Despite the fact that technology has been evolving at a fast rate, the sound accessories industry has been looking monotonous, having fewer and fewer surprises when it comes to cutting edge headphones, soundbars and wireless speakers. Nowadays, the bar has been raised and expectations are much higher than ever before. Now, there’s a surprising new product around. The Bose Frames Alto Audio – both headphones/sunglasses in one. The new AR audio sunglasses provide an “audio augmented reality” experience, offering you a more immersive audio sound. They’re crafted for both “sun and sound”. There are only two different designs available, the Alto model and the Rondo model, both priced at $200. This product might just be the one that pushes audio accessories manufacturers to take the next step forward.
The Bose Frames come in a rectangular box, and inside of it, you can find a large sunglasses case that’s layered in beaded vinyl with a Bose logo on the front. Inside the case, you’ll find your sunglasses, that have semi-transparent, glossy, black frames. The earpieces are designed in a way that makes them look swollen, having slim vents along the bottom and sides, containing all the stored technology within.
The Alto model resembles the Ray-Ban’s classic Wayfarers. When paying close attention to detail around the lenses, one can notice the framing is larger and more rounded. These frames don’t exactly scream stylish, but they have a really good design when taking into consideration they were made by an audio brand. And the most important part is that they actually give the idea that one is using regular shades out in the world. The only other model available is the Rondo Frames, the smaller version of Bose Sunglasses.
At first, one might have the idea that these Frames would remind you of any other awkward headgear out there, like the beer helmet or the umbrella hat. But in this case, it’s completely the opposite.
That’s where Bose’s tendency for brilliant sound design has the most impact. Bose was the company that patented noise cancellation. Now, bringing up functioning headphones in a pair of sunglasses that one would actually wear is a brand-new achievement the company should be proud of.
The earpieces contain all the wireless headphone tech inside. The Frames are equipped with a battery, Bluetooth, antenna, etcetera. The vents at the bottom aim the small sound speakers directly at your ear canals, removing the need for earpads, ear tips, or any physical contact. The first thought one might get when looking at this design is that it wouldn’t work properly, but it actually does.
Sitting at the front of the right earpiece, there’s a tiny gold bead that acts as a multi-function button. You can use it to turn the device on or off, play or pause your soundtracks, skip a song, make a phone call, and interact with the AI assistant via a series of taps and holds. It’s both easy and intuitive. One important key feature that is missing is a volume meter button, but we’re hoping Bose will add one in future models.
Inside the earpiece, there’s a single LED that shows charge status. You’re able to charge the Bose’s Frames by using the special USB cable that comes with the sunglasses, inside the box. The cable’s opposite end has a gold magnetic plate that attaches itself to the inner side of the right frame, charging it when connected. But you’ll need to pay attention when charging your frames. Any misalignment will result in failure. It’s not a very functional feature, but it could be worst. The frames can also shut themselves down after five minutes of inactivity, or in just two seconds if you set them on their top.
The Bose Frames offer an average of 3 hours of non-stop playback or 12 hours of standby. They can’t be charged inside their case like many wireless earphones can, which proves to be a limitation. They’re not water resistance, but at least they’re splash-proof, but only when it comes to small amounts of water. The open design also makes the Frames unusable when going through really loud spaces.
The black-tinted lenses are not polarized. They’re very clear when looking through them, and do not mess with your vision, just dimming everything down a good bit. These are high-quality lenses that are designed to block 99 percent of UVA/UVB rays.
There’s an app for both iOS and Android called Bose Connect. It provides quick and easy setup, helping you with pairing and controls in a matter of seconds. The app also includes firmware upgrades and download links to other Bose AR apps that are designed to offer you more experiences for your Frames, but these apps are currently only available for iPhones and iPads. Most of the extra apps are limited, offering only basic features like augmented story simulations for workouts (which also works with headphones), ambient soundscapes, etcetera. There’s a GPS app, which can turn to be useful, and there’s even a golf guide app that provides a talking robot guide throughout the golf course.
The Bose Frames provide a really good sound but lack punch in songs. However, after getting used to the lack of bass, one can notice the clear sound the Frames provide. Soundtracks will sound realistic, having the sound of guitars rendered well and vocals will come out in a clear way, even with the outside world sounds going around you. This shows the functionality provided by the Frames.
The call quality is decent, which is exactly the same you would expect from any good pair of wireless headphones. Sound is fine on both ends, revealing that both the microphone’s quality and the received audio quality are decent.
Despite looking cool, there can be some, if not a lot of limitations. You can’t really use the frames inside, as well as at the gym (for obvious reasons) unless you want to look like a rock star throughout your day. There’s the possibility to swap the original lenses for prescription ones, but only from third-party vendors, making it cost an average of an additional $200.
The Frames will allow you to engage in conversation while listening to your music at the same time, making you able to pay attention to both. Not only that, if you do not tell the other person you’re listening to music while talking to them, chances are they probably won’t even notice. This justifies using the Frames when going out with friends on a sunny day, taking a walk in the park by yourself, taking care of your home garden, or just enjoying a fresh drink outside during a hot day. Between all these reasons and more, the Frames offer a lot of ways for you to listen to your music and be available for any phone call, while never losing contact with the world around you.
Despite having a delicate design, the Frames should last for a long time, assuming you’ll take good care of them and keep them in their case; as well as not dropping them around. It’s important to notice that their battery life will get worse as time progresses. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy your music and love to go out on sunny days Bose’s Frames are a great deal to consider.