The first time I heard about Bose’s audio sunglasses, the Frames, I was sceptical about how useful they could be. Why wear a pair of sunglasses with built-in speakers when a pair of earbuds would do the job?
However, I do find that wearing headphones while working out can be frustrating sometimes. Earbuds work well until one suddenly falls out while you’re crossing the street and you have to scramble to pick it up before a car flattens it. You don’t even need to be exercising – I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve recently knocked out one of my earbuds while removing my face mask.
So you try a pair of over-the-ear headphones instead, which are fine until you want to wear a pair of sunglasses and/or a hat. Now you’ve got the former being uncomfortably wedged into the side of your head, while also trying to fit the latter under your headphones. And in both cases, the sweatier you get, the more irritating it feels to have these headphones in or on your ears.
With these frustrations in mind, I was a bit more open to trying out Bose’s sporty audio sunglasses, the Frames Tempo. These glasses promised to be convenient to use and wear, with a quality audio experience. While I was unsure about them at first, after adding them to my workout routine and wearing them whenever I’m outside, I finally get the appeal.
How does it work?
The Bose Frames Tempo‘s mini speakers are located on the sunglasses’ arm, sitting just outside of your ears and are designed to play music directly in your earholes. The Tempo is the sports model for the Frames line, but there’s also the Tenor and Soprano models which have a more casual fashion design.
Setting up and using the Frames is particularly easy. The sunglasses pair to your phone, or other devices, via Bluetooth, and will play a short audio clip letting you know that it has connected. Once that’s done, you’re ready to run.
A touch bar on the right arm allows you to adjust the volume by sliding your finger back and forth along it while holding your finger down on this pad will activate your phone’s voice assistant. There’s a single button that you use to turn on the speakers, pause your music, answer a phone call, etc. You can change the button settings for audio and phone calls via a companion app, but I found the basic settings to be more than adequate (one press for play/pause, two for the next song, three for the previous song).
In terms of battery life, the Tempo will give you around eight hours of playback and charges via a USB-C cable.
This simple setup and use are exactly what I wanted for a device like this. Just let me flick my glasses on and start playing my music with zero fuss. I liked the convenience of being able to skip a track with a simple button press, instead of breaking my stride while pulling my phone out of my pocket.
How well do they fit?
Despite its chunky arms, I found the Bose Frames Tempo to be lightweight to wear. I wasn’t bothered by them after wearing them for an extended period of time, and they were a snug fit so I wasn’t worried that they’d accidentally fly off while mid jog.
Depending on the size of your head, you might have to deal with some initial discomfort when you first put them on. During the first few times that I wore the Frames, the arms would dig into my temples, so I was constantly fiddling with them to try and move them into a more comfortable position. Despite that initial issue, the glasses have stretched out over time and now sit comfortably on my head.
Speaking aesthetically, I like the design of the Tempo. It comes with polarized, mirror lenses but you’re able to swap those out for other ones if you’d like (although you need to buy those separately). Even with its chunky arms, the Tempo doesn’t draw attention to itself and still looks like a normal pair of sunnies.
The frame is made from TR-90 nylon and is both sweat and weather-resistant. I found that giving the glasses a quick wipe down after a particularly sweaty workout is all it takes to keep them clean.
How do they sound?
Now let’s get to the most important part of these sunglasses, the audio. Bose has a pretty solid reputation when it comes to audio quality and for what it is, the Frames Tempo sound pretty good. There isn’t an option to customise the Frames’ equaliser, so you’re stuck with a single playback setting. While that might be a turn off for some, I found the speakers to be pretty well-balanced for the most part.
When pushed to a high volume there is some distortion, but I found myself needing to have the volume at max. I did find that bass-heavy music would underperform, more than anything else. The compact speakers just aren’t strong enough to maintain their richness and stop sound distortion when bassy songs are cranked up high.
What impressed me the most is how well it maintained clarity when I was running full bore, and/or battling heavy winds while out and about. The playback quality was consistent, and even with the open ear design, I never felt like I had to fight with the sound of my surrounding environment. Something about being able to listen to music and hear everything around me felt cool, like I had my very own movie soundtrack going.
The Frames can also be used to take hands-free phone calls, which I had no problems with. On the handful of calls I made, both inside and outside, I could hear the people on the other end of the line loud and clear, and vice versa.
Due to the design of these sunglasses, you’ll also have to deal with your music sometimes being audible to passersby. This audio leakage is less noticeable when outside, thanks to the constant ambient noise of your surroundings, but if your volume is cranked up, or you’re currently in a quiet setting, other people can definitely hear what you’re listening to (or at least hear a very tinny buzz).
While coming home one afternoon, I passed a neighbour in my apartment’s stairwell and noticed them giving me a funny look. It was only later that I realised that they were giving me this look because they could hear the music I was currently listening to. C’est la vie.
This sound leakage is an easily fixable problem when you apply some common courtesy. Don’t wear your sunglasses while indoors and don’t have the Frames playing while in a close environment – unless you like being That Person while on public transport.
Should you buy a pair of Frames?
If you’re sick of earbuds falling out of your ear, sweating all over your good headphones or want to lower the number of things that you wear on your face and head while out exercising, I think the Bose Frames Tempo would make for a good addition to your workout routine.
For what they are, I think the Frames Tempo live up to the audio quality standards of Bose’s other products and have been hugely convenient for me while working out. Being able to hear passing cars and cyclists around me while jogging has helped me keep a pace that normal headphones wouldn’t usually, because I didn’t need to come to a complete stop to check my surroundings.
With a $399.95 recommended retail price, picking up a pair of these audio sunglasses might be a bit hard for some to validate. Although, If I got a dollar for every time I had to scrounge around for a loose earbud, I’d probably have enough to buy a pair. If you like to spend a lot of time outside, both casually and while working out, you’ll get enough use out of the Frames to make them a worthwhile investment.