LG Tone Free T90 review

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8Expert Score
LG Tone Free T90 review: Not quite bang for your puck

LG has stuffed these true wireless earbuds full of high-end technology, but the overall experience is left lacking.

Design
8.5
Performance
7.5
Pros
  • Case makes any 3.5mm jack a Bluetooth source
  • Dolby Atmos works well with a good source
  • Nice sound on Immersive EQ preset
Cons
  • Virtual Atmos setting on stereo music sounds bad
  • Microphones pick up wind noise too easily
  • Connectivity issues

LG isn’t necessarily the first brand you think of when it comes to noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds. But the Tone Free T90 earbuds are a good argument that LG is here to compete with the big brands.

LG’s pitch is a pair of earbuds with plenty of high-quality technologies packed into a really compact body. 

At the forefront of those technologies is supporting Dolby Head Tracking to create an immersive Dolby Atmos experience. 

Immersive spatial audio is commonplace in home theatre setups where LG is perhaps better known, so there’s a lot of potential for LG to shine here.

The company has also partnered with audio company Meridian for its expertise in Digital Signal Processing (DSP), which helps deliver a number of impressive EQ presets.

But while the tech is exciting and the audio is good, regular connectivity problems and some challenges with the noise cancellation hold these earbuds back.

Design

Looking straight down on the case of the T90 earbuds

At this point, if you’ve seen one pair of true wireless earbuds, you’ve seen them all, right? 

The T90 earbuds themselves look remarkably like dark grey AirPods Pro, with a relatively short stem and a replaceable silicone ear fitting that will help you find the best possible seal.

I found the earbuds fit quite well. I could wear them comfortably during a brisk walk without fearing they would bounce out. It’s worth mentioning that the “Test my best fit” function in the app never accepted the fit in my right ear, though, regardless of how firmly I wedged it in there or what size silicone tip I used.

The earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant, while the ANC function offers both ambient mode – so you can hear your surroundings – and conversation mode, so you can more clearly hear someone talking to you through the earbuds.

The case 

Looking at the earbuds in the case

The case, meanwhile, is a notably small circular puck. It slips easily in a pocket and is solidly built, unlike the case of the Belkin Soundform Immerse earbuds.

It can be a little challenging to open, though – you’re going to need both hands to do it most of the time.

The rear of the charging puck houses a USB-C port for charging, while the left-hand side has a switch on the side, whose function is not clear at first.

Basically, it allows you to connect the puck to a 3.5mm audio port using an included cable to turn that device into a Bluetooth transmitter for the earphones. 

I tested this out by plugging it into my PS5 DualSense controller, and I have to say it worked really well. 

It effectively turns a wired headphone jack into a Bluetooth receiver. The obvious use-case here is on a plane, and being able to use your T90 with the in-flight entertainment.

UV Hygiene

Close up of the left T90 earbud.

One of the other features on the spec sheet for the T90 is the UVnano feature, which uses UV light in the case to kill the bacteria that accumulates on the earbuds.

It’s not quite as straightforward as that, though. It only works when you’ve got the earbuds in the case and the case on charge, and reportedly takes about 10 minutes to complete. 

Though from what I can tell, there’s no way to actually know if it works. There’s no alert to inform you that UV cleaning has taken place or not. You just have to trust it does the job when you aren’t looking.

Also, worth noting is that killing bacteria is not the same as cleaning off ear wax. You’ll still need to do that manually, and it’s still gross.

Performance

From the outset, the audio quality of the Tone Free T90 is great. The partnership with Meridian pays off, with the Immersive EQ setting delivering a full-bodied sound that’s well-balanced and puts you into the music.

I found the other Meridian presets less impressive for my personal taste, though yours may differ. The “Natural” preset sounds a little hollow, with songs like Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah feeling like it is coming from somewhere else.

I also found Bass Boost on most songs sacrifices clarity in the low end for volume, though admittedly, I am not someone who listens to too much bass-heavy music in my day-to-day listening.

