JLab’s latest JBuds aren’t buds at all. Instead, as the all-virtual CES 2021 approaches, JLab has revealed a product that’s a not-so-inconspicuous take on Bose’s impressive audio sunglasses, the Bose Frames. In fact, JLab is so intent on comparing its product to Bose’s that they actually carry the exact same name. But the JBuds Frames offer at least one feature that could give them an edge on their premium audio rival: they work with any pair of glasses.
Before we dig in too far, you may be asking yourself what are “audio sunglasses” anyway? As the name implies, they’re a pair of glasses affixed with wireless speakers that, in Bose’s case, beam sound into your open ear canal with striking clarity, allowing you to engage in outdoor activities and be fully aware of your environment while also listening to your favorite tunes or podcasts. In fact, thanks to Bose’s impressively targeted sound, while wearing the Bose Frames, no one else has any clue that you’re jamming out while engaging in other activities.
When Bose introduced its Frames in 2018, I was extremely skeptical about their claims of offering clear, detailed sound without the need for buds in your ear canals, but apart from a general lack of bass, they work brilliantly. The biggest problem I found was that, well, you don’t really want to wear sunglasses everywhere. Whether it’s the gym or the office, the Bose Frames really can’t just go with you anywhere. Apart from that, their 3-4 hours of battery life is also quite limiting, essentially requiring a charge after every use.
The JBuds Frames solve both of those issues, starting with their clip-on design. This versatile take on the tech means you can potentially pair them with any glasses—from reading specs to shades, inside or out. JLab calls this a “bring your own frame” design, or BYOF.
In addition to their versatility, the JBuds Frames also offer up to 8 hours of battery life, as well as a price point of just $50—a quarter of what you’ll pay for the full package from Bose. As long as you’ve got some glasses at the ready, it seems like a pretty smart and efficient trade-off.
Inside each clip is a 16mm driver and the clips come with two sizes of sleeves to fit on different glasses. The JBuds Frames connect to your mobile device independently over Bluetooth, so you can use both or one at a time, and also offer IPX4 water resistance to take on splashes, rain, and other wet conditions.
What we don’t know at this point is whether the JLab version will be able to capture the almost magical sound quality of the Bose Frames, which reproduce sound so clean and well-balanced it feels as if the music just appears inside your head. Due to the virtual nature of this year’s unprecedented CES conditions, we won’t know if the JBuds Frames are worth the investment (relatively modest though it may be) until they arrive on the open market this spring, but we’re eager to check them out once they do.