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LG Tone Free (HBS-FN7) TWS Earphones Review: Clean Audio With Twist Of Innovation
LG might not be the right horse to place your bets in the smartphone derby, but the brand has surely proved its mettle in the consumer products segment with its unique catalogue. The company's dual-screen phones are a hit among technology enthusiasts, especially when you can grab them at almost one-third of their launch price during the annual festive sales. LG has now introduced a rather unique pair of truly wireless earphones for audiophiles.
- Clean Audio Delivery
- Balanced Soundstage
- Comfortable For Long Music Sessions
- Unique UV nano Bacteria-Free Technology
- Wireless & Fast Charging Enabled
- Competition Offers Better ANC
- Latency Issues
Launched under the ToneFree line-up, the HBS-FN7 is a pair of TWS earbuds with an innovative UVnano charging case that promises to kill 99.9% bacteria from the earbuds when put inside the case. The technology is similar to what LG offers with its germ-killing robot outfitted with UV-C lights. It's a unique take on hygiene and well-being of users (in today's contactless world) from a TWS earphones point-of-view, something which hasn't been explored by any other brand yet.
However, what matters most for an audio product is the sound quality, battery life, and overall performance, especially when the product fares in the premium price category. The LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 is priced at Rs. 18,990 and the bacteria-killing tech alone won't just cut the deal as the rival TWS earphones (Sony WF-1000XM3, Jabra Elite 85T, Apple Airpods, etc.) have set some high benchmarks. That said, we tested the HBS-FN7 TWS earphones for their overall performance as our daily TWS earphones, and here's what we noticed.
UVnano Technology To Eliminate Bacteria
Let's address the elephant in the room- the bacteria-killing technology by LG that promises to disinfect the earbuds. It is the tiny charging case that is touted to kill 99.9% of E. Coli & S. aureus bacteria on the speaker mesh of the earbuds in ten minutes when you put them inside it for charging. The UV LED function works only when the charging cradle is connected to the power cable. LG hasn't specified which form of UV light the charging cradle uses to kill bacteria. We know that the company's bacteria-killing robot uses UVC (most amount of energy) to kill harmful bacteria by disinfecting surfaces.
Put Earbuds In Case To Make Them Germ-Free
As the true wireless earbuds mostly stay inside our ear canals, they can gather dust and various forms of bacteria over time. Prolonged use can cause skin irritation and several other issues to the in-ear cavity which can lead to various forms of health issues if not treated on time. Moreover, the bacteria-killing tech can be useful if the TWS earbuds are being worn by multiple users in the family. You can simply put them in the case to get disinfected while charging to be handed over to a family member to maintain hygiene in daily use.
Well, the UV bacteria-killing tech and the germ-free truly wireless earbuds sounds cool and might help LG sell some extra pairs of TWS earbuds; however, it is the audio quality and other performance parameters that matter most. Let's find out how HBS-FN7 fares in the other departments.
LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 Design- Tiny Puck-Shaped Case With Wireless Charging Support
The HBS-FN7 earbuds ships inside a tiny puck-shaped charging case that supports Qi wireless charging. The minimally designed compact case (Black & White color options) has a soft rubberized finish that feels good to touch and is less prone to smudges and fingerprints than the glossy cases. The left side of the charging case has a pairing button and the Type-C charging port has been positioned at the backside. The case has an LED light at the front that glows green when you open the lid and glows solid red when you plug the case for charging. There's a second LED at the bottom that glows solid blue to show the status of UVnano acting on germs to disinfect the earbuds.
Earbuds Design And Wearing Experience
Unlike the case, the earbuds come in a glossy finish which isn't much of an issue as the overall fit and finish are very premium. But what truly sets these earbuds apart is the in-ear fit and wearing experience as LG has done a wonderful job in getting the fit and material right. The stem-shaped earbuds are among the most comfortable truly wireless earbuds I have tested in the last few months. The wearing experience is one notch above the most sub-20k truly wireless earbuds available in the market. The feather-light buds have adjustable ear gels that fit perfectly in my ears.
IPX4 Water-Resistant Earbuds
The tighter in-ear seal provides great comfort and also prevents the buds from falling out while running or working out. The tighter in-ear seal also minimizes outside noise seepage which results in an immersive audio listening experience. The buds can be worn while extreme workout sessions when you are sweating as they are IPX4 water-resistant. The charging dock isn't though, so be careful with that.
All things considered, LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 earbuds have become my favorite TWS earbuds from wearing and comfort point of view.
LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 Touch Controls
To make the most out of LG ToneFree HBS-FN7, you need to install the LG Tone Free application (Android & iOS) on the paired device. The app is very neatly designed and allows you to customize touch controls, audio modes, and run software updates. The in-app equalizer lets you choose from four presets- Immersive, Bass-Boost, natural, and Treble boost. You can also create two custom modes to match your audio taste. Moving on, the app also offers an option to lock the touchpad on the earbuds to prevent unwanted touches, enable notification settings and locate earbuds via the ‘Find my earbuds' feature.
As far as touch controls are considered, by default, you can touch once on either of the earbuds to play/pause music and answer an incoming call. Touch twice to end a voice call or to control volume. You can skip to the next/previous song by tapping three times on the earbuds. The touch controls work without any performance issues and ensured a smooth user-experience.
And lastly, long-pressing the earbud activates the modes- Ambient sound, Noise canceling. Besides, there is a myriad of touch panel settings that can be customized as per convenience.
LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 Audio Performance
While I am not entirely blown away by the audio performance of the LG ToneFree HBS-FN7, I am very impressed by the sound clarity and the way these buds handle different sound elements, especially the mid-high frequencies. LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 features silicone-infused drivers that produce very clean and immersive sound. The volume levels are decently loud but could have been a tad louder, for my taste.
The soundstage and handling of different frequencies remind me of the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ which also does not prioritize any particular frequency and prevents overlapping. The well-defined soundstage creates a very engaging listening experience, especially when you tune into high-resolution files. There's no distortion while listening to music at max volume, thanks to fine sound adjustments done by Meridian Audio. I tuned in to my favourites tracks on Tidal and most-used OTT apps and experienced engaging and immersive audio.
Crisp Highs And Rich Treble
The sound setup ensures crisp high notes and rich treble response which makes these buds a good package for vocal-heavy tracks, live music, and tracks with varied musical instruments. The low-frequency response is good but the bass response could have been tighter. If you are a serious bass head and prefer head rattling bass delivery, look further. LG's focus is on delivering crisp vocals with pristine clarity, great treble response, and decent bass delivery.
The earbuds support SBS and AAC Codecs and I enjoyed listening to music on AAC with these TWS earbuds. The app offers a decent equalizer with four presets- Natural for a clean, balanced sound, Immersive for a more three-dimensional performance, Bass Boost for extra power and depth, and Treble Boost to bring greater clarity to vocals. The immersive profile sounded the best on most of the devices I paired the earphones with.
Voice Calling Performance and ANC
Similar to the sound delivery, the LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 also maintains a very clean profile with voice calls. The earbuds have a triple-microphone setup that seems to be doing a wonderful job in ensuring crystal clear voice calls. The earbuds also come equipped with ANC but the setup seems somewhat lacking in blocking external noises, despite a good implementation of the silicone ear gels with an interior spiral design. The ANC isn't as powerful as rival TWS earbuds; in fact, the recently launched Enco X (Rs. 9,990) manages to offer a very powerful ANC in the sub-10k price segment.
LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 Connectivity And Battery Life
The LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 works on Bluetooth 5.1 and also supports Google Fast Pair and popular features like ear-detection. The earbuds connect to paired devices in a jiffy and maintain a stable connection with no latency issues as such while playing mobile games. However, the ToneFree HBS-FN7 is marred by major latency issues when paired to an Android TV via Bluetooth.
As far as battery life is concerned, the earbuds can last for up to 6 hours 30 minutes at 80% to 100% volume with ANC disabled. Switching on the ANC will reduce the battery life by up to 90 minutes on the same volume levels. The wireless-charging enabled case can add another 14 hours of battery life which means these earbuds can give you a total audio playback of up to 20 hours, quite impressive. But the feature that sets the LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 apart is the fast-charging support. A 10-minute charging time can give you an audio playback of about 90-minutes, which comes quite handy in the daily routine.
The LG ToneFree HBS-FN7 checks almost every box of a good pair of truly wireless earphones; however, the expensive price could be a deal-breaker. The rival TWS earbuds from Apple and Sony have set very high benchmarks in terms of audio performance. The HBS-FN7 earbuds also manage to produce clean and immersive audio but the overall audio delivery is a notch below. However, LG has nailed the design and these buds offer a very comfortable fit for longer listening sessions. The battery life is also good if not excellent and the fast-charging feature is mind-blowing.
Further, the bacteria-killing UVnano technology is another highlight feature that can be a good add-on if you are very particular about hygiene and also appreciates new technology.