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Wednesday
Dec072011

Sol Republic Tracks On-Ear Headphones Review

Sol Republic has stirred up quite a lot of press when the brand announced itself for the first time earlier this year. One of the founders of Sol Republic just so happens to be the son of Monster Cable's founder so we naturally have high expectations out of this new born audio brand which if we think is true, should surpass the ever growingly popular Beats By Dr. Dre line of stylish yet pricy headphones with affordably better sounding offerings. But Sol Republic didn't just make better sounding headphones, they've made sure they would sound great as well. Today, we're going to take the Tracks on-ear headphones for spin and let you know if these should be a reason to hand over your hard earned cash right after the break!

How are the Tracks any different from say a comparable offering such as the Beats Solo on-ear headphones? After all the Tracks are directly competing against these well marketed and deeply transplanted pair of headphones currently on the market. The Tracks bring a refreshing and extremely unique design to the table with a logo so big, it became a part of what makes the Sol Republic line of headphones stand out and reel you into their bizarre and mysterious Asian-esque style. At first glance, you'll notice the sleek headband that slides itself thru each of the Tracks' audio drivers to create a seamless, clean look that we can all appreciate these days.

The Tracks will set you back $99.99 and they're available in an all-black flavor as well as more contrasting color combinations like black with a red headband and black with a white headband. The Tracks are perhaps one of the more affordable on-ear headphones to have come out and offer similar features as higher priced offerings. Sol Republic's Tracks HD are priced at $129.99 and supposedly feature a better sounding audio driver called the V-10 High-Definition Audio Engine as opposed to the Track's V-8 Sound Engine. 

We've reviewed many headphones in the past, but none are quite as unique as the Sol Republic Tracks. What has us so excited is their detachabilities (a new word made up just now for the Tracks and their awesome unique design) which as you can see, is very versatile. At the moment there aren't any individual headbands or other parts which you can buy, but Sol Republic does have plans to make that available to all of us soon enough. Because without having the option to slide your speakers onto a different colored headband, this entire detachable design although can be useful, isn't very justified. I would have wanted a single cable input rather than having two connecting simultaneously to both sides like old times, however the detachable headband design is a sacrifice we all need to take into account.

Out of the box, the Tracks come alone and bring no additional accessories like a protective storage case along for the ride. Are you going to complain when you've just spend $99.99? Most likely, but you are left with something that is far more important. The headphones themselves. 

Both ear cups can completely slide off the headband for whatever reason you might have on doing so and leave the headband behind. This is where I think the name 'Tracks' comes from as the ear cups slide along a track-like headband similar to a Maglev train at Disney World. As for the build quality, the Tracks do have the plasticky feel to them yet they seem to have a rather sturdy construction when put together. Individually, the ear cups do feel cheaply built and have a plastic outer cap that has a dark chrome finish which is reflective and shiny.

The matte-finished headband and detachable audio cable are what's most impressive though. First, the headband is made out of FlexTech and said to be nearly indestructible. I can definitely see the truth in that. The headband does indeed feel really flexible and well made. You can twist it, bend it and probably sit on it too without it breaking. But bend it too far and you'll start to see the top padding peel back from it. If it's any consolation, the Tracks do have a better build quality than both the Solo and Solo HD headphones combined. Oh yes! As for the detachable cable, I don't think I've ever seen such a durable, thick audio cable come with headphones, especially not at the this price. It is on the short side and not very ideal for home and office use.

Comfort is very important to me, almost as important as sound quality. Wearing the Tracks for more than an hour has become very uncomfortable even while the ear cups are well padded with soft foam. And because the way the Tracks are designed, the ear cups do not articulate or pivot in order to adjust to different head shapes putting a lot of awkward pressure on your ears. This has become an issue when wanting to watch a movie. Short listening durations are not really an issue though and if you do spend a lot of time with your headphones on, the Tracks aren't your best bet.

The Tracks do compensate for the lack of accessories and feature a fully featured, 3-button remote with mic compatible with iOS devices and most Android and BlackBerry devices. If I had to point out my dislikes, it would have to be the thickness of the remote control, cheapo buttons, and the average mic quality which picks up background noise and isn't as clear as others. You can control the volume, skip tracks and answer/end calls. It isn't the best 3-button remote you'll find on a pair of headphones, but it gets the job done. The Tracks have a gold plated 3.5mm L shaped jack that is designed to fit into tight spaces yet retain its rigidity.

You won't find noise-cancellation, however the Tracks do a decent job reducing background noise with their padded ear cushions that create a good seal and leak very little sound that won't disturb others around you. That has been one of the major issues I've had with the Solo headphones and their ability to leak sound as if they were a set of desktop speakers.

Naturally we expect expensive headphones to sound really good, and while that's undoubtedly true, Sol Republic has learned from the mistakes of others and listened to consumers before releasing the Tracks. One of the more inexpensively priced on-ear headphones, the Tracks sound amazing. Beating the Incase Reflex, Solo and Solo HD, Denon 510R and others in the sound department. Having these hooked up to a MacBook Pro as the audio source, the Tracks delivered warm sound filled with richness and the right amount of clarity to brighten up the highs and bring vocals out as they should sound. The mids have a good amount of detail but instrument separation isn't at its best to bring rock/punk music forward. There were times were I wanted the mids to be more pronounced.

The Tracks really start to shine when bass asks to be introduced to your ear drums. Instead of having bass that overpowers and drowned out the mids, the Tracks deliver relatively bold, thumping lows that bring bass-heavy tracks to life without compromising sound quality. As for someone who enjoys their bass, the Tracks offer the right amount at a balanced sound signature with a hint of artificial flavoring added for vibrancy. Apparently, if you really love bass, the Tracks HD promise a bit more umph. as for distortion at high volumes, despite others having issues, I haven't experienced any distortion at high volumes listening to 256Kbps and 320Kbps quality tracks using a Mac to drive the Tracks headphones.

Looking for a great sounding pair of headphones that are stylish enough to make you look good near Beats wearers at a very appealing price point? Look no further than the Sol Republic Tracks. If you have some extra change, the Tracks HD promise enhanced sound quality at a brighter color scheme. Until we can confirm which of the two are a better bang for your buck, picking up the Tracks will surely not let you down no matter what type of music genre you'll be listening to. I can only hope Sol Republic's over-ear headphones will be more comfortable. 

Update: Sol Republic has let us know that you can in fact customize the Tracks and Tracks HD right now by purchasing additional headbands customized thru Colorware for $50, or entirely creating your own custom color scheme for the headphones as well at $225 and $250, respectively.

Solrepublic.com

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