LG Tone Free Fit (TF8) review


LG’s Tone Free Fit Earbuds ($199), also known as the TF8 or TF8Q, join the Tone Free T90 ($229) as the latest entries in the LG’s line of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. society. They deliver powerful sound, are surprisingly customizable via a companion app, and offer decent active noise cancellation (ANC). Notably, they eschew all the fancy spatial audio features of the more expensive T90 in favor of a fully waterproof design, which is easily worth the trade-off in our book. Ultimately, the $199.99 Jabra Elite 7 Pro headphones remain our Editors’ Choice winner in the high-end exercise-friendly segment, with more effective noise cancellation, slightly better mics, and sound by default more pleasant. The TF8 in-ear headphones are a solid alternative, though, with better dust protection, a more granular app experience, and a charging case that converts wired audio to Bluetooth.

Waterproof and easy to control

Available in black with green accents, the TF8 headphones are big but light. Silicone ear hooks ensure a secure and comfortable fit even during vigorous exercise. The headphones come with three pairs of “medical grade silicone” eartips in small, medium and large sizes, as well as three sizes of removable ear hooks.

Internally, 6mm dynamic drivers deliver the audio. The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.3 and support AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX. This last omission makes it a stricter recommendation for Android users.

Capacitive touchscreens on the outside of each earbud are easy to use – in-ear audio prompts accompany each press and provide helpful feedback. The default control layout is sensible: tap either earbud once to control playback or answer a call; double tap to volume down (left) or up (right); and triple tap either earbud to skip forward one track. Finally, press and hold to toggle between ANC and Ambient settings. Notably, the companion app lets you add an option to the touch control selections to disable ANC and Ambient modes, as well as remove any of the existing options. You can also set the triple-tap gesture on the left earbud to skip back a track, a feature LG oddly leaves as default.

Accessories LG Tone Free Fit TF8

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

An IP67 rating is excellent and rare to see for true wireless ANC headphones. The first number in the rating (6) means the headphones are dustproof, while the second number (7) means you can submerge them to depths of up to one meter (3.3 feet) for 30 minutes no problem. The pair can also withstand modest water pressure from all directions, so you don’t have to worry about them breaking after a sweaty workout, a dip in the sink for cleaning, or a downpour. . The aforementioned Jabra Elite 7 Pro and Jabra Elite 7 Active ($179.99) headphones offer roughly the same durability with IP57 ratings, but the LG model still has the upper hand. This note does not apply to the charging case, so be sure to completely dry the earbuds before docking them.

The oval charging case features an easy-to-grip textured exterior and opens like a clamshell. There are two status lights on the front: one indicates battery life and the other turns blue when the internal UVnano function is active. LG says the latter uses ultraviolet light to fight bacteria on the tips, though we can’t confirm that claim. A USB-C port is on the back for the USB-C to USB-A charging cable, as well as the USB-C to 3.5mm audio cable (both are included). With the 3.5mm cable, you can use the case as a Bluetooth transmitter. In testing, it only took us a few seconds to start streaming audio from an iMac after connecting the box to it. This feature is useful for any non-wireless audio source that has a 3.5mm output.

LG estimates that the headphones can last around 10 hours per charge (with ANC off) and the case holds an additional 20 hours of charge (again, with ANC off). This battery life is particularly strong, although your results will vary depending on your typical listening volume and ANC usage.

Customizable audio, multipoint connectivity

We tested a beta version of the Tone Free app (available for Android and iOS). Beyond the standard features – you can install firmware updates, adjust on-ear controls and access a user manual – you get two customizable EQ presets with eight bands between 64Hz and 8kHz . Meridian audio presets are also present, but we’re not fans of their heavy-handed approach. Mixing and mastering engineers work very hard to ensure that audio sounds its best on a variety of platforms, and these presets mask the real sound. Sure, hardly any earbuds offer a truly accurate audio experience, but the Meridian Presets take you away from that norm. Keep it simple: Subtly tweak any of the custom EQ presets or leave everything off completely.

