The LG Tone FP8 is the latest release in the electronics giant’s true wireless portfolio that blends the series’ biggest features together into a sleek package. I’m talking active noise cancellation, professional quality hi-fi audio courtesy of Meridian, extensive listening modes, reliable battery life, and steady connectivity. More importantly, these buds do something that no non-LG model can: clean themselves via UVnano technology.
- Our expert picks for the best wireless earbuds, per budget and style
- Check out our Apple AirPods Pro review
- …and our Sony WF-1000XM4 review
On paper, this is some serious firepower that should allow the Tone Free FP8 to share the same space as category leaders such as the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM4. Had it not been for a few missteps with ANC and call quality, that would certainly be the case. Nonetheless, the Tone Free FP8 will appease your entertainment and germophobic needs like no other buds out there.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Availability and price
The LG Tone Free FP8 launched at $179 and is currently on sale for $149. You can purchase it in black at Amazon or directly from LG. Bundled with the purchase are a wireless charging case, USB-C charging cable, three sets of different sized ear tips, and an owner’s manual.
These buds come in at a higher price point than popular models such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149) and Beats Studio Buds ($149), but are also less expensive compared to the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279). If your budget is limited and want something similar on the performance end, consider the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, which is as low as $84.99 at Best Buy, at the time of publishing.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Design and comfort
This version of the Tone Free wireless earbuds looks nearly identical to its predecessor, the FN7. The only visible differences between the two are the slightly shorter stems and UVnano technology (check for the neon lighting when charging) on the FP8. These give the FP8 a more discrete and flashier appearance than the AirPods. I also love the detailing, from the smooth and shiny finish to the tiny bump at the top that acts as a touch panel.
Build quality is on point with sturdy plastic and aluminum protecting the exterior, along with IPX4 water & sweat resistance.
The hockey puck-inspired charging case remains as chic, compact, and travel-friendly as ever. It feels solid, and the magnets are strong to keep the lid shut when charging on the go. Two tiny LEDs are placed on the front to inform you of battery levels and UVnano activation, while a USB-C charging port hides in the back.
Comfort and fit are the same as the previous version. The angled sound port allows for seamless insertion. Wearing the buds for several hours throughout the day was pleasant, especially in the afternoon where I would zone out for 3 hours straight playing music. Fatigue set in a little after that time frame, though my ears only required 30 minutes of rest before proceeding with testing.
LG’s silicone tips create a tight seal around the canal to optimize fit. I moved around the house at different paces over the course of five days and never had the buds fall out. It would have been great if LG developed an ear fit tip test like Apple and several other companies have done, but something tells me they’re saving it for the next version.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Controls and digital assistant
A full suite of media controls is provided that can be enabled through single/multi-tap and hold gestures. Playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, and listening mode activation are all accounted for. LG did a standout job of assigning each function to a select input method, plus you can personalize the control scheme in the Tone Free app, which is recommended to place full functionality at your fingertips.
The touch sensors are responsive and pick up on gestures immediately. Users can also employ swipes instead of taps, a technique I found more accommodating to enable functions.
It turns out that the FP8 supports Google Assistant, Siri, Bixby, and Alexa, the latter requiring you to download the Alexa app. My experiences were fine when using three out of the four; the mics picked up vocals well and the AI bots returned results as fast as they recognized voice commands. So, which was the troublemaker? Siri. Either the feature would exhibit serious lag (5 to 10 seconds) when responding to inquiries or time out and send an error message every time I activated it on my MacBook Pro.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Audio quality
Audio on the Tone Free series hasn’t changed, and that’s a good thing. Once again, LG partnered with Meridian, utilizing the audio pioneer’s Headphone Spatial Processing technology on the FP8 to deliver a full soundstage with “pristine clarity.”
Rock classics like Van Halen’s “Jump” had me hyped from the start. The isolated drums, bass, and screams blended well over the high-energy synths on the intro. Performance was elevated to an 11 once the thundering snares and David Lee Roth’s commanding vocal pitch came into play, both of which were reproduced superbly. But it was Eddie Van Halen’s explosive riff play on the bridge that sold me on the buds’ definition and depth. This track sounds even more enamoring when swapping out the EQ.
The Tone Free app greets you with several Equalizer settings on the home screen, consisting of two custom profiles to tweak frequencies for personalized hearing and five great presets: Bass Boost, Immersive, Natural, Treble Boost, and 3D Sound Stage. Listening to “Jump” with Immersive enabled gave the synths and drums a more pronounced and livelier presence.
Pop and hip-hop tracks packed a mean punch when turning on Bass Boost. The low-key bassline on Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E” had some mean reverberation to it, while the drums on the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” came pounding right out of the gate. Natural came in handy for ballads like Mariah Carey’s “Hero” and Treble Boost was essential for emphasizing the saxophone and trumpet play on Jazz records like Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me a Bedtime Story.”
3D Sound Stage was engineered for Hollywood blockbusters and live performances. I pulled up a few Avengers: Endgame clips to get a feel for action and dialogue-heavy scenes and wasn’t disappointed. The dramatic score was more intense and made the final battle sound like I was watching the film in a Dolby Atoms theater. While not as intuitive as the AirPods Pro’s spatial audio mode, which uses headtracking to produce 3D-like effects, this mode is arguably the best alternative.
There is a Game Mode available that lowers latency when playing video games. I notice very little difference when turning it on and playing a handful of mobile titles.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Active noise cancellation
My noise-cancelling experiences with some of LG’s past releases were mostly gratifying, but the FP8 feels like a step down for the brand. ANC performance is far from terrible, but it isn’t anything to brag about.
