See And Hear

Owndays has launched their own “hearing glasses” in an unexpected collaboration with Huawei

By Low Teck Mee

When I first tried on Bose’s Bluetooth audio sunglasses simply called Frames just before the pandemic struck three years ago, I was not immediately impressed, or in love. The Wayfarer-ish shades were relatively handsome, but their thick arms—necessarily bulky to house, among other electronics, battery and speaker—were a deal breaker for me as they gripped the space above my ears too tightly for what I consider comfort. Prone to headaches when arms of glasses are too tight, the Frames did not cut it for me. Additionally, I kept feeling that clunky arm above my ears, not exactly the sunglasses you put on and forget about them. But the Bose Frames were not designed to be ignored. As you are likely going to use it to listen to music, not just to block out harsh sunlight and the accompanying UV rays, its palpable arms were, er, audible too, pulsing above the . Even if the Bose Frames did not make a fan out of me, since then, many other brands have added to the multiplication of such eyewear in the market.

The latest to join the excitement is the Japanese eyewear brand Owndays. The first here to introduce quickly-available (20 minutes on average, mostly) prescription glasses, they are also the first (I believe) among Japanese eyewear retailers to now offer spectacles with speakers housed in the arms. You can then use them as earphones too. Curious is their pairing with Chinese brand Huawei than an audio name such as compatriot Sony. Still, appealingly, the glasses come as ‘blank’ pairs so that you can fit lenses with the power that you need. That, to me, is a persuasive sell. With the Bose Frames, if you intended to keep listening to music indoors, you’d have to keep your shades on, which inside anywhere the sun can’t reach is somewhat a pretentious practice. In the case of the Owndays “hearing glasses”, if you need them as sun shades, all you need is snap on the separate dark lenses that come with them.

I am sure the Owndays X Huawei glasses will serve as corrective eyewear well, as Owndays’s usual offerings do. In terms of looks, they are handsome enough, and the ends of the arms, where the earpiece are, seem slender, which means they may not put pressure on where they rest. As I have not been able to test its audio function, I can’t say that I would seriously consider them in place of my admittedly old B&O Beoplay E8. The thing is, although Owndays have announced the launch of their hybrid glasses in Japan, there is no news if they will be available outside their homeland. When I asked at Owndays shops last week, I was met with blank expressions. Two staff members in two different shops had no idea what I was talking about. Finally one did at a third outlet, and he told me that there is, so far, no news that they would be bringing it to our shores. I can’t say I was not disappointed with that revelation. But I can be hopeful.

The Bose Frames, soundwise, did not blow me over. While sound leak, as you can imagine, will always be a snag when your ears are not plugged, the Bose was not a huge problem until you listen to music at a higher volume (and you would if the ambient sound overpowers or if you want the bass to travel through your body). And since I have not auditioned the Owndays X Huawei pair, I can’t say they are a sonic monster. I assume Huawei is behind the tech of the earphone part of the eyewear, and it is likely that their sound engineers have offered the best. According to Owndays, the “directional acoustic system”—there is no mention of bone conduction technology—they have employed, “minimizes” sound leakage. Whether that is good enough, I can’t say with certainty yet. But six hours battery life for audio playback and IPX4 water resistance (admittedly not the ultimate, but good enough for headphones you can’t see) put this pair of collab glasses in good light, rather than in the shade. Still, for those of us gadget lovers, there really is no problem at all using a pair of true wireless, noise-cancelling earbuds and, at the same time, wearing a pair of our fave specs, Owndays or not.

The Owndays X Huawei ‘Listening Glasses’ are presently not available here. Watch this space for release dates when they become available. Photos: Owndays Japan