Bose® is no stranger to bold design, and its latest product, the Frames™, might be the most audacious yet. Bluetooth sunglasses with speakers embedded inside them, the Frames™ are an innovative take on wearable tech. But are they any good? To find out, I took them for a month-long test drive. Here’s my review.
With the Frames, Bose® lets you choose from two distinct styles. You can go with the Wayfarer-inspired Alto design, or the more rounded Rondo variant, which have a nice retro feel to them. I opted for the Alto because that’s a better match for my face shape and it’s just such a classic look.
Speaking of aesthetics, I have to say the Frames™ look pretty darn sharp—way better than what I imagined when I first heard the phrase “speaker sunglasses.” The arms are a little chunkier than what I’d normally opt for, but that in no way disqualifies them from being a stylish set of everyday shades. The reason the arms are a little beefy, by the way, is because that’s where the miniaturized speakers, sensors, battery, and supplemental tech are housed—all the things that allow the Frames™ to wirelessly stream music from your phone to your ears.
Both the build and the comfort level of the Frames™ are excellent. From the scratch-resistant lenses to the nylon rims to the stainless-steel hinges, the Frames™ feel durable. As far as the fit goes: I wore my Frames™ for up to three hours at a time and never felt any discomfort—more than I can say for my regular sunglasses. They felt so comfortable, in fact, I took the Frames™ on a short jog and they stayed in place the whole time. Bose® probably wouldn’t recommend you doing the same, but the fact I could run around without losing them or feeling discomfort is a credit to how well they fit.
The one criticism I did have was that I felt the lenses could have been a bit darker. Bose® claims the Frames™ block up to 99% of UVA/UVB rays, and I’m not disputing that, but I personally would have liked a stronger tint. Other than that, the overall design of the Frames™ is a big plus. They look good, they’re made well, and they feel both comfortable and secure. It’s important that users try them on first—because head shapes and sizes vary—but personally I was very pleased.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little skeptical when I heard about the concept of “speaker” sunglasses. Even with Bose’s prestigious name behind it, I had my doubts. However, upon listening to a couple songs, my misgivings were quickly allayed.
The sound quality is shockingly good, way better than I anticipated. I’d go so far as to say they sound pretty close to the Apple Airpods or Powerbeats Pro, depending on the type of music you’re listening to. For example, playing Josh Ritter’s Fever Breaks, the Frames™ were outstanding. Vocals and piano were very clear. Same with the horns and guitar on The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive. I will say that the bass doesn’t kick quite as much as I’d like—something I noticed when playing Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon. Overall though, sound quality is solid.
One thing I did notice with the sound was that the optimal range was somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of maximum volume. Anything louder than that and the music starts to distort and there’s a considerable amount of bleed to the people around you. Keep it in the sweet spot and not only will your music sound great, it won’t be easily heard by your neighbors.
Now, speaking of your neighbors and what they can or cannot hear: One of the most brilliant things about the Bose® Frames™ is that if you keep them in the above-mentioned volume range, it’s difficult for people to tell you’re listening to music. When I first heard about this feature, I was certain the Frames™ were using bone-conduction technology, but as it turns out, the secret is much more clever. The Frames’ unique design directs sound from the speakers directly into your ears while simultaneously canceling out sound waves from leaking out to others. Not only is this wildly inventive, it’s also good manners.
Even though I view them primarily as audio sunglasses, there’s quite a bit extra you can do with the Frames™. A built-in microphone lets you take calls and supports both Siri and Google Assistant functionality. Both features worked perfectly fine. I called my mom and talked to her for 15 minutes about the Game of Thrones finale (her review: boo!) and her voice was clear and audible. Likewise, I used the Frames to ask Siri a question about the weather and she answered in kind.
Another interesting component about the Frames™ is their “AR” functionality, which Bose® is pushing pretty heavily. Now, typically, AR—or augmented reality—has a visual component to it, but Bose® AR is an audio-only take on AR. So, for example, using certain AR apps, you’ll receive location-based directions or information, you can participate in an audio-only story, or even receive coaching instructions from an audio caddy. It’s an interesting concept, for sure, but one I unfortunately didn’t get to test. However, I do wholeheartedly applaud the innovation and look forward to trying audio-only AR in the future.
Even though they can be set up and paired independently of any other application (which is awesome, by the way), the Frames™ can also be managed through the Bose® Connect™ app. It’s actually a very sleek-looking program that I wouldn’t mind looking at or using were I required to do so. But the fact is, I wasn’t, so I didn’t spend much time in the app other than to review it. Here’s my review: It’s nice. It’s intuitive, it looks sleek, and it really does let you easily manage your streaming audio. But, and you can blame the Frames™ super-easy setup and use for this, I didn’t find myself using it too often. More often than not, I popped my Frames™ on, queued up an album, and off I went. No muss, no fuss, and usually, no app.
At first glance, the Bose® Frames™ seem a bit of risky business. Speaker sunglasses—really? But with a stylish look, comfortable fit, and surprisingly solid audio performance, the Frames™ are a gamble that paid off. Over the last month, I’ve been more than happy to switch my usual combo of earbuds and sunglasses for the Frames. And while it’s not all roses—the arms could be slimmer, the lenses darker, the bass deeper—the Frames™ are a major win for Bose® and wearable tech in general.
Are the Bose® Frames™ for you? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.
I'd really like to see a more practical frame style geared towards sports enthusiast use than these frame choices. As a 'road warrior' cyclist, I enjoy listening to music which riding and currently use buds, but would prefer these Bose type ope-air audio sunglasses if they were styled more like competition frames than these wayfarer styles. Please keep us posted on progress.
couldn't agree more. i took these for a long run and while i appreciated that they stayed in place and music performance was solid, i wouldn't choose them over my workout/running earbuds. i do hope that the favorable reception the frames have so far received will result in bose releasing a sports-focused pair in the future.
What about those people that wear prescriptions?
Hi Michael -
At the current time, using prescription lenses will void your warranty with Bose.
We are currently looking into options for prescription lenses, so please keep an eye on our social channels for more information to come!
Answered by BOSE
Now able to get prescription lenses through Lensabl … just did and am quite pleased to dump my glasses and headset WFH setup for my Bose frames!
'What a capitalist!"