LG Tone Free T90Q review: Taking a spatial shot on the AirPods Pro, with a bit of help from Dolby
“Hyper-immersive listening and an insane variety of features.”
- Head-tracking spatial audio
- Good ANC and transparency
- Very comfortable
- Wired listening option
- Good call quality
- AptX Adaptive
- Bluetooth multipoint
- May sound too processed for some
Let’s just get this out of the way in which: The LG Tone Free T90Q not only look similar to Apple’s iconic AirPods Pro — they provide almost the entire AirPods Pro’s signature features (and lots of it lacks), including head-tracking spatial audio. That latter part is significant, though, on condition that there are such a lot of copycat earbuds that look the part but fall short where it really counts.
Apple’s AirPods Pro are known for a lot of things, like their superb noise canceling and almost magical transparency mode. But within the last 12 months, much of the main target has been placed on their spatial audio capabilities, which use a type of head-tracking for an additional level of immersive sound. And while spatial audio won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, Apple isn’t any longer the one company serving it up on a set of wireless earbuds.
LG has brought in the massive guns for its earbuds — the T90Q are the primary to include Dolby Labs’ head-tracking tech. Does that matter? On condition that Dolby kind of wrote the book on spatial audio when it launched Dolby Atmos, it definitely should matter. But can the dynamic duo that’s LG x Dolby outclass Apple’s aging knight in white armor? Just one solution to discover.
What’s within the box?
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
The Tone Free T90Q ship in an admirably recyclable box. Inside you’ll find the Tone Free already inside their charging case, with two extra sizes of silicone ear suggestions, and two cables. One in all them will look familiar (the USB-A to USB-C charging cable), and the opposite won’t (it’s a USB-C to three.5mm headphone jack cable). What’s a headphone cable doing in a wireless earbuds box? Don’t worry, it’s not a mistake, and I’ll explain in a moment.
LG Tone Free T90Q (left) and Apple AirPods Pro. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
In size, shape, and weight, the Tone Free T90Q — which are available in black or white — are very much like the AirPods Pro. When you just like the look of the AirPods, you’ll feel right at home with the Tone Free.
Like Apple’s buds, these are IPX4 waterproof, which implies workouts or the occasional splash of water must be positive — just don’t shower with them or dunk them in water. Each bud has a touch-sensitive area near where the stems meet the primary housing for tap controls.
To date, so similar, but their charging cases couldn’t be more different.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Each offer wireless charging, but LG goes further, with “UVnano,” a novel ultraviolet light contained in the case that gets triggered at any time when you place it on a charger or plug it in. LG claims that light can rid the ideas of the Tone Free from as much as 99.9% of bacteria. I’ve never thought much about ear bacteria but it surely kinda is smart, and if LG’s system even helps a bit of between routine cleanings, I’m all for it.
For a whole lot of folks, the massive selling feature might be that little switch you’ll be able to see on the case’s side, something the T90Q has inherited from the Tone Free FP9. Flip it toward the headphone jack icon and it transforms the case right into a hi-res audio Bluetooth transmitter, which could be used with digital and analog audio sources using either of the included cables.
The analog cable (that one with the headphone jack on it) is ideal for airplanes or older TVs, while the USB-A to USB-C is what you’d use to get digital audio — say from a PC or Android device. Given most of a majority of these digital audio devices have already got Bluetooth, the actual profit is with the ability to use the case’s aptX Adaptive capability because PC and Macs rarely use this hi-res audio codec.
Using this feature pulls power from the case’s internal battery, and there’s no solution to charge and transmit at the identical time, so keep that in mind when you determine to make use of it somewhere where there’s no easy accessibility to an outlet. (Hmm … like an airplane?)
Comfort, controls, and connections
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Because of a really ergonomic design, and a smooth plastic surface, the T90Q are super-comfy. And though they aren’t intended as earbuds for understanding, I discovered them to be quite stable and secure, even on the gym. The one times they worked themselves a bit of loose was after I talked for 10 minutes or more, but I find most earbuds I take advantage of try this too. Possibly it’s me.
Using the fit test built into the LG Tone Free app, I could tell that though the default medium eartips felt positive, I needed the big size for a correct seal. I encourage you to do the identical — comfort doesn’t at all times tell the entire story, and an improper fit will result in worse sound quality (especially within the low frequencies) and poor lively noise cancellation (ANC). By the way in which, I’ll be heaping a whole lot of praise on the Tone Free app on this review – it’s superb.
Regular readers of my earbuds reviews will know I generally prefer physical buttons over touch controls, however the Tone Free T90Q’s touch controls are nearly perfect.
I say nearly, since the one thing that’s lower than ideal is the dimensions of the touch-sensitive area. It’s situated at the highest of the stem, and there’s a small raised bump to allow you to locate it, but it surely still takes some precision to hit it accurately.
