It’s still reasonable to call audio sunglasses a niche category, but with Bose offering several models, Amazon in the game, and including the recent announcements from Razer and JLab, it’s certainly a growing one. There are those who just don’t like earplugs – often because they hate the feel of silicone earplugs in their ears. Open-style products such as the standard AirPods and Galaxy Buds Live are an alternative, but you still run the risk of losing them. Running on a path or taking an intensive bike ride is not an insignificant risk.
For those folks, I can absolutely see the appeal of the Bose Frames Tempo, which have speakers built into their frame and stay planted on their face no matter how strenuous outdoor activities get. The Tempo goggles are the sportiest model in the Bose’s Frames family, clearly aimed at walkers, runners, cyclists and anyone who spends much of their time outdoors. Bose says they also have the best sound performance of the bunch.
On the front, they look like your typical Oakley, Nike or Under Armor sunglasses. Bose is clearly going for the same market with the $ 250 Tempos. If you’re more fashion-forward or looking for audio sunglasses that won’t give the impression that you’re in the middle of a triathlon, you’ll want to stick with the tenor or soprano styles of frames. These come with black mirrored lenses in the box, but Bose also sells a few other $ 40 pairs of lenses that you can swap out to let in different amounts of light. The extra large springs make it clearer that these are audio glasses.
But there’s an advantage to that sturdy design: Unlike the Tenor and Soprano Frames, which use their own charger, the Tempo model has a regular USB-C connector on the left leg. Bose says the frame is made from “TR-90 nylon.” There isn’t much to give, but they feel robust and they have an IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance, so if you get caught running or cycling in the rain, they’ll survive.
For the first few days of wearing the Tempos, I felt a slight squeeze in the sides of my head that became uncomfortable. Now I have an extremely large dome – they used to have to release a special size helmet in Little League, friends – but thankfully the fit loosened up a bit as this pressure went away at the end of the first week. . The sunglasses didn’t loosen enough to where they started to float on my head or something; they still felt comfortable and safe. (My friend Theresa, who has a normal sized head, never mentioned a tight headache.) Bose has three sizes of nose tips in the box, and I thought the large one was the right match. Even if my face was covered in sweat for a long time, the tips of the nose kept the sunglasses from sliding off.
The controls Bose came up with are wonderfully foolproof, which is crucial when you’re trying to stay focused on other things. You swipe the right paw to increase or decrease the volume, and at the bottom of that temple is a small round button that you can press to play / pause, double tap to skip tracks, or triple tap to go back . In no time, these controls felt so natural and easyTo turn the Frames’ Tempo off, just hold down the button for a few seconds. Or you can turn them over and lay them with the top of the frame on a surface. After two seconds in that direction they went out. (You can turn this off in the settings, but I found it very useful and, again, of course.) The battery life is eight hours, which is consistent with my experience so far. It takes about an hour for the sunglasses to be 100 percent charged again. The Bose mobile app lets you update the sunglasses firmware, but there are no EQ controls or other options to adjust performance.
Describing the sound quality of audio glasses can be tricky. They are nothing like headphones or earbuds, as these are essentially downward firing speakers aimed at your ears. But Bose has stepped up its game compared to the first-gen Frames, which I’ve tried from time to time. These have more life across the entire EQ range.
There is a surprising amount of separation between vocals and instrumentation, and the Frames Tempo have a nice clarity and balanced balance. There’s more bass than before, but here’s where I think it’s most important to have reasonable expectations: the low range you get from a decent pair of in-ear earbuds will blow these out of the water. No game. That said, Bose has at least hit a place where the bass no longer sounds anemic or flat, which is a legitimate improvement over the first-generation Frames. It is there and observable.
The bleeding of sound is easily suppressed by the daily street noise, but if you are inside with the volume up, people in the area will be able to see that you are listening to music. After all, these are sunglasses, so I imagine there will be few situations. The Bluetooth connection has remained stable for most of my time with the Frames Tempo so far. No complaints there.
Voice calls while wearing the Tempos were also a joy. Callers say I sound almost as good as speaking directly into my phone, and something about taking calls with your ears all the way open just feels really cool.
Even after a relatively short time of using the Frames Tempo, I get this audio glasses thing. I really do you understand. It’s as Dieter recently wrote, “If you don’t have to put on or take off headphones, your relationship with audio changes – it’s just always available, always there when you want it.” Wish I could put in clear lenses and wear them everywhere? In theory you bet. But this style wouldn’t really work for that, nor is it what the tempos at the end of the day are for. So I can’t knock Bose for the disappointment I feel when I switch back to my normal glasses, which now seem so primitive.
The Bose Frames Tempo let you hear the world around you without obstacles – with a soundtrack that plays over everything, while at the same time giving your ears a bit of a break compared to normal earbuds. At $ 250, they will be a hard sell for some. But I’ve come to realize that audio sunglasses are just the kind that you’ll never realize you need. Until you put them on – and suddenly.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge