They are sunglasses, they are headphones, but are they any good? Joe Lonergan in the Labs team has been trying out a pair of Bose Frames Soprano audio sunglasses and shares his thoughts.
Item Name: Bose Frames Soprano Audio Sunglasses
Reviewed by: Joe Lonergan
The Bose Frames Soprano sunglasses are a set of Bluetooth enabled sunglasses with audio coming out from the frames. The sound is designed to be aimed directly at the ear without covering the ear canal. This means they double up as a pair of designer sunglasses and open ear headphones. That is what makes them worthy of a technology review for vision impaired users. These are not smart glasses, but you can listen to audio, music, podcasts, and make phone calls all while having your ears open to outside sounds.
The Bose Frames are connected to your smart phone via Bluetooth. Audio Sunglasses could be regarded as some kind of a niche product but one of the reasons they became popular among the sight loss community was their connection with Microsoft Soundscape because of its head tracking ability and its open ear technology. Unfortunately, Soundscape is near its end and does not support Bose Frames anymore anyway. But you could still use them with other navigation apps and receive audio hints or instructions through the frames. Some vision impaired people choose to wear sunglasses for many different reasons, maybe to prevent glare or to protect their eyes from bumping into objects so for some having audio is a bonus.
For people that are into sports there is a Bose frames model available called Tempo, which are made to be tighter around the head. It also has a longer battery life, up to 8 hours, which might be suitable for those that are into hiking, tandem cycling, or blind golf.
Unboxing / What are my first impressions of the item?
The Bose Frames look great when you take them out of the box, they come in a trendy hard shell protective case. They are black in colour and the side of the frames feel shiny to touch. They have a classic look. They are nice and light, weighing only 40g. They are easy to set up too. You turn them on with the physical button under the right side of the frames and go into Bluetooth settings and select Bose Soprano and they pair to your device automatically. A pop up will come up on your phone asking you to download the accompanying Bose music app but this is not essential. If you download the app, you will get some tips on how to control your Bose Frames Soprano. The sound quality was decent when taking a phone call and Bose have added a second microphone to this model so people on the other end could hear me quite well.
What did I like?
I found them comfortable to wear, and I think the sound from them is really good. It is actually surprisingly good as you do not expect something that does not enter your ear canal to give such a great sound.
It was very easy to get used to the touch sensitive controls for increasing and decreasing volume, activating Siri, and answering phone calls. Other people are not affected by the sound from the Bose frames unless you have them turned up too loud and are in a silent room. If you are outside walking or on a busy mode of public transport other people will not notice the audio.
As mentioned previously, after setting up the touch gestures the Bose Frames were easy to use. Volume up was a slide forward on the right-hand side of the frames and volume down was a slide backwards. To activate the assistant, you needed to do a double tap on the touch sensitive side of the frames, and it was the same gesture for answering an incoming call.
• Easy set up
• Intuitive touch sensitive controls
• Great sound
• Looked great.
• Scratch resistant frames and lenses.
• Sweat and weather resistant.
• Better Battery life then the previous Bose Frames Alto, up to 5.5 hours battery life
• You can change lenses easily, you can put in different lenses such as blue blockers, different colour shades or you can get prescription lenses made for the Bose Frames.
What didn’t I like?
When you have them turned up really loud other people can hear them in quite environments. They are slightly bulky. I still preferred transparency mode in Apples AirPods 2 as I found the audio a bit distracting, but that could just be my personal experience. It would have been good if the carry case doubled up as a charging case as this would have added more battery life when out and about for a long time, but this would have added to the price of the product. Some would regard these as expensive.
Accessibility from a low vision perspective
Yes, they are accessible for someone with low vision and depending on the person the lenses might even help if the person with low vision decides to choose a different one that suits their personal situation.
Accessibility from a no vision perspective
Yes, a person with no vision can use these easily with their smart phone and learn the touch sensitive gestures quickly as explained above. Works well with voiceover and talkback and little or no lag or delay when using a screen reader.
Is there much of a learning curve?
The learning curve for AirPods Pro 2nd generation should be short, especially for experienced Apple users. There is about four or five common commands that you will use with the AirPods, for example:
- You hold the stem for a couple of seconds to switch between transparency mode and noise cancelation
- You squeeze the stem once to answer a call or to play and pause media
- You rub up or down to adjust volume on the touch sensitive area on the front of the stem
- Alternatively you can use Siri commands to perform all the above actions if it suits the user better
Bose Soprano Frames are currently retailing from Bose at €230. Various other models are available and, as always, prices are subject to change.
Did it meet my expectations?
Yes, it did meet my expectations, I was surprised how good the sound was from something that did not cover my ears.
Who would I recommend this product for?
For someone who likes to wear sunglasses and is looking for an alternative set of headphones with open ear technology. Some people do not like earbuds with protruding tips and the Bose Frames may be a good alternative.