Hands-on review: Mutrics smart audio sunglasses
Image credit: mutrics
Smart sunglasses with tiny Bluetooth speakers embedded into the arms: unique gadget or pointless curio?
E&T often receives gadgets that immediately prompt the question: “Whatever will they think of next?” Mutrics smart sunglasses definitely fall into this category, as they combine sunglasses with tiny Bluetooth speakers embedded into the arms - not something the market has been desperately crying out for. They straddle a thin line between an interesting but ultimately pointless curio and something that has a genuinely unique use.
Sound-wise, the inbuilt speakers offer acceptable quality, although they’re clearly not on a par with similarly priced headphones or buds. While some depth will be missed in songs featuring a booming bassline, they fare OK in the treble range and easily go loud enough so that podcasts can be heard on a noisy street. Ultimately, they will not appeal to audiophiles, but Mutrics knows that such people won’t be enjoying their music through a pair of sunglasses anyway.
As the sound system is basically just a pair of generic Bluetooth speakers, they paired easily with my Android device and use the standard array of three buttons to change the volume, skip tracks and access the virtual assistant. The connection seemed solid with few drop outs - better than many pairs of wireless headphones I’ve owned, possibly because their size allows for a relatively large antenna.
Considering they cost around £100 in the UK, the build quality is only acceptable. The whole body is made of matte black plastic and there are noticeable creaks when flexed, reminiscent of the kind of sunglasses you can pick up in Primark for 10 quid. The lenses themselves follow this trend with no polarisation to speak of, a feature I sorely missed from my standard pair.
The problem with using small speakers instead of other technologies, such as bone conduction, is that sound leakage is definitely a problem, even compared to open-backed headphones. You can hear exactly which song is playing from a couple of metres away at full volume. On packed commuter transport this would border on antisocial behaviour. Lower volumes aren’t nearly so disruptive, although I found they needed to be turned up relatively high in noisy areas to drown out the surroundings, a problem headphones don’t suffer from as much.
Mutrics only has one design in a few colours available on its website. I didn’t love the design, which looks quite bulky despite my larger-than-average cranium. This is a recurring problem for any product that attempts to mix fashion with technology. Even Apple has butted up against this conundrum recently with products like the Apple Watch and AirPods which work fantastically but are lacking in the looks department. While fashion products are entirely concerned with form, gadgets are mostly concerned with functionality and marrying the two together well has proven difficult time and time again. Enter any sunglasses shop, for example, and there will be at least 100 pairs of wildly differing styles to choose from. If you don’t like the one style Mutrics has made available then its tough luck for you.
As a keen cyclist, though, I can’t recommend them enough. Wearing them on my daily commute made it clear just how much awareness I was losing from choosing to wear headphones. While the sound of other cars would occasionally drown out the speakers, this is preferable to being hospitalised because you weren’t aware of an oncoming driver. Unfortunately, they can only really be worn in the summer, as you’ll look like a bit of a dork cycling around on a freezing, grey day in February wearing reflective sunglasses. Having said that, their IP-55 water resistance should keep them working in the rain if you’re desperate.
Smart sunglasses are a category that both Bose and Huawei have also entered this year, but only time will tell whether consumers take them seriously enough to warrant further development or whether too many compromises will send them to an early grave alongside gadgets like the Alexa-enabled microwave.
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