After the successful campaign I did for Bose on the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 – the best active noise cancelling headphones reviewed in 2019 – Bose invited me to review their new tech-hybrid product, Bose Frames. It’s Bose’s first pair of audio sunglasses that is literally a wearable. They retail at S$299 in Singapore and come in 2 designs. Frames Alto is more angled and comes in 2 sizes (S/M and M/L) while Frames Rondo is rounded with single size (S/M).
You may have seen or heard surprised responses from people who have tried Bose Frames. You may have wondered if their reactions are legit. So I was rather excited to be able to review Bose Frames at length. Inside the retail box contains the sunglasses case wrapped in leather on the outside and suede on the inside. A small cloth bag holds the proprietary magnetic charging cable, which makes sense so that I feel safe storing the cable together with the sunglasses.
Unboxing and Design
Bose Frames are made of matt plastic, feel lightweight, and do not feel like a techie product. The temples (sides of the glasses) are thick and odd-shaped on its own, but when worn, actually look sleek. The thickness extends towards the ears then thins down behind the ears.
Upon closer observation, you see several openings with grilles all around the temple. They are placed strategically to provide the audio experience as well as for voice calls. The review unit is the global fit S/M size, and for me, it is somewhat small. The Frame temples are pressing onto the sides of my head and the speakers do not reach all the way to my ears, which I suspect may affect the overall audio impact.
Bose Frames work with standard Bluetooth protocol, so you just have to pair it to any device just like wireless headphones. You can also use the Bose Connect app and follow the in-app instructions.
To operate Bose Frames, there is only one multi-function button located at the right temple. One you wear it, tap once to power up and connect to your device within one second. You will hear voice prompts followed by battery level. Tap once to play-pause, tap twice to go to next track, tap three times to go previous track. To pick up call, tap once, to reject call, press and hold. To trigger smart assistant (Siri, Google), press and hold.
To turn off Bose Frames, double-tap and hold the button, but an easier way is to simply flip the sunglasses. Once it’s off, you can move them in any direction. The power will also auto-off if there is no audio activity or if the sunglasses are not moved.
Bose Frames do not use bone conduction method, but open ear acoustics using miniature speakers to project sound towards the ears. The result is that I experience sound staging that seems to come from the front of my visual field. You can call it AR sound or 3D sound, this is the part that wows people, that the audio source seems to come from the front of the face rather than from the tiny speakers at the sides.
Through the tiny speakers, you should not expect any real bass effects. I am getting clear treble output, tame midrange, and flat bass. Bose Frames owner should not expect sound dynamics like in-ear headphones, it’s just not possible. Also, being an open ear sound, the music volume is in competition with the surrounding noise, so you really cannot experience detailed instrumentation on the go.
Real Life Usage
Do Bose Frames work in real life? I actually liked it for the convenience, and contemplated if I should get prescription lenses so that I could wear it more often. I like the instant power-on and connection to the smartphone, and similarly instant powering down when I flip the sunglasses. With Bose Frames, I can casually experience audio response from my smartphones without having to wear earbuds all the time. It allows me hear notifications or short videos through Bose Frames and not disturbing people around me.
I could even wear the sunglasses for my afternoon naps in my living room. It serves 3 purposes: I cut off the glare from the window, I enjoy soft music which cannot be heard by my family, and I remain aware of my surroundings (in case my family calls for me or doorbell rings).
At high volumes, there is sound leakage, so they are not ideal at quiet environments like libraries unless you turn down the volume. At noisy environments, I find it difficult to hear detailed audio. I also could not use it indoors as it did not look appropriate to wear shades.
The battery life is rated at 3.5 hours, and Bose Frames can adequately last the whole day on standby. If you prefer to conserve battery life, you can shorten the auto-power interval under the smartphone app settings. It also helps that waking up Bose Frames are quite fast. Full charging takes about 2 hours.
Bose Frames deviate from the usual product line that Bose is strong at. With over 50 years of audio expertise, Bose Frames offer a different listening experience and it’s not all about strong bass or audiophile details. The “different” comes from the unique audio experience, delivering wireless sound from the paired device to the wearer, being aware of the surroundings, without plugging into earphones at all times. It is a non-intrusive way of listening to audio and I think it is a viable product that the masses can adopt to.
Bose Frames retail at S$299 and available at all Bose authorised stores in Singapore (find one at https://www.bose.sg/en_sg/store_locator.html ). Visit one near you to try out before purchasing. For product information, visit https://bose.life/2rRr4t6
Disclosure: Products are provided free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received. Opinions are from author.