LG’s TONE Free T90 wireless earbuds have Dolby Atmos sound with head tracking. And their exercise focused TONE Free Fit TF8 have a silicone fin for a more secure fit and an IP67 waterproof rating, both useful features for workouts.
Both these new earbuds have upgraded active noise cancellation, long battery life, a UVnano charging cradle that cleans your earbuds whilst they’re charging and a clever Plug and Wireless feature that lets you use your wireless earbuds with devices that don’t have wireless support.
I’ll run through all their features before testing their sound quality, which you’ll be able to experience for yourself. And you’ll be able to listen to their microphone quality for phone calls and hear just how effective their active noise cancelation is too.
Both sets of earbuds arrive in eco-friendly packaging and include smaller and larger ear tips and there are also smaller and larger fins for the TF8. So you should be able to get the right fit for your ears.
There’s also a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and the USB-C to 3.5mm aux connector for the Plug and Wireless feature that’ll I discuss shortly. LG do include user guides but they are tiny.
I have the T90 in white – the earbuds in gloss white and their small capsule case with a matte white finish. The case has a battery status LED at the front, with a UVnano LED that lights up when this feature is active. There’s the USB-C port around the back and there’s a switch for the Plug and Wireless feature.
I have the TF8 in black. The earbuds have a matte finish and they come in a textured matte case that is a little larger than the T90 – it’s around the same thickness but wider and weighs around 6g more at 56g. The case has the same exterior features as the T90. The TF8 earbuds are around 1g heavier than the T90 at 12g. You can see the dimensions of both cases overlaid on the image below.
Both earbuds look good but the T90 feel a little more premium and I personally prefer their design. But that will come down to personal preference – the T90 have the short stem design compared to the in-ear design of the TF8.
To make the most of these earbuds you’ll need to download the TONE Free app available on iOS and Android.
As well as configuring your earbuds, you can use the app to pair with additional devices. You need to enable multi-point and multi-pairing mode, tap on the + icon and then tap on “enter pairing mode”.
You can pair up to 5 devices which are displayed graphically in the app – and you can tap through to quickly see which devices you’ve previously connected to and delete any you no longer need – a nice little feature. They also support multi-point pairing so you can be paired to two devices at the same time and the earbuds will automatically switch to the active device. So if you start playing music on your iPhone, and then start watching a YouTube video on your iPad, they’ll seamlessly switch across. I found this a particularly useful feature and it worked well with both earbuds.
Initially I couldn’t find any way to pair the earbuds with additional devices without using the app. But it is possible – with the earbuds in their case and the case open, tap and hold on either earbud for a few seconds. The case’s front status LED will start flashing blue ready for pairing.
The app also shows you the battery remaining of both the charging case and earbuds, and lets you switch between ANC and Ambient sound mode, adjust EQ, toggle auto play and pause when you remove an earbud via their optical sensor, and you can install any firmware updates.
There’s also a graphical user manual and you can customise the touch pad buttons. By default a single tap of either earbud will play or pause your music, a double tap of the left and right earbud will adjust the volume down and up respectively, and a triple tap of either earbud will skip a track. Touch and hold to toggle between ANC and Ambient sound mode, which is accompanied by an audible prompt.
I really like the TONE Free LAB menu that lets you try out experimental features. Currently you can have the UVnano feature activate even without charging the case and the T90 have an interesting whispering mode that I’ll demonstrate shortly.
The T90 have a further two features missing on the TF8. You can enable the Dolby head Tracking mode, and there’s a Test My Best Fit feature to check you have the right size ear tips installed, and that you’ve inserted the earbuds correctly.
Both charging cases have a 390 mAh battery that takes around 2 hours for a full charge. The T90 earbuds each have a 51 mAh battery with a spec’d 9 hours of battery life without ANC on and 5 hours with it enabled.
The TF8 earbuds each have a larger 68 mAh battery for a slightly longer 10 hours of playback with ANC off and 6 hours with ANC on. They both charge in around one hour inside the case and a 5 minute charge will provide 1 hour of playback. Both charging cases will completely charge the earbuds at least twice. LG quote 29 hours of total playback with the UT90 and 30 hours with TF8 – with ANC off.
The T90 case also supports wireless charging with any standard Qi wireless charger – something missing on the TF8.
The Plug and Wireless feature works with both sets of earbuds. You can use this feature with devices that don’t have Bluetooth, for example many TVs, on a plane or here I’m using them on my desktop PC. Just connect the supplied USB-C to 3.5mm cable to the earbuds charging case, and the 3.5mm jack to the output of your device.
For instance the headphone port on my desktop PC although I need to use a ¼” adapter for my EVO 4 headphone jack. Then slide the Plug and Wireless switch to the right and you can now hear sound via the earbuds wirelessly. You can still use the ANC and Ambient sound modes, and some of the tap controls still work – like double tapping to adjust volume. A single tap mutes audio rather than pausing it – in YouTube and YouTube Music at least. There is some significant audio lag though – I hope that can be improved with a firmware update.
Audio quality and performance
The T90 earbuds have 11mm graphene drivers which helps them deliver very good bass for wireless earbuds with still plenty of clarity in the mids. And you can adjust their sound to your tastes very easily in the app with the various EQ presets. LG has again partnered with Meridian to tune these presets and they’ve done a good job.
