Bose Frames 2020 Review: niche but better than before

We've been testing the Bose Frames, Tenor and Tempo, for about a month now and here's everything you need to know

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If you read my review of the Bose Frames from last year, you’ll know that I stressed on what a niche product they were. Meant for a very specific use the audio sunglasses were a great device but only if it’s use-case scenarios were to your benefit. This year Bose has definitely taken a lot of feedback into consideration and diversified the line-up but its still not all the way there. The Bose Frames 2020 line-up get’s split into three products; namely the Bose Frames Tenor, Tempo and Soprano.

While the Tenor and Soprano are aimed at your everyday fashionable use, the Tempo is aimed at sporting and fitness enthusiasts. The Tenor is a shape mainly aimed at men and the Soprano mainly at women but it’s your life and your choice so you get whichever you want. I’ve had the Tenor and Tempo with me for about a month now and the experience has definitely been a roller coaster.

Bose Frames 2020
From the frames itself, to their cases and to their uses, the Tenor (left) and Tempo (right) have very different purposes

Bose Frames 2020

Body and Build

Right off the bat, I had an issue with the Bose Frames Tenor. Bose this year decided to go with a glossy finish compared to last year’s matte one. Now I know this is a subjective choice but in my persona opinion, last year’s matter finish on the shades were a much better choice. A choice Bose clearly made for the Tempo. Considering what the Tempo would be used for, Bose went with a matte-finish on the fitness-focused audio sunglasses.

One difference between the two sunglasses I didn’t understand is the presence of the proprietary Bose charging pin on the Tenor versus the type-C charging port on the Tempo. The latter just makes so much sense. Now in Bose’s defense, the Frames don’t really need a charge all the time, but having the nuisance of remembering to keep a cable in the bag was unnecessary.

Fit

Now the same way a traditional pair of sunglasses can be loose or tight for you, the Bose Frames can be too. Only thing in this scenario is that due to the large size of the temples, if they’re tight, they can have quite a grip on the face. Now this can be a pro or a con depending on how to like to wear your glasses.

As far as the Tenor was concerned, they were a bit tight but that was good because that’s how I like to wear my sunglasses. With the Tempo it was a perfect fit on the temples but the issue was the nose-pads. Understanding the nature of the use of the Tempo, Bose provides three sizes of nose-pads in the box. I used the largest size available but yet there was a bounce on the nose when I went for a run. I tried various adjustments on the many runs I went with the product but it would still have a bit of a bounce. The nose pads are tough rubber/siliconish material and if they had been a bit softer I feel they could’ve been a better fit.

Bose Frames Tempo 2020
Bose does provide 3 sizes for nose-pads for the Tempo Frames but I found that for my large nose it wasn’t the comfiest fit

Cases

Both frames come with their own cases in the box. While the Tempo comes with a more conventional mesh cloth (but hard) case, the Tenor comes with this odd case with edges and corners which drove me mad. it’s not the comfiest to hold nor the easiest to fit into a small bag. A trivial issue I know, but these aren’t ordinary sunglasses and won’t fit into any old case you have lying around.

Audio

Now let’s get to the main part. The audio quality on the Bose Frames Tenor and Tempo is great. While many audio sunglasses go down the path of technologies like bone conduction, the Bose Frames continue you to use their ‘open-ear’ speakers` on the back of the temples. These speakers play audio directly into your ear, which is quite cool. If you were sitting next to someone they would be able to hear your audio but not glaringly in a way that would annoy them.

Now it’s unfair to compare the audio quality on the Bose Frames Tenor and Tempo to traditional headphones of any kind since they aren’t IN your ear. That being said, the quality is still awesome.

While using the Tempo I was mainly listening to upbeat music since it’s mainly for my runs but the Tenor varied from day to day. Having your ears free from headphones but still listening to music has its pros and cons. While working out or walking on the street it’s great to stay alert but sometimes isn’t enough when you want to blur out a noisey cafe or a metro cabin.

Audio quality is really good on both devices. While bass doesn’t really have an impact on the audio, leaving it a bit tinny, considering there’s nothing inside your ear, it’s pretty darn great. Hip hop, R’n’B and EDM are very easy to listen to. It’s when you move to Lo-Fi beats or jazz that you start missing in or over-ear headphones.

Calls

Now usually I don’t need a whole section for calls but in the case of the Bose Frames (both Tenor and Tempo) I do. I used both headphones with various phones (Android and iOS alike) so I’m pretty sure my complaint has nothing to do with the devices but on the move, the calls are just too silent.

Whether I answered a call on the move with the Tenor or during a run with the Tempo, I almost always struggled to hear what the other person was saying. Now a little hack for this is that you cup your hand around your ear and the volume increases but its not exactly logical for me to hold up my hand with Bluetooth headphones on my face!

Alternately, most people on the other end of the call complimented the quality of my voice and the lack of any noise around it, even in noisy conditions.

Battery-life

Bose promises 5.5 hours of listening time on the Tenor and 8 hours on the Tempo. Now while I can confidently say that frames live up to those claims, there’s one reason I felt more battery anxiety on the Tenor than I did on the Tempo.

Bose Frames 2020
While the Bose Tenor uses the company’s 4-pin charging port, the Tempo uses a more universal type-C charging port

This would be because of the earlier mentioned charging ports. While I had no worries whatsoever about running out of charge on the Tempo (because I knew I could find a type-C charging port anywhere), I would worry about the Tenor the minute I heard the reminder for 20-30% battery. I sincerely hope that Bose unifies this to type-C across all models next year.

Should you buy the Bose Frames?

If you’re any sort of fitness enthusiast (whether a runner or a cyclist or just like to workout in the outdoors), the Bose Frame Tempo is a definite suggestion on my part. That being if you exclusively go to the gym or workout in the night, yeah these are no use to you.

The Bose Frame Tenor (and Soprano) is a different story. While the clause of day-time usage stands, it can be used practically anywhere. Particularly on days where I was on the move, I liked having them on me as I was able to take calls, watch videos and much more while on the move. But like I said earlier, it completely comes down to the use-case scenarios where the Bose Frames excel.

Now the big decision comes at the point of price. The Bose Frames (all three versions) cost Dh1049. That’s not cheap when you think of them as audio devices, but when you think of them as sunglasses and audio devices, it’s a pretty good deal. There are a lot of subjective choices involved in the purchase of the Bose Frames. If this review garners your interest, I suggest you go to a store and check them out before you pick up a a pair.