REVIEW: Bose Frames Tenor, QuietComfort Earbuds
Look cool, hear cool with this duo offering serious sound
Good things come in pairs - even if they overlap a bit. But hey, the more the merrier in some cases, right?
Our friends at Bose have come up with a good combo, and if you know Bose, you know it's all about music.
So onwards we march to a rare double-header as we present to you the Bose Frames Tenor and QuietComfort Earbuds, both aiming to put the cool into sound.
Last year, Bose started something rather big with the original Frames, sunglasses that, aside from shielding you from the Sun's harmful rays and making you look good, belts out sound.
Yes, for the uninitiated, you heard (pun definitely intended) that right. Bose actually launched two more Frames alongside the Tenor, the Tempo and Soprano - joining last year's Alto and Rondo, so you quite see the pattern there. The Tenor has a square finish (perfect for men), the Soprano is rounded (excellent for women) and the Tempo is sporty (great for anyone who is, well, sporty, or at least who want to look like one). And until now we're wondering why we didn't get our hands on those originals last year.
TALE OF THE TAPE
The Frames Tenor seems unassuming at first, looking like your garden-variety sunglasses with those thicker hinges, but the Bose branding on both sides gives away the fact that this is something more high-tech. Its earpieces are practically straight and has indents on its bridge that serve as the nose pads, both of which provide support but may not be enough to keep it firmly in place; there are times when I experience it sliding off a bit, so fit could be an issue.
Before we forget, you can swap out the lenses for other colours. And in certain regions, you can actually replace them with prescription lenses, perfect for those like yours truly who couldn't fully enjoy wearing sunglasses because of vision issues. We're still confirming if this is available anywhere in the UAE, and we'll update this as soon as we find out.
Anyway, there's a single button underneath the right hinge that you can use to power it on or off and pair it with devices. The single-, double- and triple-press are for the usual play/pause, skip forward and skip backward functions. For phone calls, a single press answers or ends a call, or answer a second call while putting the current on hold; and a double-press declines it, or rejects an incoming call while staying on the current one.
Meanwhile, you can control the volume by swiping on the right hinge - forward to increase, and backward to decrease.
And contained within those hinges is the tech that makes it tick: Bose developed their own open ear audio tech, primarily using a custom transducer and patented acoustic chambers that direct sound towards your ear. This is different from bone conduction - the same thingamajig used in hearing aids - which Bose decided against using citing performance considerations. It may sound complicated (pun not intended), but the bottom line here is that Bose was able to figure this out after a number of years researching it.
Anyway, the first time you use it, the experience is magical - that typical feeling of not expecting something. The sound is rich and solid enough even in an environment where there's a fair amount of noise.
However, since this is indeed open-ear acoustics in play, you can fully expect noise to creep up especially in noisy environments. On the Dubai Metro, for example, while you won't be able to hear those blabbering near you, the PA announcing the next stop is quite clear if not muffled a bit. And in an extremely noisy environment, the noise indeed overwhelms your audio, for which it can be argued that the max volume isn't loud enough. As an example, the noisier it gets, the sound of the hi-hat cymbals on drums would fade.
To be fair, going louder than its current max can be harmful to your ears; it just so happens that the Frames Tenor uses noise reduction, not noise cancellation. Anyway, alternatively and just for fun, you can also use them as a mini-speaker; turn it up to max put it down somewhere and you'll be able to listen to stuff loud enough at close to medium range.
If you forget to switch them off, it'll automatically power off if you haven't moved them for 10 minutes. If you want a really quick power-off, just flip them upside down - either place them somewhere or hold it as so - and it'll shut down in just two seconds.
That second option can be a bit of a downer, because it's too fast. There will be times when you'll randomly put them down that way without the intention of switching them off because you know you'll use them immediately afterwards. Remember: The natural motion you take when taking off glasses is flipping them just like that. And it's inconsistent; sometimes it takes anywhere from in a finger's snap to several seconds before it decides to doze off. Well, if you don't want to go through this, just shut this off in the app.
Speaking of which, get the Bose Music app to manage it. and there lies a little problem: While you do get your usual settings such as toggling certain features and updating firmware, you don't get an equaliser to fine-tune your sound. As we write (and for quite a while now), the EQ feature is limited to the Bose 700, and there's a real clamour to get this on all Bose headsets. Quite odd, huh?
