While we’ve become most fascinated and intrigued by the prospect of smartglasses that put screens in front of our eyes, a new trend has taken a fresh approach to smart eyewear.
Audio sunglasses enable you to ditch the headphones and use a pair of specs or shades instead. Whether that’s listening to music, take calls or tapping into your smart assistants without reaching for your phone.
They use Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to your phone or other device and aim to discreetly build speakers and microphones into the glasses design to deliver that sound to your ears. It’s usually done in a way that will still let you stay aware of your surroundings at the same time.
Some will be compatible with your own glasses prescription, if you wanted to wear them day and night. Others are better built for heading outside into the sunshine for a walk, run or ride.
These are the best we’ve tested.
Bose Frames Tenor, Soprano and Tempo
Price: £239.95 | bose.com
When Bose launched the first Frames (more on that below), it promised augmented reality – but it’s ditched those plans in favor of audio sunglasses.
While they don’t come cheap, it’s arguably provided the best implementation of any audio frames.
With its second generation specs, there’s now three options available, including its new Tempo glasses aimed runners. It has a sweat-proof IPX4 rating to make them better suited to exercise, while the standard Frames just use IPX2.
All of the glasses use plastic lenses that Bose says are scratch and shatter resistant. They’re prescription frame friendly, and all come with a case to pack them away.
The Frames use Bose’s Open Ear Audio technology lets you take calls with wind and ambient sound reduced to make sure you can be heard.
Sound quality has been given boost to to offer fuller and richer audio, while battery life has been boosted to up to 5.5 hours. The Tempo goes bigger with up to 8 hours. Either way, both offer a significant improvement on the first Frames for battery life.
While not the most expensive on this list, they still don’t come cheap. If you want the best audio sunglasses on offer, these are the ones you need in your life and on your face.
Amazon Echo Frames (2nd Gen)
Price: $249 | amazon.com
When Amazon first announced it was putting its Echo smart assistant into.a pair of glasses, it only made them available through an invitation-only program. That was its way of getting a better sense of whether it was idea that had appeal.
Now we have a second generation pair of its Echo Frames that’s available to anyone in the US.
The Frames use four directional speakers and microphones inside of a pair of glasses that will let users hear notifications being read out, listen to music, answer phone calls, control smart home devices, and of course, talk to Alexa.
Compared to the original pair, the volume of feedback will now adjust based on your environment and how loud or noisy it is. It will also doing a better job of preserving battery life turning them off when they’ve been placed down for longer than three seconds.
The glasses themselves offer carbon fibre and titanium frames, with an IPX4 water and dust resistant rating making them suitable for the odd splash of water. The can also be fitted with prescription lenses, though you’ll need to take care of that.
The onboard battery is good enough to deliver roughly 60 minutes of music, 30 minutes of phone calls and 120 incoming notifications over a 14 hour period.
You can have a read of our early look at the Amazon Echo Frames 1st Gen to get a flavour of what to expect from Frames Gen 2.
Bose Frames Alto and Rondo
Price: £199.95 | bose.com
If the newest Bose audio glasses are still a bit too pricey for you, you can still get hold of its first generation pair, which will offer largely a similar experience.
The Alto and Rondo veer on that more casual shades look with both models available in small/medium and medium/large sizes that feature UVA/UVB protection, scratch and shatter resistant lenses. Weighing in at 45g, the first gen Frames pack in Bose speakers, which let you hear the world around you.
There’s a single button to deal with incoming calls, play\pause your music and summon your smart assistant from Android or iOS devices. The supported gesture controls also let you turn your head (while holding the physical button) to turn volume up and down.
Like the newer Frames, the sound quality is likely the best you’ll find on a pair of audio sunglasses, and it doesn’t leak audio in the same way as some of the other options on this list.
It’s a little let down by offering just 2 hours of battery life, and there’s no charging case to drop them into.
Compared to pricier options, however, these first gen Bose Frames still do a good job.
Huawei X Gentle Monster Eyewear II
Price: €329 | huawei.com
Like smartwatches or any other wearable you wear, one of the biggest challenges is to make something that people would actually want to wear.
Huawei’s approach to this for its audio sunglasses was to team up with designer glasses brand Gentle Monster to help create its Eyewear shades.
Wareable verdict: Huawei X Gentle Monster Eyewear II review
Its second generation pair (not available in the US) come in either glasses or sunglasses form with the former supporting the ability to add in prescription glasses. Though you’ll need to arrange that part yourself.
In true Gentle Monster style, the designs are bold, statement style specs that also come with a large charging case that needs to be plugged in to power the glasses back up.
Huawei uses semi-open speakers and microphones built into the main temple, which will deliver sound from your music, calls or smart assistant. It’s compatible with Android and iOS devices, though iPhone users won’t be able to access the additional Eyewear and Life apps to adjust onboard controls.
The audio isn’t brilliant and there’s a fair amount of leakage to deal with as well.
You can expect up to 5 hours of battery life for music playback and 3.5 hours for voice calls. If you’re a sucker for style and that statement look, they may well have appeal. You’ll likely find better sound quality elsewhere.
Fauna Spiro and Havana Memor
Price: £249 | wearefauna.com
Austrian audio company USound who has already provided the tech for earphones and speakers has helped bring the Android and iOS-friendly Fauna glasses to life, which also come in sunglasses form too.
With the glasses option, there’s two looks to pick from that come with bluelight filter lenses to make them better suited to staring at computer and phone screens. You do also have the option to switch in prescription lenses if you want them to be you main go-to specs. It’s the same story for its tinted Spiro and Fabula shades.
In terms of the hardware, they pack a set of microspeakers into either arm with room made for two beam-forming and echo-cancelling microphones, and a touchpad to offer additional controls. The speaker setup is designed to keep the sound in and audio leakage to a minimum.
They’re designed for handling listening to music and dealing with calls and voice assistants with the promise of up to 4 hours of playback off a single charge. They also come with a charging case that does of course double up as your glasses case too.
Both versions are IP52 water and dust resistant, which do make them a bit more suitable for taking it out on a run or off for a hike. While they do still have to contend with that slightly chunky arm look we’ve come to expect from audio sunglasses, they are wrapped up in some of the best looking designs too.