Despite my experience with gadgets, reviewing accessories, especially audio products, is not that easy. You really don’t know what to expect until you have used a product thoroughly.
So when England-based startup Xertz backed by homegrown firm Shree Samiri Technologies sent its smart audio sunglasses for review, I honestly had no expectations. The Xertz Carbon XZ01 are essentially “smart sunglasses” with a pair of hidden speakers and invisible sensors which beam music directly to your ears. Although it was the Bose Frames that really popularised the concept of audio sunglasses, it’s good to see other companies expanding the category of hearables by introducing more affordable products.
The question is will you buy a wireless pair of connected sunglasses from Xertz, or do you choose a pair of sunglasses and earbuds separately?
Here are the main takeaways from my one week with the Xertz Carbon XZ01.
Xertz Carbon XZ01 price in India: Rs 9,999
Xertz Carbon XZ01: How they look and feel
Xertz has done a great job with the design of the Carbon XZ01. They look and feel just like a premium pair of sunglasses. The glasses come in angular style and are unisex. Yes, the arms are a bit thicker and wider near the ears, but I never felt insecure wearing them. In fact, after a few minutes into the Carbon XZ01, I didn’t even notice they were some sort of high-tech smart sunglasses. The frames are made from black nylon, and glasses are UVA/UVB resistant, not polarised. Not only do they look pretty cool, but they also have an IP67 rating for splash and water resistance.
The Carbon XZ01 are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and they easily fold up like a regular pair of sunglasses. They come in a sophisticated carrying case that protects the sunglasses from wear and tear.
As far as customization is concerned, Xertz is selling its smart audio sunglasses in two styles: the Carbon XZ01 are designed for those who want an everyday pair of sunglasses, while the Elite style is aimed at power users. The Elite style comes with an anti-blue light lens. Unfortunately, at the moment Xertz does not offer an option to opt for prescription lenses, something I personally would want to try myself.
Xertz Carbon XZ01: Controls and connectivity
As I said, the Carbon XZ01 are designed to look like a pair of sunglasses. The arms are thick and sturdy for a reason — they house the batteries on both sides. For charging, they use a custom magnetic pogo-pin. The battery is rated at 5 hours at max but I got roughly four hours. The battery life is just okay, thankfully you can charge the earbuds pretty quickly.
Turning on the Carbon XZ01 is easy. You will notice a small gold button on the right and left temple that lets you turn/off and pair the sunglasses, skip or pause songs, take a call, or activate a virtual assistant. The Carbon XZ01, however, lack the ability to control the volume from within the sunglasses. That means every time I had to adjust the audio volume, I had no option but to take out the phone from my pocket and use the iPhone’s volume button.
The microphone was good and worked well during calls. Given that these smart audio sunglasses don’t cut you off from the world, I could hear the other side well in noisy environments. They use standard Bluetooth audio, and had good connectivity with both the Google Pixel 4a and iPhone 12.
What I really didn’t like about these connected sunglasses is the lack of built-in companion app support. Without app support, there’s no way I can control the EQ of the headphones as well as native settings.
Xertz Carbon XZ01: How they sound
The Carbon XZ01 smart sunglasses, unlike a standard pair of earbuds, let you listen to music as well as invoke a voice assistant while your ears remain open to the world around you. Confused? Alright. The idea is to include high-quality stereo speakers in the sunglasses that actually don’t go inside your ears. Instead, the glasses include two speakers set into the frames that are focused on the wearer’s ears. So you will hear the music straight into your ears through speaker grills. It’s basically invisible audio and that’s why I agreed to review these connected sunglasses in the first place.
But does that open ear experience work? The answer is Yes and No. Let me explain.
In my testing, these smart audio glasses sounded fine. Sound quality is of course subjective, and what genre of music you really enjoy pre-determine your option about headphones. Whether it was classical, pop, or podcasts, everything sounded balanced on this one. I would say they work best with country music or listening to old Bollywood music. However, most users would be disappointed with these audio sunglasses, especially if they have used AirPods before. They also lack bass and at higher volume, the audio leaks. So you have to stick to mid-age volume most of the time.
The open-ear design does have its flaws. For instance, the design rules out any type of noise cancellation and you will hear nearby conversations when listening to music on the Carbon XZ01. What it does successfully creates a personal audio space and this is a good design concept.
Xertz Carbon XZ01: Should you buy them?
Honestly, the concept of audio sunglasses are still in the early stages. While I appreciate this open ear audio design, the glasses are not practical for everyday use yet. People like to wear sunglasses when they are out in the sun for a brief period of time. They most likely attend a few calls or listen to a brief music session while driving or jogging. I think the rationale behind having built-in audio capabilities makes sense but the audio quality will leave most users wanting. But the more I think about these audio sunglasses, the more I get excited about the future of hearables.