I’m an enthusiastic embracer of new technology. I’ve always been an early adopter although sometimes I have a healthy skepticism of some new products that I can’t quite see fitting into my life. My track record isn’t blemish-free as I can recall saying why anyone would want their music as MP3 files when we have perfectly good CDs. How wrong was I?
Another new technology that I can’t quite get my head around, but may yet prove to be a great leap forward to listening to audio on the go as well as making and receiving phone calls. I’m talking about audio glasses. You heard me right. A pair of spectacles that have speakers built-in as well as microphones. Several companies have tried it and one of the latest is Soundcore, the well-regarded sub-brand of Anker, the company that makes cables, power banks and all manner of computer and phone accessories.
Soundcore’s Frames are a complete system of eyewear that uses Anker’s patented OpenSurround system. The system uses two customized speaker drivers in each arm of a pair of glasses. A custom DSP and a listening port provide an immersive experience that enables the wearer of these glasses to ditch their earbuds or headphones. Just slip on a pair of Soundcore Frames and you have audio playing that creates quite a convincing soundstage.
The main driver is sited just forward on the wearer’s ear on the arm of the glasses. There’s a second driver situated just behind the wearer’s ear and this boosts the sound and creates the stereo effect. The Soundcore Frames have on-ear wearing detection so that the sound automatically pauses the moment the glasses are removed
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Steven Yang is the CEO of Anker Innovations and has high hopes for the concept of Soundcore Frames: “Up until now, the emerging audio eyewear space has been pretty dull with only limited design choices. With our new Soundcore Frames we hope to reset things, bringing a more stylish audio listening experience to the market.”
Soundcore Frames have built-in microphones that include noise-reduction circuitry to make phone calls clear, even in noisy surroundings. The Soundcore Frames can be paired with a smartphone, tablet or even a PC so the wearer can take calls or participate in online video meetings using the glasses as their mic and speaker.
Additionally, there’s a private listening mode that can be automatically enabled whenever a user is on a call or it can be self-activated using the Soundcore app so that sound leakage is reduced in enclosed areas like a bus or a train. Having now had a chance to use a production pair of Soundcore Frames, I think the product would be perfect for Zoom calls, doing away with the need for wearing headphones or a headset.
The Soundcore Frames come in two sections. The arms for the frames contain all the technology such as the battery, receiver, DSP and microphones, while the frame holding the lenses of the glasses are detachable and can be swapped with a whole range of different frame styles.
Several other audio brands have a similar product to Soundcore Frames but none has such a wide range of frame styles, all of which can be replaced with prescription lenses. Frame styles can be switched almost instantly using Soundcore’s Pull-and-Plug quick-release system that enables consumers to switch glasses in seconds. You could have one regular pair of frames with prescription lenses and a second pair to use as sunglasses.
Anyone buying Soundcore Frames gets the choice of one frame style and there is a choice of ten different styles at launch. Extra frames can be bought in an assortment of sizes, shapes and styles, including tinted sunglasses, prescription lenses, and blue-light filtering options.
The Soundcore app and website even have a special feature that lets potential buyers try the various styles on themselves virtually so they can see which frames suit them best. They can even change the frames to match the latest fashions.
To control the audio of the Soundcore Frames it’s possible to use both touch controls and voice commands. With the help of the Soundcore app, users can customize various touch-and-swipe motions that can play and pause music, answer phone calls, alter the volume, plus it’s possible to skip or repeat music tracks. Multiple trigger words can also be used to perform various actions thanks to Soundcore’s AI voice technology.
Verdict: A single charge of the Soundcore Frames can provide up to 5.5 hours of playtime and a quick 10-minute burst charge provides up to 1.5 hours of playing time, plenty of time for a stroll. The build quality of the frames is good while the styles are surprisingly fashionable. I don’t know how well the concept of talking glasses will take off, but as I said earlier, I’m not always right about what will appeal to the market. However, of the concept flies, we can expect to see the range of frames on offer be updated. I can certainly see the glasses being a great idea for video chats, phone calls, listening to audiobooks and giving out voice commands to a smartphone. Whether the concept is a hit with the Technorati remains to be seen.
Pricing & Availability: Soundcore Frames are now available from Soundcore.com, Amazon.com and selected retail outlets, including Best Buy. The cost for a starter kit with one pair of frames will be $199.99 / £149.99 / €179.99. Additional frame styles are available for $49.99 / £49.99 / €49.99.
More info: www.soundcore.com
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Drivers: 4 (2 each side)
- Drivers: 25mm x 8mm (main); 8mm diameter (rear)
- Battery type: Lithium Polymer
- Battery capacity: 110mA (x2)
- Playtime: 5.5 hours @ 60% Volume
- Talk time: 5 hours
- Fast charge: 10 mins gives 1.5 hours
- Charging cable: Magnetic type with USB
- Bluetooth: Version 5.2
- Waterproof rating: IPX4
- Controls: Touch / Swipe / Voice
- Voice assistant: Yes
- Audio codecs: SBC, AAC
- On-Ear wearing detection: Yes
- 10 frame options including prescription, polarized and blue-light filtering lenses