Today I’m looking at the MP3 Sunglasses by Brando. They’re reminiscent of the blade styled glasses made popular by makers such as Oakley who coincidently offer an MP3 player equipped pair of sunglasses that are identical on the surface. I’m sure that the Brando version is the take-off on the Oakley version but at $75 for the 512Mb pair they do offer considerably better value. The question is what losses do you suffer for that value.
The glasses come in a fairly nice box that features a magnetized flap for opening the box. This allows you to use the box as a convenient storage/transport medium. Another nice thing is the lack of styrofoam in the container, rather they chose to use compartmentalized open cell foam. Included in the package are all the necessary parts, the glasses, USB cable, wall charger and car charger plus instruction sheet. The wall charger is kind of redundant since the glasses derive their charge from the USB port meaning that you can simply hook them to your PC whenever they need charging.
The chargers use the USB cord included with the glasses to charge the battery so if you do take the kit on the road you will need to bring the cable with you otherwise the chargers will be useless. The USB cable is a legacy part, it has the standard USB interface on the PC end but uses a three conductor 2.5mm mini-plug to hook into the glasses so needless to say you have to make certain to not leave the cable anywhere by mistake. If you do you’ll find yourself with a pair of sunglasses that look odd.
As you can see the wall charger is designed for another country but happily Brando thoughtfully includes an adaptor to allow it to work here. The charger must have some sort of auto-sense for the voltages from the mains since it worked like a charm on 110V AC. The glasses themselves are not the blue tint they appear to be on Brando’s site, instead they’re a medium bronze tint. The frames are made from a hard molded plastic as are the temples.
Unfortunately, if you have a large head (like I do) you’ll find the glasses less than comfortable due to the design. They’re designed to hold to the head via tension placed on the earpieces that create friction on the head. What’s this translate into in english? (you wonder) Well, it means that they’re tight. Incredibly so. After a few minutes of wearing them you (sort of) get used to the pressure but for extended periods of time you stand to end up with one hell of a headache.
Not only are the earpieces stiff, they have zero cushioning. In fact, there are no cushions anywhere on the sunglasses, the earpieces and nosepieces are hard plastic. Needless to say the comfort factor is at less than zero due to the weight and pressure exerted on your head.
Taking a closer look at the temples we see that the speakers are on telescopic sections that allow them to rotate and the speaker body itself moves fore and aft allowing the speakers to be placed pretty much anywhere that a person’s ear canal would be located. At the top of the right-hand temple are the controls. All three buttons serve multiple purposes. The center button is power on/off and play/pause. The front button is previous track/volume down and the rear button is next track/volume up. According to the documentation when you press and hold the power/play button you power up the unit and that’s supposed to be verified with an audible tone.
Trouble is the only thing I ever heard was a very subtle "click" whenever the power was either turned on or off, there was no tone. Also once the power is on a short press of that button starts play of the last song where it left off…in theory. I found that it would sometimes take as many as five presses of the play button to get music playing. To stop play it never took more than one press but sadly once you stop play the power shuts off and if it doesn’t shut off pressing the play button is rewarded with nothing. You have to shut the unit off then restart it to get play to work once again.
The volume up/down functions are just as maddeningly unpredictable. To raise/lower the volume you hold the associated button down until the volume responds in the manner you choose, again, in theory. In reality it’s largely hit or miss. Sometimes the volume would work and others nothing would happen causing me to release the button and re-depress it. At that point it was a gamble if I was going to get the volume to work or if the unit was going to mistake my command as one to switch tracks since switching tracks is supposed to be a quick press and release of the same buttons doing the volume duties.