Bose seems convinced that people really like sunglasses with integrated speakers: today, the company is introducing three new pairs of Frames that follow up on the first two sets it released in 2018. Two are fashion-forward — they’re called Tenor and Soprano — and the third set, Tempo, is much more sporty and specifically designed for outdoor use like biking, hiking, and running. (That’s the one we spotted in a recent Federal Communications Commission filing.) All three cost the same $249 and are available beginning today; Bose says they’re also all prescription-ready.
Sound quality has improved across the board in all three, according to Bose, and the Tenor and Soprano have “the tiniest, thinnest, most invisible Bose speakers ever.” But let’s get it out of the way. You can still tell that these aren’t quite everyday sunglasses; the temples / arms are still oversized, even with the new refinements. Here’s what the Tenor Frames look like when viewed from behind:
But viewed head-on, they definitely look more stylish than their predecessors. All three pairs have polarized lenses that block out 99 percent of UV rays. “Their wafer-thin Bose systems are discreetly embedded in each arm without extra parts, visible screws, seams, or perforations,” Bose said in its press release, adding that the electronics add less than 50 grams of weight.
Sound quality is “clearer and richer” than the previous Frames, according to the company. But the selling point remains the same: if you can’t stand how earbuds feel or are just after a different experience, Frames can give you a private audio bubble for your music, phone calls, and Siri / Google Assistant interactions while keeping you perfectly aware of everything happening around you. That latter part can also be seen as a downside since, by design, your tunes will be mixed with ambient sound at all times.
The made-for-outside Tempo sunglasses produce “the highest fidelity” of the whole Frames lineup, with a 22-millimeter driver in each arm — good enough that you can still hear your music when cycling at 25 mph, per Bose’s claims. They’ve got a 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 Tempo from moving.
Since the Frames Tempo are meant for activities, Bose offers several different lenses that you might prefer based on how you’d be using them. Here’s how that shakes out:
The lenses are polycarbonate with visible light transmission of 12 percent. And optional lenses are also available: road orange has a 20 percent VLT medium-light lens to reduce glare from reflective surfaces like water and snow; trail blue has a 28 percent VLT low-light lens to increase contrast and definition in bright-sun conditions; twilight yellow has a 77 percent VLT very low-light lens for use at dusk.
Bose says the Frames Tempo can fit beneath “most” helmets. Unlike the Tenor and Soprano, which continue to use proprietary pogo-pin charging connectors, the Tempo gets a standard USB-C port for charging its battery, which can last for eight hours of continuous playback.
Both the squarer Tenor (above) and Soprano (below) get slightly smaller 16mm drivers, but Bose claims that bass response has been noticeably improved compared to the original Frames. Bass seems like a challenging thing to get right with this whole concept, so I’d still keep your expectations well short of bass-heavy earbuds. But I’m interested to hear what Bose has pulled off.
Both Tenor and Soprano are scratch- and shatter-resistant and will last for around 5.5 hours on a charge. Aside from the default black lenses, you can also opt for colors: Tenor comes in mirror blue and silver, and Soprano is offered in rose gold and purple fade. While the Tempo has an IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance, the other two drop down to IPX2.
All three new Frames have improved mic systems for voice calls. Bose says it has replaced the previous single mic with a dual-beam-forming array “that shields what you’re saying from wind, noise, and other nearby conversations.” Tempo, Tenor, and Soprano all use what Bose describes as “volume-optimized EQ,” bringing out the whole frequency range at lower volumes while preventing distortion when you crank things up. (You slide your finger across the right temple to adjust volume, and the Frames also support tap gestures and have a multifunction button.)
I’m definitely intrigued by the 2020 Frames lineup. I never bought or spent much time with Bose’s initial versions of Frames, but they fare extremely well in customer reviews; people who get the things seem to really enjoy them. And by expanding the portfolio with more stylish and sporty selections, Bose is doubling down in an area where it faces relatively little direct competition.
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