JLab introduces a new Bluetooth audio device designed to be cut on existing glasses or sunglasses. JBuds Frames are two modules with downward-facing speakers that you place right outside your ears. They are part of a resurgent trend of open-ear audio that has traditionally been the domain of Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses and bone-conducting bands.
They sell for just $ 50, which fits into another trend: JLab’s story of offering surprisingly affordable headphones. Sometimes these headphones exceed their price prices, and therefore the company hopes that they can pull that trick off again by submitting to Bose, Amazon, Aftershokz and others. But so far there is quite a low ceiling on the sound quality for headphones with open ears ̵
JBuds Frames are two large modules that attach to the glasses you already own. Unlike integrated solutions, there is no attempt to hide the fact that you have headphones in your glasses. They come with several sizes of clips, so they fit several sizes of glasses.
For audio, each device has a 16mm driver that JLab says will not be “heard by those nearby.” This is the basic premise of open-ended sound: even if the sound is playing right outside your ears, it is directed in such a way that only you want to hear it. You may not get the greatest fidelity, but your ears will not be covered, so you can be aware of the world around you if you are out exercising.
JBuds Frames have an IPX4 water resistance, so they should be good for rain or sweat. They have buttons for controlling volume, accepting or rejecting calls, and changing EQ settings. JLab says they can be used as a pair or independently, if you just want to attach and use one.
Battery life is estimated at over eight hours of audio playback – and that should be good, given the size of these modules. Instead of coming with a charge, they transmit with a special cable that is divided into two magnetic charging points.
I recently reviewed the Amazon Echo Frames and found having open ear access to audio all day to be very convenient. In theory, the JLab frames will offer the same convenience without asking me to change glasses. However, there is competition in the form of the recently announced (and much more expensive) Bose Sport Open earplugs, which rest on the ears instead of the glasses.
Both will be available in early spring 2021, so we’ll have the chance to test them both soon.