One of our teams, including our Senior Editor, ventured over to San Diego, CA to meet with LG about their new TONE Active headphones and to bring a pair back for us to look at. These are the latest in the TONE series and like the Infinims, feature retractable earbuds and a slick design. However, what makes them different?
Under the skin, the new TONE Active is the TONE Pro approach to the Infinim design, minus the Harman Kardon partnership. On the outside, it features an all new design that not only looks different from all of the other models, but also hugs your neck differently.
The design itself is nice, featuring a new sporty look. A more solid body and fewer buttons. It rides a little higher on your neck, similar to a choker instead of hanging slightly like the previous models do. That last part does take awhile to get used to since at first it seems a little awkward. Eventually, you tend to forget that it is there. We do like the previous approach to the wrap around better as it seems to feel more comfortable than the choker design, but on the other hand, this new approach does feel like it will stay on your neck better during heavier activities–and we haven’t ran into any troubles with that yet. You just don’t want to wear them to work if you think you are going to hide them slightly under your shirt collar.
The retractable earbuds do feature a pretty thin wire coming from the unit. This is so that it can retract into a small bit of space, hence reducing the size of the unit around your neck. However, due to how thin the wires are, it does feel like you have to be very careful every time you pull them out or tug on them slightly to trigger the retract mechanism. You tend to feel as though they might damage easily.
They are IPX3 rated for splash resistance, meaning they can take a day’s worth of sweat and tears or a light rain without any damage risks. They can’t be submerged (which would be a rating of IPX7 or higher), but they do take a lot thrown at them.
A little added focus on the durability of this unit (outside of the wires). It has withstood a lot since we got our hands on it last weekend. It offers a lot of flexibility in the band, making it quite easy to get it around your neck and back off again. It has made it through the ColorMeRad 5K run in San Diego (CA), a full day of roller coasters at Six Flags in Valencia (CA) without falling off, a small rain storm that lasted for about 5-10 minutes, nearly 20 miles by bike and nearly 100 miles by foot (tracked using a Jawbone UP24).The 5K run alone featured waves of colored powder and liquids be sprayed and thrown at it as the runner made it to the finish line. In the end, they sit here now working just as well as they did when they were turned on for the first time.
It supports Bluetooth 4.1 and below and can connect to just about any Bluetooth-enabled device for media playback. From smartphones to tablets to iPods and even your favorite laptop or PC. As long as it supports Bluetooth, it should be able to stream to these without any connection troubles.
There are two sets of buttons, one set on each side. Less than models before that used to wield a total of 6-7 button options. On the left side, you have your power and phone answer/disconnect buttons. The phone button also functions as your play/pause button for music. On the right side, you have your volume up and down buttons, which also function as your next and previous track buttons (when held down). Less buttons to have to search for, but it also means you have to remember a little more on which options overlap on which buttons. The pros and cons seems to balance each other out, which prevents it from being much of an improvement.
At the moment, the only color option to choose from is a limited edition orange/black model that can only be found at AT&T stores across the the US (and currently 10% off the retail price). This is an exclusive deal (and color) until next month, when the additional colors/models will be released to other retail locations (ie, Amazon, Best Buy and so forth).
Now let us discuss sound quality finally! While the TONE Active does feature better sound than the TONE Pro when it comes to bass, it still leaves a craving for “more”. Your highs and mids are similar to the TONE Pro model and the bass is at least noticable now. That was one of our biggest concerns about the Pro model. This is nice, but they still should have focused a little harder on bass presence due to the price-point of this model. As a solution for fitness activities, they sound good enough to keep your ears distracted and mind entertained while you make your way through your miles or sets. However, they are not something you are going to connect to and get lost in the warm waves of your favorite artists. They are a mobile wireless solution for sport and fitness activities that will not leave your body, not get in the way and provide you with music.
When using them for phone conversations, we have tested the Active with both cellular and Skype, both resulting in excellent conversations. The sound is crisp and clear and you have no troubles hearing the other person (and they have no troubles hearing you).
The earbuds are a little tighter fit on this model, which may be the culprit to the newly found bass that does exist. This also allows a little more focus on the music and less so much the noise around you as it allows them to provide a little more noise isolation. They don’t really offer noise cancellation, but it’s enough to call it noticeable.
Additional features may be added in the future as LG further develops the TONE app for phones and tablets that can be used on the side to adjust some of the features of the TONE series models.
If you are looking for something to bring your sound during your fitness endeavors, but not expecting audiophile quality by any means (you just need sound, and volume)…than these are perfect. You won’t lose them unless you are bungee jumping or jumping out of a plane. They provide more enough enough volume and are comfortable (outside the grip around the neck you have to get used to). They don’t seem to want to slip out of your ears and provide you with the controls you would normally look for to control your music or conversation with. The only thing taking from the score is 1) how thin the wires are (it would have been nice to see a slightly thicker shielding to protect them from pull damage) and 2) more bass. The choker-like design takes awhile to get used to, but it does keep a snug fit because of it. We couldn’t hold it against the headphones since they were design for fit activities and not professional office environments.
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.