You do, nonetheless, get used to it over time. And, thankfully, the buds let you understand if you got it right, with an audible and satisfying click that sounds like a button-press.
You get single, double, and triple-tap gestures to work with, plus a tap-and-hold option, for a complete of eight different commands. By default, they cover the entire essentials: play/pause, call answer/end, volume up/down, track skipping, and activating your selected ANC mode. But contained in the Tone Free app, LG allows you to change these gestures to do whatever you would like, including the choice to access your phone’s voice assistant.
Wear sensors allow you to auto-pause/resume your tunes if you remove/replace an earbud and it really works almost immediately. Don’t take care of that feature? You’ll be able to turn it off within the app.
Getting the T90Q paired is a snap for Android users due to Google Fast Pair support (it’s pretty painless for iPhones, too). And with Bluetooth Multipoint, you’ll be able to pair two devices concurrently, which works seamlessly between phones and computers. Once more, the Tone Free app kicks it up a notch by supplying you with a tool pairing control panel of a form — it visually represents the entire devices you’ve previously paired to the earbuds and allows you to manage those connections just by tapping. You may as well force the earbuds back into pairing mode from the identical interface by utilizing the plus sign — so handy!
In my short time with these earbuds, they proved to have a rock-solid connection, but with Bluetooth 5.3, there must be little cause for concern. You should utilize each earbud independently for each calls and music.
Lately, getting probably the most out of a complicated set of wireless earbuds means having a well thought out companion app for iOS and Android, and I feel LG has absolutely nailed that requirement with its Tone Free app.
It’s not only chock-full of features — the truth is, I can’t consider any which are absent — but it surely also lays those options out in a clean, easy-to-use interface, that doesn’t bury settings inside multiple layers of menus, or clutter things up with multiple tabs.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
“Immersive” is a word that’s on the verge of being overused. But when ever there have been a set of wireless earbuds that I can safely say will provide you with a heightened sense of immersion, it’s the LG Tone Free T90Q. That’s each good, and possibly bad, depending on the way you wish to listen.
Contained in the Tone Free app, there’s an Equalizer Setting section, divided into three parts. In the primary part, Meridian, the storied UK audio group that has worked extensively with LG, contributes five EQ presets contained in the Tone Free app, including Immersive and 3D Sound Stage.
A second part allows you to toggle Dolby Atmos head-tracking — the debut appearance of Dolby’s lively spatial audio system — while the third part allows you to set two of your individual EQ preferences using an eight-band graphic equalizer.
These parts operate independently, with each supplying you with a particular variety of listening experience. The Meridian presets — especially the Immersive and 3D Sound Stage ones — create a huge sense of space and presence. The soundstage seems like it extends outward in all directions, along with your head in the middle of all of it. Bass response (and nearly every thing else too) is big and daring. When you like EDM or hip hop, you’ll be convinced that you simply’re on the ground of your favorite club. When you’re on the gym, it can lend a recent level of energy to your workouts.
Tracks like Edamame by Bbno$ and Blinding Lights by The Weeknd profit probably the most from this treatment, but it could actually also lend an brisk boost to arena rock standards like AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.
Immersive mode has a bent to spike up the high frequencies, at times to the purpose of harshness. But true to its name, it feels all-encompassing. 3D Sound Stage tones things down a bit and pushes out the boundaries of space even further. They’re each highly entertaining as effects, but I discovered additionally they produced listening fatigue after some time, sending me looking for a neutral EQ. That’s where I bumped into a little bit of an issue — a neutral EQ is difficult to search out.
The closest thing Meridian’s presets offer is something called Natural, which is way less processed needless to say, but still noticeably enhanced. Strangely, if you jump into the Custom section to create your individual presets, the default flat EQ — which one would normally expect to sound pretty — sounds dull and lifeless. To bring some energy back into the combination requires some deft manipulation of those eight sliders.
I feel the audiophiles on the market already know where I’m going with this: these usually are not the earbuds for those in search of pure, unadulterated stereo sound reproduction.
Now let’s speak about Dolby Atmos head-tracking. It’s trippy. It really works similarly to the version that Apple employs on its AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and Gen-3 AirPods, by treating the direction your head is facing as “forward.” The moment you switch your head, the vast majority of the sound shifts toward the ear that’s now within the forward position, which creates the very effective illusion that the sound you’re hearing is coming from that forward position — not from two tiny speakers inside your ears.
That positioning isn’t absolute: when you keep your head turned, the sensors will re-align the music in about 5 to 7 seconds, supplying you with a recent forward to work from. It’s probably not the most effective selection for the gym, but when sitting on a couch and even in your day by day commute it’s kinda fun.