I quite like the default “immersive” EQ profile for a lot of music I listen to, but there’s also a more balanced Natural mode and also bass and treble boost presets too. The 3D sound stage is intended for watching films or sporting events and is quite effective at generating a virtual surround sound experience.
The T90 have aptX support but more interestingly Dolby Atmos support for enhanced surround sound audio. It took a while to work this out, but on an Apple device you need to change the Device Type of the earbuds to Headphone in their Bluetooth settings to enable Dolby Atmos support. I confirmed this is the Apple Music app which displays Dolby Atmos with a supported track and these earbuds. But doesn’t without this enabled. I also tried playing back Dolby Atmos content on Netflix. I couldn’t see any visual cues that it was enabled like I get with my AirPods Pro but as with Apple Music, Dolby Atmos encoded content does sound very good. There’s also a YouTube video from Dolby that shows off this sound technology quite well.
If you enable Dolby Head Tracking in the TONE Free app, as you move your head from side to side and up and down, you’ll still hear the audio from directly in front of you, as if you’re at home in front of the TV or at the cinema.
The head tracking works with any content, not just Dolby Atmos – it just won’t be as accurate. I’m not a fan of head tracking for listening to audio. But watching films or music videos, it definitely does provide an impressively immersive experience.
The TF8 have smaller 6mm drivers and don’t have the full bodied sound and clarity of the T90 but still sound good. You don’t get Dolby Atmos and Dolby head tracking, or aptX for that matter, but you can still adjust EQ with the same 5 Meridian tuned presets.
Both sets of earbuds let you create 2 custom EQ presets with 8 sliders covering low, mid and high frequencies. I generally found the built in profiles sounded better to me at least, but it’s nice to have that level of customisation available.
I’ve used quality binaural microphones to record how both these earbuds sound so you can hear how they sound yourself in the accompanying video. I’ve also tapped through the various EQ profiles so you can hear what effect these profiles have.
You’ll need to listen with decent headphones for the best experience and even then this will only be an approximation to actually hearing them in person, but I hope it’s still useful.
Both the T90 and TF8 have active noise cancellation (ANC) and ambient sound mode, sometimes called transparency mode. You won’t get the eerie silence of high end over ear headphones, but the ANC is still quite effective, especially if you’re also playing back music. In a coffee shop I can play background music while I’m working at a very low volume and background noise is far less distracting.
And the ambient sound mode works very well with two modes – a general listening mode and a conversation mode which will pick out voices more clearly.
This ambient mode is a particularly useful feature for running or cycling where you need to hear what’s going on around you.
The noise cancelation is different for both sets of earbuds, but I think that’s partly to do with fit. I can’t really say one is superior to the other but I did find wind noise a little more apparent running with the T90 compared to the TF8.
Again you can have a listen for yourselves with a simulated journey on the London tube in the accompanying video.
LG makes various claims about the fit of these earbuds and I have to say they do both feel very secure and comfortable in my ears. Even the T90 which aren’t specifically designed for exercise were very secure in my ears running. They still have an IPX4 water resistance rating and coped fine with sweat. The TF8 do provide some additional security with their fins which lock them in place in your ear with a slight forward rotation.
And not only are they sweat resistant they can also be washed clean under a running tap with their IP67 waterproof rating. I also found their touch controls worked a little better on a sweaty run.
Both earbuds’ charging cases have UVnano technology which uses a built in UV LED light to try and reduce bacteria build up on the earbuds ear tips and speaker mesh. I really have no way of confirming how well this works, but it does feel somewhat reassuring.
By default the UVnano will activate when the earbuds are charging in their case and takes around 10 minutes. If you UVnano Always on in the TONE Free app as I discussed earlier, UVnano will function whenever you close the lid with the earbuds inside, so long as the charging case has over 40% charge. So not just while you’re charging the case with the USB charging cable.
The T90 uses 3 noise cancelling microphones for calls and the TF8 uses 2 and call quality was good. You can hear the microphone quality in the accompanying video.
I’m not sure how often I’d use it, but the T90 also has a Whispering Mode, again in the TONE Free app under TONE Free LAB. It turns the right earbud into a highly sensitive microphone – just enable the feature and hold the right earbud close to your mouth to try it out.
It’s always hard with earbuds to measure battery life – but I’ve no reason to question LGs claims. I’ve been using them a lot these last few weeks, mostly with either ANC or Ambient Sound mode on and I’ve only had to charge their case a few times.
Both earbuds support Bluetooth 5.3 and I didn’t have any issues with range in my testing and there was very little audio lag watching YouTube videos and Netflix – apart from when using the Plug and Wireless mode.
Both the TONE Free T90 and the TONE Free Fit TF8 have good sound quality, battery life and active noise cancellation. They both felt very secure in my ears but if you need a pair specifically for sport, the UTF8 with the extra security of the silicone fin and the IP67 waterproof rating may be the better option, and they have slightly longer battery life. They should also come in a little cheaper than the UT90. You can check the current prices down below in the description.
The T90 do sound better to my ears, have Dolby Atmos support, wireless charging and personally I prefer their look, although some might prefer the slightly more discrete in-ear design of the TF8.
Both earbuds also have the clever Plug and Wireless option and probably the most useful feature if you use your earbuds with multiple devices – the multi-point setting, that lets you seamlessly switch between those devices. I would prefer a separate pairing button on the case and I hope LG can fix the audio lag with the Plug and Wireless feature in a firmware update.
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