Ampere Dusk Electrochromic Sunglasses Review
These futuristic glasses let you listen to tunes and tailor the tint on demand
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If you love to wear your favorite shades under any conditions, well, you might be Bono. But you might also be interested in a new pair of sunglasses that let you change the tint at your leisure called the Ampere Dusk (available at Ampere).
Dusk sunglasses may look like your average retro Ray-ban rip-offs, but they’re imbued with “electrochromic” tech that lets you change the lens shading electronically to suit your needs. In addition, the Dusk follow a growing list of other techie shades that incorporate tiny speakers into the glasses’ arms to beam audio to your ears. But do these futuristic glasses work as advertised? I couldn’t help but take them for a test drive to find out.
About the Ampere Dusk Smart Sunglasses
- Price: $295
- Battery life: 4 hours of playback time, 7 days of pairing time for app-tint control
- Fast charging: 80% charge in 15 minutes
- Colors: Black, Navy & Teal
- Speakers: single speaker per side
- Calling: 2 MEMs microphones
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Lenses: Shatter/scratch resistant, polarized TAC
- Dust/water resistance: IPX4
- Fit: 4 pairs of nose guards
- Weight: 34 grams
- Extras: Built-in finder alert, Voice-assistant support, tint control
Dusk shades come in two model types: the regular Dusk I reviewed here ($295) and the Dusk Lite ($195), which drop the audio component. The regular (pricier) model is in many ways akin to other audio sunglasses like the Bose Frames, offering tiny onboard speakers and microphones, a key on the right arm for audio playback control, and Bluetooth connection to your device for streaming music and podcasts.
The electrochromic lenses are the Dusk’s intriguing twist. The tint level is controlled by a second key on the left arm (which must be activated by holding it down) or the accompanying Dusk app. While tint control is limited to 4 settings with the physical key, the app lets you dial in your preferred tint more granularly with a slider, and even set custom presets.
Accessories include some extra nose guards, a black glasses sleeve and shammy, and a magnetic charging cable—meaning you can’t just use any old USB-C cable lying around. You can also purchase a charging case that adds up to 40 hours of playback on the go for $69.
Tint on demand: Breakthrough or novelty?
I’ll start with the obvious selling point—those crazy-cool, tint-shifting lenses. Sure, the ability to customize your shades as you please may not seem quite as appealing if you live somewhere like Southern California where the ideal sunglasses setting is dark. But in my Pacific Northwest home, where the weather can change from sunny to gray in an eyeblink, audio glasses that also adapt to the weather make for a very compelling proposition.
Accordingly, the first day I took the Dusk for a dog walk made for a signature PNW trial. It started with light rain, morphed into hazy gray sleet, and by the time we’d made it to the local park, the sun began to burn through the clouds like a silver spotlight. I changed my tint with each new phase until the clouds lifted and I hit full black.
As one who generally enjoys being at the wheel, I greatly appreciated the chance to exercise despotic rule over my lens tinting, tapping the key and/or dialing the lenses to different degrees of darkness to suit the mercurial skies overhead. That said, the more I wore the Dusk, the more I found myself unable to focus clearly with the darker tints.
While I'm new to electrochromic lenses, after doing some research it appears likely that the Dusk lenses use a type of dye that's activated when excited by electricity. It's a more hands-on option than photochromic transition lenses that change with the sun. However it works, the Dusk's shading felt less natural than my polarized Ray-bans, especially with the darker tints. Instead of clarifying things by cutting glare, the darker settings just made things more opaque, straining my eyes and even shifting environmental colors—shaded green leaves turned fully blue, for instance.
When I hit a disc golf course with some friends on a sunny weekend, I ended up just leaving the tint off as the lens polarization proved enough to cut the glare (100% of UVA and UVB rays, according to Ampere). Most notably for those considering the cheaper Dusk Lite, it was the reggae I put on as a chill playlist during my disc golf outing that really made the Dusk rise above traditional sunglasses. I was able to jam away while keeping in the moment with my fellow players, which is what I love about audio shades.
