Header image
Skepticism · agriculture · politics · technology
Header image
Skepticism · agriculture · politics · technology

LG Tone Bluetooth headset comparison

| Posted on in gadgets, reviews
The LG Tone+, Tone Ultra and Tone Infinim
The LG Tone+, Tone Ultra and Tone Infinim

I spend the majority of the waking hours of each day with a podcast playing in my ear. While I’m farming, I use two headsets for different purposes. I use the Motorola S10-HD when I’m working on or under equipment because it doesn’t fall off my head. The rest of the time, I use an LG Tone+. I’ve found the Tone+ to be light and amazingly comfortable, as well as very easy to quickly insert and remove from just one ear while wearing it. Wearing comfortably with just one ear is crucial for me, as I need to hear the equipment I’m operating with the other ear, so the Tone is superior to alternatives like the S10-HD and the BlueAnt Pump because they really can’t be worn comfortably in just one ear.

I bought my Tone+ in the summer of 2013, and it lasted through that season, through the winter and through the 2014 season. For someone who is as tough on devices as I am, that lifespan is a demonstration of very impressive durability, especially considering that the headset was in use for an average of 12 hours each day. I’d turn it on at 6 a.m. when I left the house and run it until the battery ran down, which was usually about 12 hours later.

As my Tone+, model HBS730, began to age, I began wondering if some of the other models of the LG Tone series might prove superior to my Tone Pro. I ordered a Tone Ultra, model HBS800, a couple months ago. Then, recently, Verizon asked me if I’d be interested in testing the LG Tone Infinim, the HBS-900. What follows is a comparison of these three headsets, the HBS730, HBS800 and HBS-900, with a focus on usability.

Common features
Each headset features a play-pause button on the right and a call button and charging port on the left. They all have equalizer preset modes, allowing selection among normal, bass boost and treble boost modes. While I haven’t tested the Ultra and Infinim for months on end like the Tone+, I’ve found no problems with battery life, with each model seeming to do at least better than 10 hours for constant audio playback.

LG Tone+ HBS730
LG Tone+ HBS730

LG Tone+ HBS730
Near and dear to my heart, the Tone+ has proven itself over the last year-and-a-half. The volume rocker is on the superior, or top, left and the tract selection rocker switch is on the superior right. The power switch is on the left, but, unlike the Ultra and Infinim, it’s on the distal side, facing away from the neck instead of the proximal, or inside, side of the headset. I’m not sure why later devices moved the power switch to the proximal side, but the Tone+ definitely has the best placement of the power switch.

The sound quality is adequate. The default EQ mode was always good enough for me, as I don’t demand pristine audio quality, especially for podcasts. When I do focus on sound quality, I find the sound of the Tone+ to be the worst of the three units compared here. It’s slightly muddy in each of the three modes, with no real way to shape the mid-range response to my liking. Having said that, for anyone but the most discerning audiophile, the sound from the HBS730 is certainly good enough.

LG Tone Ultra HBS800
LG Tone Ultra HBS800

LG Tone Ultra HBS800
Where the Tone+ was essentially flat in shape, the Tone Ultra has a pronounced curve to it, obviously in hopes that it fits more comfortably about the neck. I never had a problem with the comfort of the Tone+, so this shape change seems like a solution in search of a problem. However, I can’t complain about the comfort of the Ultra. What I can complain about is usability.

The Ultra is unquestionably the hardest of these three models to use. The buttons are simply harder to get to and harder to use. The power switch has been moved to the proximal side. The volume and track selection rocker switches have been moved from the superior to the distal sides of the left and right sides, respectively. These rocker switches are much more difficult to get to and, where I could easily operate the rockers with gloves on the Tone+, the Ultra requires a fair mount of fine motor skills just to adjust the volume or track. Additionally, the call and play-pause buttons, instead of being round, are shaped like icons. I’m not sure if it’s the change in shape of the buttons or the change in shape of the magnetic earbud holders that leave them more open on the dorsal side, but these buttons are difficult to use compared to the Tone+ unless I’m holding my thumb on the back side to use as counter-pressure.

