LG Tone Free FP9 review: going above and beyond

LG's latest TWS feature bacteria-killing tech

No matter what your budget might be, there’s no dearth of options if you’re looking for a new pair of TWS earbuds… a segment that continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The choice gets a little more limited when one moves up the price ladder into the premium segment, but you’re still likely to end up with multiple contenders in your shortlist. LG’s new Tone Free FP9 TWS buds, however, stand out with a few features that set them apart from the others, even in the premium segment. Let me elaborate.


First things first… the Tone Free FP9 don’t feature wireless charging, which seems a big miss for a pair of TWS earbuds seated in the high-end space. That said, wireless charging is still a convenience feature and the fact that the LG Tone Free FP9 doesn’t have isn’t really a deal-breaker.


The TWS buds come in a round case that’s compact in size and smooth to touch, featuring a Type-C port at the back for charging. On the side is wireless mode switch that lets you use these TWS buds with an audio source that isn’t Bluetooth enabled (more on this later).


The case lid is spring-loaded and flips open to reveal the buds ensconced inside. And when you do open the case, blue LEDs light up inside the cavities the buds are housed in, giving you mood lighting that looks quite cool indeed. The buds are small, lightweight and nicely rounded, featuring small stems that have touch-sensitive areas and let you control volume and music playback with appropriate taps. Do note that the earbuds are IPX4 rated, so sweating it out in the gym or taking them on a job when it’s raining shouldn’t pose any problems. The medium-sized rubber tips that come pre-installed on the buds worked for me, but the box has spare tips of different sizes so you can try them out and choose the ones that fit the best. Speaking of, the buds are quite lightweight and comfortable to wear over long periods too.


As far as the special features are concerned, the first of them comes in the form of UVnano technology, which uses UV lighting to kill germs on the tips of the earbuds. We’ve seen the same tech on previous-gen TWS buds from LG, so this isn’t really new per se. There’s no way to test it out either, but that said, it’s definitely good to have. As per LG, UV lighting comes on for 5 minutes when the charging case is connected to power, and the corresponding UVnano LED in front of the case lights up to indicate it’s active.


One of the most interesting, innovative and useful features of the Tone Free FP9 has to be something called “Plug and Wireless”, activated by means of the slider switch present on the side of the case. At first, I mistook this key for a pairing button, but the presence of a Type-C to 3.5mm cable in the box piqued my interest. You see, when this cable is plugged into the buds’ case and an audio source with a 3.5mm line-out, the case acts as a Bluetooth transmitter and streams audio to the buds.


In other words, this feature lets you use the LG Tone Free FP9 buds wirelessly to listen to audio from non-Bluetooth audio sources like airplane seats, old music players, TVs etc. I tried it out with an old Apple iPod, and it worked quite well, much to my delight.


Yet another interesting feature on offer is Whispering Mode. After you enable this via the companion app, you can hold the right earbud near your mouth to use as a mic, and hold clandestine calls while speaking softly. Speaking of the app, the Tone Free app is available for both Android and iOS, and allows you to customise various settings for the TWS buds. You can turn ANC on or off, or enable the ambient sound mode, customise the touch controls, etc. The app also provides various equaliser presets, and you can choose one between immersive, natural, bass boost, treble boost or 3D sound stage. You also have the option of customising the EQ as per your own preferences and saving two sets of settings as custom EQs for use later.


The LG Tone Free FP9 feature 8mm drivers and come with AAC support. With sound tuned by Meridian Audio, the sound signature offers tight bass, along with really clean vocals. The beats offer minimal decay, so they don’t linger around forever and the slam is extremely tight and satisfying too. Also, the highs sound reasonably energetic, making them ideal for rock songs as well. The pair don’t sound sibilant either, but instrument separation could have been better. Noise cancellation is good too, but again, not really the best in class. The buds promise up to 10 hours of use on a is gel charge without ANC and up to 6 hours with ANC turned on, while the case adds another 15-24 hours depending upon ANC. In my testing, I got about 6 hours with mixed usage, with ANC on and about 60 percent volume levels… which is par for the course.

Verdict


The LG Tone Free FP9 carry a sticker price of Rs 21,990, but are available online for lower, depending upon cashbacks and discounts available. As of the time of publishing this, they’re listed on Amazon for Rs 17,490 and after factoring in the additional Rs 2,000 discount available via cards of certain banks, would cost you around Rs 15,490. LG even bundles a free shell cover for the TWS case. The Ganesha-themed cover is nice, though I do wish LG had kept religion out of this. There’s no denying the fact that even the discounted pricing puts then in the premium league and the Tone Free FP9 would end up competing with premium offerings from the likes of Sony, Jabra and Apple. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, which are priced lower, are still counted among the best, most VFM pair of TWS earbuds if you prioritise sound quality, while the newly-launched Amazon Echo Buds 2nd-gen’s always-on Alexa capabilities also seem quite enticing. All said and done, the LG Tone Free FP9 sound quite good overall and when you factor in the special features they offer, deserve close consideration if you’re looking for a pair of premium TWS earbuds.

Editor’s rating: 4 / 5

Pros:

  • Tight bass and clean vocals
  • Comfortable
  • UV cleaning tech
  • Useful Bluetooth passthrough

Cons:

  • No wireless charging
  • Not the best audio for the price