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Bose has historically been an audio company that’s not afraid to branch out into new markets, or even create new audio product categories entirely. While they may not always be successful, the engineering that goes into Bose’s innovations is usually impressive. The current Bose Frames line is an updated version of the sunglasses-based wearable audio device that first appeared in 2018. Our review model goes by the moniker Tempo, designed specifically for the sports and exercise crowd.
Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
This is a product that’s perfect for people who want to enjoy their audio content or use their phones while being active outdoors (during the daytime) but don’t want to feel dangerously isolated from their surroundings. This makes it particularly suitable for cyclists, runners, skiers, rollerbladers, snowboarders and skateboarders.
The Bose Frames line of audio wearables resemble traditional black plastic-framed polarized sunglasses, with temples (or arms, as people who don’t design sunglasses might say) that feature a sculpted bulge in front of the ear. Inside that bulge is the speaker driver and other electronics. It’s basically a wearable audio device that places tiny speakers in close proximity to your ears, but its clever acoustic implementation largely cancels out the sound emanating away from your head, thus minimizing (but not completely eliminating) the annoyance factor for those around you.
None of the added material makes it any less comfortable than regular sunglasses, and the extra weight is negligible. It’s foldable just like regular glasses, and it comes with a black, semi-rigid ballistic nylon case for storage, a lens cleaning cloth and a USB-C charging cable. Bose also provides three different sized nose pieces for the glasses to help with fit.
The Tempo model is specifically styled for sports, and features aerodynamic, mirrored, wraparound lenses—it’s an aesthetic unlikely to be universally appreciated, and isn’t quite as timeless as some of the other styles offered by Bose.
The single multifunction button on the right arm of the Frames allows for power on/off, play/pause, skip forward, skip backward, accepting/ending/declining a phone call, and Bluetooth pairing. It sounds like a lot for one button, but it is all fairly intuitive. Volume is controlled by stroking the touch sensitive upper right-hand side of the Frames, much like recent Bose headphones, which takes a little getting used to and isn’t always precise.
The Bose Frames Tempo also includes a motion sensor which enables a power saving auto-off feature, as well as “Flip-to-off.” In other words, the unit can optionally power down automatically when it’s not moving, and will shut off when held upside down for a few seconds. Overall the controls are very straightforward and make the Frames easy to use.
The Bose Music app doesn’t bring any extra functionality to the table, but it’s always worth downloading it to see if there’s a new firmware update available for the product.
Pairing the Bose Temp Frames is simple using the single button control.
Bose quotes an 8 hour battery life and a 1 hour charge time. In our standard controlled test, the Bose Frames Tempo lasted 10 hours, 46 minutes on a single charge, a good deal more than Bose’s figure. Charging for this model is via a very welcome USB-C connector, although other models in this product line-up use proprietary pogo pin connectors.
The Bose Frames line of products provide zero acoustic isolation for the wearer, and that’s a big part Bose’s Open Ear Audio concept. You’ll hear everything that’s going on around you, at all times.
Because what you hear is being generated by tiny speakers in front of your ears, the spatial presentation of stereo sound has a surprisingly natural quality. After all, your ears are working as they would when listening to the world, rather than in the typical artificially occluded environment you get with headphones. Another positive of the open ear concept is that you won’t hear audible thumps accompanying your footfalls while walking around, as you do with many traditional headphones.
Looking at the frequency response of the product, measured on our B&K 5128 test head, we can see that the tiny speakers don’t deliver any useful output below 100Hz. This means most people will find the bass lacking compared with standard headphones. Compared with our target headphone response, the 3kHz-7Khz area of the upper midrange is overemphasized, which is good for projecting speech and vocals—the overall sound produced is frankly surprisingly good. That is, until you turn the volume up…
Due to the laws of physics, small speakers can’t move the amount of air needed to generate bass frequencies loudly, and they can sound bad when made to do so. Bose has incorporated volume-optimized EQ signal processing to work around this, removing some of the burden from the 22mm drivers at high levels. Unfortunately, this is quite audible, so the sound you hear gets noticeably less “full” as the level increases. You can see this effect in our chart above, which shows how the frequency response changes as you increase the level from our standard nominal measurement by 10dB. For a product that’s clearly intended to be used outside, where you’ll be inclined to turn it up to overcome the environment, this is a big limitation.
The Bose Frames Tempo incorporates an “advanced dual microphone array” so you can talk to your phone’s virtual assistant and make phone calls. Call quality is passable in quiet conditions, but the glasses don’t do a good job of suppressing environmental noise or wind, which is unfortunate, since there’s a good chance you’ll be outdoors when using this feature.
If you’re part of a fairly narrow niche of people who want all that these audio-enabled sunglasses have to offer, and you’re down with the sporty styling, the Bose Frames Tempo is the best you’ll find. However, even though Bose did a great job integrating the speakers and electronics, the variable sound quality is a big let down when you turn up the volume. Most people would be better off buying a standard pair of sunglasses, and even a mediocre set of headphones to get better sound.
There aren’t many direct competitors to the Bose Frames, but a recent earbud might appeal if you like the idea of keeping your ears open to the world whilst enjoying your tunes: the Sony WF-L900 Linkbuds. As one of the more memorable audio product to release in 2022, the Linkbuds largely executes well on it’s unoccluded design concept and is surprisingly comfortable.
However, our measurements show that the acoustic performance of the Linkbuds is actually inferior to the Bose Frames Tempo, delivering less bass output and less controlled midrange. The Linkbuds is superior in that it minimizes the amount of acoustic leakage, so if you are interested in keeping those around you on good terms, it might be a better choice!
The sunglasses frames only comes in black, but you can buy replacement lenses in Road Orange and Trail Blue.