If you are like me and don’t like in-ear-canal buds, the Bose Frames 2020 refresh adds three new frame styles to its audio sunglass repertoire.
Now there was nothing wrong with the original 2019 models – Alto or Rondo reviewed here scored 4/5 for the new ‘sunspeaker’ or is that ‘soundglasses’ category. The Bose Frames 2020 refresh adds Tenor, Soprano and a cool Foakley-like Tempo sport sunglasses to the range.
And with time (originals in mid-2019) the new models have later tech deliver a ‘fuller and deeper’ sound.
We set out to see how Bose Frames 2020 refresh compare to the originals, if a new score was called for and oh, and do they justify the new price of $399.95 – up by $100!
Bose Frames 2020 – audio sunglasses
Mr Bose has named the category ‘audio sunglasses’ with Bose Open Ear Audio technology. Well, that about sums it up. Here is a quick overview. If you are a techy type, you can read our more in-depth tests following.
They come with a standard black polarised lens. For $59.95 more you can get polarised mirrored silver (my preference) or mirrored blue lenses. Tempo Sports has optional polarised Trail Blue, Road Orange, and Twilight yellow (non-polarised).
Tenor is more for men – a larger, more squarish fitting.
Soprano is more for women – a very slightly smaller, rounder fit.
Tempo is unisex. It has a different construction to the originals/Tenor/Soprano with three nose bridge options, USB-C versus a pogo pin charge port, 8-hour battery and wider side-arms.
These are big glasses – so fit is important. If you have a smaller or narrower face try them first – Bose has a 90-day risk free trial.
Soundwise – it is Bose quality. You will probably like the default settings unless you are a heavy metalhead. These are perfect for modern music, vocals, and synth. And because its open ear they let the world in – perfect for walkers.
On the basis that these are an evolution over the originals, we have awarded 4.2/5. Why? They are even more expensive (price is what you pay – value is what you get), the sound is good (but does not meet in-ear bud frequency response) and we would love to see a smaller pair for narrower faces!
Price: $399.95 including free Australian freight (optional lenses $59.95)
Global Warranty: 12-month Australian Consumer Law compliant plus a 90-day risk-free trial
Overall the Bose Frames 2020 refresh gets the tick for a reasonably unique product.
Now read the techy stuff about Bose Frames 2020
Build – durable enough
Frames use TR-90 moulded gloss nylon – a common glasses frame material that is durable, flexible, and lightweight. There are no screws or user repairable/replaceable components.
Lenses are shatter and scratch-resistant polycarbonate plastic. Looking back at the 2019 model the term scratch-resistant is debatable – they do suffer from wear and tear so take care. Fortunately, they are replaceable.
The Bose branded arms are solid and thick – designed to house the battery, electronics and speakers over the ear. Hinges are solid but not spring-loaded. There is no tightening mechanism – perhaps they don’t need it.
Sunglasses get abused, tossed in bags, dropped on floors etc. It is not possible to test all these things. They appear reasonably drop resistant and resilient but at $399 store them in the case where possible.
Water-resistance is IPX4. X means not formally rated for dust/solid ingress protection. And 4 means water splashing against them from any direction shall have no harmful effect. In other words, it is light rain-resistant – these are not for the snow or desert!
They are barely pocketable with a folded depth of about 45mm. Unlike the 2019 models, the arm ear hooks no longer touch the inside of the lenses.
You cannot use any sprays, solvents, chemicals, or cleaning solutions containing alcohol, ammonia or abrasives. Do not allow liquids to spill into any openings.
Fit and comfort – they are big!
Tenor is 143mm wide (55mm lenses), Soprano is 142mm wide (ditto) and Tenor is 157mm wide (65mm lenses). Lens height is about 45mm – larger than usual. The nose bridge is not adjustable. Similarly, the arm reach is 136mm with no adjustment for over-the-ear angle etc.
They are comfortable to the extent that they do not cause any overt pressure on the temple or ears. But on my head, they regularly slip down the bridge of my nose. If you can slide them forward (as I can), then they will slip down. I ended up getting adhesive felt pads to fix the bridge issue.
Lens selection – a wide range at extra cost
Tenor and Soprano come with a standard black polarised lens. Polarised lenses can cause havoc when driving as you may not be able to see the LED/LCD dashboard readouts.
