LG Tone Free T90 review: Excellent-sounding buds that clean themselves

LG's flagship earbuds deliver amazing 3D sound, but they miss the mark on noise cancellation

LG Tone Free T90 in white charging case on rocks
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Despite lackluster ANC, the Tone Free T90 remains LG’s best true wireless release to date with remarkable 3D sound and lots of extra features.

Pros

  • +

    Spectacular 3D sound

  • +

    Comfy design

  • +

    Reasonable battery life

  • +

    Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint technology

Cons

  • -

    Weak noise cancelling performance

  • -

    Finicky touch controls

  • -

    Poor call quality

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LG Tone Free T90: Specifications

Price: $229 / £199 / AU$330

Colors: Black; white

Battery life (rated): Up to 9 hours; 29 hours (charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codec support: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive)

Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Size: 0.84 x1.09 x 0.97 inches (per bud); 2.15 x 2.15 x 1.16 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.18 ounces (per bud); 1.4 ounces (charging case)

The original LG Tone Free was a one-of-a-kind addition to the true wireless category. Wireless earbuds that offered hi-res sound, plenty of features, and cleaned themselves? Those are some impressive hallmarks, and ones that have become more polished with every new entry in the series. Now, LG is giving us everything and the kitchen sink with the flagship Tone Free T90.

Seriously, the electronics giant has added every feature you could possibly think of. On the checklist: Adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth 5.3 with wireless transmission, a customizable EQ, multipoint technology, smart controls, spatial audio with headtracking, and UV-C light for sterilization. Not everything works as it should, but any flaws these buds carry are overshadowed by their magnificent and multifaceted sound performance. 

Read our full LG Tone Free T90 to see why they are one of the best wireless earbuds for sound and extended functionality.

Showing LG Tone Free T90 in charging case placed in reviewer's hand

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LG Tone Free T90 review: Price and availability

  • More affordable than AirPods Pro 2
  • Supplied with useful USB-C-to-3.5mm cable

The Tone Free T90 can be purchased for $229 (£199 / AU$330) on LG’s website (opens in new tab). Color options are limited to black and white. Inside the box are a wireless charging case, USB-C-to-USB-A cable, USB-C-to-3.5mm cable, three sets of different-sized tips, and a manual.

These buds are priced slightly higher than mid-range gems like the Sennheiser CX Plus ($180) and Beats Fit Pro ($199) ― two models that deliver fantastic noise cancellation and sound ― the latter featuring spatial audio. At the same time, they are priced lower than category leaders such as the AirPods Pro 2 ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279).

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

LG Tone Free T90 earbud held between reviewer's finger tips

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LG Tone Free T90 review: Design and comfort

  • Sleek, AirPods-esque styling
  • Cool-looking oval charging case
  • Moderately comfortable

These buds look no different than previous Tone Free releases, and that isn’t a bad thing. The long-stem silhouette remains intact, along with the sturdy, all-plastic frame. Small details such as the tiny, debossed touch sensor and mic return. Even the IPX4 rating hasn’t changed, providing the buds with standard levels of sweat and water resistance.

The real eye-grabber is the hockey puck-inspired charging case. Incredibly compact, lightweight, and feels nice in hand, it’s one of the coolest designs in the category. Solid plastic makes up the entire construction, though its matte finish is prone to scratches and scuffs. What’s unique about this version of the case is it has a switch on the side that enables a cool wireless feature (more on that later).

LG Tone Free T90 earbuds placed on rocks

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Comfort has always been a series strength and the Tone Free T90 falls in line with its predecessors. The cavity rests pleasantly on the concha, allowing for long listening sessions before fatigue sets in. I often used the buds for three-hour stretches before giving my ears a breather and barely experienced any soreness.

Expect reliable fit as well. The medical-grade, hypoallergenic ear gels form a decent seal to keep the buds stabilized. LG finally developed an ear tip fit test (Test My Best Fit) that provides accurate analysis for optimal fit. It was able to tell when the buds required adjustment or were properly locked in.

Tom's Guide reviewer testing controls on LG Tone Free T90 earbuds

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

LG Tone Free T90 review: Touch controls and digital assistant

  • Iffy touch controls
  • Dependable wear detection
  • Highly functional digital assistant

Having a full suite of media controls means nothing if you can’t easily activate them. Unfortunately, LG’s tiny touch sensors are noticeably smaller than the ones featured on past models and difficult to locate. When I managed to find them, they barely registered single/multi-tap gestures. The long hold gesture seemed to be the only input method they acknowledged.

Your best bet for managing playback is wear detection. Taking off the buds will automatically pause whatever you’re listening to and placing them back on your ears resumes playback. No lag whatsoever.

