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LG TONE Free FN7 review: Active noise cancellation, fast charging, and IPX4 water resistance


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Image: LG

If you look at the best active noise cancelling earbuds you will see that the high-end models from Apple, Bose, Sennheiser, and more are priced at more than $200. Last year’s LG TONE Free HBS-FN6 were an awesome pair of earbuds with a reasonable $150 price.

To kick off 2021, LG has the LG TONE Free FN7 that includes active noise cancellation, IPX4 sweat and water resistance, a wireless charging case, solid battery life, fantastic audio quality, and solid phone call quality. The headset is priced at $179.99, which is still much lower than competing ANC earbuds.

Also: LG Tone Free HBS-FN6 review: Wireless earbuds with UVnano bacteria system, wireless charging case, six hour playback

After wearing the LG TONE Free FN7 for the past couple of weeks, it’s clear LG has produced a compelling ANC wireless earbud. It fits well for working out and for remote work with a solid job of blocking out surrounding sounds. I’ve been very impressed by the music playback quality and as a person who prefers earbuds over cans I may have just found my new daily driver.

Specifications

  • Microphones: Three mics with noise reduction/echo cancellation in each earbud
  • Water resistance: IPx4 rating
  • Battery life: Up to 7 hours of play with ANC off and 5 hours with ANC enabled. Talk time is 4 hours/3.5 hours (ANC on). The wireless charging case providing another 14 hours/10 hours (ANC on) of music playback. Five minutes of charging provides up to 60 minutes of battery life. Charging case also supports Qi wireless charging technology.
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Earbud weight: 5.7 grams each

Hardware

The retail package includes the two wireless earbuds, a charging case with integrated battery, a short USB-A to USB-C cable, and small/medium/large silicone gel earbud tips. The carrying case supports Qi wireless charging. You can simply place the charging case on a Qi wireless charger or smartphone that supports reverse wireless charging.

The charging case is covered with black soft touch material that makes it easy to hold and keeps the case from sliding off a table. It is a small round puck a 2.15 inches in diameter and just over an inch thick. It’s one of the smallest earbud cases I’ve seen and easily fits into your pants, shirt, or coat pocket. The case does not have any level of water resistance.

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There is a pairing button on the left side of the case, in case your phone doesn’t automatically pick up the earbuds when you open the case. The USB-C port is on the back of the carrying case. Lift the lid to see the two earbuds resting on three gold charging pins and magnetically held very securely in place. The magnetic design is very strong, which helps to get perfect alignment for each earbud.

Also: LG TONE Free HBS-FL7 hands-on: Fully wireless earbuds with UV LED bacteria deterrent and Google Assistant

The earbuds are identical in design with an outside touchpad, two MEMS microphones (one at the top of the earbud and another at the bottom of the stem), same charging terminals, and battery capacity. The earbuds have a stem design, similar to the AirPods, new RHA TrueConnect 2, TicPods ANC, and other wireless earbuds. The light weight and perfect fit in my ears make this one of my favorite wireless headsets for exercise without worrying about them falling out.

In order to optimize the active noise cancellation experience, LG designed the silicone ear gels with an interior spiral design. The silicone ridges inside the ear gel are very comfortable and I cannot express how great the sound of music is with these earbuds. Volume is loud, music is crystal clear, and even the bass levels are great, which is not easy with the earbud form factor. Meridian’s spatial audio processing is designed to simulate listening to loudspeakers and it works.

Multiple microphones are used to assist with noise reduction and echo cancellation. The upper mic detects external noise. The inner mic cancels out unwanted noise when the ANC function is turned on. The lower mic picks up and amplifies your vocals. Active noise cancellation is a popular feature today with all advanced earbuds and headsets so it is great to see LG add this functionality in such a compact size while retaining solid battery life.

The LG TONE Free have automatic ear detection so your music pauses when you take them out. Your phone also connects automatically once you insert them in your ears. You can also use one earbud at a time, which results in being able to greatly extend battery life through a one ear usage pattern.

Also: Jabra Elite 85t review: Powerful ANC in an earbuds form factor, six mics for calls

Smartphone software

I highly recommend you download and install the LG TONE Free application to your phone. With this app you can view the battery status of each earbud and the charging case, manage equalizer settings, toggle ambient sound and active noise cancellation, lock the touchpad, customize the touchpad settings, toggle notification settings, find your earbuds, and perform software updates. It’s a very well designed application that significantly enhances the LG TONE Free FN7 experience.

The LG TONE Free application is available for both Android and iOS. I connected the earbuds to both platforms for testing and the functionality is the same no matter which smartphone OS you are using.

The outside touchpad on each earbud is used to control your media, phone, and wireless assistant (Google Assistant and Siri) experience. Single, double, and triple taps on each earbud can be customized to your preferences. Options include play/pause, voice command, volume up or down, previous or next track, and off. Receiving a call with a single tap, ending a call with two taps and a long press and hold for ambient sound/ANC toggle are not editable.

You can use each earbud independently too if you want to have one ear open as you work, exercise, or commute. Obviously, controls are a bit more limited with a single earbud inserted.

If you toggle on notification settings you can have text messages read to you through the headset. Three speech rates are available for reading these messages too.

There are four default equalizer settings; immersive, bass boost, natural, and treble boost. There are also two spots for custom equalizer settings so you can customize the listening experience to your preferences.

For safety, and other reasons, you may want to hear sounds around you and with the software you can setup and control ambient sound.

If you lose one or both earbuds, you can have a very loud chirping sound play if your phone is within range of the lost earbud. You can specify to have the alert sound play on the left or right earbud.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

My personal tests to see if a wireless earbud will stick around for longer than the review period is to put them in and perform yard work. My mower is loud with my gas blower being even louder and if a wireless headset can stay in place and block out most of the noise then it checks that box.

The next test is to go running with the earbuds in. If they can stay put in my ears for a 30 to 60 minute run then they pass that test too. Thankfully, the LG TONE Free FN7 passed both with flying colors. I don’t usually run with ANC enabled, for safety reasons, but sometimes I tap and hold on an earbud to toggle it on and like how easy it is to control this experience.

LG has partnered with Meridian in providing the customized equalizer and headphone spatial processing. Music sounds amazing with these earbuds, including bass levels. I kept using the FN7 earbuds over everything else because the music sounds so good.

I also used the headset to accept and make phone calls. Callers said I sounded great on their end and on the headphones their voice was crystal clear.

The small touchpad on the earbuds was easy to tap and performed reliably. I had no problem with the single, double, and triple taps to control my listening experience.

The LG TONE Free FN7 checks every box for a pair of wireless earbuds and comes it at a reasonable $180 price. I’ve already had two updates for the headset since I’ve been testing them too so LG is actively working to ensure the headset performs well.



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