DISCLOSURE: Earbuds were received from LG South Africa and not returned.
The convenience of wireless earbuds can’t be overstated. While wired buds might arguably have better sound, the ease of which you can pop in wireless buds and go about your business is simply unmatched.
We tested the first batch of LG’s buds (our FN6 review), in the meantime these received a few updates, including active noise cancellation on the LG Tone Free TONE-FP9. But first things first - one of the most important aspects of your new wireless buds will be fit.
Good Fit and ANC
The LG FP9 is comfortable, even for extended periods of time, with three different size tips provided. While the larger sized tips do a better job of sealing off the ear passage to external sounds, for me the medium size was a more comfortable fit.
Yes, initially you are going to accidently hit the touchpads when taking them in or out, but after a while you learn how to be more careful. LG did a great job in keeping the buds secure in your ear, and I even went out running with them without it falling out. Other earbuds I’ve used had a tendency to drop out when bending forward, but the LG FP9 stays put, only doing so when wearing them a bit loose in the ear.
While fit is key, it also plays a role in LG’s noise-cancellation technology. It’s easier to recommend larger, over-the-ear earphones when it comes to active noise cancellation, simply because the design helps passively seal off external noise. I was slightly sceptical about the LG FP9’s capabilities until I tried the active noise cancellation while on a flight. It did a great job of at least cutting out the worst noise, tested by turning the ANC on and off through the LG Tone Free app. This also works for noise from a vacuum cleaner and coffee shop din, although the higher pitched the noise, the more likely to get through.
App included plus decent sound
The Tone Free app on Android works well, and it’s here where most of the functionality can be changed. From selecting options on noise cancellation and ambient sound; choosing your equaliser settings, turning on/off auto pause; to changing your touchpad settings, all this is activated through the app. It also automatically checks updates to firmware, and you can also turn on chirping sounds on each earbud individually to find your missing buds – a convenient feature since these little buds are easy to misplace.
As mentioned, LG provides presets to a number of equaliser settings, with two custom modes also present for you to create your own sound profiles. While the previous FN6 model didn’t quite hit the high notes when it came to music playback, the FP9 is much better, definitely due to the new Headphone Spatial Processing from Meridian Audio, the guys who help LG tune their sound.
I enjoyed the Immersive and 3D Sound Stage settings the most, creating a more expansive sound set-up which allows you to explore your music in more detail. At least on certain songs, Immersive was even providing a better bass experience than the Bass Boost setting, while being clearer in the mid-range.
Plug & Wireless - connect to any 3.5mm device
There’s Bluetooth 5.2 onboard, plus a potentially useful feature called Plug & Wireless. The TONE-FP9 charging case comes with a 3.5mm jack cable, allowing you to plug it into, say your PC or in-flight entertainment. Flip the switch on the side and the earbuds now connect to the case’s source. For me this worked well on my notebook, since I now don’t have to struggle between switching Bluetooth between my smartphone and notebook. That said, while plugged in your different custom settings won’t be available and so too not your touch controls.
Much like the previous FN6 the FP9's charging case contains UV-C light that LG claims kills bacteria on the speaker mesh and ear tips. It works when the case is plugged in.
Call quality on the earbuds are good, with three mics present and Whispering Mode available through the app. This fixes the microphone to the right earbud, so you can take this out and speak more quietly if you do not want to disturb other people.
I received about 10 hours’ worth of music with a combination of ANC on and off, a decent amount taking into account that there’s a fast charge option of five minutes for one hour of playback. Charging is done via USB Type-C, with no wireless charging available on this model.
Perhaps not a concern but just a preference, I do enjoy earbuds that provide an in-ear indication of the battery level when you initially pop them in, such as 1More’s Stylish. Instead, the LG FP9’s battery levels are shown on the case when opened, with the case itself also indicating its level once closed. The FP9 earbuds do, however, warn you in-ear when they are getting low on juice.
The LG Tone Free FP9 in the top left corner, next to offerings from Samsung, 1More and Tecno.
Final thoughts and feelings
It’s fair to say that LG has made a lot of improvements to their earbuds after first announcing the range in 2020. The Tone Free TONE-FP9 earbuds make it easy to recommend them, with a great lightweight fit, decent sound and equaliser options, nifty settings through the app, active noise cancellation that does the trick and good call quality. Throw in a few extras, such as the Plug & Wireless to connect to any 3.5mm sound source, and you have one of the better wireless earbuds options on the market.
Currently, the LG Tone Free TONE-FP9 earbuds are only being sold through Takealot at R3 500, which puts these at the higher end of the cost spectrum. This would have perhaps been less of a problem if the LG FP8 model wasn’t sitting next to it at 50% off (not sure for how long).
The LG FP8 for R1 500 is an absolute steal, since it pretty much has everything the FP9 does, except the Plug & Wireless 3.5mm technology. It even has wireless charging which the FP9 doesn’t have. If you are going to use the 3.5mm connection option of the LG FP9 on things such as onboard entertainment on flights, then it's worth the money. But paying sub-R2k for the FP8 is just too good to pass on.