I always felt like kind of a dork when wearing neck buds while commuting on public transit, if only because I felt like the neck band seemed wholly unnecessary when the bulk of the technology could go in the buds.
But then I put on the LG Tone Studio neck buds. They're going to garner some looks out in public, but I've come to appreciate their ability to do double duty as ear buds and stereo speakers. They're especially effective at helping me immerse myself into the virtual reality I'm attempting to concoct with Daydream View. As a mobile stereo system for your mobile VR experience, the Tone Studio neck buds are quite capable.
They go around your neck
I know — we're already strapping a headset around our faces. Why would I dare suggest that you put on anything else to weigh you down? At 4.4 ounces, the Tone Studio neckband isn't that heavy to wear, though it does do that annoying thing neckbands do where they slide around to either side and then sort of swivel around in an attempt to free themselves.
The Tone Studio neckband feature retractable ear buds and four speakers — two on either side. It has so many buttons that you might start to refer to it as Mission Control. There are two switches, one for turning it on and another for switching between the speaker and earbud mode. There is a button pausing playback and a button you can use to place a call, as well as a volume dialer on the left side of the device that you can press to change sound profiles. You won't have to look at your smartphone at all to shuffle through all the crappy songs.
The Tone Studio neck buds also come with a feature that many devices are dropping these days: a 3.5 headphone jack, which you can use when the situation calls for avoiding Bluetooth connections, or you want to hook up multiple Tone Studio headphones for a community-shared sound experience. I worry about the longevity of the wires connecting the ear buds, though. The buds look like they will bend off quickly, and the cable almost feels like a thin strand of hair.
The Tone Studio is comfortable to wear at home, at the computer, while playing games, or while doing chores. But I'm not sure I could traverse the entire day with a boomerang around my neck. They're not very comfortable if you're actively sweating, either, so I'd advise against wearing them on the treadmill or on the trail.
They sound quite good
Audio from the LG Tone Studio neck buds is pretty substantial for a pair of earphones attempting to pass as stereo speakers. These DTS-tuned speakers can get loud, though the louder you go, the shakier they get — especially if you're in "bass" mode. The Tone Studio features vibrating speakers, too, and you'll feel them if the bass is consistent and the audio is high quality.
The ear buds are capable of 32-bit DAC audio. I loved listening to my summer playlist on repeat; music sounded crisp, and the bass felt palatable whether I was streaming through Spotify or listening to audio files stored locally on my Mac. In virtual reality, I could hear every crash and crumble as I stumbled my way through Daydream's VR Flight Dash.
Where the Tone Studio didn't particularly impress was with playing back podcasts.
Where the Tone Studio didn't particularly impress was with playing back podcasts. Voices sounded slightly muffled when listening in stereo mode, or they sounded tinny when listening through the ear buds.
Annoyingly, the LG Tone Studio neck buds also charge with micro USB. You will have to carry around that extra cord along with your VR-enabled smartphone and everything else you need with it. LG claims up to 61 days of standby time for the Tone Studio neck buds or 35 hours of listening time through earphone phone. It only estimates six hours of listening time for speaker mode, however, which is much less than what you'd get with a regular Bluetooth speaker set. Still, I listened to Spotify radio from my Pixel XL for about five hours straight of intermittently switching between the earbud mode and speaker mode, and the battery was still kicking away.
Don't wear these on the bus
The LG Tone Studio neck buds are a portable sound factory of sorts. I have no doubt I may see a kid sporting these on the bus someday, loudly blaring some terrible music his friend recorded in a garage earlier that week. And I have no doubt that I'm going to be very annoyed when I see it. But when I get home, I'll pop these on myself to dance around the house as I do my chores, tend to the garden, or get a little afternoon VR action.
They're also pretty affordable at $140, which isn't a bad asking price for a device that can do double duty as a set of ear buds and portable stereo speakers. But don't buy these if you're looking for your next pair of workout gear, or you want something more immersive to pair with a full-size VR headset like an Oculus Rift. The Tone Studio neck buds work best for the casual user who has too much to do to get into the zone but doesn't mind the distraction from time to time.
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