LG’s Tone Free FN7s are the latest wireless earbuds in the Tone Free range. I looked at the cheaper FN6s in the summer. The FN7s most notably add Active Noise Cancellation, but also have improved sound, better phone call quality and longer battery life.
They look very similar to Apple’s AirPods Pros and share most of their features too. But they should be a fair bit cheaper – check the current price since these earbuds seem to fluctuate in price hugely.
I’ve been testing them over the last month or so, comparing them mainly to the AirPods Pros, but also the cheaper FN6s.
In the accompanying video you can hear how they sound in direct comparison to Apple’s offering, and you’ll also be able to hear how their ANC and microphones compare.
And as usual I’ll run with them to see just how secure their fit is.
In the box you get the earbuds themselves inside their charging case, a USB-C charging cable, 3 sizes of ear tips including the ones already fitted, and a user manual.
The compact case looks identical to that of the FN6s, apart from an additional UVnano LED on the front that I’ll come back to. The earbuds are slightly bigger and together weigh around 1g more than the FN6s, making their cases not interchangeable.
There’s a USB-C charging port at the back and a pairing button at the side. They also support wireless charging via any compatible Qi charger.
I cover pairing in detail in my review of the FN6s, but these work in the exact same way, supporting Google Fast Pair with a compatible Android phone and pair almost as quickly to iOS devices.
Charging with a USB-C cable or wirelessly takes around 2 hours and the earbuds themselves take around an hour to charge when empty. And like the FN6s they support fast charging, with a 5 minute charge providing one hour playback.
You can still only pair to one device at a time which is awkward if you use them regularly with a phone and a tablet say. This is one area where the AirPods Pros are far more convenient – if you have multiple Apple devices. The AirPods Pros can switch between these devices automatically.
They’ve up’ed the battery life of the FN7s to 7 hours, although this is with ANC turned off. The case can provide two full charges so you can get up to 21 hours of usage which is decent. In comparison the FN6s have 6 hours of listening time and the AirPod Pros have only 5 hours, with ANC turned off.
Like the FN6s, the charging case has built-in UVC LEDs which have disinfecting capabilities that are meant to kill 99.9% of bacteria.
There is now a UVNano status LED that lights blue whilst the cleansing is in progress which takes around 10 minutes and only works when the case is being charged with the USB cable.
The earbuds are very slightly larger than the FN6s with a more bulbous head – the stem is the same length. They’re almost identical in size to the AirPods Pros.
They feel more premium than the FN6s with a glossy finish to the front of the stem and a raised dimple that helps locate the touch controls, both features differentiating them from the rather plain FN6s.
I like the design of these earbuds and their fit in my ears is excellent. The FN7s have new ear tips with a spiral internal design which is meant to improve fit, but I already found the FN6s very good.
I had no problem running with these earbuds – they barely moved even over longer sweaty runs. And they have IPX4 sweat resistance too.
The FN7s also add haptic sound feedback to confirm taps and this works quite well and is another useful feature when running, although touch controls are still tricky to use when you’re not sat still.
You can customise the touch controls in the TONE Free app. By default a single tap of either earbud will pause and resume playback or answer a phone call, a double tap of the left and right earbud will turn the volume down or up respectively or end a phone call, and a triple press on either earbud will skip forward a track. By default, none of the controls will activate your voice assistant – but you can choose Voice Command for one of the tap options if you want to call up Siri or Google Assistant.
A long press on either earbud will switch between Ambient mode and ANC mode. You don’t hear a spoken audio prompt like on the FN6s to indicate the mode you’re in – just a sound – so it’s sometimes difficult to know if you’re in the right mode without opening the app, especially with music playing.
There’s also ear detection which automatically pauses and resumes playback when you remove and reinsert either earbud.
I already found the audio quality on the FN6s good but these have a new sound unit and do sound better, even though they are still built around a 6mm driver. They have a slightly richer sound with deeper bass. Their sound isn’t quite as bright as the AirPods Pros and they don’t have quite their clarity either especially at louder volumes, but the default “Immersive” EQ profile lives up to its name and has a sound I imagine most people will like and some might even prefer.
And you can easily switch to another EQ profile in the app depending on what you’re listening to and your tastes.
Or even configure a custom profile, but like with the FN6s I found the presets tuned by Meridian sounded better than what I could achieve dragging around the frequency graph.
The earbuds don’t have support for the aptX codec but do support the still higher quality AAC codec.
Their good seal also makes sound leakage even at maximum volume minimal. And maximum volume whilst not as loud as the AirPods Pros is enough in most cases.
In the accompanying video at the top of the page, you can listen to a sound test and hear for yourself how they sound with different EQ profiles and compared to the AirPods Pros. You’ll need to listen with decent headphones for the best experience.
ANC & Ambient Mode
The FN7s are the first earbuds I’ve tested that have similar ANC performance to the AirPods Pros. They too are focussed on trying to reduce high frequency noises from for example background conversations or an underground train. You don’t get anything like the eerie silence of high end over ear noise cancelling headphones like Sony’s XM3s or XM4s but they’re not a million miles off the pretty decent Soundcore Life Q30s I reviewed recently, which is an impressive feat for in-ear earbuds.
The FN6s had an ambient or transparency mode to let you hear your surroundings, but it didn’t sound very natural. It’s improved on the FN7s and is quite usable which together with their secure fit, makes them a very capable set of earbuds for running.
Again in the accompanying video, you can listen to a sound test comparing the FN7s’ ANC and Ambient modes against that of the AirPods Pros.
The earbuds use three microphones for phone calls – the upper mic is meant to detect and reduce external noise, the inner mic is used for ANC if this is switched on and the lower mic picks up your voice – but a lot more clearly than on the FN6s. I tried them with the background noise from a simulated noisy coffee shop and also with a large gym fan pointed directly at me. I also used them making phone calls on a number of windy walks, which is a pretty harsh test for any earbuds.
They did a pretty good job with the coffee shop background noise. They don’t manage to cancel out the unwanted noise to the same degree the AirPods Pros do, but the mic can still be heard quite clearly. Watch the video to listen to how the mics sound in
The simulated wind test and in the real life windy walks, they don’t do such a good job, but do fare a little better than the FN6s. The AirPods Pros are still the only earbuds I’m able to use for phone calls in nearly all environments in place of my phone.
I found I got a little less than the quoted 7 hours of battery life, but I usually have ANC or Ambient mode turned on and the volume at 70% or higher – especially when running.
The earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 and I found the connection reliable. Range was about average, maintaining a connection even when my phone was in the next room over 10 metres away.
I can’t really test the cleansing claims of the charging case, and it’s not a feature I’d personally pay extra for. But it’s still reassuring to have, more so if you share your earbuds.
I’ve tested quite a few wireless earbuds this year, but these earbuds from LG are difficult to fault. They sound good, have an effective ANC and ambient sound mode, a very secure fit, a compact case, decent battery life and usable and customisable touch controls that mean I can usually leave my phone in my pocket.
A lot will depend on what price they settle at, but they should be a viable alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pros and at a lower price. Apple’s earbuds are still better for phone calls in many situations, and their seamless pairing is very convenient if you happen to own multiple Apple devices. But the LG FN7s have longer battery life, a more secure fit in my ears at least, more complete touch controls and the UV cleansing. And they’re available in black as well as white.
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