Free LG Tone app

(Credit: PCMag)

Otherwise, the app offers on-screen controls for ANC and Ambient modes – you can toggle the two settings, as well as switch between the two Ambient presets (one default option and one that focuses on vocals). You can also enable multipoint pairing and toggle the autoplay/pause setting. The Find My Earbuds feature and a low latency gaming mode round out the experience.

Average ANC performance

The TF8 in-ear headphones don’t stand out in the noise-canceling department, but they’re still competent for the price. They’re somewhat reminiscent of a powerful low-frequency rumble (like you hear on an airplane), but not as good as the high-end Sony WF-1000XM4 headphones ($279.99). In testing, they reduced the bass and mids of a recording of a busy restaurant with loud food and loud conversations to some extent, but plenty of treble, as well as audible high-frequency hiss, came through. . In the same scenario, Sony headphones are more effective against all frequencies (especially lows and mids), and they add much less hiss to the mix.

As for the ambient modes, both let in a natural-sounding environmental nose without having to remove the ear cups. The voice-focused mode is clearly better for conversations.

Powerful sound

The app defaults to the Meridian Bass Boost EQ preset, but you can also choose between Immersive, Natural, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, or 3D Sound Stage presets. The first and last choices add obvious spatial effects and we recommend leaving them off. But we also think you should disable Bass Boost mode – it’s an odd choice for a default setting, and the two custom EQ presets start you off at a more neutral place; you can leave the audio signature alone or make adjustments to your liking with these custom presets.

Without any adjustments to the standard custom EQ profile, the in-ear headphones deliver a powerful bass punch. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the pair delivers strong low-end response. At the highest volume levels, no distortion is present, and at more moderate volume levels, the bass still sounds robust.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover”, a track with much shallower bass in the mix, reveals the sonic signature better. The drums on this track sound natural and full in Custom EQ mode (without adjustment) – it’s not bass boosted or thin. Callahan’s vocals have a solid low-mid presence, while the high-mids and highs give the voice extra definition. Meanwhile, upper register percussive hits and acoustic strums sound clear and detailed. Adding a little (or a lot) of bass in the EQ gives drums and vocals more low-frequency weight than they need, but if you like that kind of audio signature, you can certainly tune the headphones towards that sound. And, of course, Meridian settings are here to try; they are also harmless whether you love them or hate them. An important note: the Meridian presets increase the volume a bit compared to the custom equalizer settings. Be careful when changing modes so that the volume change doesn’t surprise you.

LG Tone Free Fit TF8 close

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the bass drum loop is given the perfect high-mid presence, allowing it to retain its punchy attack, while the vinyl background crackles and hisses a step forward. in the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are also solidly deep. These elements feature modest rumble, but not to an overwhelming degree. Boosting bass in the EQ or switching to the Bass Boost option pumps up the drum loop, but has a much less obvious impact on sub-bass synth hits – drivers can’t quite reach thunderous depths like many competing models. Most people won’t find fault with the bass response in any way. The vocals on this track are clear, but perhaps with a hint of sibilance.

Orchestral tracks, such as John Adams’ opening scene The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a clear and detailed sound, with a pleasant anchoring in the low frequencies. The emphasis is on the upper register instrumentation, but the track still sounds full and not too bright.

The mic array works well, and we had no trouble understanding every word of a test recording on an iPhone. We noticed some occasional Bluetooth artifacts, but the signal still seems stronger than most true wireless models. You shouldn’t have any issues with call clarity.

Unusually customizable headphones for exercise

The LG TF8 earphones deliver robust audio performance and are tough enough to survive almost any scenario. We particularly like the companion app, which has enough features to help you customize the experience, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. Compared to LG’s other recent true wireless earbuds, the T90s, the TF8s are slightly more affordable, better for exercising, and devoid of head tracking and spatial audio features. Jabra’s Elite 7 Pro ultimately remains our Editors’ Choice winner for the premium exercise headphones category due to its more effective ANC and pleasing default sound quality, although we can’t deny the solid application experience of the LG T8 pair and its superior dust protection.

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