Digital assistance works flawlessly. LG’s mic array captures every syllable and long-winded inquiry, while Siri and Google Assistant both execute commands quickly and accurately. Voice activation should have been included for the price, even if it was just for Google’s AI Bot (“Hey Google”), but there’s always a chance that LG adds this as part of a future update. Hopefully.

Tom's Guide reviewer assessing sound quality on LG Tone Free T90 earbuds

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LG Tone Free T90 review: Sound quality

  • Immersive, dynamic sound
  • Dolby Atmos and Dolby Head Tracking support
  • aptX Adaptive and Game Mode work well

The Tone Free T90’s audio specs read like something you would find on high-end wireless headphones. We’re talking '24-bit' Bluetooth transmission, aptX Adaptive codec support, customizable EQ settings, a low latency mode, and spatial audio with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Head Tracking. What you end up with is engaging, depth-filled sound that complements all media content (e.g., music, movies, games, podcasts). 

Let’s start with LG’s soundstage, which is detailed and wide. I picked up on some of the click bleed from the acoustic guitar during the intro of Phoenix’s “Run Run Run.” That showed me the buds were fine-tuned to present the slightest imperfections and nuances in recordings. Going back to the track, percussive elements were reproduced wonderfully (those hand claps were impactful) and the high-pitched strings were balanced well.

Assessing sound quality on LG Tone Free T90

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The low end has plenty of impact on upbeat jams like Justin Timberlake’s “Summer Love,” as highlighted by the energetically pounding drums and heavy synths. However, the midrange was what stole the show, bringing more focus and prominence to the singer’s vocals.

Credit goes to LG’s equalizer, which was developed in collaboration with UK audio specialist Meridian. Not only can listeners create their own sound profiles by adjusting the 8-band EQ, but also have five excellent presets that enhance sound in different ways. Each of the five ― Immersive (the default), Natural, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, and 3D Sound Stage ― perform exactly as implied. Natural emphasizes vocals superbly on ballads and podcasts, while 3D Sound made crowd interactions more realistic during live performances.

Now we enter the spatial audio part of the review. The 3D listening experience is more expansive on the Tone Free T90 than the AirPods Pro 2. I don’t recall any spatial audio-enabled wireless earbuds offering the option to enjoy 360-degree sound with or without head tracking. These buds do.

The sound experience is natural no matter which option you choose, but the Virtual Head Tracking Mode felt more realistic for music and movies. Watching the Obi-Wan versus Darth Maul battle scene in “Star Wars: Episode I ― The Phantom Menace” had the hairs on my arms standing. Every lightsaber clash felt powerful, and the humming sound of both weapons very engrossing. Head-turning accuracy was also stellar as it seamlessly transitioned sound from the left to right bud and vice versa as I moved my head.

LG added a Game Mode to reduce lag when playing video games. From the little time I spent testing it, the feature did improve audio synchronization on dialogue and sound effects. 

Listening in ANC mode boosts the bass and volume a smidge. In addition, all supported codecs ― aptX Adaptive, AAC, and SBC ― stream media smoothly over Bluetooth 5.3.

Showing LG Tone Free T90 charging case connected to iPod for Bluetooth transmit to earbuds

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LG Tone Free T90 review: Bluetooth transmission

  • Adds wireless connectivity to non-Bluetooth devices
  • Limited control functionality

Speaking of wireless performance, the charging case doubles as a Bluetooth transmitter. This lets you hear music wirelessly from non-Bluetooth devices like the TV sound from a treadmill in the gym, an in-flight entertainment system, or an old-school media player such as an iPod.

How does it perform? Surprising well. After pushing the slider on the side of the case, I plugged the USB-C-to-3.5mm cable into my iPod Classic (remember those?) and zoned out to long-forgotten iTunes playlists in the living room. There’s a noticeable drop in sound quality, but it’s still engaging and much better than what comes out of the Apple EarPods.

There are two caveats when using the feature, though: Volume is the only control available and you can only decrease, not increase it.

reviewer outside near a car assessing ANC on LG Tone Free T90

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LG Tone Free T90 review: Active noise cancellation

  • Ineffective ANC
  • Poor wind resistance
  • Outstanding ambient-listening settings

There’s something a bit off with the Tone Free T90’s noise cancellation. It had a very 'airy' effect during mys tests, and actually let noise in. I couldn’t tell if ANC was clashing with transparency mode, but that’s what it sounded like. LG also left out the dual ANC modes (Low, High) featured on the Tone Free FP8, which weren’t all that great, but better than the standard ANC produced by these buds.

