, which not only refills the buds but also gives them a spring-clean at the same time. With the world gripped by the coronavirus health crisis, this is a pretty big selling point and will be incredibly enticing for those who want to share their buds with anyone else.
LG’s Tone Free HBS-FN6 achieve this hygienic feat thanks to something known as UV Nano technology, which basically blasts the tips of the buds with bug-killing ultraviolet light. Having put them to the test it certainly appears to work as you can see the sunbed-style glow as soon as you pop them in the case.
Sadly, we don’t have a laboratory and a team of microbiologists in white coats to hand in our home office, so we’ll have to take LG’s word this system actually does manage to kill 99.9 percent of nasty bacteria. We haven’t had any gruesome in-ear infections since using the LG ‘buds, so presumably that’s a pretty good sign that the smarts inside the case are working as expected.
Away from that clever UV feature, LG’s HBS-FN6 are similar to most other wireless buds with them offering around six hours of music playback and a total of 18-hours after a recharge in the carry case.
That battery life is pretty standard, but it’s worth remembering that there are now other earbuds, like Galaxy Buds+, that offer a lot more power for the same price. Once you have LG’s buds tucked inside your ears they sound OK with the tight fit meaning you get a good seal and not much background audio leaking through.
These earbuds are generally fine when listening to music, but we have noticed some bass-heavy tracks lack the punch we’d like to hear and there’s a definite lack of richness to the overall music experience – in fact, it can be described as being pretty flat and lacklustre.
There is scope to tweak that a little, thanks to a comprehensive smartphone app, which is available for both iOS and Android, which allows you to change the audio settings. LG offers four options, such as bass and treble boost.
There’s even the nice addition of creating your own customised sound via the in-built equaliser which can be saved within the app and configured with a single tap the next time you pop-in your earbuds. You can save a few of these, so could have an EQ for podcasts and one for playlists, for example.
Another nice extra within LG’s smartphone software is the ambient sound mode which allows you to hear more noise around you.
With the LG Tone Free HBS-FN6 offering tight fit in the ear they do block out a large amount of background sound, which is great at times but not so good if you’re waiting to hear an update about your flight at the airport. With ambient sound switched on, LG allows some noise to leak through so you shouldn’t miss the announcement that your plane is about to leave.
Other positives worth mentioning is the IPX4 rating which means they can survive a sweaty workout in the gym and, as we mentioned earlier, the solid fit means they never feel like they are about to fall out.
LG has also included a fast charge mode which means you get one hour of music from a quick five minutes inside the case. It’s also worth noting that this puck-shaped box can have its battery boosted wirelessly which is a nice touch.
Finally, there’s auto-pause the minute you remove one of the buds from your ear and, if you happen to lose them, there’s a clever find mode available in the app. So that’s all the positives for the HBS-FN6 but, sadly, they’re anything but perfect.
Firstly, the charging case feels pretty cheap and nasty and certainly isn’t patch on the recently-released Pixel Buds from Google. There’s no satisfying Zippo-style click when you flick open the lid and the buds are also really irritating and fiddly to release.
Another thing you’ll find annoying is the touch controls, which are pretty erratic. Sometimes we found them way too sensitive – pausing music when we didn’t want them to – and other times we found ourselves having to tap them so hard it hurt our ears.
As we’ve already said, the sound quality isn’t always top-notch and the battery life could definitely be improved as, unlike the Galaxy Buds+, these won’t last a long-haul flight without needing a refill.
Finally, there’s the design as LG looks like it may have taken inspiration from Apple’s AirPods with a long stem sticking out of your ears. There’s nothing wrong with this and, as a trip on the tube proves, Apple has seen huge success with this style.
However, some rivals, including the new Pixel Buds, are now making earbuds which are far more subtle and way more attractive to have plugged in your ears.
LG Tone Free HBS-FN6 VERDICT
FOR – Unique cleaning feature • Comprehensive app on iOS and Android • Ambient sound mode is useful
AGAINST – Sound could be better • Charging case feels cheap • Battery life and styling can’t match its rivals
If you want the cleanest earbuds on the market, look no further than HBS-FN6. These clever buds enjoy a UV cleanse each time you pop them in their case, which makes them pretty unique – and ideal for germaphobes.
But it’s not all about cleanliness, LG has also added quick-charging, ambient sound technology and a fit which is both comfortable but incredibly secure. There’s a pretty comprehensive companion app and it’s nice that both Android and Apple fans get the same experience – which is far from the norm.
Sadly, the battery life, overall sound quality and cheap-feeling case do let the experience of using the LG HBS-FN6 down. And with so many rival options around on the market right now, we can’t help but feel there are better earbuds for the same £150 price.
You can read about a few of these other options, right here:
• Google Pixel Buds REVIEW
• Galaxy Buds+ REVIEW
• Apple AirPods Pro REVIEW
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