In many ways, the Bose Frames are a similar product to the Bose Soundwear we reviewed. Both seem to disappear once you wear them for a couple of minutes, and both will surprise you with the sound they produce.
Of course, the sound produced by the Bose Frames is nowhere near that of the Soundwear. The sound is a lot thinner. There is almost no bass to speak off. Comparable to most laptop speakers. That might seem terrible, but actually, the sound will still surprise you in a positive way. You feel totally surrounded by the sound, whilst still aware of your surroundings. It is difficult to explain. You just have to try them on. Once you do, you will be convinced. The sound they produce is fantastic for voice calls, podcasts, and music that is not relying too much on bass. Voices sound fantastic.
There is another reason to try them first before you buy: the Alto model normally comes in size M/L and that size is extremely large. It just falls off most people their heads. Luckily, Bose now also produces a S/M sized version of the Alto, similar to the size of the Rondo model. Most websites and shops are selling the M/L version, however. So be careful if you buy an Alto model online, especially if they don’t mention the size.
So, what can you do with them? The Bose Frames are intended to be used outside. Don’t look like a fool using these indoors unless you change the glasses to normal ones. So yes, you can change the glasses, that is a good point. But just as with the Soundwear, they are not intended to be used when you are very close to other people like on busy public transportation or in a quiet place like a library, because they do leak sound. Not a lot, but someone sitting next to you will notice it. That makes them even more limited than the Soundwear because the latter you can still use at home or in the office. Still there are some good usage cases. They are excellent in the car to replace your handsfree car kit, for example. Passengers are no longer disturbed, and you can even send your navigation instructions to them. On the beach or while hiking or bicycling in nature, they are excellent for answering phone calls or to listen to some relaxing music. Not so much in busy city streets however, because the volume is too low to compensate for busy traffic.
So, their usage is very limited, but if you have a use for them, you will absolutely love them.
There is one thing you need to be aware of, that also applies if you have other Bose Bluetooth headsets such as the QC35(II): Bose tries to convince you to install the Bose Connect app. This app offers no real interesting features in fact. On the other hand: it can destroy your listening experience. On our Android phones, this app makes the sound stutter and stop all of the time, and it causes frequent disconnects. Each time your phone does anything in the background, the sound will stop for a moment. So usually about every 10 seconds at least. Very annoying. Just remove the Bose connect app, and all problems are gone, and you can listen troublefree. Even better: don’t bother to install it in the first place. Just connect the Frames the same way you connect every Bluetooth headset. We did not try to use them on iOS, so the problem might not exist on an iPhone. You might have to connect the Frames using the Bluetooth options of your phone now and then, because without the app they do not always connect automatically, but most of the time they connect just fine by themselves.
About battery life: they seem to perform as advertised by Bose. About 3 to 4 hours of listening continuously. That’s not great, but also not bad considering the size.
So, how do they perform as sunglasses? Quite good with the glasses that come with them. The only small issue is that the glasses have some reflection on the inside and that can be a bit annoying depending on the light.
The only true issue we have with them is that there is no volume control on the Bose Frames. Each time you want to change the volume, you need to grab your phone. And that is a lot more often then you think. We hope version 2 of the Bose Frames will add that.
Conclusion: highly recommended!
June 2020: the left side no longer produces sound. When doing a search for this on Google, this seems to be a very common problem that a lot of people have now since about March this year. Probably a bug in the firmware. Bose service is exceptionally good, however: I filled in a contact form on their website, and immediately they offered a replacement for free. UPS will come to pick up the old one, and then Bose will send a new one.
Another thing I saw is that the latest firmware now does offer a way to change the volume: press the button and turn your head while keeping it pressed. Very nice addition!