Which will make us circle back to the sound quality: Sure, the Frames Tenor is a great audio companion with a decent amount of noise reduction (not cancellation, to be clear), it lacks the bass punch most of us adore.
It can also lead to some funny, if not cutely-awkward moments. If you've got a headset on, you'll be forgiven if you ignore someone trying to talk to you because there's obviously something on your ears. With the Frames Tenor, people may think you're deaf; I experienced this once in a café, where a server literally scratched her head after I didn't respond to her questions (my friend had to explain to her why I was 'deaf').
Which leads us to the next part of this really rare double-header.
Now if you already have your uber-cool, costly sunglasses and don't want to be suspected as deaf, Bose's latest QuietComfort Earbuds shall do the trick. And they aren't kidding around with these audio thingys.
TALE OF THE TAPE
The charging case alone is imposing - compared to the Apple AirPods Pro, it's like 1.5 times more in length and twice as thick - and will take up more space in your pocket, yet still light enough to carry around. Up front are a release button to let you open it, with five LED lights below that showing its charge level, and behind is a USB-C port. Right at the centre of its interior is the Bluetooth pairing button. And as big as it is, its immaculate white finish - actually, it's called soapstone, but still - is just so premium to look at. Our only concern is that release button, which is basically an extra step instead of a magnetic lock.
Of course, the buds themselves won't be left behind: These are oval-shaped beasts that have the same clean finish. Right out of the box, they come attached with medium ear-and-wing tips, but you get the standard small and large ones as spares. As always, choosing the right size for you is critical because this will make the most out of your listening experience.
The touch controls are on the surface of both buds, and each side has its own distinct functions. The right bud, when double-tapped, will play or pause music, or answer or end calls; touching and holding it will either summon your digital voice assistant or reject a call. The left bud, meanwhile, is customisable: Touching and holding it will either skip a track forward or check the battery level (it's off by default). The weird thing is there's no way to skip a track backward; so much for wanting to repeat one of your favourite tunes. Double-tapping it, on the other hand, will allow you to cycle through your favourite noise cancellation levels.
And guess what - there's no volume control on the buds. Here's to hoping a firmware update will fix this.
All those customisations can be done within the Bose Music app as well. and - yes, you guessed it - it still doesn't have an EQ.
Well, good thing the sound is great, with the right mix of tones (there's more bass here, don't worry). As we've mentioned earlier, the noise cancellation level can be set, anywhere from a scale of 1 to 10. And even just halfway through that, the noise cancellation is also great, certainly ready to give the best out there a run for their money; if you're maxed out, the world practically blocked, save for those high-pitched, certainly annoying sounds.
Battery life, is reasonable, if not quite lacking. One full charge nets you up to six hours; with the two additional refills using the charging case, you'll max out at 18 hours. Considering the bulkiness of the case, an additional full charge would've been great to give it a full 24-hour cycle. A quick 15-minute charge, however, gives you two extra hours of life, and the charging case returns to full strength in about a couple of hours.
The Bose Frames Tenor is a great two-in-one product, effectively eliminating the need to carry around an audio device. And its custom lenses are also an advantage, especially those who need prescription ones. One concern is that the audio coming out of it can be heard by others in a relatively quiet area, so the risk of disturbing others is there. And the sound itself needs a little more oomph, as it feels flat somewhat.
Meanwhile, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is as great as it can get. We really can't find anything seriously amiss, with its wearing comfort, great ANC and audio quality. It does, however, lack in the battery department; we kinda can't blame it for being that bulky, but a case as big as that deserves more charging capacity.
The biggest oversight for both gizmos, however, is its app that seemingly lacks a lot. Never doubt Bose when it comes to sound; we'd however appreciate those oversights sorted out in coming products or updates.
Goodies: Sturdy build, nice sound, that cool factor
Goofies: Audio lacks bass, short battery life, fit can be an issue
Editor rating: This can definitely be higher if not for its shortcomings in controls and sound. Otherwise, it's a fun and cool way to enjoy the beats. 4.0/5
Goodies: Solid audio quality, great ANC with levels, smooth build
Goofies: Short overall battery life, huge charging case, no volume control
Editor rating: Bose, please get that EQ out. 4.5/5
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