True wireless earphones are super popular these days, but they’re not the best for every situation: what if you want to listen to music, or podcasts, with your ears open to other things around you? What if you find earbuds uncomfortable? Well, this rather new category might be for you: audio glasses.
The Soundcore Frames are exactly that: sunglasses (or clear blue-light blocking glasses) with true wireless tiny speakers built into their temples, battery life of up to 5.5 hours, phone call capabilities, and even interchangeable frames to fit your fashion style.
Is it a new and exciting niche? Yes. Do the Frames sound good? Yes (for what they are). Are they right for you? That’s the big question, which I’ll try to answer in this review.
Quick Look – Soundcore Frames
What are they: Glasses with integrated true wireless speakers and interchangeable frames that you connect to via Bluetooth.
Value for Money
- Audio is clear and pleasant (especially at lower volumes)
- Surprisingly good voice calls
- Touch and voice controlling is easy to use and accurate
- A wide range of frames to choose from
- Music gets muffled on higher volumes
- Sound leakage
- Additional frames are expensive
Features and Specs
- Driver unit (per side): 2 main speakers (25mm x 8mm), 2 rear (8mm)
- Battery Playing Time: Up to 5.5 hours
- Quick Charge: 10 Minutes for 1.5 hours of use
- Charging port: Proprietary magnetic charging cable (supplied)
- Water Resistance: IPX4 (Splashing water)
- Audio Codecs: SBC, AAC
- Extra Features: Voice and Touch control / On-ear detection / OpenSurround Sound System / 10 Interchangeable frames
This is very much a niche product, and not a replacement for earphones. If you fit the demographic for these, they will certainly please you with decent audio quality, excellent voice calling capabilities, and the ability to just look cool with a unique fashionable gadget on your head.
Table of Contents
Who Are The Soundcore Frames For?
We have to start by addressing what Audio Glasses even are, as it’s a pretty new category – and while Soundcore’s Frames aren’t first to the market, there are very few models in this niche, for now.
We all know what True Wireless Earphones are by now, and how popular (and affordable) they’ve become in recent years. Audio Glasses do something similar – they put music near your ears, without the need for any connected cables.
But Audio Glasses are not exactly earphone replacements. If you’re of a certain age, you might remember those big boomboxes that were popular in the 80s’ and 90s’, with some people hilariously walking with them on their shoulders. Here’s a refresher:
Well, Audio Glasses are sort of that – without the huge size and the room-shaking sound levels.
Instead of sticking two tiny earbuds in your ears, you get two tiny speakers that are built into the temples of your glasses, sending music to – and around – your ears. And of course, there’s also a microphone – so you can use them for phone calls.
And while wearable technology is still in its infancy, Audio Glasses are truly wearable gadgets – as you’re also getting, well, glasses (usually sunglasses).
When would you want to use Audio Glasses instead of earphones? Mostly in instances when you want to leave your ears open and aware of other things around you.
So when running or exercising (whether outside, or even in a gym, when you want to be able to hear it when somebody’s about to drop a dumbbell on you), when you’re walking near a busy road, or simply – when you want to listen to some music, or a podcast, without having to stick a painful plastic object deep into your ear canal.
So that’s exactly what the Soundcore Frames are. And since glasses are also a fashion item, you can pick and choose (and pay for) between 10 different frames.
At launch, the base kit along with one pair of frames is priced at £149.99 ($199.99 in the US). Then, if you want additional frame models, each costs £49.99 ($49.99 in the US).
Since Soundcore is a company that’s been around audio products for years, they know a thing or two about sound quality. But what are they like with fashion and wearables? Let’s dig in…
Using The Soundcore Frames
Design, Size and Comfort
Before they’re anything else – the Frames are glasses, and as such, need to be both pretty and comfortable to wear.
In the box, you get the two temples (that’s where the speakers are located), one pair of frames (the “Tour” style in this case, with a cleaning cloth), a folding protective case, and the charging cable.
Because of the stem’s unique form, the cable is not USB-C or anything similar – it uses proprietary magnetic connectors that stick to each of the stems (as there’s a battery in each one). The other side is regular USB, which you connect to a power socket.
The cable is pretty short, so you’ll have to find a safe place for the glasses when they’re charging – but other than that, it’s all pretty straightforward and easy to connect.
Keep in mind, though, that with this being a unique charger – you’re only going to have the one, which you’ll have to carry around with you if you ever need a re-charge before you get back home.
The frames that came with the base kit are pretty standard – giving a vibe of those aircraft pilot sunglasses we all wanted as kids. That’s good, as most people probably wouldn’t want anything too crazy to start off with.
The lenses are polarized, so they help filter the sunlight rays that can hurt your eyes, and they’re pretty big – which also helps filter more sunlight from reaching your eyes.
If the basic frames aren’t to your liking – don’t worry – there are 10 choices in total (as of this writing) – 8 sunglasses, and two blue light blocking lenses that you can wear inside, and help filter blue light from a computer screen (or a TV).
I received seven additional frames with my review kit – but keep in mind, each frames model is going to set you down £49 (as of this writing) – that’s pretty expensive for just a pair of frames.
Connecting and disconnecting your chosen frames from the temples is pretty easy – you just pull out each side to disconnect, and push them in gently to reconnect.
The frames are fairly light, but the temples are heavier and bigger than what you would expect on ordinary sunglasses – which is reasonable considering they hold speakers and batteries.
This does mean, however, that the whole construction feels a bit heavy on your head, and might sit at a weird angle, which occasionally hurt my nose after an hour of usage.
Pairing and Controlling
With this being a Bluetooth device, you pair the Frames with your smartphone (or any other device that supports Bluetooth – your laptop, an Amazon Fire TV stick, etc.)
