Anker is throwing their hat into the ring of smart eyewear with the Soundcore Frames. Featuring a unique design that allows for swapping frames out quickly, these new glasses use built-in speakers for an open-air listening experience. Following our announcement coverage, we got to go hands-on with the new shades and quite a few different frame styles. Be sure to hit the video below to see all of the details.
While Anker isn’t the first to come out with smart sunglasses, their design offers a unique feature. With the Bose Frames and Razer Anzu, if you wanted a different style, you’d have to buy an entirely new pair of glasses for the full $200. But with the Soundcore Frames, the base kit comes with one style and additional styles can be purchased for $50. This design drastically expands the usability of these glasses, in my opinion.
Razer Anzu has its own unique feature with the ability to swap lenses between blue-blocking, sunglasses, and even prescription lenses, but you’re stuck with the same style you begin with.
Anker’s Soundcore Frames are the most discrete smart glasses I’ve tried. Both the Bose and the Razer have significantly larger arms that stand out quite a bit more. Because of that smaller size, Soundcore Frames’ battery life is 5.5 hours of normal use, which is right in line with the Razer Anzu but falls short of Bose’s up-to-8-hour battery life.
A small logo on either side of the arms covers capacitive touch buttons that support tap and slide gestures. By default, they control playing, pausing, and skipping tracks, but through the app, you can also enable volume control and the ability to call up a voice assistant.
Toward the back of the arms are two speakers on either side for a total of four drivers to play audio. The main driver measures 25mm x 8mm while the second is 8mm in diameter.
Soundcore frames: video
On the bottom of the frames near the temples are charging contacts for the included charger. Since both arms are separate, both must be attached to the charger. Directly in front of the charging contacts is a small microphone on the right arm.
Soundcore frame styles
Anker sent over quite a few of their frame styles. The base kit came with some aviator-style shades called the tour style. They have a pleasant gradient with a darker tint up top than on the bottom.
The arms come unattached from the frames, so right off the bat, you learn how they install. The arms connect to the frames at the hinge and to remove them, just pull the arm away from the frames. While I haven’t had them for a very long time, the connection feels solid, and it takes a bit of force to get the arms disconnected from the frames.
This is where the Soundcore Frames really shine because of their vast array of style options. From the large “festival” frames to the smaller “harbor” style, I imagine there will be a style that’s appealing to most users.
Soundcore frames: controls
By default, double-tapping the Soundcore logos on either arm will play or pause the current media while swiping forward or backward across the logo will skip to the next or previous track. These controls can be customized inside of the app.
I ended up setting the right arm to control volume with a swipe toward the front turning the volume up and swiping toward the back turning it down. The left side will still control skipping tracks by swiping forward or backward, and double-tapping the right logo will play and pause media. A double-tap to the left logo will call up the voice assistant which is Siri in my case.
How does it sound?
As with all of the audio-playing smart glasses that I’ve tried, the Soundcore Frames sound good for what they are. I don’t think you’ll be blown away by the audio quality. At the same time, I was able to clearly listen to my music while moving around and was aware of my surroundings. It’s a pretty unique experience and can be a lot of fun when cruising around a city on a bicycle as I did with Seth Weintraub from Electrek when testing the Bose Frames.
The default EQ is pretty thin, but within the app, you can set your own sound settings. I ended up cranking the lower frequencies all to the max which added some more body to the sound. While the spec sheet states a frequency response of 20-20kHz, that deep low-end is pretty indistinguishable. Boosting the lows helped to fill everything out, but it’s not for bass heads.
Throughout the mids and highs though I was impressed with the clarity. Once again, listening to Mist by Protest the Hero, which is one of my favorite easy to test mid-range clarity, the stereo guitars and vocals were easily distinguishable.
Anker also includes a sound mode called “OpenSurround” that can be enabled through the Soundcore app. This mode aims to create an open ear surround sound for a concert-like experience, and to me, it sounded like it boosted up some reverb. And while this might make it sound a little bigger, it also made things a bit muddier. Back to listening to Mist, a fast-paced metal track, the guitars lost quite a bit of clarity and it rendered the track more on the muddy side. A more delicate track like “Love is a Beautiful Thing” by Vulkpeck benefitted from this sound mode, though with a more full and immersive sound.
One other mode that can be enabled through the app is a privacy mode that tweaks the EQ to help keep audio from leaking past your ears to those around you. And while it helps quite a bit, vocals still transmit pretty clearly. In a relatively quiet room, with the volume set to about 60%, I could still hear the vocals about 5 feet away. But it definitely helps with instruments to knock those out.
For me, the microphone quality is about on track with budget true wireless earbuds. Voice still sound kind of distant, and it picked up some audio from the background. But for hands-free communication, it works just fine. I was able to clearly communicate when making voice calls.
Soundcore app control
Within the Soundcore app are a lot of settings for the Frames. First up, you can change the look of your frames to match the style you have installed. There is also a battery indicator. Moving down, we have the OpenSurround mode that can be toggled on and off, and then we move into the EQ settings with a privacy mode, default EQ, and a custom EQ. You can create and save a few different custom EQ profiles to swap between.
Moving down, the Soundcore Frames can detect when the glasses are put on and removed to play and pause media. This feature can be turned on or off.
Further down is the menu to customize controls, enable voice control for skipping tracks and turning the volume up or down, and firmware updates, a quick start guide, and the user manual.
At $200, the Soundcore Frames are priced right in line with other competitors like the Razer Anzu and Bose Frames. Depending on what you’re most interested in, Anker’s design has an appealing feature in the ability to quickly swap frame styles. To me, this makes the smart glasses much more usable in the long run. And if you get tired of a style, you can always pick up a new frame style for a quarter of the full price.
Have a tech dad who has everything? Get him a pair of these and then a different set of frames for Father’s Day. If you haven’t tried smart glasses, they offer a unique experience that can be a lot of fun.
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