Dolby Atmos

The LG Tone Free T90 in my left ear

But while the Meridian partnership delivers a solid stereo audio experience, it’s the Dolby Audio partnership that is far more interesting here. The earbuds will track your head position to create a virtual soundstage, surrounding you with audio, and adjusting the source of the audio depending on which way you are facing.

It’s a really cool party trick. And it works really well when you’re watching a movie or TV show mixed in 5.1. 

For music, it’s a little more touch and go. Paired to my iPhone 11 Pro and playing songs through Apple Music, it was clear that it wasn’t delivering the same “spatial” audio experience I get through my AirPods Pro. 

Listening to Kaleo’s A/B album, which is available in Lossless on Apple Music but not Dolby Audio, you still get an artificial surround experience, where the music seems to come from a position in front of you. 

But if you turn your head, it will rotate, so it’s still coming from that direction, you just hear it more through one ear.

However, if you turn your head from side to side, the dominance of the sound moves from one earphone to the other, which is disconcerting.

Listening to Paramore’s This is Why album on Apple Music, which is mixed and available in Dolby Atmos, the effect is still there. This indicates it’s not actually playing the Atmos mix, but applying a virtual surround to the stereo track. 

All this does not imply that the surround effect isn’t worth using. It’s particularly good while watching movies, but I found it less appealing for music, despite being a big spatial music fan on Apple Music normally.

Controls and connectivity

Close up of the two earbuds

Controlling your music is a fairly limited affair. There are touch-sensitive controls on each earbud. I found them to be a little too sensitive, constantly pausing the music when I just wanted to make the earbud more secure in my ear.

You can customise the controls in the LG Tone Free app, with options for single, double, and triple taps on each ear, or a long press on either earbud. By default, there’s no earbud control for activating your voice assistant.

Which is to say that to really take advantage of these earbuds, you need to download the app. 

Of bigger concern are the connectivity issues I encountered. Regularly, the T90 would simply stop playing music, despite the earbuds sitting securely in my ears and no controls being pressed. 

Other times, they would flat out refuse to pair to my devices. They support multipoint and multi-pairing for up to 5 different devices, but I found I oftentimes had to delve right into the deepest part of my Bluetooth setting to find the earbuds to connect manually.

ANC

The noise cancellation does a pretty solid job of blocking out external noise. As I sit here writing this, my neighbour is having their bathroom renovated and the jackhammer sounds only just cut through the sound of the music.

Ambient mode and conversation mode maybe don’t pass through enough external audio for my liking. Unless the volume is down extremely low, you can barely hear any external sounds. 

One of the biggest disappointments I had with the T90 though was the fact that they become almost unusable when listening in windy conditions. The microphone picks up that wind and amplifies it whether you are on noise cancellation or either of the passthrough ambient modes, and there are no settings in the app that can change that. 

Battery life

LG claims up to 9 hours of playback with the T90, though that’s with the noise cancellation switched off. With ANC on, you’ll get about 5 hours of battery life from the earbuds.

That’s fairly standard for the market, and is typically enough for a commute. The case holds a few extra charges in there as well, so you’ll be able to get through a day before you need to plug the whole thing in.

Verdict

The LG Tone Free T90 earbuds case

You can tell that LG is committed to making itself a player in the true wireless audio space by the sheer amount of technology it’s packed into the compact T90 earbuds. 

But while the result is a compact, comfortable pair of earbuds that sound pretty good, there’s still something missing when it comes to the implementation of all that tech.

The Dolby Atmos implementation, especially, feels undercooked. To be fair, part of that is probably down to the music services and the availability of the surround mixes.

But in those situations, no Atmos would be better than the strange virtual approach you get here.

Other connectivity challenges, and the pickup of wind in the microphone, make these earbuds ultimately hard to recommend at RRP, especially when compared to Apple’s AirPods Pro.

However, there is a remarkable foundation here for LG to grow from. With improvements to the ANC, and a clearer implementation of Dolby Atmos, these earbuds would comfortably compete to be one of the best pairs of true wireless earbuds.

Buy the LG Tone Free T90 online

AU $356.31
AU $399.00
Free delivery
as of 27 May 2024 10:07 am
Amazon.com.au
Product disclosure

LG supplied the product for this review.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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