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Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Greg

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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.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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