LG Tone Free HBS-FL7 review

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We’re all guilty of buying something simply because we think it’s pretty. While the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 is presented beautifully, it’s underwhelming for the price. There are some great features, though, like the bacteria-reducing charging case and Meridian Audio tuning.

Who should get the LG Tone Free true wireless?

A photo of the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 true wireless earbuds on a plant holder.

The glossy finish turns these earbuds into fingerprint magnets.

  • General consumers may want to consider LG’s Tone Free headset. These serve as a more stylish alternative to the Apple AirPods, because they don’t form a cogent seal. AAC is the only supported high-quality codec, which benefits iPhone users but not Android users to the same degree.
  • Hygienic listeners will appreciate the UVnano charging case that uses internal UV LEDs to reduce bacterial buildup on the ear tips.

Using the earphones

A macro photo of the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 true wireless UVnano charging case.

UV LEDs inside the case blast the ear tips with UV light to reduce bacteria.

LG’s latest true wireless earbuds embrace a modern design aesthetic with glossy panels and a circular charging case. It looks gorgeous, on par with the older Earin M-2 which was uniquely stunning for its time. The indented touch-capacitive housings consistently register commands, making it easy to field calls and pause playback without reaching for your phone.

Despite the elegant look, the earbuds are durable and merit an IPX4 rating to prove it. However, I wouldn’t recommend working out with these, because they don’t create a seal to the ear. The half-open design is great for remaining aware of your surroundings, but the ‘buds fell out multiple times during testing—once as I jogged across a crosswalk. If you’re moving any faster than a brisk walking pace, you may want to look at something more secure like the Sol Republic Amps Air or Master & Dynamic MW07 Go. At least if the earbuds do fall out, your music will automatically pause thanks to automatic ear detection. Re-inserting them automatically resumes playback, and the process is snappy.

The earbuds prioritize beauty at the expense of functionality.

Another neat feature of the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 is the puck-like charging case. According to independent testing, the UVnano technology reduces earbud bacteria via the integrated UV lights. Although this case isn’t the solution to curing Coronavirus (COVID-19), it could help reduce the rate of temporary hearing loss by preventing ear infections. Minor infections can impede one’s ability to perceive and discern noises such as speech patterns.

Should Android users get the LG app?

A photo of the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 true wireless earbuds nozzle-up on a wood surface.

The ear tips are bulbous and oddly shaped, making it easy for the ‘buds to fall out.

The LG Tone & Talk app isn’t very useful: it affords nothing beyond what can be done directly from the headset, aside from finding your earbuds. Controls are limited, and you can’t adjust the volume or skip tracks. All you can do is pause music, cycle through EQ presets, review notifications, and access Google Assistant.

Controls are identical on both earbuds.

  • Single tap to pause or resume media playback.
  • Double-tap to review notifications.
  • Triple-tap to cycle through EQ presets: normal, bass, flat, and treble.
  • Tap and hold to make a command.

How do you connect the LG Tone Free HBS FL7?

A photo of the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 true wireless earbuds outside of the charging case on a wood surface.

The all-black appearance is sleek and covert.

Removing both earbuds from the case simultaneously initiates pairing. Android 5.0 devices with location services on automatically recognize the Tone Free HBS FL7 and display a nifty pop-up asking you to pair the earbuds to your smartphone. iPhone users have to go through the typical pairing process of sifting through the iPhone’s Bluetooth menu and selecting “LG Tone Free HBS FL7.”

Once the headset is connected, Google will prompt you to finish setting up the device and allow Google Assistant access. Updates are made available through the Google application. If one is available, an alert appears in your smartphone’s notification shade, informing you that headset access is unavailable once the process begins. On March 9, 2020, I installed firmware version 1.5.0#2f09259 and expect more to come.

Connection strength is ok; there were some connection stutters when the headset was less than a meter away from my Samsung Galaxy S10e, but nothing too severe. Unfortunately, multipoint connectivity isn’t supported. Anyone who wants that from totally wireless earbuds should turn their attention to Jabra’s offerings.

Audio-visual lag is barely noticeable, though it is still present. AAC is the only high-quality Bluetooth codec supported, which isn’t great for Android devices but serves iOS products well. This is fine as high-quality streaming isn’t too important when the earbuds don’t create a complete seal to the ear. No matter what, external noise can get in and degrade audio reproduction by way of auditory masking. This means any benefit afforded by aptX or LDAC would be rendered practically null.

