New start-up Aether is exploring a relatively unmapped niche in the world of personal technology: audio eyewear. Disguised as a pair of high-quality sunglasses or glasses, the range of Aether frames actually contain embedded compact speakers, designed to direct sound quality straight to your ears with minimal disturbance to those around you. 

That’s the idea. In truth – although you shouldn’t sling out your AirPods just yet – Aether offers an uncanny new way of interacting with both sound and your surroundings.

The five Aether styles (S1, S2, D1, R1 and R2) offer up something for everyone, from the angular full-face retro stylings of the S2 to the more classic S1. Carl Zeiss Vision lenses come as standard, and each frame is available in black, dark grey and smoke brown.

The sunglasses come with a tailored, tight-fitting aluminium case/charger. When stowed away and docked, your sunglasses are charging, with a USB connector on the case to keep the internal battery topped up.

Aether Audio Sunglasses, model S1

The sunglasses themselves are good for around three hours of listening time once fully charged. After set-up, pairing is simple and happens automatically once you’ve taken them out of the box. The frames feel relatively solid, weighing around 40g, although for the first few outings, your senses are seriously discombobulated; you know you’re wearing sunglasses, but the music seems to come from nowhere. 

With Aether audio eyewear there’s no disconnect from your surroundings

Aether’s creative director and co-founder Hannes Unt, the man responsible for the brand’s ethos and aesthetic, refers to a ‘holistic aural experience’, and there’s some truth in that. Obviously, this is not a noise-cancelling system, for random external sounds become an integral part of your internal audio choices. For certain types of music – especially ambient and atmospheric – this works very well. Your life suddenly has a soundtrack, mixed in with all the horns and birdsong, passing traffic and random snippets of conversation.

However, try to listen to something unfamiliar or especially subtle and all nuance tends to be lost. Podcasts and radio shows, though, are a natural fit for the Aether approach. The glasses are also great for taking calls, even if the total absence of any earpieces makes you seem even more detached from reality than the average hands-free caller. As with conventional earbuds and headphones, the device can be controlled with touches and taps. 

Aether Audio Sunglasses, model D1

Aether’s eyewear feels experimental but works well, up to a point. The sunglasses won’t shut out the grind of the commute or the chatter of a crowd. Instead, they promise sound without the loss of connection – there are times when you probably don’t want to retreat into silicon-tipped aural oblivion.

If you want to listen discreetly, without losing the sound of the sea or the noises of a forest, for example, then Aether is exactly what you need. §