I am an early adopter in an industry that doesn’t exactly embrace technology. As a college professor, most of my colleagues have barely figured out Skype, let alone the idea that headphones need not be huge or tethered by wires.
Meanwhile, around my campus I see LG’s versions of the Tone headset in use regularly, with students walking from class to class with the headset hung around their neck. So how does a headset family that seems to have “made it” stack up to a geek’s criteria? Read on for my impressions of the LG Tone Pro!
I bought an LG Tone headset 2 years ago when they first came out, simply because it was a stereo bluetooth headset with an intriguing form factor. Whereas others had relied on a wire that ran around the back of the neck, the LG Tone gave a flexible spine to this wire, helping it stay where it needed to, balancing the headset on the back of the neck. I used the LG Tone pretty intensely, but also tried a number of other products, including the more traditional design of the Plantronics Back Beat Go 2 wireless earbuds. But something kept beckoning me back to the LG Tone series.
As I mentioned, the LG Tone Pro is a stereo bluetooth headset that consists of a arc-shaped body that fits behind the wearer’s neck, with two weighted compartments at the end that not only keep it more or less balanced, but also house the electronics, battery, and wiring for the device. On the wearer’s right side are controls to pause music, advance track, or access the previous track. The USB charging port is also located on this side, under a small cover. On the wearer’s left side are controls to turn on the headset (a stated switch, which slides to the on position), volume controls, and call answer / voice command button. At the tips of the compartments are magnetized holders for the earbuds to rest in while not in use.
To get started, the user puts the headset behind the neck and adjusts it to rest comfortably. He or she then takes the earbuds out of their “docking ports” and places them in the ear. The excess slack wiring is controlled by a snug ring on the neck-band – sliding the ring down provides more slack for the earbud. Later when done using the headset, the user can slide the ring back up to hold the cord tight for storage. Once the earbuds are in place, the user switches on the headset, which announces that power is on through the earbuds. Upon initial startup, it goes into pairing mode, however once paired, it connects automatically to the last device used.
And that is about it. The user can control track and volume from the headset or the device, and the connection speed is very fast – less than 4 seconds in my testing. When done, just slide the power switch off.
Pros and Cons
My testing of the LG Tone Pro consisted of more or less regular use over about a month, which included workouts while listening to music and podcasts, phone calls, Skype calls, and anything else I could think of to try it out with. Overall I was very impressed with…
- The sound quality – it was by no means super hi-fidelity, but it was much nicer than most bluetooth headsets I’d tried. Others reported that my sound quality, through the microphone, was also acceptable to good.
- The speed of connection – the headset powered up quickly and connected just as fast.
- The stability of connection and pairing – no “repairs” required!
- The battery life: I used it on and off for 3 weeks before it even dropped down to “medium” battery level!
However life wouldn’t be life if it wasn’t filled with both joys and disappointments. Here’s a few not-so great things I noticed:
- The stated power switch wasn’t reliable: A few times I caught the device remaining paired and active past the point I’d turned it off. This was a bit concerning, leading me to believe that the stated power switch might simply turn on/off a stateless button in the internal housing, making it less than optimal to make sure your device is truly off.
- The re-design of the device, making it more contoured rather than a simple arc behind the neck, actually seemed more uncomfortable to me than the original design LG had. I found myself having a hard time figuring out which side was “up” and which was “down”. Moving the buttons around the edge of the side pieces also complicated this. It may be simply that I was used to the original LG Tone. Further, moving the buttons toward the edges of the arc makes them a bit harder for me to find, not easier as I suspect LG hoped!
And one last pro/con is simply the design of the device family in general. I find it hard, when picking bluetooth headsets, to decide between something obvious and structured, like the LG Tone Pro, and something minimalistic, like the Plantronics Back Beat Go – nothing more than two earbuds and a cord. The benefit of the structure means that you won’t have to worry about the device sliding around or falling off, however it’s also obvious to the world that you’re a bit of a nerd (Despite what years of seeing bluetooth headsets has done to our culture, they still seem the exception and not the norm!). It’s not the fault of the LG Tone Pro that it might make you seem this way – but it is something to consider for the fashion conscious.
Overall the LG Tone Pro is a solid choice for those looking to cut the cord from their device and their headphones – it boots fast, remains paired, and has good audio quality just slightly below corded quality. The form factor may take some time to get used to, and you’ll want to make sure it has unpaired from your device once you turn it off. A definite keeper in this geek’s arsenal of accessories!
The LG Tone Pro retails for $55.01, and it is available from Amazon.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Concept, quality of audio, and reliability.
What Needs Improvement: Design contours, power button ‘honesty’, and control placement.