There’s nothing new about wearable earphones, but audio eyewear? That’s revolutionary. The new Frames sunglasses by Bose give you the fashionable option of kicking back with some choice tunes and looking good while doing so.
Bluetooth earphones and headphones are prized for their convenience and mobility. Combine those aspects with Bose’s penchant for producing high quality audio electronics and you’ve got something that even the most discerning of audiophiles can appreciate.
Bose’s new product has everything you’d expect from a sunglass-earphone hybrid. It provides excellent UVA/UVB protection while offering excellent durability thanks to its metal hinges, nylon rims and damage-resistant lenses. Frames utilises Bose’s open-ear audio technology to maximise comfort while also ensuring that your musical experience remains personal. An integrated microphone also allows you to take calls while on the go.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Bose has delved into the world of wireless earphones. However, channeling its expertise in the direction of wearable tech comes as a first for Bose. The audio giant also takes a bold step forward with Bose AR, an augmented reality platform that allows you to connect with smartphone apps of the travel, entertainment and activity persuasion.
A quick test run
Setting up the Bose Frames is an absolute cinch: a simple click of a discrete button puts the eyewear into pairing mode. Likewise, linking up with a Bluetooth-enabled phone is quick and seamless. While you don’t need to have the Bose Connect app installed to enjoy the Bose Frames, the app does provide some additional functionality such as device location, product info, AR features and other user settings.
Operating the Bose Frames is all done via the single power button. Clicking it once plays and pauses the current song, twice allows you to skip forward and thrice reverses this. Call management is also done after a similar fashion. A particular feature that I found to be nifty was the way Bose executed the automatic power-off function. Instead of having to press and hold the power button like most audio peripherals, simply turning the sunglasses upside down for two seconds is all it takes. In other words, the usage process closely mimics that of regular sunglasses for a truly integrated experience. No surprise at how good the Bose Frames is at shielding the eyes from harmful UV rays either; just like how a quality pair of shades do.
Of course, the audio is where it’s all at when it comes to Bose. If you’re expecting IEM or even headphone-level of audio quality though, it’s safe to say that you’ll be fairly disappointed. Make no mistake: the fidelity is impressive when you consider that a) it’s a casual lifestyle product and not an audiophile-grade one, and b) that audio sunglasses are only a recent innovation. The soundstage is open and well-balanced, and the bass remains punchy even at low volumes. I was actually quite surprised at how lush the mid frequencies were conveyed. When you consider that all this comes from a pair of speakers no more the size a fingernail, located under the frames of the sunglasses, it’s not a stretch to say that the Bose Frames performs remarkably well in its class.
Unfortunately, I was unable to put the Frames’ AR functionality to the test. At the time of writing, the only app available was one tailored for navigating golf courses, and I’m not one for swinging at small white balls on the green. My guess is that a number of apps will feature region-exclusivity, so it’s hard to say with certainty what the Southeast Asian market will receive on this end.
Despite being a great proof of concept, the Bose Frames kind of falters as an overall crowd-pleaser. Bose’s decision to offer the Frames in two sizes for greater gender inclusivity is laudable, but Asians (women in particular) might find the Frames to be poorly-fitting. For instance, my wife was unable to wear the Frames for a prolonged period of time due to it constantly sliding down the bridge of her nose.
Secondly, the discrete nature (sound-wise) of the Frames is a little overstated. If a person were to sit next to you on a park bench, they would most likely be able to listen in on your playlist. This is especially true if your volume level tends to sit north of 50 per cent. Walking down a busy street (or anywhere with some environmental noise) minimises this significantly, but at the expense of audio clarity due to the lack of noise isolation.
On a final note, you’re out of luck if you require prescription lenses in your eyewear. The only way people with poor eyesight will be able to enjoy the Bose Frames is by donning contacts. In this reviewer’s opinion, Bose partnering with a third-party manufacturer to offer prescription lenses for the Frames would make the product much more appealing and eye-friendly.
Note: I have heard of people getting custom lenses installed, but this would most likely void the product’s warranty so caution is advised.
Ultimately, the Bose Frames work best as a pair of sunglasses you slip on for a stroll or a drive, when you feel like bringing your playlist with you but not your earphones. It’s lightweight, fashionable and manages to deliver on its claims. You can grab a pair for $299 at bose.com, but be sure to try them on in person first.