The Frames automatically power on when you wear them. And when you do for the first time, they also enter pairing mode, so your phone can find them.
At this point, it’s a good idea to install the Soundcore App (it’s available for both Android and iOS), which is used to control some aspects of the Frames – such as the EQ and the voice commands.
The app is also used to update the Frames’ firmware, which happened right when I installed it – and I got a giggle out of updating my sunglasses’ firmware for the first time in my life.
Once everything is paired up and ready to go, you can send audio from your phone: music, podcasts, or videos you’re watching.
You can control the Frames directly without taking your phone out of your pocket – either with the touch controls, or with a few basic voice commands.
The touch buttons are located near the front of the temples: you either tap twice for things like Play/Pause or answering calls, or you slide backwards and forwards for skipping songs or changing the volume (you can change what those slides do via the app).
But I particularly liked the voice control – because there’s only a limited set of specific commands, you don’t even need a wake word. You just say things like “Stop Playing”, “Next song”, “Volume Up” – and the glasses instantly comply.
And if your phone is set up correctly, you can also activate its voice assistant (such as Google Assistant or Siri) by speaking to your glasses. By now, people are used to seeing others speaking into thin air with earphones in their ears – wait until they see you speaking to your sunglasses…
The wear detection is a bit hit and miss sometimes – the music stops when you remove the glasses from your head, and resumes when you put them back on. On occasion, though, I did need to turn the Frames on manually, because the on-ear detection stumbled (you turn them on by touching the “bend” on both temples for a few seconds).
Plus, unlike wireless earphones that turn off when you return them to their case, there’s no charging case here – so the Frames do turn off automatically when you remove them from your head, but that takes 2 minutes. So during that time, you’ll have to remember your phone is still connected to a Bluetooth device…
As for battery times, Soundcore is promising up to 5.5 hours when you listen at 60% volume – which means 5 hours is a bit more realistic. In my testing, those numbers felt on point.
With true wireless earphones that can give you 80+ hours (with extra charges via the case), 5.5 hours is not overly impressive – they’re good for a day or two of moderate use outside, but would still require you to carry the charger cable around with you often.
Audio Quality on the Soundcore Frames
Fashion and the cool factor are all well and nice, but we’re here for the music – so it’s time to talk about the sound quality.
There are two speakers on each stem – one on the bottom and one further back. These are meant to send the audio to the area around your ears, and they also use what Soundcore calls the “OpenSurround System”, to simulate expansive, 3D sound.
But the bottom line is this: these are tiny speakers placed next to your ear. And they sound like tiny speakers placed next to your ear.
That’s not necessarily bad – but don’t expect deep, bass-heavy and encompassing sound that one gets with earbuds.
Instead, you get an interesting, even somewhat unexpected, listening experience – and it can still get surprisingly loud for such tiny speakers.
Listening to ABBA’s new Just a Notion, the bass and high frequencies left a lot to be desired, with the overall sound focused on the mid-range. In this case, that meant clear vocals but muffled instrumentation.
When I lowered the volume, though, the song felt more balanced. When I brought the volume back up, the sound came out compressed with a strange emphasis on specific frequencies, e.g making the electric guitar sound more prominent than it should be.
Things were better with Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly. Flack’s velvety vocals sounded nice and clear, with the minimalist arrangement spread nicely across the stereo spectrum.
Something about the placement of the speakers gave a very nice separation of instruments, and keeping the volume at a low level meant the overall sound was quite good and intimate.
Generally, the Frames sound better with soft to medium volume levels – and since the speakers are right up next to your ears, that’s usually fine (unless you’re in a very noisy environment).
Podcasts were a bit more problematic – I did have to push the volume level up quite a bit if I wanted to hear people speaking clearly enough – even when I was alone in my garden.
Let’s remember, however, that these shouldn’t be compared directly to earphones – since they’re not. But listening to music with my ears “open” and aware is quite a unique experience when you’re used to noise-cancelling earphones.
It’s not the best way to dive into the music, but it’s excellent when you’re walking or exercising outside – instances when I’m always afraid something would hit me before I’m able to hear it.
It’s also more freeing – it’s like sitting in your garden and listening to a boombox, instead of closing yourself up with earphones – but without the noise waking the whole neighbourhood up.
Phone calls were surprisingly good. There are microphones on the temples, and the other side of the call always heard me VERY clearly – even more so than with some of the earphones I tested in the past.
And last but not least – let’s talk about the sound leakage: it’s certainly there.
Now, if you walk outside and listen to music, especially in a crowded environment, no one is going to notice. But if you’re in a quiet room – or even a quiet bus/train, people WILL hear sounds coming from your, well, sunglasses.
Moreso, in a quiet room (or in a quiet garden), people around me were even able to hear WHAT I was listening to. They were able to dance to the music.
So no, it’s not as loud as listening with actual speakers, and the neighbours aren’t going to come complaining – but these are certainly not aimed for use in a quiet office where other people are working next to you.
The Bottom Line: Are The Soundcore Frames For You?
Judging a new and unique product category is hard: obviously, it’s not for everybody. If you’re the type of person who can benefit from audio glasses, and has use for them – you probably already know you’re that person.
So the question that remains, is how good Soundcore’s Frames are in this niche category. And… they’re good.
The music quality isn’t excellent, but it’s still impressive coming from such two tiny speakers. The battery times are enough for a couple of exercising sessions (or a few long walks) before you have to recharge, and the accurate voice control adds to the usability factor.
And yes, there’s the cool factor. The fact that there are so many models to choose from is a big plus (just wish the other models weren’t this expensive, although the base kit is cheaper than some of the compeition), and let’s face it – listening to music or making phone calls through your sunglasses is, well, cool.
So while this isn’t a must-have product – it’s certainly nice to have one.
Note: The Frames were supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.