It’s still fair to call audio sunglasses a niche category, but it’s definitely growing as Bose offers Amazon across multiple models, games, and aggregating recent announcements by Razer and JLab. Some people don’t particularly like earbuds because they don’t like the feel of the silicone tips that cover their ears. Open products like standard AirPods and Galaxy Buds Live are one alternative, but there’s still a chance to lose. If you’re running on a trail or for an intense biking, that’s not a trivial risk.
For such folks, you can absolutely see the charm of the Bose Frames Tempo, which has built-in speakers in the frame and is fixed on the face, no matter how intense outdoor activities are. Tempo glasses are the sportiest model in Bose’s Frames family, perfect for hikers, runners, bikers, and anyone who spends a lot of time outside. Bose also says it has the best sound performance.
From the front, it looks like typical Oakley, Nike or Under Armor sunglasses. Bose is definitely following the same market for $250 Tempos. If you’re looking for a pair of audio sunglasses that don’t give you the impression that you’re a bit more fashion-oriented or you’re in a triathlon, you’ll want to stick with a tenor or soprano style frame. These come with black mirror lenses in the box, but Bose also sells two other pairs of lenses for $40 that can be replaced to allow different amounts of light to pass through. The oversized temple is where it becomes more obvious that they are audio sunglasses.
However, there are advantages to this chunky design. Unlike Tenor and Soprano frames that use proprietary chargers, Tempo models have a regular USB-C connector on the left temple. Bose says the frame is made of “TR-90 nylon”. Not much to give, but they feel sturdy to me and have an IPX4 waterproof and sweat resistance rating, so running or biking in the rain will survive.
During the first two days of wearing the tempo, I felt a slight squeezing on the side of my head. Now I have a very large dome. In the past, the Little League had to pull out a special sized helmet, but fortunately, by the end of the first week, this pressure was gone, so the fit was a bit loose. . The sunglasses didn’t get loose enough until where they started shaking on my head or elsewhere. They still felt good and safe. (My friend Theresa, who has a medium-sized head, has never mentioned the tension that causes headaches.) Bose found that the box had three sizes of nose tips, so the larger ones fit. Even if the face was covered with sweat for a long time, the tip of the nose helped the sunglasses from slipping.
The controls devised by Bose are incredibly complete and are very important when trying to focus on something else. There’s a small circular button at the bottom of the temple where you can swipe the right temple to increase or decrease the volume, and at the bottom of the temple you can tap to play/pause, double tap to skip tracks, or triple tap to go back. In an instant, these controls are very natural and easy. To power off the frame tempo, simply press and hold the button for a few seconds. Alternatively, you can turn it over and place the top of the frame on the surface. After 2 seconds in that direction, they turn off. (You can disable this feature in the settings, but it’s really convenient and natural.) The battery life is displayed as 8 hours, which is consistent with my experience so far. It takes about an hour to charge the sunglasses to 100%. Bose’s mobile app allows you to update the sunglasses’ firmware, but there are no EQ controls or other options to tune performance.
Explaining the sound quality of audio sunglasses can be tricky. It’s not like headphones or earbuds because it’s essentially a down-firing speaker facing your ears. However, Bose took the game to the next level compared to the first generation frames I tried occasionally. These have more vitality across the entire EQ range.
There is an amazing separation between vocals and instruments, and the frame tempo has good clarity and even hand balance. There are more bass than before, but this is where I think setting reasonable expectations is the most important. The bass you get from a decent pair of in-earbuds will blow out of the water. Without competition. That said, Bose has reached a place where the base no longer sounds meager or flat, and this is a legitimate improvement over the first generation frame. You can be there and be late.
Sound bleed is easily canceled out by everyday street noise, but if you turn up the volume and stay indoors, people nearby can tell you that you’re listening to music. Since these are sunglasses after all, I think there will be very few such situations. The Bluetooth connection has remained stable most of the time I’ve been using Frames Tempo so far. No complaints there.
I also enjoyed the voice call while wearing the tempo. Callers say it’s pretty much the same as speaking directly to my phone, and something about answering calls with my ears fully open feels very cool.
I got these audio glasses even after a relatively short period of time using Frames Tempo. I Really Get it. As Dieter recently wrote. “Without plugging in or taking out headphones, the relationship to the audio changes. It’s always available, and you can use it whenever you want.” Do you want to wear it anywhere with a clear lens? In theory you bet. However, this style doesn’t really work, nor does the tempo mean at the end of the day. So now I can’t beat Bose with the disappointment I feel when I go back to my usual glasses that look too primitive.
Bose Frames Tempo allows you to hear the world around you without any obstacles. The soundtrack plays in all parts, while providing a bit of rest for your ears compared to regular earbuds. For $250, they will be a tough sale for some. But I realized that audio sunglasses are the exact kind you’ll never realize you need. Until you wear them-and all of a sudden, you do.
Photograph by Chris Welch / The Verge