Recently, we highlighted the upcoming release of LG’s Tone Active headset that will be releasing in October, but what about what’s available today? We have spent some time with LG’s TONE PRO HBS-760 (2015’s model) headset, to see where their earbuds take their stand in the always growing wireless market.
Unlike most wireless in-ear solutions, LG takes a different approach to the design of their TONE series. By working the around-the-neck band into the mix, this allows it to do more than just provide wireless sound. The band allows for additional space for buttons and features, where normally you would lose some or most of these when opting for a Bluetooth in-ear solution vs an on or over the ears solution. The band also features its own vibration feature that notifies you when you have an incoming call–especially useful for the times you need to keep your phone on silent, and its own vibrator isn’t always enough (noticeable).
Taking a look at the sound quality of the TONE PRO headset, you immediately notice the clarity in the crisp highs that it offers. This makes for some great conversations when using it for phone calls, Skype, FaceTime, etc. The mids/mid-highs offer a pretty solid range as well, that contributes to this all the same. The only thing they lack is bass presence. There is little to no bass with this headset, making it fine for conversations, but slightly tin-can at times when using them for music or video. Your best to picture it as taking the speakers from a basic flat screen LCD TV, shrinking them down, and sticking them in your ears. Everything sounds like you are simply watching TV without an external speaker system.
The lack of low-end is unfortunate as it really takes away from using them as a headset for media enjoyment. There is supposed to be a 3-mode select-able EQ that allows you to choose between “Bass Boost”, “Normal”, and “Treble Boost”. This is done by double pressing the play/pause button quickly. We tested this behind 3 Nokia model Windows Phones, 4 Android devices and 1 laptop with built-in Bluetooth. All if which resulted in a short beep each time we double pressed the button, however no change in audio–unless of course the change was so minimal, our ears just weren’t picking up on it (not likely). There is no documentation on if the firmware can be updated on these, so we are assuming either they simply do not provide enough bass, or the pair they sent may be experiencing a fault (which is always a possibility with any electronic device). If you have one of the headsets and have had a different experience, please do share in the comments below.
Thankfully, it still doesn’t sound horrible by any means as you can still use it for media if needed. It still has a solid range from the mids to the highs giving you crisp sound. Just don’t plan on listening to any dub-step or Kanye West (then again, we always advise against Kanye, no matter the situation–everyone has the right to be biased in their opinion, especially as a collective).
Connectivity is as simple as any other Bluetooth device when connecting to your smartphone, tablet, PC or any other Bluetooth enabled audio source. It typically takes a few seconds and you are off to listening, calling or sitting in standby. The first time you power it on, it will automatically go into pairing mode. No additional buttons to hit. Once you have paired it to another device, it will automatically connect the next time you power it on. If no device can be found within so many seconds from powering them on, they will automatically enter pairing mode again, just in case you want to connect the headset to something new. We got an average distance of about 15-25ft depending on obstructions such as walls, while walking away from source devices.
Vibration is a unique feature we haven’t found in anything we have tested before, and we have had a heavy share of tech over the years. It’s not too often we come across something new in a feature. Although it’s not life changing, the ability to vibrate on incoming calls and messages is neat. The only other device we have seen do this (outside of the phones themselves of course), is a device announced by Samsung last year, the Gear Circle (which we have never experienced). The vibration is quite noticeable. At first we couldn’t come to an agreement on if we liked it or if it was a little awkward feeling. After getting used to it though, we found it to be quite useful in quiet situations. Sometimes you may not notice the vibration in your pocket because your are deeply preoccupied or your phone simply has a weak vibrator. The vibration in the headset is kind of hard to ignore, so it guarantees you won’t miss the phone call (or at least know that it is there).
Another fun feature is voice alerts. Most headphones offer beeps and tones when powering them off or switching between modes or features. The LG TONE Pro headset offers voice alerts that greet you from the very moment you power it on. The many alerts include things like “power on” (or off), , “battery high” (or medium or low), “vibrate on” (or off) and “connected” (and more). The alerts are soft, pleasant and easy to understand.
You have all the buttons and features you would expect to find on an over/on the ears solution. On the left side you find the on/off switch, the answer/disconnect button for calls, volume up/down sliding toggle (which also functions as a battery level check or vibration on/off toggle if you slide and hold it for a few seconds in either direction) and a micro USB charging port hidden behind a small door you can pop out with your fingernail to access. On the right side you find your play/pause button and a sliding toggle for next/previous track (which also functions as a “read last text” or “read the time” option if you slide it for a few seconds in either direction). The text/time option is only available to Android devices currently and with an app called “Tone and Talk” from the Google Play market. Additional features such as designated contact, favorites, logs and more can be used by downloading the app. It can also allow it to read messages and alerts from social applications such as Facebook and Twitter.
The headset is comfortable around the neck and kind of blends in after time. It is super lightweight, so it won’t weigh you down any. The only thing we noticed was the cables themselves sometimes twist and turn which can be distracting when they stick out any while docked away and not in use. If you are wearing an outer layer such as a jacket, it can be neatly tucked between the layers and it simply hides away from memory. At times though we found ourselves not docking the earbuds and simply letting them hang straight so the small wires don’t twist all over and brush against the skin (like little wire wings protruding from your neck).
The earbuds dock away into the bottom two sides of the headset. They snack into place via magnets and can only dock pointing in one specific direction. Finding the direction the buds need to dock in without looking (simply fondling around your neck) can take a little getting used to, but it doesn’t take any time at all to master it with reflex. The magnets aren’t too strong, so don’t expect it to live up to anything brushing against them, as they will pop out of their holes if enough light force is applied. For the most part though, they do keep in place. The new version of the headset coming out in October (Tone Active) will offer retractable wires which will solve any bother with that (as well as the wire troubles mentioned above).
The design is nice with a simple modern one or two-tone look to them (depending in which color headset you buy) with chrome colored buttons for the play/pause and answer/disconnect features on the front side. The part of the band that goes around the back side of your neck is thin and durable while being surrounded by a thick rubber coat around it. They bend around easily to form to your neck for comfort and the rubber portion feels good against the skin.
There is no mention of them being rated for splash-resistance even though previous models have sported this feature. This allows the headset to be safe from heavy sweaters and other slightly moist situations. We have sweated on these and sprayed them lightly with a bottle without causing any troubles to their performance. It is safe to assume though that you should try to get these wet past a simple sweat (which means we didn’t take them into a steam room, many were almost willing to risk). If we change our minds, we will update you with the results.
There are 5 colors to choose from, including black, white, powder blue, gold and red. Inside the box with them you find two sets of gels, a USB charging cable and instructions/warranty information. There is no AC wall adapter for the USB cable which we are always complaining about with these gadgets. Manufacturers always assume you have one laying around since you require a device to pair to the headset with, and the device should have came with one you can use if needed. However, what if your device (ie, smartphone) is charging and you’d like to charge both and don’t have a USB port on a PC nearby to plug into? This means you are rotating devices on a single AC adapter.
The LG TONE PRO headset is great for phone calls and nice features such as vibration and voice alerts. The social voice alerts are also a bonus (assuming you are pairing it to an Android device at least). There is no doubt that the TONE series of headsets offer something nice and prove to be a great buy to wrap around your neck and carry all over. The only thing taking away from the score is the missing bass and awkward cable management. Mostly the bass though as good full range or lack of can either make or break headphones. Even though we were highly focused on the issue of bass, the many features and user friendliness of the headset helped balance its score into a positive position of 7.4 out of 10. We normally don’t venture outside of scores divided by half numbers, but we felt it was so very close to a 7.5, but needed a little extra smack on the hand for the missing bass.
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.