March 19 Update: We've updated this face-off per Bose Frames' new prescription lens option.
Now that Bose is making wearables cool with its Frames glasses (which are due to get audio-based augmented reality soon), we're seeing other companies remind us that Bose isn't the only brand making sunglasses that can play music. We tested the customizable Lucyd Loud to find out how well these glasses stand up to the new gold standard.
On paper, the Lucyd glasses seem like a winner, thanks to a much lower price and a ton of options for lenses, including multiple prescription lenses. But the Bose Frames aren't ready to give up the throne yet, thanks to the company's sweet proprietary speakers.
Bose Frames vs. Lucyd Loud Specs
Design and Feel
Sorry Lucyd, but the Bose Frames simply look cooler. Not only does Bose give you two options — the trapezoidal Alto and the circular Rondo — so you can choose one that matches the shape of your face, but their lines are cleaner. The Lucyd Loud, which comes in only one shape, combines both shapes, with angular top halves and curved lower halves — and it doesn't really work out.
Also, the Bose Frames are more comfortable to wear, with the slightly larger Alto and the smaller Rondo allowing you to fit them to your head. Although the Lucyd Loud fits more snugly against my head, the grip is tight, to a point where I wouldn't want to wear these glasses for over half an hour.
A Lucyd rep tells me that the arms of the Loud glasses can be "bent out gently" if they're too tight, and that "most people will require some adjustment," which wasn't clear to me during my testing.
The Loud is also thicker, with its arms measuring 0.4 to 0.5 inches, while the Bose Frames' arms range from 0.2 to 0.4 inches. The Frames are also a hair lighter; the Lucyd Loud weighs 1.8 ounces, compared with 1.5 ounces for the Alto version of the Frames and 1.4 ounces for the Rondo version.
Winner: Bose Frames
Sometimes, it pays to build your own technology. The Bose Frames are built around proprietarily engineered speakers that create a great amount of sound for the wearer to hear, without others knowing any better. The Lucyd Loud glasses use bone conduction speakers, which have never taken off.
At 50 percent volume, I could barely hear Julian Casablancas' vocals on Daft Punk's "Instant Crush." At the same volume level, the audio from the Bose Frames sounded richer and fuller. The sound seemed twice as loud and clear, with slight, crisp drum cymbals hitting cleanly and the synthesizer effects on the vocals rendering accurately.
I heard this same imbalance in audio quality as I listened to OutKast and UGK rap on "International Players Anthem." The Bose Frames won thanks to snare drums that sounded stronger, vocals that hit harder and sound I could actually feel in my ear rather than off in the distance.
MORE: Bose Frames Review: Headphones Reinvented
Yes, the Lucyd Loud glasses feature tons of bass, but that's not a good thing. Its speakers thump against the sides of your head, which makes their uncomfortable fit even harder to handle. The bass on the Bose Frames is more restrained, but it certainly sounds more natural and less gritty and doesn't hurt your head.
On the noisy streets of Midtown Manhattan, the Bose Frames were the only pair I could hear clearly; the Lucyd Loud nearly required me to cup my ears to hear.
When I tested their audio privacy, both the Bose Frames and the Lucyd Loud managed to be audible to a nearby colleague when I raised the volume above 50 percent. Nonetheless, Bose wins in this category, as the Frames sounded a lot better at that volume level.
Winner: Bose Frames
The Lucyd Loud glasses have one major advantage over the Bose Frames: options. Not only can you buy them with or without sunglass lenses, but prescription lenses (in either single or progressive prescriptions) are also available. Lucyd also allows for single or double pupillary distance adjustments.
Lucyd also provides a wide variety of sunglass lenses: single prescription, polarized, transitional and blue light blocking. There are even photochromic lenses that darken when exposed to sunlight, and high-index lenses for clear, transitional, sunglasses and blue-light blocking, if your prescription is super-strong.
In contrast, Bose Frames got prescription lens options on March 19, via GlassesUSA.com. Rx lenses start at $29, but you'll have to pop them in yourself. Bose also informed me that polarized and mirrored lenses are coming this May. No clear lens option is available yet.
Winner: Lucyd Loud
Even though its brand isn't as strong as Bose's, the Lucyd Loud will appeal to far more people because its entry-level $99 price is $100 less than the $199 Frames.
Naturally, the Lucyd Loud glasses get more expensive when you add prescription lenses. Single Rx lenses cost $35 extra ($50 if you're getting sunglasses), progressive Rx lenses cost $110, and options such as polarization, high index, transitional and photochromic also cost extra.
Again, Bose offers no such prescription lenses yet. But when you consider the Frames' sound quality and design, their price isn't exorbitant.
Winner: Lucyd Loud
Overall Winner: Bose Frames
|Bose Frames||Lucyd Loud|
|Design and Feel (25)||23||10|
|Sound Quality (40)||38||15|
The Lucyd Loud's perks aren't enough to put it over the top, leaving the Bose Frames as the king of sunglasses that double as headphones. While it's nice to get the best glasses for you — something I need, as I require prescription lenses — you're buying these gadgets for their sound.
You're also not going to wear these glasses if they're not comfortable. But let this be a warning for Bose: The lack of customization is a serious weak spot that the opposition is already attacking.
Credit: Tom's Guide