The LG Tone Free FP9 earphones are a replica of the FN7 model that was released in 2017 and was the first to offer UV Nano sanitization of the earpieces, which was a significant advancement during a pandemic. While the earplugs themselves have improved to become a little bit more fashionable and manageable than before, the new LG Tone Free also has the UV Nano feature.
We have been using the FP9 for some time now and here's our review.
Design and ergonomics
Despite a few minor changes, the LG TONE Free FP9 has the same design as its predecessor. The size has increased slightly for the earbuds' charging cradle, but not significantly. Although it can fit in a pocket, the changes in its size seem ill-advised from a design standpoint. However, the case now has a matte finish rather than the glossy design on the predecessor, which makes it easier to handle and less prone to unintentional drops.
The pairing button has been replaced by a slider button on the left side of the new case. This button enables the wired connectivity feature, allowing you to connect the case to non-Bluetooth devices like treadmills, in-flight entertainment systems, etc. The case in question functions essentially like an external Bluetooth dongle, but it can only be used with TONE Free FP9 earbuds. Although a niche feature, it was carefully considered. It's crucial to remember that not all devices can use this feature.
To sanitise the earbuds each time you put them in the case, this one also has a UV Nano indicator. The earbuds can be connected to a device that doesn't support Bluetooth using the slider button on the case, which also has a USB Type-C port for charging.
On the FP9s, the touch controls are found at the top of each earbud's stem. The touch controls work well and are simple to use. It is simple to access the controls while moving around because of the sizeable touch area. The FP9s' touch controls let you switch between tracks, pause and resume playback, change the volume, and activate the voice assistant. The Tone Free app allows you to further customise them to your tastes.
By your preferences, you can choose between Low and High active noise cancellation (ANC) on the LG Tone Free FP9 earbuds. The FP9s' active noise cancellation is more than capable of blocking out traffic noise, though you may occasionally hear a high-pitched horn.
To hear someone's voice more clearly while they are speaking to you, you can also enable the transparency mode (Conversation Mode). There is also a Listening Mode, which enables you to listen to your music without drowning out the background noise in your environment. Although we wouldn't describe the ANC in this case as segment-leading, it does the job.
These LG earbuds are not among the loudest we have tested - you will need to turn the volume up to 70 to 75 per cent for a slightly loud output. The good news is that even at a high volume, there is no distortion. The output is thoroughly enjoyable with excellent detail and a very good balance between the three main frequency ranges.
For the sound on the FP9s, Meridian, a leading British manufacturer of high-fidelity audio systems and components, has once again partnered with LG. The FP9s' audio is more evenly distributed, clearer, and has excellent channel separation. Although the soundstage is fairly large, the 3D Sound Stage mode amplifies it.
The detailed and natural sound, which is among the best we've heard on a pair of truly wireless earbuds, especially in this price range, does tend to demonstrate Meridian's expertise. Although LG could have improved the bass response on the FP9s, the audio quality is excellent overall.
Natural, Immersive, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, and 3D Sound Stage are just a few of the preset sound modes. After manually adjusting the sound to your liking on the equaliser, you can also set two custom presets. SBC and AAC audio codecs are supported by LG's high-end true wireless earbuds, but aptX or LDAC are missing. The Tone Free FP9 earbuds also surprised me with their call quality, which was excellent. We had no trouble placing or receiving calls. The receiver had no trouble picking up my voice, and it came through fairly clearly.
For the earbuds and case together, the manufacturer guarantees 24 hours of playback with ANC off and up to 15 hours with ANC on. As I mentioned earlier, it is quite a task to turn off ANC here.
The overall battery backup fell just under an hour below the claimed 15 hours with ANC due to our five and a half hours of use with the earbuds at 75 per cent volume and an additional 7.5 hours or so with the charging case. The claim may be true, but in today's world, where competing brands have been operating with ANC for upwards of 20 hours, 14 hours is not a very good number.
In the midst of all this competition - the Tone Free FP9 manages to stand out with its unique features - the self-sanitising UV lighting, and active noise cancellation, the FP9 is pretty much one of the best TWS buds we have ever reviewed. The tethering app works well and the audio quality is excellent.
The buds do have drawbacks - like less than optimum battery life, lack of support for some codecs, okay bass, and no wireless charging. In hindsight, these are not dealbreakers. If you looking for a unique set of earbuds - you can have yours for less than Rs 20,000 (~Rs 16,990).