We love tech products that push the boundaries of “complete sense,” because while the Bose Frame is cool on paper we want to know how it stacks up in reality. Sometimes these boundary-pushing products go right over our heads as we throw them into the “it’ll never work” bin, but when they come from one of the world’s foremost producers of audio – we have to listen. In its latest lineup, the Frames become three, with different styles to choose from; Tempo (sports), Tenor (square) and Soprano (round). We got our hands on the Tenor Frames and got to work.
It’s evident the audio world is experimenting with different methods in which to get sound into our ears. And Bose is leading the charge in the glasses department with the Frame.
More than a little familiar with open-ear headphones, we use our bone marrow conducting AfterShokz Aeropex almost every single day on our morning cycle. We love the idea of keeping your ears open while still being able to listen to music. It’s safe, comfortable, and convenient, even if you catch the odd stare from someone walking past.
We were most interested in how this stack up – but let’s be clear – they’re not direct competitors to the AfterShox that serve a completely different market, so we won’t be benchmark testing here. Most interesting to note is the price jump to $399.95 – a $100 premium over the outgoing Rondo and Alto models. And although we’ve found a few pairs around the $300 mark online, we really want to gauge the Frames value for money proposition, that stems from its physical application. Let’s check it out.
|What We Love||What We’d Change|
|Connection, and call quality||More customisation (colour, design, lense)|
|Stylish design, lenses, polarised||Not completely sold on the function aspect|
|Build quality, Audio, and Call Quality||Heavier, bulkier than traditional sports sunglasses|
Fresh out the box, what’s the first thing everyone checks? Sound of course, and the Bose Frame Tenor is everything you’d expect from a leading brand and more. We love the improved sound stage with a lower base than the previous model and clearer highs. Obviously, benchmarking these sunglasses against a set of true wireless earbuds would be unfair, and you’re simply not going to get the same audio performance from something in this price range.
Also unlike true wireless earbuds, we didn’t find the battery life nearly as important. The majority of wear will come from short walks in the sun or carrying them in a bag on a day out. And unless you’re travelling (who is right now) you’ll never exceed the 5.5 hours of battery life provided. Connection is easy, strong, and the dial microphones replace the outgoing single mic for quality audio calls (without wind). Siri and Google Assistant are built-in and super useful for changing songs.
Did we mention how much better these new Frames look? With a gloss, black finish and a number of polarised lenses to choose from you’ll be sure to find a match that suits your style. We understand why Bose isn’t able to provide an even wider selection, but it would be nice to have even greater choice and nail the style side of things.
Not that we’re here to give away free ideas, but how cool would it be to see the glasses ‘frame’ hot-swappable?! That is, you purchase the arms of the glasses from Bose with all the functions and audio, and then the lens design can be purchased through Bose or aftermarket in whatever style you choose. Enough food for thought, we’ve included the best deals on the Bose Frame we could find below. For more information, keep reading for our detailed technical review.
Now the general crowd is out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the Bose Frames performance. The best way to do this is to look back at where we’ve come from, that is, the Alto and Rondo. For this model lineup, Bose has catered for two specific markets, the first being the sport/ athlete and the second being the stylish designer type. How? By introducing two different models under the same umbrella.
Most interestingly, while it’s technically still under the Frame umbrella, the Tempo (sport) Frame actually has better specs. With a larger and more dynamic driver at 22mm vs. the Tenor and Sopranos 16mm. It also adds an extra 2.5 hours of battery life at 8-hours vs. its family members.
When you consider the target market for the sport model you understand why Bose says it plays “loud enough for cycling at 25- mph,” it’s designed for sports use only. It’s not good looking enough to serve your everyday needs and unless you’re a runner or cyclist you won’t even need the extra soundstage. We found the Tenor (that we tested) was more than loud enough.
So how’s it sound? Well, as mentioned, you’re not going to get the same audio performance that you find from a pair of $300 earphones, but they’re certainly better than the last model. We’d say it’s a noticeable increase, but not drastic, and if you’re really tight for budget the Alto and Rondo are great value at under AU$200.
Sound leakage is decent, but drawing the line between good sound and leakage is always going to be a toss-up with open-ear headphones. It’s not like you’re walking down the street with a portable speaker – far from it in fact – but it’s something to consider if you’re commuting. We don’t recommend wearing these indoors if others are around, and it’s worth noting that the sound disperses far better outdoors with people around. One situation we’d love to use the Frames is when working from home in our private office, if there was an option for blue light frames (to use while working) we’d jump on it!
Other stand out features include top-notch call quality, voice assistant support, USB charging via a custom pin USB charger for the Tenor and Soprano, and USB C charging for the Tempo.
Design and Practical Use
With its larger drivers, the Tempo (sport) model plays louder and has better bass, so if that’s something you really need in your life – at the expense of good looks – let us steer you in that direction. However, we’re from Man of Many, and crafting that perfect balance of performance and design is more so our style. We opted for the Tenor to test its design principles and practical use.
In some respects you’re shopping for a pair of sunglasses with the Frames, they just happen to sound really good at the same time. With a price point that can be found in the low AU$300’s, they’re only a small stretch of the budget from some of our favourite sunglasses brands that don’t even have speakers!
The Frames offer a comfortable fit that’s slightly larger and bulkier than a pair of Ray-Bans. You don’t notice the lump in the sides of the glasses at all when you’re wearing them, and although the Tempo has a noticeably bigger lump – it screams function. Pairs will fit all genders comfortably, although the Soprano is clearly geared towards the feminine look with round ‘cat eye’ lenses. The Tempo includes a set of different sized nose grips to prevent bouncing when exercising.
So where did we find the most practical uses? Interestingly, more often than you’d think, these are the scenarios in which we loved the Frames, and found genuine practical use:
- Working from home
- Listening to a podcast
Offering a combination of decent looks, optional lenses, and more function than anything else in the sunglasses segment, we have to say these are a winner if you look at them as sunglasses first. It’s worth noting that the die-hard runner will have a hard time adjusting from hardcore racing glasses to Frames.
Overall we were very impressed by the sound and performance of the Tenor Frames. The style to audio tradeoff is almost non-existent and we’d happily use these every day. The practical use is still something that we’re not sold on for every customer, but the technology is certainly there and the absolute application can be figured out by the individual. We loved using the frames when cycling outside and walking the dog, however, we can see practical uses in the future with different lenses, especially if they introduce a blue light filter lense for working from home.
We strongly recommend you consider your individual circumstances before purchasing the Frames. But when you consider a decent pair of sunglasses will run you at least AU$250, maybe having a pair of built-in speakers is a nice thing to have, even if you don’t use them every 5-mins. We can’t wait to see what Bose thinks of next, even without AR!