Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried a number of LG Tone Free earbuds, each succeeding model with slightly improved features. The new LG Tone Free T90Q adds Dolby Head Tracking alongside the company’s unique UVnano bacteria-killing light, active noise cancellation (ANC), and advanced smartphone application.
I first experienced spatial audio with the Apple AirPods Pro and loved it even more on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. Dolby Head Tracking is a similar head-tracking sound feature and the LG Tone FREE T90Q is the world’s first Dolby Atmos earbuds to have it.
That said, I’ve been quite impressed by the earbuds’ comfortability, long battery life, and bacteria-killing UV light. But are they worth the $229 asking price? Let’s find out.
|Microphones||Four mics with advanced noise reduction|
|Water resistance||IPx4 rating|
|Battery life||Up to 9 hours of play with ANC off. Wireless charging case provides another 11 hours of music playback.|
|Bluetooth codecs||SBC, AAC, aptX|
|Earbud weight||5.1 grams each|
The retail package of the LG Tone Free T90Q includes the wireless earbuds, a charging case (weighing in at just under 40 grams), a short USB-A to USB-C cable, a USB-C to 3.5mm cable, and small/medium/large silicone gel earbud tips. The carrying case supports Qi wireless charging, so you can top it up with a traditional charging pad or on the back of a phone that supports reverse wireless charging.
The USB-C to 3.5mm cable is interesting as it allows you to connect the charging case to an analog device with the 3.5mm male end of the cable. The charging case acts as a Bluetooth transmitter for the LG Tone Free T90Q with the wireless mode switched on. I don’t have a use case for this, but it may come in handy for some users.
The charging case is a small white round puck that’s about 2 inches in diameter and just over an inch thick. It easily fits into my pants, shirt, or coat pocket. Inside the case, in the formed compartment of each earbud is a small UV light source for the UVnano bacteria-killing feature. When you are charging the earbud case, either wirelessly or with a USB-C cable, the UV-C light will activate and sanitize the end of each earbud in just 10 minutes. Given that I use wireless earbuds for hours on end each day, sanitizing them is a nice feature to have and something unique to LG.
The earbuds are constructed of several major parts, including ear gels, an inner mic to reduce noise in your ear, a voice pickup unit (VPU) that detects vibrations, a graphene driver, a battery, and a sensor for head tracking.
The earbuds have a stem design, similar to the AirPods and many other modern earbuds. The inside curvature is well-designed to rest on the bottom of the ear opening so they do not have to be pressed into the ear canal. Everybody has different ear geometries, but the LG Tone Free T90Q fits my ears perfectly and I have thoroughly enjoyed how light and comfortable they are.
The three sizes of soft, hypoallergenic silicone ear gels certainly help with comfort. The LG Tone Free has automatic ear detection, too, so your music pauses when you take them out. Your phone also connects automatically once you insert them into your ears.
While I like the AirPods Pro experience with the iPhone, the stem-based control system is not my ideal choice. Thankfully, LG went with the outside portion of the earbud for controls, serving as a touch-sensitive surface so you can simply tap one, two, or three times, as well as tap and hold, to trigger different functions. You can customize these gestures within the LG smartphone app.
To make the most of the earbuds, I highly recommend you download and install the LG Tone Free application. With this app you can view the battery status of each earbud and the charging case, manage equalizer settings, toggle Dolby Atmos head tracking, toggle the multi-point and multi-pairing option, activate noise cancellation, and so much more. It’s a very well-designed application that significantly enhances the LG Tone Free experience.
Sometimes, for safety or not, you may want to hear the sounds around you even with earbuds on. Through the mobile app, you can set up and control the level of ambient sound. There are two options in the Ambient Sound option: Listening mode and Conversation mode. With Conversation mode, audio around you is amplified so you can hear voices more clearly, compared to Listening mode, which amplifies every sound.
There are also five default equalizer settings; immersive, bass boost, natural, treble boost, and 3D sound stage. The 3D sound stage option is designed for watching movies or sports, but my classic rock has sounded just as good with the equalizer setting turned on. There are also two spots for custom equalizer settings so you can craft your ideal audio levels.
Lastly, if you lose one or both earbuds, you can trigger a loud chirping sound if your phone is within range of the lost earbud(s).
The active noise cancellation on the LG TONE Free T90Q is more subtle than what I’m used to on my AirPods Pro. Still, it works fine at creating a fairly quiet environment. I haven’t had a chance to test these earbuds on an airplane, but I was able to mow the lawn and enjoy music so they passed my yard work test.
As I mentioned before, the Apple AirPods Pro has a poor touch control system and very limited control options and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro simply don’t get along well with my ears. Thus, I’ve been using and enjoying the LG Tone Free T90Q as my primary commuting and working earbuds for the past few weeks. They last a long time, are extremely comfortable, sound fantastic, and provide an interesting audio experience with Dolby head tracking.
I first discovered spatial audio while commuting on the train with the AirPods Pro and now really enjoy the experience when I turn my head and the audio continues to play primarily from the earbud facing my audio source. It’s an interesting experience when the earbuds make it feel like you are at the center of the performance, and while some may not care for it, I have come to search for spatial audio support in any headphones and earbuds I test.
LG advertises nine hours of music playback without ANC and 18 more hours with the charging case. With ANC turned on, you can expect about five hours, depending on your volume level. That’s been the case for me.
LG has a lot packed into the Tone Free T90Q and, overall, I have been quite pleased with their performance. This $220-to-$240 market is loaded with high-quality earbuds right now, so you need to figure out what features are most important to you to decide if the T90Q is worth the pick-up. They are heavy on the bass, have spatial audio support, and are easily the cleanest earbuds on the market.
Alternatives to consider
The LG Tone Free T90Q offers quite a few unique features, but you may have other priorities for your earbud needs. Here are some other options to consider.