Product Review: Audio glasses by Fauna

Posted by on October 14th, 2021 at 1:34 pm

These glasses have speakers in them!
(Photos: Josh Ross/BikePortland)

Riding around town with music is pretty awesome. Riding around town with earbuds and a loss of spatial awareness is a bit less awesome. People do it and life goes on. But what if there was a better option?

Of course the easiest solution is either a speaker or to just wear a single headphone. If you go the headphone route you could even get fancy with a set of true wireless headphones. Get the right set, use only one headphone, and you’re pretty much set.

Now there’s another option: A class of products called audio glasses. Amazon has the Echo Frames, Bose calls theirs Frames, and now Fauna has an option. In each case you get a pair of glasses with touch controls, a mic, and speakers in the arms. Your ears stay open but you have speakers that, mostly, only you can hear.

I spent some time testing the $199 Fauna option to see if their glasses were any good for cycling. Would these be good for turn-by-turn directions? Hands-free phone calls? A good option for music? Check out my review to learn more…

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What Do They Offer?

Fauna offers four different frame options. Two have a blue light lens in them while the other two have a tinted lens. In each lens option there’s the same wayfarer or cat-eye frame style, but depending on the lens chosen the frames have different colors. Whatever option you choose it’s purely a style choice. The $199 pricing doesn’t change, lenses are always replaceable with a prescription, and all the other tech is the same as well.

From the front the frames look like standard glasses. Turn them to the side and that’s where all the tech sits. Behind the hinge on each arm there’s a chunky bit of black plastic with a charging contact at the front. There’s a small woofer and speaker on each side, two microphones on the right, 100mah battery, and a touch control panel on each side.

The case that houses the glasses is smart also. Inside the case the contact points behind the hinges meet their partners and charge the glasses. The glasses on their own can handle four hours of run-time and the case has enough juice to charge the glasses four times. Each time you close the case the series of lights on the front indicate the percentage of remaining power in the glasses. Open the case and you’ll see an indication of the power left in the case. When it’s time to recharge the case there’s a USB-C connection and a complete battery charge takes an hour and a half.

The process of pairing with your device over Bluetooth 5.0 happens by opening the case. The glasses will announce “Hi! Fauna is on!” then shortly after will say “Fauna is pairing!” From there if you’ve paired them before they should connect. To pair to a new device, you’ll have to make sure they aren’t connected to a device and the glasses will automatically enter pairing mode.

What are they like to use?

They are Bluetooth headphones and they cost about the same as a nice pair. The Fauna glasses connect quickly and sound pretty good. They don’t sound nearly as good as a comparably priced set of headphones, but it’s workable. There’s not much bass and the profile skews towards distinct voices. Talking on the phone is great. One side effect of having the speakers on each side of your head is a very immersive sound. Music on the other hand sounds a bit on the tinny side. If the absolute best sounding music is your goal, these aren’t going to be the best choice.

Move past the idea of top-quality music though and you’ve got a workable product. The volume works while cruising on a bike. The touch panels allow for a hands-off-the-phone experience of answering calls, changing volume, starting/stopping music, and skipping tracks. The right temple calls for a double tap to trigger the voice assistant. That didn’t work for me on an Android device however “Hey Google” continues to work just fine. At 50 grams, the Fauna glasses feel like high quality glasses, look a bit on the chunky side, but aren’t noticeably heavy on your face.

Is there anything that doesn’t work?

Three things actually, none of them deal breakers if you are already into the idea. The first issue is the app that accompanies the Fauna glasses. The problem is a conceptual issue, not a bug. Instead of offering sound profiles or maybe adjusting the touch controls it lets you set up reminders. If that’s something you are needing in your life it should work, but overall I’d rather have the app for my audio glasses do something more relevant to audio glasses.

The next one is an actual performance issue. The mic does not do well with wind noise. On a windy day riding through the neighborhood the person I was talking to said I was difficult to hear and there was a lot of wind noise. I could hear my friend just fine, but with the wind noise there wasn’t a workable solution at higher speeds.

That last problem is once again a conceptual issue, not a bug. I’d love to see these offered with photochromic lenses. The main reason I don’t use them as much as some of my other headphones is because I move in and out of the house often. Each time I come inside I take my sunglasses off and that means swapping headphones. I could have chosen blue light lenses but that would have only reversed the problem.

Verdict

For the most part the Fauna audio glasses deliver on what they promise. I find them to be stylish and the sound quality is good enough for me. The only thing that didn’t work as advertised was using the right temple to trigger the Google Assistant. That might be an issue with Google changing the system though and it might be a non-issue for other phones.

