TL;DR: The LG Tone Active Headphones are comfortable and sound great, but their range leaves something to be desired.
LG was kind enough to send me a sample of their Tone Active Headphones (model HBS-A80, 2016) to review and keep — because sending back headphones that have been in your ears is kind of gross.
But the good news is that they’re now my daily headphones while working when I don’t want to be tethered to my computer (if I need better sound quality, my 3.5mm Monoprice over-the-ear headphones will never, ever be beat).
I can even use them on walks with the stroller in California heat — which is my way of saying they’re sweat and water resistant (IPx5) and perfect for workouts.
The LG Tone Active headphones are a little different than other bluetooth headphones — especially the new trend of having truly wireless buds like the Apple AirPods or Treblab’s X11s. Instead, there is a flexible rubber-and-plastic horseshoe base that wraps around your neck, and then two impossibly thin cords extend out of that and into your ears, and then retract when you’re done.
This design is not only comfortable, but it’s also handy in that if they buds fall out of your ears, they just dangle around your neck and you don’t have to panic that one of your $160 AirPods has been lost.
It also has plenty of controls this way, so you don’t have to rely entirely on single buttons or your voice. There are next track buttons, pause/play, phone (it makes use of Dual MEMS Microphones and calls sounded great), and volume controls. It charges via micro-USB, and charges pretty quickly.
Battery-life wise, I get a couple of 8 hour workdays out of them, using them here and there connected to my laptop. A voice warns me of the battery level as it changes. I’ve only had to charge them a handful of times, and each time I’m surprised by how long they last.
Look, bluetooth headphones, especially slim and portable ones, don’t put sound quality over all else. There has to be a balance of sound, battery life, and form factor. The LG Tone Active balances all three very well.
There’s not a lot of bass, but enough to get my blood pumping. It’s easy to understand lyrics, and it gets loud enough to block out distractions. That’s all you really need to know.
Straight up, they’re not the worst sounding headphones, but they’re also not the best.
I’m going to just put these in bullet point form, and you can do with them what you will.
- There is a learning curve to remembering where which button is located, and there are quite a few buttons
- The cords connecting the buds to the neck base are impossibly thin. While I haven’t broken them, I feel like I’m babying them all the time when pulling out/retracting them.
- The range of the LG Tone Active is not far at all. I’m getting warnings about 15 feet away from my computer if I leave my laptop in the living room and head to the kitchen. Luckily if you’re working out, your phone will be right there with you.
If you’re afraid of losing “truly wireless” earbuds like Apple’s AirPods or Treblab’s X11s while working out, something with a neck cord or neck base is what you need — and LG’s Tone Active bluetooth headphones are an affordable solution.
As a parent, it’s nice to not have to worry about leaping out of my chair to stop a kid from doing something dangerous and having my headphone cord rip a device from safety. The only issue is that the range of these isn’t the best, and sometimes kids can run really fast into rooms farther than 15 feet or so.
You can pick up a pair for $129.99 at the time of writing this from LG.