You may be familiar with LG’s line of competitively priced true wireless headphones called the LG Tone (followed by a letter and a few numbers). Even if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, you need to hear more about the company’s new flagship LG Tone Free T90, because head-tracked Dolby Atmos is wild.
Historically, and despite offering several new special features, (the case of the LG Tone Free HBS-FN6 promised to kill almost all the bacteria that live on its buds with UV light; the accompaniments of the LG Tone Free FP8 added noise cancellation and spatial processing analog, a 3D audio filter to rival Apple’s Spatial Audio) LG’s Tone offerings never quite hit the sweet spot of true wireless headphones to become the AirPods rivals LG hopes.
But that may have just changed.
Because? LG’s Tone Free T90 Buttons are the first wireless headphones to use Dolby Head Tracking. Using this feature and their built-in Dolby Atmos support, these headphones can track head movements and change the soundstage of the movie or video game you’re playing to keep you immersed in the scene – yes, a clear rival to the popular Spatial from Apple Head tracking audio feature. But here’s the thing: Apple’s tracked solution only works on their top-tier AirPods Pro, AirPods 3, and AirPods Max, using an Apple source device. LG’s solution is much less demanding.
It’s the price? The LG Tone T90 will arrive by the end of the month and will cost $230 (about £190 or AU$330). The more observant will notice that this does a good job of harming the AirPods Pro, which currently retails for $249 / £239 / AU$399.
I’m testing this feature – and I’m not judging its other merits in this article – on an iPhone, directly comparing it to Spatial Audio tracked from a set of AirPods Pro. And the difference is remarkable.
Opinion: This is a bold, affordable, device-independent Dolby Atmos
Frank Sinatra’s suggestion Make me fly to the moon on Apple Music (I’m choosing Apple’s Spatial Audio curated playlist for this test) and ensuring ‘Head Tracking’ is selected under the Dolby Atmos tab in LG’s Tone Free app, I turn my head to the right to nod like one of my colleagues walks by and inadvertently yells “This is crazy!” because the sweet tones of Ol’ Blue Eyes have just concentrated in my left ear. As the chairman of the board sings “you” at the end of the song, I make sure it’s sung only in my left ear.
What follows for the next few hours begins with a head weaving exercise to rebalance the sound, then purposefully unbalance it again. Audio oscillates between each ear. The exercise ends with me spinning around in my office chair, just to see if I prefer Elton John’s bass rocket man to come more through my left or right ear. And since your source device is the focal point for the movement, you can even dance along with the swooshes in the track and encourage them to glide through each ear! Turn your back on your phone, and with LG’s Tone Free T90, it really feels like the show is behind you.
Apple’s Dolby Atmos playlist made for spatial audio continues with the Rolling Stones start me and I’m actually imagining that I’m on Eel Pie Island, watching Jagger run past me while yelling “Don’t make a grown man cry!” – although yes, I know the track was released in 1981, and the Stones performed at the Eel Pie Island Hotel in 1963. This is the land of Dolby Atmos, anything is possible.
Switch to the AirPods Pro and the vocals are a little further back and the experience is entirely more subtle – meaning it’s less fun. Certain musical passages are a little more detailed and expansive through the AirPods, but personally, I miss the madness of turning to face the music. It’s not necessarily an audiophile experience (and I’m not commenting on the sound quality), but by actually being able to physically focus the audio on a certain part of my skull, LG beat Apple here.
For lack of a better phrase, LG lets you know it’s happening, and I like that.
Check back for a full review of LG’s Tone Free T90 soon. If you need me, I’ll be reading the Beatles back catalog in Spatial Audio on the LG Tone Free T90. I want to try to improve McCartney’s bass riff on Something…