Ah, transition lenses. The uniquely 1990s invention helped transform a standard pair of optical frames into protective sunglasses, with dark lenses that disappear when you step back inside. No, it isn't magic — rather, the chain reaction of trillions of photochromic molecules, which darken when exposed to sunlight.
But standard transitions lenses — Transitions is a brand, too, but like Ziploc, they're synonymous now with the product they popularized — have their issues. They're often slow to adjust to either environment, leaving you with lighter shades longer than you'd like (and vice versa). They can also be impacted by the cold, which causes a slight delay, as well.
And on top of that — culturally, photochromic lenses aren't the coolest. More often than not, people prefer having both sunglasses and optical frames — separate pairs with separate styles. Hell, even intermediate options are trending — see: tinted lenses — but not transition lenses.
That being said, Ampere, a company that sells shower speakers, wireless chargers and other tech accessories, believes its photochromic sunglasses will pique the public's interest. Admittedly, they have a decent hook: the sunglasses change shades with the push of a button, either on the frame itself or in the brand's iOS app.
Ampere Dusk Sunglasses Review
What's Good About the Ampere Dusk Sunglasses
They're easy to adjust — fast.
The main problem with proper Transitions lenses is how long they take to adjust. Sure, they've gotten faster with each subsequent generation, but Ampere's Dusk Sunglasses are smart, meaning they update almost instantly — in 0.1 seconds, the brand says. That's fast, and the adjustments are easy to make. If you press the button near your left temple, the lenses darken by a third; three presses, and you're completely tinted.
If you're working within the app, you can toggle between two presets, Light (fully exposed) and Dark (fully tinted), as well as your own configurations. Plus, you can turn Driving Mode on or off — it's essentially a lock on how dark you can make your lenses. (You can't legally drive with these on if they're set to their darkest setting.)
You get smart technology, for less.
Nowadays, everything is smart: your fridge, outlets, phone, speaker, lawnmower... you name it. Why not your shades, too? And for $299, you're getting a sunglasses that are essentially 3-in-1. They're sunglasses, sure, but also headphones and a wireless conferencing tool. You can make and take calls on this thing, and its open-ear audio speakers let you listen to music without plugging your ears.
They're lightweight, and they look like normal sunglasses.
For what they are, they're pretty lightweight. And they look fairly normal. There's no gaudy logo on the arm; there's no obvious charging ports or cables; and they're fairly comfortable once on.
What's Not Ideal About the Ampere Dusk Sunglasses
They're a little...excessive.
I'm not sure anyone really needs these. While fun, they're not an essential invention. Plenty of people have gotten along with analog transition lenses; others just own two pairs of frames, an optical set and a set for protecting their eyes from the sun. Sure, going dark mid-conversation might make for a good way of saying goodbye or landing a perfect deal with it, but, in this case, I don't think versatility equals value.
I'd probably never wear them at the lightest setting, and the dark is super, super dark. You can't legally drive at that setting either, which means I'd be wearing them in the middle most often. In that case, I'd just wear my regular shades.
The audio isn't terribly hi-fi (or private).
After using the Ampere Dusk speakers on a few walks and while working, I have to say... I'd probably rather wear my AirPods. Audio playback isn't the most alluring technology employed here, and, as such, it isn't the emphasis. It's average, at best, I'd say, and it needs to be fairly loud — at least for my ears — to pick up the nuances of a conversation. That means the people around you can hear the dialogue as well.
The charging case is huge.
Fully charged, you get four hours of active listening, and seven days of tint adjustments. But if you want to bring the case with you, like you would (or should) when you wear your other sunglasses, you almost need a bag. It won't fit any pockets; hell, it was even too big for my car's cupholder.
Ampere Dusk Sunglasses: The Verdict
While interesting, and a novel disruption in a category that's gone without serious innovation since Seinfeld was a staple of Must See TV, the Ampere Dusk Sunglasses are by no means essential — or even "great" sunglasses to begin with. If you want decent shades you can control with your phone, be my guest — they're exactly that. But they aren't top-of-class in the audio or aesthetics categories.
That being said, the new Dusk Sport design is an improvement, albeit one aimed at those involved in adventure sports. Those frames, at least, look at home paired with an aerodynamic helmet and a tight cycling suit.