Like their predecessors, the TONE Free DT90Q, the new LG TONE Free T90S offer a remarkable range of features. In terms of sound, there is (again) little to complain about for this price range; the adaptive noise cancelling was just as practical as the charging case, which offers some clever application options.
The new premium model from the South Korean tech giant LG is called the TONE Free T90S and, at an RRP of 229 euros, it is significantly lower in price than products from Apple, Bose or Sony. But these headphones don’t have to hide from the market leaders – quite the opposite.
First of all: We have waited to carry out our final test until just before the market launch of the LG TONE Free T90S. Although the manufacturer had already made test devices available to the international press at IFA in early September, they also emphasised that the final sales version of these headphones would have new silicone ear tips, which would aim at improving noise cancelling (ANC), among other things. As new or modified EarTips always affect the sound, we waited for the finished product.
The updated ear tips have now been fitted to the earphones, and we can present you with an up-to-date test – looking at the exact model that the manufacturer says you will be able to buy from 20 November 2023.
LG is a manufacturer with a reputation for a very good price-performance ratio. The TONE Free T90S fulfils almost all requirements on this score. Yes, the battery performance could be better; five hours with ANC is fairly standard, but thanks to the quick-charging function, you can quickly recharge your batteries. The transparency mode isn’t perfect either, and the naturalness of the ambient noise transmitted was weaker than that of larger models. But these are both high-level complaints when you look at the other features of the LG TONE Free T90S:
Features of the LG TONE Free T90S
The LG TONE Free T90S are equipped with 9.8-millimetre dynamic drivers made of graphene, a material that is both light and hard. In combination with the latest Bluetooth version 5.4 (Qualcomm Snapdragon), sound tuning by the hi-fi specialists at Meridian including Headphone Space Processing (HSP) and the codecs SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive, these headphones promise a lot.
The wireless link proved to be extremely stable in our tests: In an open space, we achieved more than 34 metres without drop-outs, while we were able to record an uninterrupted connection across one floor in the house without any problems.
Thanks to Multipoint (using two devices simultaneously) and Multi-Pairing (pairing with up to five devices), there is everything you could need for use in everyday life. A corresponding app (see below) enables you to conveniently manage these connections.
Compared to their unofficial predecessors, the LG TONE Free DT90Q, the shape of these headphones and their charging case have been redesigned. While the DT90Q had a round charging case, this model now has a more classic design and its matt plastic finish fits comfortably in your hand.
The in-ears themselves weigh approx. 5.5 grams each, and thanks to different medical-grade silicone tips (according to the manufacturer, they fulfil the requirements of ISO 10993 and USP Class VI), including a fit test via app, you can achieve a good fit.
A new feature, the manufacturer uses small foam cushions in the oval moulds to absorb cerumen. This simply but effectively prevents dirt from penetrating deeper into the actual headphones. Four more of these cushions are included in the package so that they can be replaced if necessary, but this is a little bit fiddly.
Under tight hats, these headphones pressed a little, but with active ANC, they control the rustling noise of fabric quite well. Thanks to IPX4, they are protected against splashing water, and although the headphones are very comfortable to wear, we would recommend using specialist headphones such as the LG TONE Free Fit DTF7Q for use during active sports.
The charging case as a sound card
Another highlight is the charging case. This can be used as an audio transmitter via the (supplied) USB-C to mini jack cable or via USB-C to USB-C. This means you can retrofit Bluetooth wherever it is missing or not of sufficient quality: An old TV delivers its analogue audio signal to the LG charging case, and an old hi-fi amplifier can transmit your beloved vinyl collection to these wireless headphones.
Or why not simply use the case as a USB-C audio interface? Even lossless audio files on an iPad or iPhone can be played back between the case and earphones thanks to aptX adaptive coding. Of course, this also works on planes, allowing you to enjoy the in-flight entertainment programme wirelessly.
UVnano – the automatic cleaning function
They also come with the “UVnano” automatic cleaning function, which uses UV light to remove certain bacteria from the ear moulds and driver grille. According to the manufacturer, 99.9% of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumonia bacteria are eliminated within ten minutes. It should be noted that this only happens during the charging process. We cannot verify how effectively the whole thing works. As a side note: the UV light itself is colourless. The blue LEDs merely signal that it is active.
Many possibilities: The LG TONE Free app
The LG TONE Free app for iOS and Android allows you to customise the LG TONE Free T90S in detail and has a lot of fine-tuning options. However, it would go beyond the scope of this article to list everything, which is why I will limit myself to listing a few highlights.
In addition to the multipoint and pairing management mentioned above, there is the “TONE Free LAB” with the option of leaving UVnano always switched on and activating a gaming mode for reduced latency between image and sound. You can also use the app to create up to three customised profiles to quickly switch between gaming, office work or outdoor activities to find the right EQ and ANC settings.
