There’s no shortage of options when it comes to true wireless earphones in India, and even the premium segment is seeing increasing competition from big brands such as Apple, Sony, Sennheiser, and Samsung. While some of these products are positioned to work best with smartphones and tablets from the same brand, others are promoted on the basis of technical superiority or value for money. The latest pair of true wireless earphones from LG pulls some rather unique tricks out of the hat in this regard to set itself apart.
Priced at Rs. 19,990, the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 true wireless earphones boast of impressive specifications and features, including active noise cancellation, tuning by British audiophile brand Meridian Audio, and something truly unique in the true wireless segment – a UV self-cleaning mechanism for the earpieces. While all of this makes the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 seem rather impressive on paper, how good is this headset in practice? Find out in my review.
The LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 cleans its own earpieces using UV light
Although not among the most expensive top-spec options available in the true wireless segment today, the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 does sit firmly in the premium segment, along with the Sony WF-1000XM3 and newly launched Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. The earpieces have a glossy finish, with stems that are neither too big nor too small. The headset is available in two colours – black and white, and looks decent overall.
A single touch-sensitive zone on each earpiece – a raised bit at the top of the stem – controls various aspects of the headset. Some of these controls are fixed and can’t be changed, including the gestures to answer or end calls and cycle between ANC and ambient sound modes. Sensors on the earpieces also enable wear detection, which pauses or plays music when the earpieces are taken off or put back on respectively.
Playback and volume controls can be customised through the LG Tone Free app, which is available on both iOS and Android. You can control playback and volume through single, double, or triple taps. The app also lets you customise the equaliser settings, choose how notifications are handled, and update the firmware, among other things.
The charging case is small and quite nice to hold. It features both USB Type-C fast charging and Qi wireless charging, a pairing button on the side, and indicator lights at the front for the battery status and UVnano cleaning status. Although quite minimalist on the exterior, the inside of the case is a bit more vibrant, thanks to Meridian Audio branding and the UVnano LEDs. The earpieces snap into place in the case magnetically, with the charging contact points on the inner side of the stems.
The bottom of the charging case has two ultra-violet LED lights – one for each earpiece. They activate for a few seconds when the lid of the charging case is opened, and work continuously when the case is being charged using wired charging and its lid is shut. This is said to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria on the speaker meshes of the earpieces when used for ten minutes. It’s worth pointing out here that LG has only rated the technology for effectiveness against bacteria, so don’t expect any protection against viruses or other kinds of impurities.
You get a proper in-canal fit with the FN7, although I often found it a bit tricky to get the right fit for effective noise isolation and ANC. While I didn’t have any issues with comfort, it did take some effort to get the earphones firmly in place with a proper seal every time I put them on, regardless of which ear tips I used (three pairs are included in the sales package).
The LG Tone-Free HBS-FN7 looks pretty much identical to the Rs. 13,990 HBS-FN6 earphones. The Rs. 6,000 price difference is essentially down to one key feature on the FN7: active noise cancellation. This relies on a three-microphone system in each earpiece as compared to two microphones on the FN6 model. Most other aspects, including features such as UVnano self-cleaning and codec support, are the same on the two models.
The LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 has 6mm dynamic drivers. It uses Bluetooth 5 for connectivity, with support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. Google Fast Pair is supported with compatible Android smartphones, and the earpieces are IPX4 rated for water resistance.
I was able to use the HBS-FN7 earpieces for a little under six hours per charge, with an additional two charges from the case, for a total of around 18 hours of battery life per charge cycle. This is decent enough given the price and features, and roughly on par with what is offered by competing options in this price segment.
Good, but not great sound on the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7
Consumer brands often collaborate with established high-end audio names these days, and to LG’s credit, it’s been working with British loudspeaker maker Meridian Audio for some time now. However, this naturally made me want to compare the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 to the recently launched Oppo Enco X, which has been developed in collaboration with Dynaudio, a competitor of Meridian Audio in the loudspeaker space.
The LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 also naturally goes up against options such as the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Apple AirPods Pro, but with a considerably different approach to sound quality. Although the LG FN7 does sound decent, its warm and rather punchy sonic signature took a while to grow on me.
No advanced Bluetooth codecs are supported on the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7, and this meant that high-resolution audio streaming didn’t make a difference to sound quality. Like many other options in this segment, the HBS-FN7 is largely meant to be used with streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube Music, and performance is reasonably good if you like warm sound.
Listening to a percussion-infused live version of Strandbar by Todd Terje on YouTube Music, the emphasis was firmly on the various types of drums and the hard bass elements in the synthesisers. This captured the mood of the track impressively, while allowing for a decent soundstage and a spacious feel to the sound.
It’s an unusual sonic signature for this price segment given that most options go with something a bit more natural, but I did eventually come to appreciate it with the right kind of music. That said, there’s a lack of flexibility and a bit of coarseness to the sound, which weren’t always enjoyable. Competing options do tend to offer a more all-round, comfortable sonic performance.
Switching to the much more punchy Sleepyhead (Borgore Remix) by Passion Pit, the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7’s spacious soundstage was better demonstrated. The lows remained strong and impactful, but there was a distinct sense of separation among the various elements that make up this dubstep track. The beats, computer-generated rumble, and vocals all played rather well together within the head-filling virtual soundstage, helped along considerably by the active noise cancellation shutting out much of the noise outside.
Faint details in tracks were easy to pick up on as well, particularly in the sample-based music of Australian electronic music group The Avalanches. Every individual sample was distinct and clean in various tracks of the album Since I Left You. The fuzzy warmth in the sound at times helped improve the feel of the music, but at other times the lack of balance in the sonic signature did tend to make certain genres and tracks sound strange.
Active noise cancellation with the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 is decent, but not quite on the same level as with the Apple AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3. While there was a noticeable reduction in noise both indoors and outdoors, I found the ANC performance to be only slightly better than that of the Oppo Enco X, which is considerably more affordable than the FN7.
There was a slight feeling of roughness in the outside sound that did funnel through using ANC, and the ambient sound mode seemed to excessively amplify household sounds even in a relatively quiet room. However, the ANC did help improve the audibility, the attack in the lows, and the overall soundstage when listening to music, particularly in noisy surroundings. For calls, the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 performed well, and I had no complaints in this regard during my time with the earphones.
In a segment filled with options that offer largely the same set of features, the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 stands out for one big reason: UVnano disinfection. Although I had no way to test the results, or even see any visible effects, the theoretical functionality of this feature will be a welcome addition in a changed world that is paying more attention to personal hygiene. However, that aside, the LG HBS-FN7 offers nothing special. This is a reasonably good pair of true wireless earphones, but that’s about it.
If the UVnano self-cleaning system catches your attention, the LG Tone Free HBS-FN7 is worth considering, and the rest of the feature set and sound quality won’t let you down. However, if you’re looking for what is objectively the best sounding pair of true wireless earphones priced under Rs. 20,000, there are other options worth considering, such as the Sony WF-1000XM3 which also offers the best ANC in this segment.
Alternatively, the Oppo Enco X is as good – and arguably better in some aspects – for half the price. There’s also the LG HBS-FN6 to consider, which is practically the same as the FN7 on paper, with the exception of active noise cancellation, if you can do without it.
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