Unfortunately, while they do the trick for some light musical accompaniment, the Dusk’s audio performance proved to be both their most useful feature and their biggest disappointment.
Tinny, tiny sound
I won't pull punches, the Dusk’s sound is simply not good. As with the Bose Frames, the sound beaming from the vented arms seems to just appear in your head, leaving your ears open—great for keeping your wits about you while indulging in some tunes. But unlike the Frames, here the sound is strikingly thin, not only skimping on bass, but also leaving the full frequency range bereft of any real color, texture, or body.
The most natural comparison would be listening to sound bleed from someone’s nearby headphones. It’s that thin. Even for phone calls, I found myself straining to hear the other side, forced to turn up the speakers to distortion in noisier conditions.
This isn’t all that surprising—these are open-air speakers and it’s no simple trick to beam sound to your ears for headphone-like quality. Frankly, if it weren’t for Bose’s Frames, I’d probably take less umbrage with Ampere’s audio performance.
But having experienced good musical performance from audio shades, the best I can say for the Dusk is you can, in fact, hear music and follow its basic parameters. It works OK for a podcast or some very light background tunes, such as my disc golf soundtrack. Just don’t listen too closely.
Minimalist (and comfy) design
On the flip side, the Dusk are refreshingly light when compared to the older Bose Frames model I have, which makes them quite comfortable. Pairing well with their “dawn to dusk” design intent, I found I could easily wear the Dusk for hours. They’re also a lot less bulky than Bose’s Frames, especially at the arms (Bose loads them up with speakers), making them more stylish and calling less attention to themselves.
Speaking of style, my wife thought the Dusk looked a bit too chunky and simplistic, but I got a couple of compliments elsewhere. I think they just pull off “hipster chic” with their basic lines and nearly flat front. Also, the transparent lenses on the lower tint settings give them something of a Hollywood (or “Bono”) look.
Some cool features, but refinement is needed
Regardless of my tint preferences, the ability to dial the Dusk’s shading on a slider is undoubtedly cool, and you’ll likely spend some time showing that off to friends if you get them. I also love that there’s a finder alarm if you lose track of them (just make sure not to accidentally set it off while wearing the glasses as I did) and a solid battery indicator. But I did wish for a bit more from the Dusk app.
For one thing, the app's tint fader does not correspond with the button when you’re changing the tint, which means it’s not accurately represented. Unlike Bose’s Frames, there are no AR extras like golf course mapping or workout cues—it’s a pretty basic system. I also found it odd that you have to activate the physical button to allow it to change tint. I accidentally deactivated it once and thought the feature had broken.
Just four hours of audio playback per charge is also a bit disappointing, but it is cool that you can recharge the glasses on the go if you buy the charging case. For $295, I think the case should be included, but it’s a feature I wish other audio sunglasses offered so it’s a win here even as an add-on. The internal battery also allows the Dusk to pair with the app for tint control for up to seven days.
Should you buy the Ampere Dusk?
Not at this price, unfortunately.
While there are some cool things for Ampere to build on here, in the end I found the tint-control aspect of these sunglasses to be more fun novelty than groundbreaking innovation. It didn’t offer nearly as much versatility in varying conditions as I’d hoped for—the heavier tint made things too opaque, while the polarized lenses on their own worked great outside, but were too distracting indoors.
Instead, I found the Dusk’s audio component to be the most useful tech, especially embedded in something so compact and comfortable. Unfortunately, to get so compact, the glasses really skimped on sound quality. As a picky listener, I’ll no doubt find myself reaching for the chunkier Bose Frames when I want to listen with open ears, even if I can’t wear them as long. The Frames are even easier to recommend now that you can often get the older model of the Bose Frames on sale for well under their original $200 MSRP.
For me, it all comes down to price. If they weren't so wallet-busting, the Dusk could be a fun-if-flawed purchase. I like where this is going, and if the sound can improve, I could see myself getting into something similar from Ampere in the near future. As it stands, the package just doesn’t offer enough upside to get my $300.