My new sunglasses sound terrific. Literally. Bose managed to fit a full-fidelity speaker system into the temple-ear pieces of sunglasses. Nothing inserts in your ear. There are no ear buds to fall out and nothing on the ear to block warning sounds and increase perspiration. These wireless sonic sunglasses use Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone or other audio source. Bose logically calls this innovation Frames.
Frames come in two sizes, the larger Alto and the smaller Rondo, both in black. Alto and Rondo do full justice to baritone and adagio as well. Curious that Bose mixed its metaphors with Alto and Rondo. Bose specifies the Alto weighs 45 grams, verified as they weighed in at 1.6 ounces on my postal scale. Whether in metric or English, they are delightfully light on your nose and ears and certainly as comfortable as any conventional pair of sunglasses.
Frames contain a single switch, a tiny gold button toward the front of the right earpiece. Pressing this button powers on the Frames. Subsequent taps command your smart phone to stop and start audio, answer calls and similar basic functions. Turning the Frames upside down turns them off.
A tiny strip of gold contacts on the right inside mate with the charging cable. Magnets on the strip and the end of the charging cable assure proper binding contact and orientation. A tiny white LED indicates success. It might have been more convenient if the Frames used a conventional USB-C connector, except there’s no space. If you misplace or lose the supplied cable, you’ll have silent sunglasses. The charging cable contains a USB-A connector on its other end that plugs into any conventional USB jack. Bose supplies no charger, assuming that you’ll use your cellphone charger, computer or the car’s USB jack to charge, which takes a couple of hours.
Amazingly, the lithium batteries built into the Frames power them for 3.5 hours. Thus, they should entertain you on a long bike ride or jog.
The sound quality throws no shade, it’s dazzling. The Frames sound better for outdoor activities than nearly all ear buds I’ve tried. Beyond the remarkable bass, as well as clear midrange and high frequencies, they envelop you in a spatial perspective that far exceeds conventional stereo. You truly feel immersed in the sound. Podcasts transport you to the room with the people speaking. There’s naturalness to the voices with clarity where you never miss a word, assuming the podcast producer recorded it properly. Bose always excels at maximizing sound within minimal space, whether the Wave Music System, the Jewel Cubes of its Lifestyle Systems or its noise-cancelling headphones.
As sunglasses, the neutral dark gray plastic optically perfect lenses make an excellent compromise of blocking brightness without overly filtering a gray day. However, one complaint is that these are not polarizing lenses, so they don’t cut glare. Bose offers lens upgrades: There’s a Blue Gradient, non-polarized lens ($19.95) for both styles, and there’s a different polarized option for each ($29.95) — Mirrored Silver for Alto and Mirrored Rose Gold for Rondo.
The Frames’ frames are sturdy black plastic with strong gold hinges. You won’t easily destroy them. Bose supplies a hard plastic case.
The tradeoff is that the Alto looks a bit dorky. No one will offer the kind of compliment as “who’s behind those Foster Grants.” However, what’s out is in these days, so these thick basic black shades also look hip.
Bose collaborated with General Motors over 35 years ago to dramatically improve the sound of factory-installed car stereos and subsequently worked with several other manufacturers to improve rolling sound. The key to this success was collaboration. It well would serve Bose to collaborate with quality sunglass manufacturers to offer this incredible sound in a greater variety of styles. Working with chains of optical stores would provide custom fitting. Bose plans to offer apps to make the sonic abilities of Frames even more versatile.
You can Frame yourself for $199. That’s a lot less than a silent pair of Maui Jim sunglasses.