Tenor – for $59.95 more you can get polarised mirrored silver (my preference) or mirrored blue lenses.
Soprano – for $49.95 S you can get polarised mirrored gold or non-polarised purple fade.
Tempo Sports has optional polarised Trail Blue (28% VLT), Road Orange (20% VLT), and Twilight yellow (77% VLT, non-polarised).
VLT means Visible Light Transmission. It is the measure of how much light your sunglass lens lets through to your eye, e.g. VLT of 1% means very dark glasses and a VLT of 100% indicates a ‘clear lens’.
Most consumer sunglasses are class 2 and about 50% VLT. If driving, avoid blue, light green, pink, or red tints. Instead, stick to grey and copper-tinted lenses for colour integrity.
You can have prescription lenses made to whatever you need. It voids the warranty but how is Bose to know.
Controls – one button to rule them all.
Press once to power on (and lay on its back to turn off), press once to start play (from a playlist on your phone), double press to skip a song, triple-press to skip back, press once to answer a call
Volume is via a slide control on the right arm or double-tap for a voice assistant. Google Assistant came up loud and clear.
Audio performance – effective
Suffice to say that these are ‘open-ear’ meaning there is no noise cancelling. You can hear your surrounds. Bose says that 99% of the sound gets to your ears.
The tiny 16mm drivers sit in the arms and give a tight left/right sound stage – its not as wide as over/on/in-the-ear phones but nor should you expect it to be. The sound appears to emanate from slightly outside your head, and that is pretty good for the right music.
Nor is it a ‘full’ sound that you would expect from over/on/in-the-ear headphones, but it is surprisingly listenable.
Note Tempo (not tested) gets 22mm drivers for better frequency response.
We could not measure frequency response or volume as our test equipment is not suited to this design. Subjectively (using bass tracks, vocals, and symphony):
Low-to-mid-bass is non-existent (from 20-100Hz)
High-bass starts to kick in late (100-200Hz)
Low-mid is building (200-400Hz)
Mid is strong (400-1Khz)
High-mid (clear voice) is strong (1-2kHz)
Low treble is there but recessed (2-4kHz)
Treble starts dropping off (4-6kHz)
High treble and dog-whistle are non-existent (6-20Khz)
This is a mid-sound signature that is an OK for voice, podcasts and casual music.
Volume is fit for purpose – I found that I needed between 80-100% for most listening, and that does reduce battery life a little.
Bose Music App for Android and iOS – basic
Its the same app for most Bose BT music products. But I can’t find any pre-sets or EQ.
Now here is an interesting thing. In Android, it uses the BT A2DP profile and SBC codec for 2.0 stereo audio. But if you happen to set it up for handsfree calls or on a Windows PC, it falls back to HFP and mono sound. It is not an issue – the BT bandwidth can only handle stereo or mono plus mic.
I assume that when used with Apple products, it uses AAC and has similar BT profiles. I also assume that the BT host device makes the switch between A2DP and HFP automatically.
Handsfree – good
It has two beam-forming mics on the inner right arm that do a reasonable job of focusing on your voice. We did not notice any wind noise either. Callers commented that voice was quite clear.
Battery – depends on volume
Bose claims up to 5.5 hours and two-hour charge time. I wore them walking for about 45 minutes a day, and they ran out in day six – close enough. The app or a voice prompt will tell you remaining battery when you switch them on and when to recharge.
Recharge is via a USB-A to a magnetic Pogo-pin, and it seems to make no time difference whether you use a .5A, 1A or 2A port. Tempo uses USB-C. No charger supplied.
The fact that I still use the original 2019 model says heaps. The Bose Frames 2020 refresh are better.
Frames are a niche product. You either want them or not. I have been using the originals since mid-2019, and the Bose Frames 2020 refresh solves a lot of issues that V1 had.
If they fit your face (Tenor are OK for me), if you walk a lot (I do) and if you like music without losing your environment sounds these are for you.
They are not replacements for driving glasses – polarised lenses are dangerous, and the Tempo lenses are wholly unsuited to driving conditions.
Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Great for walkers and others that want to hear good music and environmental sound at the same time
Well made and lovely presentation case
90-day risk free try before you buy policy
These are big sunglasses that wont fit every face
Tenor/Soprano use older pogo pin charger - Tempo uses USB-C