LG’s Tone Studio speakers have an odd concept. A wearable designed to be draped around the user’s neck, they allow you to listen to music, watch a film or play a game with the audio blasting from your shoulders, essentially turning your body into a mobile speaker. Though intrigued by their function, prior to trying the Tone Studio speakers out for myself I assumed that they’d be yet another wearable oddity, designed for tech enthusiasts but ultimately not useful enough to warrant regular usage. However, after extensive use I’m happy to report that this isn’t the case, despite them being plagued by a few glaring issues.
The Tone Studio is equipped with four speakers, with the two positioned at the top dealing with the mid-to-high range, while the two at its bottom deal with the bass. Its horseshoe design neatly fits around the wearer’s neck, with its flexible material ensuring that you don’t really notice that it’s there once you have it on. It’s primarily intended to connect wirelessly to a device using Bluetooth, with it doing so by way of a quick flip of a switch, no app required. However, it can also connect to devices using a 3.5mm cable using the Tone Studio’s aux-in jack, so if you have a desktop without Bluetooth functionality then rest assured you’ll still be able to hook it up.
The audio quality of the Tone Studio is what I was most impressed by. Watching noisy action sequences in movies becomes a portable cinematic experience with the wearable equipped, with the individual surround sound provided by its four speakers contributing to raucous audio that doesn’t depreciate with the volume turned way up, which is what I had expected would be the case. The Tone Studio also shines while gaming, with the constant action of the likes of the Nintendo Switch’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe really showcasing the device’s capabilities. As I spend most of my time playing the Switch in portable mode even while I’m at home, hooking it up to the Tone Studio provided an excellent alternative to the Switch’s tinny built-in speakers, and also ensured that I didn’t need to wear a set of headphones while playing so my ears were completely free. I imagine this would be useful for a parent who wants some alone time, but who also can’t shut themselves off from their kids playing in another room by putting in a pair of earbuds and watching a film.
Though you might expect portable wearable speakers would be primarily focused upon playing music, that isn’t the case with the Tone Studio. Hooking it up to my iPhone 7 via Bluetooth, I found that music played using Spotify and YouTube really lacked the notable power that I’d experienced during my film and gaming sessions with the wearable. Another issue is the uncomfortable rumbling that sometimes occurs when playing low-quality audio, with the dual downwards-facing bass speakers vibrating at the back of my neck until I turned the volume way down. This wasn’t a frequent problem, but was still annoying enough to prove noteworthy.
The Tone Studio is also equipped with two earbuds, which you can handily pull from out of the device using their retractable cables. They boast reasonable audio quality, but they were rendered useless for me as a result of their bulkiness, with them routinely falling out of my ears and only staying in place when forcibly shoved into my ear canals. This greatly limited their practicality as a truly portable device, as a set of headphones are both much more suitable for listening to music at a reasonable audio quality, and are much more comfortable than shoving a pair of large buds into your ears.
The portability of the Tone Studio is also stifled as a result of how disruptive the device is when used in a public place. It’s deceptively loud considering its size, and even with the volume turned down it’s not exactly good manners to force everyone in your vicinity to listen to what you’re playing on your phone. This means that the device is best used in the home, which isn’t exactly ideal considering that it’s designed to be used when on the move.
However, for the film fans and gamers that the Tone Studio is most likely to impress, this wearable packs a punch whether you’re chilling in bed watching a movie on your laptop, or having a few sessions of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on your PC. Its $189 price point is steep considering the niche market that will benefit the most from it, but for those who spend a lot of time at home watching videos on their phone, films on their laptop or playing games on their PC or Switch, then the LG Tone Studio makes for a useful and impressive gadget.