Bose seems convinced that people really like sunglasses with built-in speakers: Today the company introduces three new frame pairs that tie in with the first two sets from 2018. Two are fashionable – they’re called tenor and soprano – and the third set, Tempo, is much sportier and specially designed for outdoor use such as biking, hiking, and running. (This is the one we discovered in a recent Federal Communications Commission filing.) All three cost the same $ 249 and are available starting today. Bose says they all require a prescription, too.
According to Bose, sound quality has improved across the board in all three areas, and the tenor and soprano have “the smallest, thinnest and most invisible Bose speakers ever”
But seen from the front, they definitely look more stylish than their predecessors. All three pairs have polarized lenses that block 99 percent of the UV rays. “Their wafer-thin Bose systems are discreetly embedded in each arm with no additional parts, visible screws, seams or perforations,” Bose said in its press release, adding that the electronics add less than 50 grams in weight.
According to the company, the sound quality is “clearer and richer” than with the previous frames. However, the selling point remains the same: if you can’t stand the way earbuds feel, or just looking for a different experience, Frames can help you create a private audio bubble for your music, phone calls, and Siri / Google Assistant interactions while you’re perfect stay aware of what is happening around you. This last part can also be seen as a downside, as your melodies naturally get mixed up with ambient noise at all times.
The Tempo sunglasses, specially developed for outdoor use, offer “the highest fidelity” of the entire Frames series with a 22 millimeter driver in each arm – good enough that, according to Bose, you always have your music while cycling at 40 km / h can still hear. They have TR90 construction, custom spring hinges and TPE temple tips for comfort and stability. You can also switch between three different shapes of nose pads to keep the frames from moving in tempo.
Since the Frames Tempo is intended for activities, Bose has several different lenses that you might prefer depending on your use. This is how it shakes out:
The lenses are made of polycarbonate with a visible light transmission of 12 percent. Lenses are also available as an option: Road Orange has a 20 percent VLT medium light lens to reduce glare from reflective surfaces such as water and snow. Trail Blue has a 28 percent VLT lens in low light to improve contrast and definition in bright sun. Twilight Yellow has a 77 percent VLT lens for very low light for use at dusk.
According to Bose, the Frames Tempo fits under most helmets. Unlike Tenor and Soprano, which continue to use proprietary pogo-pin charging ports, the Tempo has a standard USB-C port for charging the battery, which can be played continuously for eight hours.
Both the squarer tenor (top) and soprano (bottom) get slightly smaller 16mm drivers, but Bose claims that bass response has been significantly improved compared to the original frames. Bass seems to be a challenge to get right with this whole concept so I’d still hold your expectations way below the bass heavy earbuds. But I’m interested to hear what Bose did.
Both tenor and soprano are scratch-proof and shatterproof and last about 5.5 hours when charged. In addition to the standard black lenses, you can also opt for colors: Tenor is available in mirror blue and silver, and Soprano is available in rose gold and purple. While the Tempo has an IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance, the other two drop to IPX2.
All three new frames have improved microphone systems for voice calls. Bose says it replaced the previous single microphone with a two-beam array, “that protects what you say from wind, noise and other nearby conversation.” Tempo, tenor and soprano all use what Bose calls “volume-optimized EQ”, which emphasizes the entire frequency range at lower volumes while preventing distortion when the engine is started. (You move your finger over your right temple to adjust the volume. The frames also support typing gestures and have a multi-function button.)
I am definitely fascinated by the 2020 Frames line-up. I never bought or spent a lot of time with Bose’s early versions of frames, but they do very well in customer reviews. People who get things seem to really enjoy them. By adding a more stylish and sporty selection to its portfolio, Bose is doubling in an area where it faces relatively little direct competition.