Because the name suggests, Dolby Atmos head-tracking is supposed to be a compliment to Dolby Atmos content, whether it’s a movie soundtrack or Dolby Atmos Music. But I discovered that after I enabled it, the effect was available for the entire audio I listened to, including standard stereo tracks and TV shows. That’s an enormous difference from Apple’s version, which is strictly limited to Atmos Music and certain sorts of Atmos or Dolby 5.1 soundtracks.
Apple and Dolby’s head-tracking also differ in how they manage the actual sound. With Dolby, if you turn your head, a lot of the audio stays within the forward position. Apple’s version is more subtle, sometimes pinning just one or two elements, just like the vocals or lead guitar, while the remaining of the music follows your moves. Which is best? As with all things audio, it’s a matter of taste. For movies, I prefer Apple’s system. For music, I’m happier with Dolby’s.
I discussed it earlier, but it surely’s value repeating, for those who care about Bluetooth codecs, the T90Q support SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive, for as much as 24-bit/96kHz lossy hi-res audio on devices that support it, but for those who don’t (or don’t support Bluetooth in any respect), the Tone Free’s clever case is a remarkable workaround.
Simply sliding the switch connects the case to the earbuds, supplying you with the flexibility to listen to analog or digital music sources via the included cables. I attempted it with my laptop’s headphone jack in addition to the machine’s USB-C port, and each worked just positive, although the audio quality from the USB port was a lot better.
Noise canceling and transparency
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
The Tone Free T90Q do an admirable job of ANC, dealing very effectively with all but the very best sound frequencies. Whether it’s the roar of traffic or construction, or the constant droning of a fan, you’ll find every thing’s rather a lot quieter with ANC mode turned on.
Between the AirPods Pro and the T90Q, it’s hard to say which one does a greater job — they’re very similar, but when you’re in search of the most effective ANC at this price, I’d say it’s still the Technics EAH-AZ60.
On the transparency side of things, no wireless earbuds have been in a position to best the AirPods Pro, and that goes for the Tone Free as well, but it surely’s still greater than adequate for letting within the sounds that matter, be it a conversation, or simply the entire little cues that keep you protected while negotiating a busy intersection.
Switching between the 2 modes is fast and simple, and you’ll be able to select contained in the Tone Free app if you need to toggle between ANC, transparency, and off, or any two of those options.
The mics on the T90Q do a superb job of preserving your voice, with a full, resonant sound that feels more lifelike, and fewer such as you’re talking through a metal pipe. That sound quality is at its best if you’re indoors and things are relatively quiet, but it could actually still manage outside situations too — it just struggles a bit when competing sounds get really loud.
Thankfully, wind proved to be very well-managed, and it’s easy to modify to transparency mid-call so that you could hear your individual voice more clearly.
LG claims you’ll get nine hours of use from the Tone Free buds without ANC turned on, and an extra 20 hours from the charging case. Those are decent, if not stellar, numbers, but remember that ANC, and optional features like using a case as a transmitter or selecting to have interaction the UVnano cleansing when the case isn’t charging, will take a fairly large bite out of each of those stats. I discovered that with ANC turned on, and volume set at 50%, I got just below five hours of playtime.
LG features a fast-charge feature, which may offer you an additional hour of playtime for just five minutes of charging — much like what you get with the AirPods Pro.
The LG Tone Free T90Q are a formidable set of wireless earbuds: comfortable, and full of features which are each handy and modern. And while their sound won’t be to everyone’s tastes, they convey a level of immersion to your music and movie experience that needs to be heard to be appreciated.
Is there a greater alternative?
If it’s an immersive, spatial audio experience you seek, two options come to mind. The primary and obvious selection is the $249 AirPods Pro. They’re a bit pricier, and don’t have as many features, they usually don’t play nicely with Android, but when you’re an iPhone user, they’re superb and have a fun and interesting (if somewhat limited content-wise) head-tracking spatial audio option.
The second selection is the $129 Sudio E2, a really inexpensive set of wireless earbuds that make use of spatial audio processing for an experience that may’t quite match the T90Q’s Dolby Atmos head-tracking, but that nonetheless offer a much more immersive listening experience than standard stereo.
Want improbable (but far less processed) sound, ANC, and transparency, look no further than the $230 Technics EAH-AZ60.
How long will they last?
When you’re careful with them, the Tone Free T90Q should offer you a few years of service. Battery life will shorten over time, so when you anticipate needing to listen for long sessions between charges, remember it’s possible you’ll have to keep ANC turned off to achieve this.
Must you buy them?
Yes. LG has given the Tone Free T90Q an enormous array of features for the worth and I feel that almost all people will really enjoy the mix of Meridian’s EQ presets and Dolby Atmos head-tracking. The incontrovertible fact that it has excellent ANC, transparency, and may hook up with almost any device you’ll be able to consider, are the cherries on top.