LG developed two different ANC modes: High and Low. The former is described as “providing comfortable noise canceling” and the latter lets you “feel immersive noise canceling.” Unless you have detailed hearing, it’s unlikely that you will hear the differences between the two. High is the way to go if you want the very best noise neutralization on these buds. During a grocery run to Publix, most ambient noises were muted. This consisted of droning refrigerators, speaker announcements, and talkative shoppers. High-frequency sounds were the problem. To hear a child crying from the opposite end of a supermarket speaks for itself.
Wearing the buds outside, it was nice to block out planes that flew over the house, chatty pedestrians, and even some landscaping tools. Then a caravan of 2020 election protesters (yep, they’re still at it) rode by honking their horns incessantly, which was audible at a high level from the front porch. Switching over to Low only made these noises more unbearable.
Ambient Sound also has two modes that come in handy for certain situations. Listening is geared towards increasing awareness of your surroundings and does a fantastic job of piping in incidental sounds to keep your guard up. Conversation is self-explanatory, opening the mics to let in voices clearly, which was the case every time I spoke with my wife during work hours. There were times where I could even hear her whispering to me as our baby napped, something that really surprised me.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: App and special features
Before diving into LG’s feature-laden app, let’s discuss the FP8’s biggest selling point: UVnano technology. This specialized lighting is integrated into the charging case and can kill 99.9% of bacteria found on speaker mesh. The feature activates when the buds are charging. There is no way for the average consumer to determine how effective this technology is, so we’re left taking LG at their word.
The company does claim that the Tone Free series comes UL-verified, and is certified by two laboratories, and has undergone independent testing, if that counts for anything.
Now, onto the Tone Free app. Control customization, Game Mode, and the Equalizer were already discussed in detail, but there is plenty more functionality to uncover. There is a battery level indicator for the buds, along with numerous toggle controls for the listening modes, auto pause/play, touchpad lock, and notification settings. Another one of these toggles is called Intelligent Sorting, which automatically sorts items in the app by analyzing your usage patterns.
Like Samsung, LG has its own Labs section that hosts in-development features for users to play with, should they choose to. Here is where you’ll find the aforementioned Game Mode, along with Whispering Mode, which will come up again when discussing the FP8’s call quality.
Rounding out the Tone Free app is a Find My Earbuds function and firmware updates.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Battery life and charging case
Playtimes range from 6 hours (ANC on) to 10 hours (ANC off). Take high volume, special features, and streaming into account and battery life drops by 30 minutes to 1 hour. I’m not complaining, since these are longer listening times than the AirPods Pro (4.5 to 5 hours), but I would be remiss not to share other models that offer more: the Master & Dynamic MW08 Sport (10 to 12 hours) and Sony WF-1000XM4 (8 to 12 hours) come to mind.
Fast charging is some of the most powerful out there, matching the AirPods Pro and WF-1000XM4 with a 5-minute charge generating 1 hour of use.
The charging case holds between 15 to 24 hours, depending on how you use the buds. By comparison, the AirPods Pro case holds 24 hours, which is considered the industry standard. At the same time, we’re seeing other ANC rivals with charging cases that carry more portable power. Once again, reference the Master & Dynamic MW08 Sport (42 hours) or Sony WF-1000XM4 (24 to 35 hours). Wireless charging is available, so you can power up the buds by placing the case atop a qi-enabled charging pad.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Call quality and connectivity
The Tone Free FP8 does little to impress as a calling headset. In fact, I found these buds worse for calls than the FN6 and FN7. All the feedback I received from clients and friends was bad; one person joked that it sounded liked I was caught in a hurricane due to all the wind interference. My wife added to the long list of criticisms, stating my voice was heavily muffled outside, and while slightly better inside, it was still unclear at times.
The Free FP8 was useful for video chats, but when I wasn’t testing it, my go-to pair was the AirPods Pro or whatever set of wireless earbuds was up next for review.
LG introduced a new mode called Whispering Mode, and, honestly, I failed to understand its serviceability. According to LG, using the mode requires holding the right earbud near the mouth to speak softly on the phone and that speaking loudly may “experience poor audio quality during a call.” The missus couldn’t tell any real difference between Normal and Whispering. I also felt dumb whispering into one bud that was placed near my mouth, especially since the left bud or both buds should already be engineered to pick up vocals clearly.
You can expect steady connectivity through Bluetooth 5.0. The pairing processing is instantaneous, primarily with Android devices, thanks to one-touch Google Fast Pair. Pairing to iOS/macOS devices won’t require much effort either. Range might be the FP8’s unsung feature. I was fortunate to enjoy close to 50 feet of wireless listening before dropout occurred.
Multipoint technology may not be part of the package, but the Free FP8 has some noteworthy auto-switch capabilities, automatically transferring connectivity to another device when selected.
LG Tone Free FP8 review: Verdict
The FP8 is LG’s best pair of wireless earbuds to date. I don’t know why it took them so long to offer up the complete package in one bundle, but you now have a Tone Free model that grants you most, if not all, of the series hallmarks (e.g., ANC, specific Lab modes, UVnano). Sound is loud, spacious, and detailed, complementing all media formats. The Tone Free app is loaded with features to play around with and enhance the user experience. Being able to eliminate bacteria on the buds by leaving them in the case is also relieving and reassuring, considering the times we’re living in.
Ambient listening is another strong trait of the FP8, but noise cancellation, while useful in certain scenarios, doesn’t feel as powerful as it does on older Tone Free versions. The dip in call quality and bugginess of Siri bring down the FP8’s score as well.
All that being said, the FP8 is still a relatively affordable option for those who want buds that deliver excellent sound, and can even clean themselves.