It’s amazing when a manufacturer can create a tech product that actually has a substantial shelf-life. Case in point? The LG Tone+ series. The HBS-700 came out in early 2011 and has been going strong ever since. This in spite of the introduction of an “improved” HBS-730 version in early 2013. Now both headsets seem to sell equally well. QTOOTH is going to re-visit this popular series of Bluetooth headsets and take a look at what makes them such a success. Perhaps other manufacturers and designers can learn from what LG has done.
There are a few common issues that come with wearing any Bluetooth wireless headset:
- The electronics put weight on the sensitive inner folds of the ear
- The ear buds block normal hearing of the environment even when not in use
- Due to their typically small size devices are often easy to lose
How did the LG Tone+ series attempt to cure these?
The main thing that set the LG Tone+ HBS-700 apart when it was first introduced was the use of a collar, or necklace, mount for the ear buds. This immediately took the weight of all of the electronics off of the sensitive parts of the ear. The control interface and the electronics are all built-in to the collar itself. Connected by wires, the only part of the device that is inserted into the ear are the small, lightweight ear buds. By placing magnetized holders at each end of the collar mount, LG provided a convenient place to store the ear buds. This simultaneously cured the issues of blocked hearing when not in use and the tendency to lose them. Because the ear buds are stored only inches away from the ear, users always know where they are and can be confident that they can quickly take the ear buds in and out of their ears quickly as needed during use.
It is their unique solution to these three issues is probably what set them apart the most from the competition. There are so many built-in limitations to Bluetooth audio that the variances between models and manufacturers have thus far proven to be very small at best.
Here are a few of the other features that have made them great. In our experience, both of the LG Tone+ HBS-700 and the LG Tone+ HBS-730 perform well and reasonably close to their stated technical specs. Great battery life at 10 hours of use and 15 days of standby time. The batteries also re-charge very quickly, sometimes within 90 minutes. The controls are located within easy reach on the collar, even if tucked inside of a shirt or sweatshirt. Because the collar can jump around on the neck a bit, this is our preferred method of wearing them, especially if moving around at work or while working out.
The main complaint we have about both headsets has to do with the quality of the microphones when making a phone call. Although they claim to be using noise-cancelling circuitry and digital noise reduction, in our experience they do not seem to be very effective in noisy environments. Background noise is an issue and we found ourselves raising our voices in order to be understood by our callers. We must stress that this is only an occasional issue and that due to the nature of this design we didn’t really expect the Tone+ to perform at the same level as a dedicated, on-the-ear headset with a microphone boom.
So what’s the real difference between the LG Tone+ HBS-700 and the LG Tone+ HBS-730? The original 700 seems to have a slightly better range and battery life. These two attributes may have gotten sacrificed just a little bit when they added the Apt-X circuitry to the 730. However the Apt-X circuitry did slightly improved the audio experience of the 730 and gave the bass frequencies a little more “oomph”.
So, which is the one for you? If you’re using it primarily for talking on the phone, dictation, or listening to podcasts, choose the LG Tone+ HBS-700. If you are going to be spending more time listening to music, movies or gaming, then the HBS-730 would be a better choice.
Note: And yes, LG did make an even better version called the HBS-800 that had slight improvements in the electronics and subtle cosmetic change. Although it’s a good headset, most people seem to agree with us that they are not worth the nearly 2-3 times amount of money that the other two models can typically be found.