Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
In what is becoming Oakley's typical fall fashion, the company has launched another update/addition to its Thump line of MP3-playing sunglasses. The latest model, dubbed the Split Thump, doesn't expand much upon the features of the previous version, but offers an updated style that hearkens back to the rather stylish Thump 2. However, the Split offers a couple of notable advantages over the Thump 2: removable earbuds and a lower starting price point. The 512MB model goes for $249, the 1GB for $299 ($349 for the polarized version), and the 2GB for $399. It's still not cheap, but we're glad to see Oakley making headway with price drops as the line matures.
Oakley's Thump MP3-playing sunglasses aren't for everyone. If, for example, you like to sport gigantic lenses a la Jackie O, you probably won't be keen on the Split Thump's style. That said, the shape of these glasses is rather conventionally sporty, so they should suit most faces just fine. Plus, you get to choose from a variety of colors: polished black with warm gray lenses (all capacities), white with black iridium lenses, crystal black with warm gray lenses, and brown smoke with bronze lenses. There's also a version with a black frame and polarized lenses, which are the optimum choice for those who want to cut glare while retaining the truest color perception. Yes, we must remember that style is not everything with the Split Thump: function and comfort must come into play. Oakley's Plutonite lenses filter out 100 percent of all UVA, UVB, UVC, and harmful blue light up to 400nm. And the glasses are mostly comfortable--the frames are light and the bridge ergonomic--but the straightness of the arms might cause issues for some.
There a couple excellent design tweaks of note on the latest Thump. First and foremost are the removable earbud pieces, which are still fully adjustable with three joints. But the ability to remove them really adds to the versatility of the sunglasses, making the purchase more of a value. Another update we're digging: the playback controls are no longer buttons jutting out of the tops of the arms. Instead, Oakley has built them into the metallic "O" logos on either side of the glasses. The left O controls volume, while the right one shuttles tracks--or press the center for play/pause power.
Music playback is about as basic as one would expect from an MP3 player with no screen, although the Split Thump offers a fair amount of features. You can shuffle tracks and designate an Overdrive song (meant to be an up-tempo track for motivation during activity) that can be accessed immediately by pressing the Play/Pause and Fast-Forward keys at the same time. The player is compatible with both Mac and Windows, with syncing handled via drag and drop or using any of several jukeboxes (iTunes and Windows Media Player among them). Supported audio formats include MP3, unprotected AAC, Audible, and both unprotected and protected WMA (DRM 9 only--no subscriptions). If you use the drag-and-drop method to transfer, you can even create playlists (as folders) and navigate through them by pressing the Up or Down Volume buttons while in Pause mode.
As with previous Thumps, the Split doesn't impress with its rated 7-hour battery life, but that's still plenty of time for most of the activities for which the glasses are made. A notable exception is a day on the slopes; this reviewer had the Thump 2s peter out at the end of a full day of boarding. Still, there's no denying the usefulness of having eye protection and music playback combined into one lightweight device when faced with a day on the snow.
Audio quality isn't stellar, but neither is it completely disappointing. Hip-hop tracks sounded a bit bright and lacking in depth for our tastes, but rock tracks sounded quite good. The low end is lacking in boom, but you can get some bass if you really shove the earbuds in. The high end, however, was crystal clear and detailed across genres. All in all, music seemed to be lacking a bit in warmth, but in the final analysis it was definitely passable for the convenience of having an MP3 player integrated into a pair of sunglasses.