Curvature of the LG Tone Ultra
Curvature of the LG Tone Ultra
Track selection button placement is hard to use
Track selection button placement is hard to use

The sound quality of the Tone Ultra is branded as JBL, and while it’s noticeably better than the Tone+, it’s not good enough to offset the nosedive in usability and additional cost of the Ultra over the Tone+.

LG Tone Infinim HBS900
LG Tone Infinim HBS900

LG Tone Infinim HBS-900
The Tone Infinim has some significant differences from its predecessors. The Tone+ and the Ultra have thin, flexible neck bands, while the Infinim is a a thicker and harder plastic with a flexing region of just a couple inches in the very back. The added weight adds a premium feel.

The next most significant difference is the change to the earbud cords. The Tone+ and Ultra feature fixed length cord that emerge mid-way up the neck and are held in place at the left and right ends with magnets. The Infinim has much thinner cords which actually retract into the headset, so when they’re fully retracted there is no cord showing. While it’s convenient when charging or transporting it to have the cords retracted, I’ve found that, because the cords emerge at the ends of the left and right sides instead of mid-way up the neck like the Tone+ and Ultra, it actually results in a longer cord that’s exposed when in use. This additional cable length is inconvenient when I pull the earbud out of my ear temporarily as it is just more cord to catch on clothing or other obstacles. As I’ve been caring for my two-month-old son for the last few weeks, it’s certainly less convenient than the Tone+ or Ultra to have the longer cable dangling for him to grab and try to eat when I’m holding him. It’s also more arduous to have to operate the retraction mechanism than it is to simply return an earbud to its magnetic holder with the other two models.

The buttons are also different. The play-pause and call buttons are round, but, unlike the Tone+, they’re recessed. I can see them being harder to use with gloves than the Tone+. Also, instead of rocker switches for volume and track selection, the Infinim uses sliders. While the sliders are more usable than the rockers on the Ultra, they’re still more cumbersome than the controls on the Tone+.

The sound quality of the Infinim is the best of the three models. It’s branded as harman/kardon and is a noticeable improvement in clarity from the other two models. The highs are clearer on all three preset modes and the mix feels balanced and much less muddy.

Selecting the right LG Tone headset for you
Each headset handles Bluetooth multipoint, which, as an example, allows it to pair with a phone and a tablet simultaneously. I use this feature on my Tone+ extensively in the tractor cab. They also feature other gimmicks, such as voice actions and the ability of the Infinim to read back the time. At the end of the day, I’m looking for a quality headset with excellent usability and acceptable sound quality at the lowest price.

The version of the Infinim Verizon sent me is red and black, while the only color scheme listed on LG’s website is silver. The lack of a black version is a deal-breaker for me, as is the price tag, which is, at the time I’m writing this review, about $150. If I had only a desk job, the controls on the Infinim, as well as the unique retractable earbuds, would be fine. I’m afraid that I just wouldn’t be happy with the Infinim for my use on the farm. However, if you want the best sound possible, don’t have an industrial application and don’t mind the red or silver color schemes, you can’t go wrong with the LG Tone Infinim.

What would I buy? I just bought a bucket of Tone+ headsets – one as a backup and the rest as stocking stuffers for family. At a fraction of the cost of the Infinim, and with much better usability than the Ultra, the Tone+ is an amazing value for a dependable, durable headset with good sound and amazing battery life.

  • Pingback: Motorola Tracks Air Bluetooth headphones | Aaron Traffas()

  • Pingback: Samsung Galaxy S6 - AuctioneerTech()

  • Pingback: HTC One M9 - AuctioneerTech()

  • Megan Rosenthal

    T-Mobile actually carries an all black version of the infinim if you are pretty set on the black, fyi. Thanks so much for the review, it’s been very helpful in my decision making process of keeping the infinim headset i just bought or staying with the tone pro hbs750. While the newest are the best in sound quality, i find myself thinking that ultimately, my tone pros are plenty of what i need and despite the cool factor of the retractable cords, overall infinim doesn’t offer me enough to justify the $150 price tag since my pros are doing the trick at $60 (the magenta color at t-mo is $10 cheaper, just an added bonus since i love the magenta version).