I could hear the tumbling noises from my dryer from 50 feet away. High-frequency noises overpowered whatever music was playing, even at max volume. I was already aware that my young son had a good set of 'pipes' on him, and hearing him cry while I had these buds with ANC mode on only solidified that; the sound was blaringly loud. Cars and wind also produced an uncomfortable whisking effect that’s usually associated with cheap noise-cancelling earbuds.

LG app on phone showing ANC modes for LG Tone Free T90

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At least the Ambient Sound mode is serviceable. This one comes with two settings ― Listening and Conversation ― both are self-explanatory and work well for their intended purposes. Listening mode is the more powerful option. I was able to hear the videos my wife played on her iPad, as well as cars coming up the block and cyclists ringing their bells before speeding past me during my daily strolls. 

Conversation mode was just as useful, producing crisp and loud vocals that I could hear from two rooms down. This made it easier to chat with my wife when sharing baby watching duties. 

LG Tone Free T90 earbuds in charging case showing UV cleaning

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LG Tone Free T90 review: App and special features

  • Lots of extra features
  • Difficult to know effectiveness of UVnano+ cleaning tech

LG went on a frenzy putting together their list of special features for the Tone Free T90. I already touched on several big ones, including ANC/Ambient Sound, control customization, Dolby Atmos, EQ, Game Mode, Test My Best Fit, and wireless transmission. There’s another cool feature hidden in the Free LAB section, which plays a pivotal role in call quality (more on that later). Rounding things out are a battery level indicator, Find My Earbuds function, firmware updates, user manual, and toggles for different wireless features (e.g., auto-pause/play, multi-point).

The Tone Free app can be overwhelming to view, but LG has a cool function called Intelligent Sorting that analyzes your usage patterns to automatically sort features and settings. In other words, whatever you use most will show up higher on the app’s homescreen.

Now, let’s talk about the Tone Free T90’s other distinctive feature besides Bluetooth transmission. That would be UVnano+ light technology. This is a staple of the series and a feature that LG claims can kill 99.9% of bacteria in 5 minutes when activated in the charging case. It is difficult to determine the accuracy of this claim without taking the earbuds to a hygiene lab for verification.

LG Tone Free T90 charging case on a wireless charging pad

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LG Tone Free T90 review: Battery life and charging case

  • Battery life on par with AirPods Pro 2
  • Special features drain battery quickly
  • Wireless charging compatible

LG has been coy about their battery life, only listing battery life with ANC off: 9 hours. This is more than sufficient for moderate use throughout the week (est. 3 days before recharge). You’ll need to recharge them more often if using noise cancellation all the time. My testing showed buds tapping out around 5.5 hours with ANC on. Other factors like 3D audio and high volume dropped battery life by 1.5 hours.

The charging case holds up to 29 hours, depending how you use the buds, and supports wireless charging. A 10-minute quick charge generates 1 hour of listening time.

Reviewer testing out call quality on LG Tone Free T90

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LG Tone Free T90 review: Call quality and connectivity

  • Impractical for calls
  • Fast and stable connectivity
  • Google Fast Pair- and multipoint-ready

Call quality is an anomaly on the Tone Free T90. Allow me to explain. In standard mode, the buds produce lots of muffle, no matter your location. Wind resistance is also poor. Talking in gusty conditions almost sounds like you’re covering your mouth, at least that’s what the missus said.

However, using the Whispering Mode function drastically improves call quality. This is the feature I hinted at previously and it works by holding the right earbud near your mouth to speak softly on the phone. Several people mentioned how much louder and clearer I sounded. That’s great, right? Yes, except having to hold an earbud near your mouth to achieve this level of call quality seems impractical.

showing connectivity options within phone app for LG Tone Free T90

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Bluetooth 5.3 welcomes improvements like rapid switching between devices, which these buds executed effortlessly. One-tap Google Fast Pair with Android devices and multipoint technology (connect to two devices simultaneously) simplify connectivity. Range extends up to 75 feet (22 meters) in open spaces, providing more than enough room to take calls or stream music far from your audio source.

LG Tone Free T90 review: Verdict

LG has really nailed sound quality on the Tone Free T90. These are some of the best wireless earbuds at the price, and their immersive performance elevates them a few levels further when enabling Dolby Atmos. 

Some poorly implemented features make these buds feel over-specified at the price, though. Shortcomings such as the touch controls and call quality may be forgivable, but what lets these earbuds down is their noise cancellation capabilities ― really holding the Tone Free T90 back from receiving a far higher score. Truthfully, LG would have been better off ditching ANC entirely. If you care more about dynamic and immersive Dolby Atmos sound quality though, the LGs are a worthwhile consideration.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.