The control options of the somewhat sensitive touchpads can be tweaked here (louder, quieter, track forwards/backwards), and there is also a lock to protect against incorrect inputs. However, the sensitivity of the touch surfaces cannot be adjusted – as with the Edifier NeoBuds Pro 2.
Here, you can also activate whether messages should be read aloud (Android only) or whether the LG TONE Free T90S should automatically pause/continue playing when the headphones are removed or reinserted in your ears.
You will also find five equaliser pre-sets and two custom EQs at your disposal. Incidentally, the latter no longer reduces the overall volume when activated – as was the case with the previous model.
How does the LG TONE Free T90S sound?
When assessing the sound, we initially decided to work without pre-sets. Low basses were cleanly reproduced in this neutral position without affecting the mids (even at too high a volume). Tonally, bass lines remained recognisable but appeared slightly washed out on some tracks.
The mids brought out vocals and lead guitars nicely without cutting into the ears. The treble range, on the other hand, was slightly muted, but this counteracted rapid listening fatigue and restrained sibilants. If the default setting lacks a little sparkle in the top end, the Custom EQ can be used to counteract this by boosting the 8K band. In terms of stereo width and depth, we didn’t notice anything negative.
Thanks to the different pre-sets such as “Immersive” or “3D Sound Stage”, you can listen to music tracks audibly wider and deeper so that the sound sources feel like they are located inside your head rather than in front of your head. This is typical for headphones of this type.
Dolby Atmos and head tracking
The manufacturer offers Dolby Atmos support including head tracking. The latter means that the sound source always remains in the centre when you turn your head to the left or right. However, this was a little sluggish and took place with a slight delay. Thanks to the app, the spatial effect of the Dolby Atmos function can be adjusted in three stages, from subtle to strong. So far, this is a unique feature, but in our test scenario, it was only available in the iOS app.
Of course, it’s debatable how useful such a feature is because Dolby Atmos doesn’t always sound right. While many things sounded unusual and sometimes unbalanced to our ears, some pieces of music, particularly radio plays or films, benefited from the virtual three-dimensionality. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether they need this feature or not. You can find some impressive music demos to test this yourself on the Dolby website.
The non-adjustable noise cancelling (ANC) packed a powerful punch, especially in the low-frequency range. Monotonous background noises such as a turbine or train noise were thus drained of a lot of energy. As with many competitors, the mids and highs reached the ears attenuated.
The adaptive noise cancellation constantly measured the conditions via internal microphones and then adjusted the performance accordingly. Even if these in-ears were not optimally positioned in the ears, the ANC of the LG TONE Free T90S still delivered good results.
Let’s compare the noise cancellation of the LG TONE Free T90S with that of the competition. Here, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Apple AirPods Pro 2 were slightly ahead, while the LG delivered similar results to the Sony WF-1000XM5.
The Apple in-ears suppressed low frequencies, in particular, a little more effectively, while LG’s – like the Boses – let a little more through to the ears.
It becomes very clear: The LG TONE Free T90S’s noise cancelling is at a very high level!
The background noise was perceptible in absolute silence but not intense – LG has also got this well under control.
The switchable ambient sound mode (here called ambient noise) distinguished between general listening and conversation mode, which emphasised voices more clearly. Due to their design, both increased the background noise, although it was more pronounced in the voice-amplifying variant. This mode cut lower frequencies, making male voices, for example, sound less boomy.
The general performance can be described as absolutely practical; we never had the feeling of missing anything when transparency mode was activated. However, it did not “open up” quite as noticeably as the Apple AirPods Pro 2, for example. In addition, when the wearer speaks, it captures their voice more resonantly than the AirPods Pro.
Making calls with the LG TONE Free T90S
During phone calls, we had no problems understanding the person on the other end of the line, even while they were driving in a car, among other activities. The driving noise was suppressed satisfactorily. From their end of the line, our conversation partner only perceived train noises, wind and rain as merely a soft whisper.
The LG TONE Free T90S offer and deliver a lot for their price Thanks to Dolby Atmos and many fine-tuning options, they are extremely flexible in terms of sound, and the adaptive noise cancelling also plays a major role. By using the charging case, even older televisions can be converted to Bluetooth, while the app connection also offers the user a great deal of freedom. On the other hand, the transparency mode and the rather mediocre battery life are compromises you have to make with this model. Nevertheless, they earn our recommendation because the bottom line is that they are very good True Wireless in-ears!
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cable5,5 g each, case ca. 43 g
- Available in black and white
- BT version: 5.4
- BT codecs: aptX Adaptive, AAC, SBC