JLab JBuds Frames: A clever twist on smart glasses that comes up short

Review: These are designed to clip on to your existing glasses but the result is not subtle

Clip on, tune in ... clip off again

Product name: JLabs JBuds Frames

Price: €60.0

Where to buy: jlab.com

Website: Jlab.com

Wed, Jan 26, 2022, 22:34

   

Have you noticed the steady creep of smart glasses into the market? When Snap brought out its Spectacles, they were a novelty, but in the past couple of years, we have seen Bose, Huawei, Amazon and even Facebook get in on the act with frames that are more high-tech than most of us are used to.

While some of the glasses have a video recording function, others leave it at speakers, so you can walk, run, cycle or just loll around on the grass while listening to your music or podcasts. No extra earbuds needed, and you can still pay attention to what is going on around you, for safety reasons.

The only problem? The cost. Smart glasses are not exactly cheap, and you’ll feel obliged to wear them as often as possible to get your money’s worth.

That is why the JBuds Frames seem like a great idea: instead of shelling out big money on sunglasses with speakers built into the frame, you simply add the Frames to the glasses you already own. The oblong black plastic speakers contain a microphone, speaker and rechargeable battery. They are designed to fit most glasses, with silicon sleeves to help get the perfect fit, and when you change glasses you can simply swap the speakers to the new frames.

That makes them more flexible than the Bose Frames, the Huawei Gentle Monster glasses or the Echo Frames, and they are significantly cheaper, too.

You provide the frames, JLab provides the sound, in the form of open-ear speakers positioned right next to your ear.

The speakers have 16mm drivers, but because of the positioning of the speakers, they direct sound to your ears rather than those around you. There may be some sound leakage, though, so if you are listening to anything too sensitive be aware of the potential for being overheard if people get too close to you.

Slim clippings

Set-up is simple. The hooks that clip the Frames on to the side of your glasses are slim enough, although the thinner your glasses the more they’re going to annoy you, even with the silicon sleeves to improve the fit. Press and hold some buttons to put the Frames into pairing mode, and then connect them like you would any other audio device.

Once you have paired, the Frames will allow you to not only listen to music, but also take calls and access your voice assistant.

I want to like the Frames. The idea seems good, with flexibility the most attractive selling point; unfortunately, the reality just doesn’t match up.

There are several issues. The universal design that makes the Frames work with almost any pair of glasses also means that, unlike the Bose or Echo devices, the speakers always feel like an add-on, like they shouldn’t be there. They’re not subtle either, and don’t blend in with any of my glasses. After years of wearing small earbuds, I feel conscious of the Frames the entire time I am wearing them.

Audio quality is okay, just don’t expect too much in the way of bass. Getting them close enough to my ears to get the best audio means sacrificing comfort, with the clips becoming uncomfortable before long.

Battery life is decent, at about eight hours, and to charge them you need the proprietary split cable.

The good

The JLab Frames are easy to swap between glasses, quick to set up and reasonably priced. If you are a fan of open speakers, or are hankering after audio-enabled glasses, these will certainly do the job. The easy set up and swap-over goes a long way to making the Frames an attractive prospect. Battery life is also decent.

The not so good

The Frames can swap to different glasses but they provide unnecessary bulk to your glasses. And while they are lightweight, the positioning needed to get the best audio quality means you’ll find they wedge against your head uncomfortably after a while.

The rest

You can access your phone’s chosen digital assistant through the Frames, and also use them as a hands-free kit. The silicon sleeves mean you can use the same pair of Frames with multiple types of frames.

The verdict

More flexible and significantly cheaper than dedicated smart glasses, but some drawbacks to consider.

jlab.com