Sol Republic Tracks Air headphones
Wireless headphones that can be used easily while on the go or lounging around the house
- Customisable due to removable band
- Soft speaker pads
- Struggle a bit at loud volume
- Overall emphasis on mid-range
The aim of the Tracks Air headphones is to offer a better overall listening experience through wireless connectivity, and to allow users the freedom to customise their look via different coloured headbands. As for sound quality, they are decent, but they put an emphasis on mid-range sounds and could use a little more ability at the low and high frequency ranges.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
The Sol Republic Tracks Air headphones are designed to be neat and convenient to use. They ship not only with a cord, but also with embedded Bluetooth, and can be used wirelessly with your smartphone, tablet, or even laptop.
What’s interesting about these headphones is the completely cordless design that Sol Republic has incorporated. Instead of the two speaker cups being connected to each other via visible cords running along the headband, there are contacts built directly into the headband that connect to the two speakers. Sol calls these contacts "tracks" because the speakers run along them, and it’s how the headphones get their name.
When you first open the box, the headphones are disassembled, with the headband being separate to the speaker cups (you can get different coloured bands and mix and match them with the speakers). You have to attach each speaker to the headband and make sure that its interface directly touches the tracks on the headband.
But while this design is neat and solid, and customisable, it does introduce one inconvenience: the speaker cups can be hard to adjust once they are on. This means that if you want to tighten or loosen the fit, you’ll have to end up using two hands per speaker, one to hold the speaker and the other to push the headband. This is especially true for tightening the headphones. For loosening, you can push the headband up while at the same time holding onto the speaker cup on that side.
The Tracks Air sit on the head relatively comfortably thanks to a generous cushion at the top of the headband, and the speakers are covered in soft, leather-like padding. Since they are on-ear headphones, there is a tendency for then to squish up against the ears if you don’t get their placement on the headband exactly right. They can also tend to make your ears warm after a while, especially if you wear them while out walking. They aren’t designed for much activity, but for listening at home or while commuting.
It should be noted that they do leak some sound, so if you use them on public transport, be aware that loud volumes might leave your fellow travellers raising eyebrows at your musical taste. Perhaps speaking to the popularity of these headphones, we did see them being used by other commuters while riding buses and did indeed notice the sound coming from them. They do a reasonable job of blocking out external noise, but they are not noise cancelling headphones, so you will hear external sounds relatively easily unless the volume is loud — that's a bit of a catch 22.
You can use these headphones with the supplied cord if you wish, but the point of these headphones is to cut the cords and use Bluetooth instead. There are controls located on the right speaker cup, which are for power, pairing, muting, and volume. The battery is built into the headphones, so there is no fiddling with replacements. To charge the battery, you have to use the supplied USB cord and plug it into a computer or power outlet with USB. If the battery dies, you still have the option of using the cord to keep listening.
We found the playing time to be long, and the good thing is when we left the headphones dormant for a couple of weeks, the battery still held its charge — we returned to the headphones to find that they still held more than 10 hours of playing time, that was according to the voice that’s built in to report the battery life. Sol Republic states that they can last for up to 15 hours. We had no problems connecting and re-connecting to our Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, and the connection was solid throughout, offering clear and uninterrupted sound unless we ventured too far from the phone when we weren't carrying it with us around the office. NFC is present to aid the pairing process.
The sound quality of the headphones overall is good, but comes out flat and somewhat dull, rather than full and crisp. They struggled a little to reproduce low-end frequencies, and in particular when the volume was too loud. Songs such as Air’s All I Need sounded like they took the headphones to the limit, whereas the same song sounded more well-rounded coming out of a set of Sennheiser Momentum headphones. Likewise, Faith No More’s Zombie Eaters, while sounding adequately powerful, could have used a little more reach at the low end, and a little more brightness in the high end.
That’s not to say that the Sol Republic Tracks Air aren’t worth considering; on the contrary, the overall design, connectivity features and sound makes them a very interesting package. They just produce sound that’s a little less vibrant than what we’re used to hearing. Unless you’re chopping and changing between different types of expensive headphones all the time, you won’t find the Tracks Air to be anything but competent. They do a fine job of playing back all sorts of music, be it electronic, rock, pop, or hip-hop, but they are perhaps best suited to rock styles.
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