In the market for compact workout earbuds that sound good? You're in the right place! The LG's TONE Free fit UTF8 workout buds combine a quality listening experience with an IP67-rated construction, meaning you won't have to compromise between sound performance and durability, which is often the case with these types of headphones.
Already featured in T3's best running headphones guide, the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 is part of the South Korean brand's UVnano lineup. This tech is built into the charging case and is said to kill 99.9% of bacteria by shining blue light on the buds when charged. This not only eliminates microbes that might cause ear infections but also the worry that you'll get an ear infection. Two in one!
The LG TONE Free fit UTF8 isn't cheap, but it has a number of helpful features and superb sound quality, making these small earbuds an excellent choice for running and even gym workouts. Should you get one? Read my LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review below to find out.
LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review – Price and availability
The LG TONE Free fit UTF8 is available to buy now directly from LG US (opens in new tab) and LG UK (opens in new tab) for a recommended retail price of $200/£180. Please note: in the US, the buds are sold under the name LG TONE Free Fit TF8. Currently, the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 isn't available on LG Australian website. LG sells other earbuds, but only the TONE Free fit UTF8 is designed for sports. Other buds also feature UVnano technology; some are even Dolby Atmos-enabled (LG TONE Free UT90Q). The TONE Free fit UTF8 sits at the more expensive end of the LG earbud offerings.
LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review – Design and fit
The LG TONE Free fit UTF8 is one of the most compact running headphones I tested – at least, those that come with extra bits that help secure the buds in your ears. LG calls them ear hooks, but they aren't ear hooks in a conventional sense, so not actual 'hooks' (a.k.a. Beats Powerbeats Pro). I'd call them ear fins, although I'm not sure if this terminology will catch on.
Anyhow, these small, rounded buds weigh only 5.9 grams (0.2 oz) and feature a 'swivel and lock' mechanism to secure them in your ears. In essence, you pop the buds in your ears and twist them until they slot into place. This is a pretty intuitive way to secure the buds, and thanks to the serrated design of the ear fins, they allow for some air movement.
One small issue is that the air holes on the fins don't just let air in but also sound. Simon criticised the otherwise feature-rich LG Tone Free UT90Q for its poor ANC performance, and now I see what he meant (I'll lament over sound quality below). On a more positive note, the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 is IP67-rated, so pretty resistant to water and dust. In fact, it's almost as well-sealed as the virtually indestructible Jaybird Vista 2, which has an IP68 rating.
Another USP of the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 is the UVnano charging case. UVnano is a combination of UV LEDs and a nanometer. LG claims that independent testing shows that the UVnano charging cradle kills 99.9% of Escherichia Coli, Staphylococcus Aureus and Klebsiella Pneumonia bacteria in the earbuds in ten minutes while charging. Not a bad feature for workout buds that will be drenched in sweat most of the time they're used.
LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review – Battery life
The 68 mAh Li-ion battery (per bud) has an official battery life of 10 hours without ANC and 6 hours with ANC. The 390 mAh Li-ion battery of the charging case holds another 20/12 hours' worth of energy (without ANC/with ANC). There is also a quick charge feature, which replenishes 1-hour of audio listening juice in just five minutes. All these stats are inline with what's expected of modern workout buds, especially those with ANC.
In my experience, the claimed battery life comes very close to real life usage, and considering there isn't always a point to turn on ANC (again, more mon this below), you can squeeze out a pretty decent battery life of the LG TONE Free fit UTF8. With ANC off, you can run two marathons without charging the buds. Not bad.
LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review – Sound quality
I was very pleased with the sonic performance of the LG TONE Free fit UTF8. Looking at the buds, I was concerned they'd sound tinny, but my experience with them was quite the opposite. I tried listening to many different genres, but I particularly enjoyed Spotify's Sci-Fi Scapes playlist with songs like (flake) from Jameszoo/Metropole Orkest/Jules Buckley from the album Melkweg, which helped me appreciate the spaciousness of the soundstage of these otherwise smallish earbuds.
LG is proud of its collaboration with British audio brand Meridian who helped create the EQ presets for the buds (they also worked with LG on their other earphones). for the record, I used the Immersive setting for most of the testing period. The bass is comfortably punchy, with the treble falling off only occasionally. Overall, I was thrilled with the sound performance of the LG TONE Free fit UTF8, especially considering how small they are.
The earbuds feature hybrid active noise cancelling and ambient mode. I'd say the latter is unnecessary, as the serrated fins let sound through the buds, so unless you wedge the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 in your ears, the outside world will find its way to your ear canals. This is probably why ANC feels too understated; the way the buds fit prevents them from blocking out the sound (passive noise cancelling), which eliminates the ANC's sound overlay.
LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review – Workout performance
Thanks to their compact form factor, the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 is ideal for all sorts of physical activities, including running, gym workouts and more. Even though the swivel mechanism works well, based on the limited size options of the ear fins, I wouldn't recommend them for cycling. If you have smaller ears, you might be okay.
Touch controls and audio feedback works well; it's clear when the buds are pressed and how many times – this helps adjust the sound without slowing down (when running). However, due to the small size of the earbuds, it's easy to turn them off or change the listening mode from ANC to ambient while adjusting the buds in your ear, which can be frustrating.
I found the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 comfortable to wear and secure enough for running. It even passed the chewing test; some get loose when you move your jaw around, but the ear fins, probably thanks to their flexible nature, stayed in my ears. For the record, I used the largest ear fins and ear gels and wished there was a larger ear fin in the box for even more score fit.
LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review – Verdict
The LG Tone Free fit UTF8 took me by surprise. Not that I didn't expect LG's dedicated workout buds to sound good; they sound spacious, with vibrant and bright mid-tones, complex and robust bass and well-articulated treble. The Meridian-powered equaliser settings provide even more options to tailor the sound to your liking, although I rarely changed it from 'Immersive'.
For those who prefer privacy or need to keep their ears open for traffic/co-workers, the LG Tone Free fit UTF8 offers ANC and ambient mode. The hybrid ANC can be a bit hit-and-miss. I recommend that LG include a slider in the app to customise the strength of active noise cancelling to avoid disappointing ANC performance at lower sound levels.
The Tone Free fit UTF8 is a solid offering from LG and is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding market of workout/running headphones. It's not cheap, but for the money, you get well-built buds with a bacteria-killing charging case, decent audio performance and so-so ANC, the latter of which I'm sure can be improved via software updates in the future. Not a terrible package overall.
LG TONE Free fit UTF8 review – Also consider
The Bose Sport Earbuds aren't new and somewhat bulkier than the LG TONE Free fit UTF8 but have all the qualities of fitness-focused earphones. The audio is excellent, and comfort levels are higher than their bulky looks suggest. Read Lee's full Bose Sport Earbuds review.
The Jaybird Vista 2 is the sturdiest workout headphones I tested, and they also have a small body. However, the integrated wing tip/ear gel approach makes it harder to find the best fit for your ears. Apart from that, though, the Vista 2 is a brilliant choice for sweaty people. Read my full Jaybird Vista 2 review.
Jabra's Elite 5 true wireless headphones have superb sound quality for both audio listening and calls. The hybrid ANC is pretty darn good, albeit ANC customisation is less useful than it sounds. These IP55-rated buds are also recommended for workouts. Read my full Jabra Elite 5 review.