Bose Frames Audio Sunglasses Review
As a wearer of true wireless earbuds, that’s not a question I ever thought I would ask. But the Bose Frames are amazing and leaving your ears free of buds or headphones has a clear and obvious case.
The term “smart glasses”’ might raise visions of Google’s ill-fated Glass, but the Bose Frames are not in the same league. There’s no screen, camera or any visible signs of “smart” from the front. Instead they have built-in sensors and a pair of hidden speakers, which pipe music to your ears.
Bose has made the design of the Frames fantastic. They look like regular unisex sunglasses. The arms are a bit thicker and wider near the ears and there’s a small gold button for turning music on and controlling them. But I was happy wearing them when not listening to music. There’s a choice of two frames: the larger, squarer Alto (as tested) and the smaller, rounder Rondo. Both are made from black nylon, come with black lenses and look fairly comprehensive.
Other lenses are available as optional accessories, including a set of mirrored polarised (£30) or blue gradient (£20), which pop in and out easily enough with a bit of light force applied to the lens. But that’s about as far as customization goes. Prescription lenses are coming, but aren’t available in the UK yet.
They’re comfortable to wear for extended periods without pinching on the nose or ears, and fold up just like any regular set. They weigh 45g, which is about the weight of a thicker set of premium sunglasses.
HOW THEY WORK AND SOUND
The glasses sound amazingly good for what they made for. Two small speakers sit in the frame just in front of your ears. The music is directed straight to your ear through small speaker grilles, while cancelling sound is projected out into the world. The result is a sound leakage of about 1%, according to Bose.
In the real world if you have the volume below 50% people sitting right next to you won’t hear it. In fact I took delight in the look of surprise on people’s faces when I gave them the Frames and they suddenly heard my tunes blasting out as they put them on. It’s really very impressive.
The one thing the Frames can’t do that earbuds can is protect you from the loud din of a city. You can forget hearing music on a screeching train or while walking by a working jackhammer. In this regard they are very much like Apple’s popular AirPods.
You get just over three hours of continuous listening out of the Frames before the battery runs dry, which is normally enough. Charging is fairly slow and needs a proprietary magnetic USB cable that snaps on to the inside of the right arm..
The smart thing of the Frames is the support for the firm’s audio augmented reality platform, Bose AR, which is also available on the Bose’s popular QC35 II headphones, and on the upcoming Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. The Frames know which way you’re facing and your location from the GPS on your phone, so you can use audio to feed information about the real world into your ears. But the platform only supports iOS at the moment and lacks a killer app. The best of the bunch are some 3D audio experiences, a golf app that can tell you where the hole is and some walking directions. None of them were interesting enough to use beyond trinket, but Bose AR has potency.
The Bose Frames Alto cost £199.95 with black lenses, with gradient blue lenses costing £19.95 and mirrored silver polarized lenses costing £29.95 as optional extras. The Bose Frames Rondo cost £199.95 with black lenses, with gradient blue lenses costing £19.95 and mirrored rose gold polarised lenses costing £29.95 as optional extras. For comparison, the Oakley Radar Pace, which has in-ear buds attached to the sunglasses, costs £400 while various bone conduction sunglasses cost from about £100.