Tech writer Hadyn Green reviews the Alto and Rondo audio sunglasses by Bose.
The Bose Frames might be the most inventive and comfortable headphones I’ve worn in a long time.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from what seemed like a gimmick product: headphones embedded into sunglasses. It’s a concept that’s been tried before and failed spectacularly. There are a lot of issues to overcome, but Bose seems to have conquered them all.
“Oh my God!”
Without fail this was reaction of everyone in the Consumer office when they put on the Bose Frames, usually followed by “this is amazing”.
I was also blown away by how clear the sound was; podcasts and music both sounded great. There was a lack of bass, but that’s often the case with smaller speakers.
The Frames have directional open-ear speakers, built into the arms, which are aimed at the wearer’s ears. The result is a “magical” feeling as music seems to come from nowhere. However, this set-up does mean you can’t crank the sound up to “dangerous to your hearing” levels, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Because nothing goes into your ears, you can hear almost everything around you. This means you’re safer when walking through town and able to hear if someone’s calling you. I found when music was playing, those around me could faintly hear the high notes, so best not to crank these up if you’re using them on a commute.
The Frames come in two styles: Alto and Rondo. Both are classic looks and, from the front, look like regular sunglasses. It’s only when you look at the arms that you notice any difference.
The arms are where all the tech is hidden. While it’s amazing that speakers, Bluetooth tech and the battery are all squeezed into such a tight space, the arms are still a little bulky. If you have long hair, no one would notice, and even if you have short hair, someone would need to really focus on the arms.
In fact, the only time anyone will think they look weird is if you’re wearing them inside. I felt like a bit of a dork sitting in a café eating lunch with sunglasses on while listening to podcasts.
A single button on the right arm controls everything. It turns the Frames on; starts, pauses and skips music; and answers phone calls. It’s hidden away, so it doesn’t intrude, and is hard to press accidentally.
But don’t wear them in the pool. The Frames are only protected against dripping water (IPX2 rating), so they can handle light rain but nothing more than that.
The only problems I had with the Frames were battery related. Its small batteries (one in each arm) only last 3.5 hours and then take two hours to charge. The charger connects with a bespoke magnetic connection on the inside of the right arm. So, if you’re travelling with them, it’s another charger you have to pack.
One of the cool things is that turning the Frames upside down for two seconds turns them off. This is useful for conserving battery.
I chose the Alto design not only for their look, but also for their wider frame. A few women in the office asked about the Rondo design, as the Alto was too big for them and slipped down their face.
Despite having wide arms, the Frames were light and comfortable, and I wore them for most of a day with no discomfort.
The tint on the lenses isn’t great for direct sunlight and doesn’t have polarisation. I found myself squinting more than I expected. You can buy mirrored silver polarised or blue gradient non-polarised lenses for an extra $60.
Price: $350 Design options: Alto, Rondo Battery charging time: Up to two hours Battery life: Up to 3.5 hours of streaming audio playback
First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.
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