It’s still fair to call sound sunglasses a niche category, but with Bose offering more models, Amazon in the game, and counting recent announcements from Razer and JLab, it’s certainly a growing one. There are people out there who just do not particularly like the earplugs – often because they do not like the feeling of silicone tips that plug the ears. Open products like standard AirPods and Galaxy Buds Live are one option, but then you still face the possibility of losing them. If you run on a trail or are out on an intense bike ride, it is not an insignificant risk.
For these people, I can definitely see the appeal of the Bose Frames Tempo, which has speakers built right into the frame and will remain planted in the face, no matter how strenuous outdoor activities become. The Tempo glasses are the sportiest model for the Bose̵
From the front, they look like the typical Oakley, Nike or Under Armor sunglasses. Bose is obviously going for the same market with $ 250 Tempos. If you are more fashion-forward or looking for a pair of sound sunglasses that do not give the impression that you are in the middle of a triathlon, you will stick to the Tenor or Soprano styles in Frames. These come with black mirror glass in the box, but Bose also sells a couple of other pairs of $ 40 lenses that you can exchange to let different amounts of light pass through. The large temples are where it becomes more obvious that these are sound sunglasses.
But there is an advantage to the thick design: Unlike the Tenor and Soprano frames, which use a proprietary charger, the Tempo model has a standard USB-C connector on the left temple. Bose says the frame is made of “TR-90 nylon.” It’s not much to give, but they feel robust to me, and they have an IPX4 resistance rating for water and sweat, so if you are taken running or cycling in the rain, they will survive.
The first couple of days I had at Tempos, I felt a small squeeze on the sides of my head that became uncomfortable. Now I have an extremely large dome – they used to get a helmet in a special size in the Little League, friends – but luckily the fit loosened a bit because this pressure went away at the end of the first week. The sunglasses did not come loose enough to where they started to tilt my head or something; they still felt nice and safe. (My friend Theresa, who has a normal-sized head, never mentioned tightness that causes headaches.) Bose contains three sizes of nose tips in the box, and I thought the big one was the right match. Although my face was covered in sweat from a long time, the tips of my nose helped the sunglasses not slip around.
The controls that Bose came up with are fantastically foolproof, which is crucial when trying to stay focused on other things. You swipe over the right temple to raise or lower the volume, and on the underside of the temple there is a small circular button that you can press to play / pause, double-click to skip tracks, or triple to go back. In a short time, these controls felt so natural and easy. When you turn off Frames Tempo, you just hold down for a few seconds. Or you can turn them over and lay them down with the top of the frame on a surface. After two seconds in that direction, they turned off. (You can disable this in settings, but I thought it was very convenient and again natural.) Battery life is listed as eight hours, and that is in line with my experience so far. It takes about an hour to take the sunglasses back to 100 percent. With the Bose mobile app, you can update the sunglasses firmware, but there are no EQ controls or other options that adjust performance.
It can be difficult to describe the sound quality of sound sunglasses. They are nothing like headphones or earbuds, as these are essentially firing speakers that point towards your ears. But Bose stepped up the game compared to first generation frames, which I have tried a few times. These have more life to them throughout the EQ series.
There is a surprising amount of distinction between vocals and instrumentation, and Frames Tempo has a nice clarity and balanced balance. There’s more bass than before, but this is where I think it’s most important to set reasonable expectations: the low end you get from a decent pair of earplugs will blow these out of the water. No competition. That said, Bose has at least reached a point where the bass no longer sounds anemic or flat, which is a legitimate improvement over first-generation frames. It is there and noticeable.
Audio bleeding is easily canceled by everyday noise, but if you are in with the volume turned up, people nearby will be able to tell you that you are listening to music. After all, these are sunglasses, so I imagine that those situations will be few and far between. The Bluetooth connection has remained stable throughout most of my time with Frames Tempo so far. No complaints there.
Voice calling while using Tempos has also been a pleasure. Callers say that I sound almost as good as when I speak directly into my phone, and something about taking conversations with my ears completely open, just feels really cool.
Even after a relatively short time with Frames Tempo, I get these sound glasses. I actually understand. It’s like Dieter recently wrote: “Not having to bring in or take out headphones changes your relationship to sound – it’s just always available, always there when you want it.” Wish I could put clear glasses in them and use them everywhere? In theory, you bet. But this style would not really work for it, nor is it what the Tempos are meant to be at the end of the day. So I can not beat Bose for the disappointment I feel when I switch back to my regular glasses, which now seem so primitive.
Bose Frames Tempo lets you hear the world around you without obstacles – with a soundtrack that plays everywhere, while giving your ears a break compared to regular earplugs. At $ 250, they will be a tough sale for some. But I understand that sunglasses are the exact type of thing you will never realize you need. Until you put them on – and suddenly you do.
Photograph by Chris Welch / The Verge