Everyone seems desperate to strap a pair of smart glasses to their faces (or at least tech companies seem desperate to sell us on this solution), but the closest we’ve got to that right now are the $280 Bose Frames or the $US250 ($321) Amazon Echo frames. The problem is they only deliver audio. That’s a lot to pay for a headphone alternative that doesn’t sound as good as real headphones, so consider JLab Audio’s new DIY solution instead, which allows you to easily upgrade your existing glasses with wireless sound.
The JLab JBuds aren’t really buds in the sense that you jam them into your ears like you do with a pair of AirPods. They’re instead designed to clip onto the arms of your glasses — be they prescription or simply sunglasses — and then blast audio into your ears using downward facing speakers. They’re yet another open-ear headphone solution like the Bose Sport Open Earbuds announced earlier this week, which let you listen to your music while still hearing everything going on around you. This makes them ideal for runners or anyone who doesn’t want the world around them silenced. Unlike earbuds and over-ear headphones, they also don’t make physical contact with any part of your ear, meaning they’re potentially more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
The JBuds are rated IPX4 for water resistance, which means they should easily survive both sweat and a heavy rain, but won’t survive a dunking. That’s probably because of the large speaker opening that allows sound from the JBuds’ 16-millimetre drivers to reach your ears. It’s the same approach that over-the-ear headphones use (the drivers sit slightly outside your ears) but without the earcups, so there’s a concern with these types of personal audio devices that everyone can hear what you’re listening to. JLab promises that’s not an issue given how the sound is directed to the ear canal, but it’s not a black hole from which no audio can be reflected. If you’re cranking your tunes, you can probably expect someone close by to be able to rock out too.
The JBuds include buttons for adjusting playback volume, answering calls, and even switching EQ settings, and battery life is rated at over eight hours. It’s surprising to see a set of $US50 ($64) headphones include their own custom charging cable, which in this case splits off into two magnetic connectors to help minimise the open ports on each speaker. But at the same time, proprietary charging cables are never a welcome solution, even with the convenience of magnets.
The JBuds will be available this autumn for around $65. Stay tuned for confirmed local availability and pricing.