  • Chris

    Great article. I have a 730 and the wires are getting frayed and I was looking for a replacement. This article tells me to just buy another one. Thanks

  • closingracer

    They were $150 two months ago? I have been following them for months and the price on Amazon has always been in the sub $100 range around $80-$95 since like April-May. Got them at Bestbuy with price matching Amazon for $81 and I love the sound

  • UKK

    Great review..>Thx
    My Tone+ power switch just went south after 1.5 yrs..Doesnt turn ON. I was looking to upgrade, but seems like I mite want to stick with Tone+

  • Kurt Hoppe

    Nice review! I agree completely with your findings. I have also tried all 3 LG headsets, and even tried a non-LG brand (Sol Republic Shadow). As I primarily use the headset when exercising, the good old Tone + remains the most utilitarian of them all, with minimal exposed cords and minimal pulling of the headset when running. I guess I need to buy a bucket of LG Tone+’s myself.

  • enforcer3925

    Very helpful review. Exactly what I needed to know. Definitely going with the Tone+. Thanks.

  • donna

    what about the distance from the phone to the headset? which headset has the best range?

  • I have a Tone Plus and an Infinim. I am on my 3rd Tone Plus due to it losing the connection between the cord and the earpiece somewhere along the line. The sound fizzles in and out of the speaker. This has happened on all 3 of my LG Tone Plus however I have had no issues with my LG Tone Infinim. I found the sound quality to be pretty good in the Tone Plus and excellent in the Tone Infinim…

  • I have been through 3 Tone Plus’s in one year due to an issue with the sound cutting in and out from the cord getting stretched..

  • I honestly didn’t really notice much difference in range between them. They all seem to start to cut out about 30 yards away indoors and 40-50 yards line-of-sight. I have noticed that some of the knock-offs that can be found on eBay will cut out significantly sooner to the point that they’re not worth getting.

  • Manfred Schulz

    Thanks, very good review.

  • Travis Davenport

    I’ve had the 730 model for two years now and love them. Work great while working out and (most importantly) they’re low profile enough to fit in my ears while wearing my motorcycle helmet. I agree that the sound (originally) was just “adequate” but that’s with the stock tips. I purchased some Comply Foam Tips and the sound improved tremendously. More bass and more sound isolation. I’ve never had issues with the cords becoming frayed but I’m gentle with my electronics. I may buy another set before they discontinue them. You can get a new set for under $35 bucks – a steal. 730’s are the way to go.

  • Dawn

    Does the microphone perform the same with all 3? Looking to minimize background noise heard by person i am talking to when on a call

  • inwarresolution

    Thank you so much for the excellent review. I’m also interested in the sound quality of the mic on the Infinim. I use my Tone + for conference calls quite often, and I want to be heard well as well as to hear.

    I’ve also had great luck with the Tone +, and I’ve given several as gifts. It’s a GREAT value. I’m wondering if upgrading is worth it.

  • I’ve had a couple problems with one ear cutting out, but I’ve also found that sometimes what I thought was a problem with the cord was actually a plugged barrier in the ear piece itself and removing that barrier makes that side of the headset work again.

  • I don’t really make calls much, so giving the headsets to someone else so that I could listen to mic quality wasn’t a test I performed. I never had complaints when on calls with any of the headsets.

  • I didn’t really test the mics, unfortunately. I never had complaints, but I also don’t make a ton of calls so I can’t say reliably.

