Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Greg0
Audio Week: SOL Republic Tracks Brighten Up The Sub-$100 Range
We met with the folks behind SOL Republic- Kevin Lee, Scott Hix and Seth Combs- last August and got a preview of what they were working on. Kevin, formerly of Monster Cable and credited as a primary force behind the Beats by Dre line, explained the philosophy of the company and how he decided to launch this new brand: “SOL is an acronym for Soundtrack Of Life because music provides the soundtrack for every memory and for the profound and everyday moments in your life.” Though the name was catchy, we weren’t convinced during the meeting- it’s a tough field of competition out there.
SOL Republic also offers in-ear headphones, called Amps, but we were more interested in their new on-the-ear set headset, the Tracks. A few things are immediately apparent when you pull these out, even before you put them on- they look and feel different and have a distinctive style. Part of this comes from the design decision to make the earcups independent, meaning that the headband is totally removable, and there is a separate wire for each ear. You can slide the cups along the headband, and even pull them completely off- which is kind of cool, if a bit unnecessary. This does allow interchangeability, but most folks won’t want it or need it. The headband itself is also unusual, made from a super-flexible polymer material that they call FlexTech. It bends to an incredible degree without breaking, so you don’t have to worry about that piece getting damaged. Again, nifty- but not a big deal for most people.
What is most attention-grabbing about the SOL Republic Tracks is the balance between sound and price: excellent quality at around $100. Sure, these were comfortable for the most part, though a couple of people wished for larger cups (over-the-ear style instead of on-) or plusher cushions. Several writers were able to wear them for a couple of hours without being fatigued. The remote and mic work for iPhone and Android users alike, and though there isn’t much in the way of wind baffling or noise cancellation, the mic was OK and the remote worked quite well and was placed nicely. And the style was unique, with a fairly even split between those who found the branding annoying and those who liked the overall look. Everyone agreed that the cabling could have been better though (fabric wrapped, perhaps).
On the sound front: these are a bass-heavy, hip-hop and pop focused set. They don’t boost the lower range as much as some that we’ve tried, but definitely amp them up over what would be purely natural. The soundstage feels a bit tight, and our audiophile staff found the higher ranges a bit sharp and bright, and the overall effect muddy and indistinct. Acoustic tracks lost a bit of power, but electronic music did hit the right notes on these, and tracks like “I Gotta Feeling” provided just the right balance of oomph and pizazz. Again, if you’re looking for great sound at a good price, Grado offers a bunch of solutions, though most of them aren’t sexy and don’t offer a mic/remote function. For your teenager or average college student, these hit the target perfectly- not too pricey, but offering much better sound than the stock earbuds and most other sub-$100 sets. Available online and in stores now, with a better-sounding ‘HD’ version costing $30 more coming soon.