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LG Tone Free FP8 review: Earbuds for clean freaks

Ben Johnston
27 Jan 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
150
inc VAT

The LG Tone Free FP8 stand out for their implementation of UV sanitisation tech but offer decent audio and ANC for the money, too

Pros 
Impressive ANC
In-ear detection
Good sound with the right EQ preset
Cons 
Limited touch control customisation
Default audio profile is weak
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In an age where personal hygiene is paramount, the LG Tone Free FP8 may prove just unique and timely enough to gain traction in the true wireless earbuds market.

At the centre of the Tone Free FP8’s offering is a charging case that employs UVnano technology to kill bacteria on the speaker meshes while the buds are charging. We’ve seen LG earbuds with this capability before - the Tone Free FN6 feature the same tech - but poor battery life and underwhelming audio made it difficult to recommend them for anything other than hygiene reasons.

With the Tone Free FP8, however, LG has returned with a superior product boasting improved audio, active noise cancellation and a few other tricks up its sleeve. And while the FP8’s sound quality and breadth of features still can’t match the ubiquitous Apple AirPods Pro or class-leading Sony WF-1000XM4, they’re substantially cheaper than those perennially popular options.

That competitive price, impressive ANC and the promise of better aural health makes the FP8 wireless earbuds worth considering, especially if you’re particularly health-conscious.

LG Tone Free FP8 review: What do you get for the money?

The LG Tone Free FP8 are available in white, black and gold and will set you back £150. They operate over Bluetooth 5.2, support the SBC and AAC audio codecs and come with an IPX4 rating for water resistance.

Design-wise, the buds are similar in style to Apple’s AirPods Pro, with slim stems that protrude down over your earlobe, and a choice of silicone eartips to help achieve a snug fit. At the tip of each stem is a touch-sensitive surface that allows you to execute various controls. These include playing and pausing audio, skipping tracks, adjusting volume and cycling through the three audio modes: active noise cancellation, ambient mode, and natural.

Rounding out the major features is very responsive in-ear detection, which automatically pauses audio when an earbud is removed from your ear, and starts playing it again when you put it back in.

While not particularly original, the tried and tested design does the trick: the buds sit securely in your ears and are comfortable to wear for extended periods, making them a fine choice for exercise. If you manage to mislay them, the LG Tone Free app has a “find my earbuds” feature that can be used to prompt a chirping sound when in Bluetooth range. The noise isn’t the loudest but is enough to help you locate the buds in a relatively quiet environment.

The circular charging case can be charged wirelessly and is very discreet, measuring just 55mm in diameter. If you don’t intend on using ANC, it will provide 14 hours of charge on top of the ten hours granted by the buds themselves. With ANC turned on, those figures drop to six hours for the buds and nine hours of charge from the case.

But charging the buds is not the only function of the FP8’s case. It also houses UV lights that LG states have been independently tested and kill 99.9% of bacteria on the speaker mesh in just five minutes. This process is intended to reduce the risk of ear infection, which in today’s climate is an attractive proposition.

It is worth noting, however, that the area sanitised by the UV light is relatively small, so you’ll still want to keep the other sections of the buds clean manually. Ultimately, the feature feels a little gimmicky, so is best viewed as a welcome extra rather than something integral to the overall experience.

READ NEXT: These are the best cheap wireless earbuds to buy right now

LG Tone Free FP8 review: What do they sound like?

One of our biggest criticisms of LG’s Tone Free FN6 was the lacklustre sound quality, so it’s heartening to see improved sonic performance this time around. For the best audio that these buds are capable of, however, you will need to do a little work. The standard profile, while adequate, has a tendency to garble higher frequencies.

Fortunately, LG has a dedicated mobile app that gives you all sorts of customisation options. Included here are several EQ presets, all of which improve upon the standard profile in their own way. Immersive expands the soundstage, Bass Boost does exactly what it suggests without overwhelming other elements of the sound profile, while 3D Sound Stage seeks to simulate a surround sound experience.

I tried the latter out with The Harder They Fall on Netflix, and found it suitably immersive as hoofbeats panned from right to left behind my head and spurs jingled underfoot. The sync was a little off to begin with but I returned to the app and switched on the latency reducing Game Mode, which quickly remedied things.

To my ears, the best of the sound profiles is the Treble Boost mode, which improves the clarity of higher frequencies and feels better balanced than the default profile. You can also create two custom profiles should you wish and, with a bit of trial and error, you should be able to find an EQ that suits your musical tastes.

Active noise cancellation requires rather less user input and can be activated via the touch controls. A long press on either earbud will cycle through the ANC modes: noise cancelling, ambient sound, or off. I was able to clearly hear traffic and people around me when using ambient sound, while the ANC cut out the roar of a boiling kettle almost completely.

There’s no indicator of which setting you’re on – just a beep to indicate that you’ve switched modes, which can get a little confusing, but overall, the ANC is highly effective and one of the FP8’s best qualities.

LG Tone Free FP8 review: What could they do better?

The Tone Free app gives you customisation options for the touch controls, allowing you to assign a range of functions to single, double and triple taps for each bud. For the most part, you’ve got a lot of freedom as to which commands you assign to which actions but “tap and hold” is locked to cycling through the ANC settings.

While a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things, plenty of cheaper earbuds, such as the Creative Outlier Air V3, offer complete flexibility when it comes to customising touch controls.

As previously mentioned, the standard audio profile is a little lacklustre and doesn’t serve as a particularly impressive showcase of what these earbuds can do. Switching over to the Treble Boost mode produced a more engaging audio experience and turning on Game Mode helped reduce latency down while watching video content but having to make these tweaks feels a little jarring. There’s a solid listening experience in the Tone Free FP8, but it shouldn’t be so much work to dig out.

READ NEXT: Check out some of our favourite noise-cancelling headphones

LG Tone Free FP8 review: Should you buy them?

The Tone Free FP8 will garner attention for their incorporation of UV sanitation but it’s not as complete a disinfectant as the marketing would like you to believe.

It is, however, more of an effort that most earbuds make and if aural health is something you’re particularly concerned about, or you regularly share earbuds with other people, then the LG Tone Free FP8 are a tempting package.

They’re a big step up from the FN6 in terms of battery life and audio options and, besides the issues discussed above, they don’t do too much wrong.

But you only need take a look at our list of the best wireless earbuds to see how stiff the competition is and, despite being a decent pair of buds, the FP8 only really stand out from the crowd due to their UVnano charging case.

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