  • eandros

    I couldn’t agree with you MORE. I have used the Tone+ and the Ultra and NOT the Infinium. However I did use the Gear circle (HORRIBLE because of the system it uses to stay on your neck) and the Motorola “buds”, both of which has acceptable sound but the Gear Circle’s “neck stay-on-your-neck” system is ridiculous and the Motorola’s stiff plastic is not good at all. The Tone+ & Tone Ultra have a stiff but flexible structure that grips your neck but is flexible enough for varying neck sizes and for me, they just stay on way better than the Gear Circle and the Motorola. The Motorola is too stiff and not flexible enough and kind of does a “wheelie” on my neck making it less comfortable and more noticeable to onlookers and more likely to get caught in my hair. The Gear Circle is just a cable with ear buds on the end that falls off if you are doing anything more physical than sitting at a desk. To prevent it from slipping off your neck the geniuses at Samsung included a set of three clear plastic “half circles” that are supposed to connect the loose cord/buds more securely to your neck. That is ridiculous and is uncomfortable and doesn’t fit all neck sizes and the whole thing is just bad. That fact that someone sat around a conference table and selected that plastic neck thing as a solution to keep the cable/ear bud deal on, is insane. Ok so back to the difference between the Tone+ and the Tone Ultra – the worst thing about the Tone Ultra is a) the volume is lower than the Tone+ & b) the controls are on the side instead of on the top and as a result they are way harder to feel (without looking) and control as the reviewer points out. If you can find and buy the Tone+ that is a way better option than anything i have seen since the manufacturers started making these things.

  • I also had a Moto Buds for a while. After a few weeks of sweating on the fence line, it broke in the same way the old Moto S10 headsets would – the controls simply stopped working. I’m done with Moto because they can’t make stuff that lasts in an industrial environment.

  • Scott Boyer

    I’ve never had complaints either. My gut, however, is that the mic is better than my iPhone 4s. I just got a new 6s, and my 730 left channel wire gave it up a few weeks ago. I have absolutely loved this unit. Due to this review and the price I’m going to buy a few more.

  • Pingback: Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ on Verizon - AuctioneerTech()

  • Atanas Ctonlob

    0 information on how they sound. Worthless.

  • I did comment about how they sounded relative to one another. The Infinim definitely sounds the best. While I’m a musician and audiophile, I don’t generally listen to music on a Bluetooth headset. When I do, the sound quality of all three is sufficient. Sorry if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.

  • Atanas Ctonlob

    Well today i got a chance to listen to 4 models 750, 760, 800, and 900s.

    In my test i had one model in one ear, opposite model in the other ear using 2 galaxy s4 phones. Songs chosen were “Kaskade & deadmau5 – Move for Me (GTA Remix)” – my usual test song so i know how it sounds compared to everything else. Turn down for what, Finally moving – Pretty lights, and Phaeleh – Afterglow, I listened to those songs multiple times. I would listen to one model from one ear, other model in the other ear, then i would flip the ear buds.

    Results are as follows. in scale 1-10
    HBS-750 – 7 bass (boomy/muddy), 7 mids, 4 highs (highs had some distortion.)
    HBS-760 – 7 bass (clearer than 750s but not as boomy) 7 mids, 7-8 highs. Problem with these is the ear buds. The holes where the sound travels are large diameter so regular ear buds will not fit properly.
    HBS-800 8 bass (can be boomy with settings but very clear otherwise), 7 mids, 7 highs. Also very important, these come with active noise canceling.
    HBS-900, 4 bass, 8 mid, 8 highs. Bass sounded horrible in these. Not loud but not controlled either. Imagine trying to listen to a bass through a tweeter speaker. Kinda like that. The mids were good but the highs sounded too loud and overpowered the mids and bass.

    That said i purchased the HBS-800s and wore them to the gym. The Active noise canceling doesnt work as well as the Bose i20s ($300) however it works good enough to block out 50% of the background noise. When you have a song playing you wont hear much. Maybe very loud noises. With no music on, you can hear someone talk to you but you’ll have to listen pretty good and fill in the sounds.

  • FS

    Great review! Happy with 730s so buying them again since newer models have too much negativity around them.

  • Nathan Bassman

    Hey so I’m having the left bud go out on me, what’s this about a barrier? I’m looking between replace and repair. Ive had my infinums a little over a year now and that dsmn left side is killing me.

  • Take off the earpiece. Look inside – if it looks like a flat screen, use a pick to remove that flat screen. Without that screen, there’s no protective barrier between the speaker and your ear, but at least you can hear it.