You have to like a company that tries new things.
Bose is known for sound. It’s been a big player in several markets, including home audio/speakers, car audio systems, headphones (noise canceling and otherwise), portable audio systems and more.
Now Bose is branching further into wearables with Bose Frames ($199.99, www.bose.com).
The frames are a nice pair of sunglasses with tiny Bose speakers in the glasses arms.
The way Bose Frames are designed, they leave your ears open to the sounds around you while beaming the sound at your ears.
As it does when you’re wearing a pair of headphones, the audio sounds like it’s originating from the center of your brain, while you can still hear absolutely everything around you.
Bose Frames come in two shapes, a larger Wayfarer-like model called Alto and a smaller rounder-shaped model called Rondo. Both offer the same audio components.
They use Bluetooth to connect to your phone, tablet or computer.
Out of the box, you’ll be instructed to download the Bose Connect app to make the initial connection to your phone or tablet.
You don’t have to install the Bose app to use the frames. I connected them to my iPhone and my Windows PC just using the device’s Bluetooth connection manager.
The app does make it a bit easier to connect the first time if you are intimidated by Bluetooth connections. It also has some customization settings that could be handy, but they don’t really change the audio quality.
The frames can remember eight paired devices but can have only one active connection at a time. To change connected devices, you’ll have to turn them off, then hold down the power button until you hear “Ready to connect.”
Basically you’re pairing them each time you switch connected devices.
The frames ship in a very nice hard case covered with a leather-like material. The case closes with a satisfying magnetic snap.
The frames charge through to a small port on the right arm. The cable is proprietary (don’t lose it) and uses tiny magnets to keep it in place.
The cable does have its own cloth pouch. There is room in the case to keep it there with the frames.
A two-hour charge provides up to 3.5 hours of playback.
Once connected, playing audio was easy.
The glasses have one multifunction button on the right arm. Press it once to power them on and the speakers will announce the battery level and name of the paired device. These audio prompts can be turned off in the app.
To turn them off, just take off the glasses and turn them upside down for two seconds.
I wish putting them back on your head would turn them on, but you do have to touch the power button each time. They did reconnect quickly.
During playback, you can press the button to pause or play audio. You double-press to skip forward and triple-press to skip backward.
I wish there were volume controls on the glasses, but to change volume, you need to use your phone, either through the phone’s volume buttons or in the Bose Connect app.
The button can also be used to answer or hang up phone calls (one press).
You can also press and hold the button to speak to Siri or OK Google, depending on which phone you use.
How do they sound? I’m going to qualify my answer.
Considering that the Bose Frames have very small drivers and there is nothing on or in your ear, they sound good.
The bass response won’t blow you away, though. There simply isn’t a ton of sound on the low end.
I found the frames good for rock or classical music, but they really sounded better with audiobooks, podcasts or talk radio.
The sound level of my surroundings also had a lot to do with how good the music sounded. Since the frames are not noise-canceling or even noise reducing, the music tended to fade out in a loud restaurant or even on a train ride. I found myself having to turn the volume all the way up on occasion.
They sound much better in a quiet environment.
I’d say they’re great for listening at the office, but you might draw some stares for wearing dark glasses at your desk.
And because they are sunglasses, you’re not likely to wear them at night or indoors.
Also, at volume levels above 75 percent, your music will be slightly audible to people in your immediate vicinity. We’ve all heard sound leaking from earbuds before.
The telephone voice quality of the microphone was decent but not exceptional.
AR coming soon
There isn’t much information yet, but Bose is promising a software update to enable the frame’s Augmented Reality function, which will let third-party apps interact with the wearer through voice prompts.
An example might be a walking tour app that gives verbal walking directions and offers information about whatever points of interest are in your field of view.
Bose promises more AR news at this year’s SXSW conference in March.
The Bose Frames are very slick. Everyone who I let try them on was impressed.
I think $200 for audio-enabled sunglasses is not too much to pay, but for people like me who wear glasses all the time, it’s frustrating that you can’t get Bose Frames with prescription lenses.
The Alto frames were large enough that I was able to wear my eyeglasses under them during my testing so I could see to drive.
They were pretty great for listening to music or a podcast at lunch, but because they’re sunglasses, I think I’d probably get more daily use from my AirPods.
I applaud Bose for making the frames, but I want more options.
I can’t wait to see what the next-generation frames will be able to do.
Pros: Comfortable. Good (not great) sound. Quality build.
Cons: Short battery life. Lack of bass. No prescription lens option.
Bottom line: I’m glad these exist, but I want them to be a bit better. I’m eager to see the next version.
Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News; firstname.lastname@example.org.