I’ve reviewed a fair few Soundcore products over the years both earbuds and over-ear cans, but these, the Soundcore frames, are a bit different, I won’t call these smart glasses as they just do audio, but this open-air audio experience is an unexpected joy to me, so much so that I’m getting my prescription put in them.
- Stylish in most frames
- More slender arms than expected
- 5.5 hour battery is real
- Audio quality better than expected given size
- - Get to feel like a spy
- Little to no Bass
- Sound worse than comparatively priced in-ear buds
I said upfront that I won’t call these smartglasses, and that’s partly how I feel about them but also that is not really how Soundcore are marketing these. Audio glasses like this provide a convenient Bluetooth surround audio stream to you without blocking you off from the real world. These can be great for wearing whilst walking around, whilst cycling or driving were restricting your external hearing can be detrimental, also they’re just unassuming, I’ve sat in boring meetings with these on and listened to a podcast and the hardest thing to do was not laugh.
Whilst the name is the Soundcore frames the frames themselves are the “dumb” part of the setup. There are 9 styles to choose from including the ones that come in your box and all of them can be purchased separately and swapped in whenever you feel like it. I’ve been mainly using the Cafe style frames as they’re closest to what my normal glasses look like, but I wore the Promenade ones If I wanted to feel fancy. Of course, I also tried the aviator-like “Tour” sunglasses frames, but over here in the UK in January there isn’t much need for those.
So how do you change the frames? Quite simply you hold the frame in one hand and open the arms, with the other hand pull directly backwards on the arm of the glasses and you will hear a tiny click, and installation in the new frames is the opposite, line up the rectangular hole on the frames with the arm and slowly push the arm into the frame waiting for the little click, that’s it, you’re done, pretty neat, eh.
Interaction with the unit is done via swipes and taps on the arms of the device and all of these inputs are customisable through the Soundcore app, a double tap on each arm can be configured to play/pause, activate a voice assistant or do nothing. Swipes on the other hand are configurable you can customise what a swipe front to back and back to the front do for each side. My settings are double-tap on the left open Google Assistant, double tap on the right plays/pauses. Swiping back to front on the left turns the volume up and front to back lowers the volume. Swiping back to front on the right arm plays the next track, and front to back goes back a track. It can be a little confusing but only took me a day or two to get it.
The Soundcore app is pretty neat you can update the firmware of the glasses if Soundcore brings new features to this over time, but you can change the EQ profile of the audio from a set of pre-made ones or set your own EQ, you can also enable their “Open Surround” mode with works so much better than I expected it to to be honest, and within the open surround mode there are 7 levels of surround sound you can tune it at, I have mine set at 5 for reference.
Whilst the frames are pretty discrete if you crank the volume up people can hear these, after all, they are direction speakers, not bone conduction, but Soundcore has enabled a “privacy mode” that limits the top volume and I don’t know what else they’ve done but I’m pretty sure it is black magic. Further in the app, you can turn on or off “wearing detection” which will turn the glasses on when you put them on and pause the music when you remove them. Of course, with this feature, there is also a calibration setting for that to make sure it is reading you properly.
Lastly, there is a “labs” feature with 2 features in it currently, Voice Control, so instead of using taps and swipes, you could speak to the glasses, as well as a “3-second power-off feature” where, as it sounds after 3 seconds of removing the glasses they’ll turn of, as opposed to the 30-45 seconds that the glasses normally take. I haven’t enabled either of these yet but I assume the first will drastically reduce the battery life by having a mic always on, the second sounds interesting though, maybe 3 seconds is too short though.
- 4 drivers
- Front drivers
- 25x8mm directed down
- Rear drivers
- 8mm diameter directed down and forward
- Front drivers
- 20Hz-20Khz frequency response
- 2x 110mAh Lithium Polymer batteries, one in each arm
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Magnetic charging cable
- Toolless frame swaps
Audio & Use
Wearing the frames has been an absolute joy, I’ve been finding reasons to wear them in places I wouldn’t normally wear my glasses just because I like the utility of always having Bluetooth earbuds on me, even if they’re not playing anything, the option of quickly asking google assistant something, or having a phone call is great and rather freeing, them always being there without needing to put them into a case or closing me off from the outside world.
Walking around a supermarket but needing to stay aware? These worked, walking down the road late at night? These allowed me to listen to a podcast and stay aware, heck even in my car with the finicky radio, putting these on still let me hear traffic that blasting my stereo would take away from.
So how do they sound? Honestly pretty amazing considering the constraints in place. You do need to get one thing straight though, the bass is not a leading factor here, it is there but barely, with how these drivers are positioned I wasn’t expecting masses of bass but this still shocked me. One of the drivers is directly above the front of your ear and the other driver is behind, the second driver s where I think the majority of the bass is coming from but even then it’s a stretch. Once you have gotten over the lack of bass, these are really quite nice audio devices, they don’t stand up to £150 earbuds, not in the slightest, but the form factor and design wouldn’t let them, those are basically earplugs that shoot sound directly into your ear canals, of course, those will sound better.
In the main “Soundcore EQ” profile I would say that the highs are a bit too over presented for my liking but those can be altered or just chosen from the other presets. These have a better mid representation than I would have expected once again given the small and interestingly shaped drivers, I found myself listening to a lot more pop tracks than my usual mix of audio tastes, and even with the tweaked EQ the highs were very twinkly or sparkly, and I really don’t like using flowery audio terms, but this is the one that makes the most sense to how string instruments sound on these.
What is weird about the Soundcore frames is the soundstage, these are technically closed drivers, but because of the way they are positioned it feels like the sound is coming from inside your head but because they don’t close your ears you can still hear everything making the perceived soundstage so much wider than it would be, it’s really quite trippy, in fact, a friend I let them try said this is what he imagines having voices in your head feels like, so I put the joker’s monologue from “The Killing Joke” on the frames for him to try, and he was suitably shaken, as was I when I tried them out.
These will not beat your AirPods Pro or your Sony XM4s, heck these don’t beat Soundcores Own Liberty Air 2 Pros on sound quality, but the pure sound quality isn’t what you’re going for here.
The Soundcore Frames are a weird beast, but honestly, one that I am so glad I reached out to get. I have lovely over-ear headphones, I have lots of earbuds and lots of ANC ones, but there are times when those are too restrictive or obvious, these just look like glasses (or sunglasses) that just so happen to play music, I love these so much that I’m spending the £99 to put my own lenses in them so I can wear them every day if I want to, that shows much I think these are an idea worth checking out.
If you are going for audio quality above all else, do not buy these, if you are looking for nice sunglasses with interchangeable frames that just so happen to also be a pair of earbuds, these work out. My main question becomes, do I want the Promenade or the Cafe style with my prescription in them.