Battery life

We recorded 5 hours, 19 minutes of listening on a single charge before having to pop the earbuds in the case. This isn’t the best battery life we’ve observed, but it stands above average. Plus, the earbuds support quick charging; all you need is to place them in the USB-C case for five minutes to enjoy one hour of listening. In total, the case can provide up to 15 extra hours of on-the-go battery life.

Sound quality

Just like the popular LG Tone Flex XL7, these earbuds’ dynamic drivers are tuned by Meridian Audio and promise an engaging sound. Listeners in search of accurate audio reproduction will enjoy these earbuds in theory, but the semi-open build subjects music to auditory masking. This means loud, external sounds mask relatively quieter notes like mids (e.g. vocals). Suffice to say, you don’t buy these earbuds for sound quality but for style and the ability to remain vigilant while walking about.

Isolation is nearly non-existent, but the earbuds fit our test head surprisingly well. The rubberized material on both the ear tips and test head created enough friction that the ‘buds stayed in place during testing, which explains the low-end attenuation from the chart above. Unless your skin is remarkably rubbery, you’re unlikely to experience this same suction-like effect. In short, real-world isolation performance is poor and I heard nearly everything going on around me when testing these ‘buds.

Related: How to read charts

Lows, mids, and highs

Lauv’s song Tattoos Together opens with notes individually plucked on a bass guitar before Lauv begins singing. Although the bassline is audible throughout the whole song, it takes more effort to hear it with the Tone Free XL7 than with other earbuds that create a cogent seal.

Claps also fall to the wayside when listening to Tatoos Together, especially if listening outside. When I was walking around, I found it nearly impossible to hear the intermittent claps during each verse due to the fact that wind noise and traffic took precedence.

Microphone quality

A chart depicting the LG Tone Free TWS microphone response, limited to the human voice band.

Just ok microphone quality compelled me to use my smartphone to take calls instead of the LG Tone Free ‘buds.

A dual-microphone array sounds promising especially since they reduce noise and echoes. During calls, though, friends and family all noted how I sounded “hollow” and “muffled.” If you have to take a quick call, mic quality is passable but for all other instances, you’re better off with a dedicated handset or earbuds like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. Don’t take my relatives’ words for it; have a listen for yourself.

LG Tone Free HBS FL7 microphone demo:

How do the LG Tone Free true wireless compare to other totally wireless earbuds?

A photo of a woman wearing the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds and reaching for the touch panel of the left 'bud.

The WF-1000XM3 touch controls are customizable via Sony’s Headphone Connect app.

The LG Tone Free HBS FL7 is an interesting product that, if priced down, would be much more appealing. If you’re deciding between these and the Apple AirPods, you may want to go with the AirPods instead. The fit is about the same and iPhone users benefit from hands-free access to Siri and quick device switching due to the H1 chip. What’s more, the AirPods’ touch controls are more comprehensive than LG’s true wireless earbuds.

Aesthetically, these ‘buds have a similar shape to the Sony WF-1000XM3 which can be had for just $28 more than these earbuds. You’re afforded significantly better audio quality, a secure, comfortable fit, and noise cancelling that outperforms the Apple AirPods Pro. What’s more, the Sony earbuds support EQ adjustments, not just baked-in presets.

Save money by getting the Creative Outlier Gold

Creative’s earbuds feature a more secure fit thanks to the dedicated nozzles and are even more water-resistant than the Tone Free true wireless (IPX5 compared to IPX4). The USB-C charging case is much larger than the Tone Free’s which could be a problem for listeners with particularly crowded book bags. But if you want to save $100 and enjoy more accurate audio quality with the option for holographic audio processing, the Outlier Gold is a bargain buy.

Should you buy the LG Tone Free HBS-FL7?

An aerial photo of the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 true wireless earbuds in the circular charging case on a green wood surface.

The compact, puck-like charging case is easy to slip into a purse.

Listeners concerned about bacterial growth on their earbuds may find the LG Tone Free HBS FL7 worth it. This technology doesn’t negate the need to clean your earbuds, but it means you may not have to do it as often as with others. Stripping away the fancy appearance and Meridian branding, though, shows that the Tone Free just isn’t a great value in terms of functionality and sound quality. It doesn’t matter what company tunes a pair of earbuds if said earbuds don’t actually stay in your ears.

These earbuds may stumble to succeed in the true wireless market, but LG still has a firm grip on the wireless neckband headset business. I highly recommend the Tone Free XL7 or Tone Style SL5 if you want a great bang-for-your-buck.

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