LG's self-cleaning earbuds are here — and they’re cheaper than AirPods

(Image credit: LG)

LG's new self-cleaning wireless earbuds have arrived, and at a price that undercuts Apple's popular AirPods.

First announced last month, the LG Tone Free earbuds promise sophisticated sound and 6 hours of playback time. But it's the HBS-FN6 model that stands out, thanks to a UVnano case which uses ultraviolet light to clean earbuds as they charge.

The Tone Free FN6 goes on sale today (July 16), with matte black and gloss white versions available through LG.com and LG-authorized retailers. The wireless earbuds cost $149, or $10 less than what you'd pay for a pair of AirPods with a charging case.

The FN6's UVnano case targets E. coli and S. aureus bacteria that can collect on the silicone ear gel and inner mesh of the earbuds. LG says it worked with microbiology experts at UL to develop case that uses UV light to eliminate practically all potential bacteria during charging.

In addition to cleaning your earbuds, that charging case also extends playback time to 18 hours. Five minutes of charging time should give you an hour's worth of music, if LG's claims prove true in our testing.

As for audio quality, the new Tone Free earbuds offer sound support from Meridian Audio, including Meridian's Headphone Spatial Processing and Digital Signal Processing technologies. We'll need to test for ourselves, but the experience is supposed to be like having the clarity of loudspeakers in earbud form. You'll also get customized EQ settings and four presets — Natural, Immersive, Bass Boost and Treble Boost.

In our LG Tone Free review, we found LG's new buds to offer impressive audio quality, strong noise isolation and a great ambient listening mode that lets you filter in the outside world. However, we did find its touch controls to be a bit finicky, and couldn't always clearly see the benefits of the UV cleaning feature in action.

The FN6 is the high-end version of the Tone Free earbuds, and it's accompanied by two other models that promise the same audio features and playback time. The $129 HBS-FN5W lacks the self-cleaning UVnano capabilities of the FN6, but you can charge these earbuds wirelessly using a compatible charging pad. The cheapest pair — the HBS-FN4 — lacks wireless charging support but lowers the price to $99.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.