The biggest question at play is if you want to spend money on audio glasses. There are options for getting music on your bike that cost less and sound better. So, first you’ll have to fall in love with the idea, then you’ll have to decide if your use-case will work. People who do a lot of casual riding for more than a few minutes, and wear sunglasses at the same time, might consider these. It’s a fun way to listen to music and stay aware of your surroundings, but it might not be the most rational decision.

Here’s a link to the model I tested.

Anyone else tried these yet?

— Josh Ross, @josh_ross on Twitter
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Philips
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Philips

This might be good for a casual ride on a MUP but I use my ears just as much as my eyes when I am trying to get somewhere fast.

 Jason
Guest
 Jason

Anything to get the ear canal empty, fashionable too! It’s annoying as all get out to be riding behind a slow poke with plugged ears. Ring Ring Ring! My bell has no effect, nor does, “on your left”. I’ve never really ridden with sound on, but I’ve thought bout a BT speaker on the bars.

idlebytes
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idlebytes

I tried some bone conduction headphones last year they were just OK. The problem was when it was windy or at speeds above 12-15 mph the wind noise over my ears required me to turn them all the way up which basically made me unable to hear anything around me anyway. I would imagine these could have a similar problem.

Todd/Boulanger
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Todd/Boulanger

Good to know as I always hoped that would be the silver bullet. But based on your input they could be the “winter option’ if you ride with light ear covers.

Aaron
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Aaron

So I know it says lenses can be replaced with prescription, but I’m wondering realistically how many people who primarily wear glasses for vision correction would actually go for this product. I might be in the minority here among those who require vision correction, but I can’t be the only one who doesn’t use contacts. I have glasses that I already wear, so why would I go and get another pair of glasses just for the audio feature, especially given that if you replace with prescription lenses, it’ll certainly cost much more than the $199 listed here?

Todd/Boulanger
Guest
Todd/Boulanger

I agree on the big need to keep your ear canals open to what is going on around you on city streets. When I bike tour I always keep one ear open – if I don’t have a radio – AND I purposely disable the second corded headphone or wrap up my second headphone…just in case of the following:

These glasses may the best option to avoid the VERY strong chance that a jury of [car drivers’] peers would find greater fault [and perhaps higher than if the cyclist was a driver] in a collision if the cyclist had headphone(s) on. These glasses would keep your ears open AND likely be overlooked at a crash scene.

Carter
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Carter

I am all for these since I think bluetooth speakers are a blight. You know who doesn’t want to hear your music from half a block away? Everyone. These seem like a terrific way to have both safety and enjoyment.

squareman
Subscriber

From “the cars that go ‘boom'” to “the bikes that …” something. The only appropriate times I like loud speakers on bikes are on very large group rides (e.g. WNBR) where it’s more of a party atmosphere in the first place. Then it’s only annoying to be close enough to two DJ bikes at the same time that all you hear is the incongruous crossfade between them.

squareman
Subscriber

Everyone here appears to be advocating for keeping the ear canals open. Here’s one thing AirPods Pro do for me that have sold me on them: with noise-canceling “passthrough” turned on (and it’s a lot different than simply turning noise canceling off which does muffle outside noise), they let in environmental noises while negating the white-noise oriented wind noise (which tends to drown out the sound of a vehicle behind me). These glasses would do nothing for that wind noise. I’ve also long wondered about the damaging effects of wind noise on the ears because it can be quite loud, but with the seal of the buds and the “passthrough” turned on, I hear the outside world better at high speeds on long downhills. I never put on audio at such a level that I cannot hear my own tires on the road (and car tires are a lot louder) or any other operational sound of my bike. I still hear every bell and every “on your left” provided the passer does it with enough distance for me to react properly to it. Sometimes, I simply have the pods in but nothing playing through them, because the clarity of hearing without the wind noise is a benefit.

squareman
Subscriber

Also, I tend to listen to podcasts more than music while riding, just because it seems to be the only time I’m alone long enough to listen to them (and on my dog walks). It also tends to extend my exercise rides because I’ll keep riding if the episode I’m listening to is not done as I get close to my destination. It’s a lot easier to hear environmental sounds with just low-volume voices happening than it is with rich music audio playing. Sometimes when listening to music, I have to pause it because there might be something that sounds like an approaching siren and I need to make sure it’s not in my enviornment, or a rhythmic tic of the music sounds like a problem on my drive train. That doesn’t happen with conversations on podcasts.

Steve Hash
Guest
Steve Hash

I am dreading the day when my OptiShokz stop working. Bone conduction is the only way to go!

Ronald Raygun
Guest
Ronald Raygun

Don’t go on much more than an hour or 2 rides so don’t need music. I like being able to hear well when riding, and music would interfere with that. Also, don’t need another pair of expensive prescription glasses. I already need 3 pairs: regular long distance/driving glasses, reading/computer/workshop glasses, and sun glasses – all prescription at $200 to $300 each out of pocket after insurance pays their part.