It could be argued that music is an international language for human expression; happiness, love, anger, joy, envy, fear – it can all be expressed through the wonderful world of music. The Windows Phone that you carry around in your pocket is the gateway to that music, whether you use Xbox Music, Spotify, Rdio, or Beats Music.
Today, we are going to look at a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones by SOL REPUBLIC, whose controls actually play well with the Windows Phone OS.
Founded in 2011, SOL REPUBLIC set out to “enhance people’s lives through better-sounding headphones and accessories”. The company itself was funded by Kevin Lee, Scott Hix and Seth Combs; if the first name sounds familiar, that is because Kevin Lee is the son of Noel Lee , the founder and CEO of Monster Cable. For those of you who have a distaste for Monster Inc. (the company, not the Pixar film), I urge you not to associate a connection between Kevin Lee and his father.
Before releasing the SOL REPUBLIC Tracks Air headphones, the company released a number of other on-ear headphones including the Tracks, Tracks HD, and Tracks Ultra. SOL REPUBLIC is famous for their customizable headphones with which you can replace the band, cable, and even “sound engines” to create a unique masterpiece.
The Tracks Air is a collaboration between Motorola and SOL REPUBLIC themselves. The audio brand teamed up with Motorola in collaboration to create two Bluetooth based products – the Tracks AIR (wireless headphones) and the DECK (wireless speaker).
Upon taking the SOL REPUBLIC Tracks Air out of the box, you immediately notice something different from other SOL REPUBLIC headphones. While, the box still includes a headphone band, “sound engines”, and optional wired cable – everything has been tweaked a bit.
The SOL REPUBLIC Tracks Air band is noticeably more rigid than other Tracks bands as it includes a metal band running throughout; this metal band helps the right earphone communicate with the left earphone. While we are sure the band is durable, we feel less confident in torture testing it the way SOL REPUBLIC does with their standard bands.
The “sound engines” or earpieces are where the big differences can be noticed. The right engine has the Bluetooth receiver, battery, and audio chip within it. The outside of the right engine has a selection of buttons and ports that can be used to manage the device.
Buttons on the right engine include a rubbery play/pause button that can also be used to rewind, fast forward, and answer calls. A silver plastic rocker switch also sits on the edge of the engine and acts as a control set for volume. Lastly, a rubberized power button with LED lights is present and notifies the user of various states through colors.
Ports on the right engine include a microUSB charging port and a plug for the right channel wired cable. The left engine is almost completely bare and simply houses the left channel wired cable port. Lastly, a microphone is embedded into the right engine just in case you need to take that important call and do not want to remove the headphones to switch to your smartphone.
The included headphone cable has been sitting in its plastic wrap since I received it with my purchase and has been unused as I am enjoying the Bluetooth ability so much. For those unfamiliar with SOL REPUBLIC headphone cables, they are quite thin, but do include a clicky pad for control volume and your music playback. The cable is a “Y design” with one wire going into your 3.5mm headphone jack and two wires – one going into each sound engine.
The overall design is the headphones are quite nice and the unit can be purchased in four colors – blue, red, white, and black. With three out of the four selections, only the color of the headband changes while the sound engines stay black. The white pair is the only pair to include not only a white headband, but also white sound engines.
The engines slid onto the headphone band nicely and have a much more firm fit than any Tracks headphones of the past – this is so the metal contacts within the sound engine can have constant contact with the metal band within the headband itself.
The headphones were quite comfortable throughout my use, but some users do complain that the pressure on their heads from the headband is a bit too much. To remedy this, we suggest flexing the headband a bit for an extended period – this should reduce the pressure on your head.
When you are ready to get started with the Tracks Air, you can either pair them as normal or use the NFC tag built into the right engine to tap and pair your device instantly. We had no trouble using this feature on the Windows Phone we were testing with at the time.
The SOL REPUBLIC Tracks Air are advertised to last up to 15 hours of continuous playtime with a full charge. While we did not run a timed run-down rest of the headphones, I feel that I can say this number is accurate as I went for an extremely long period before being warned to recharge.
In terms of Bluetooth connectivity – we were extremely satisfied. Audiophiles note that they can notice the compression of a Bluetooth stream, but we seriously doubt that the regular person will even waste a breath. We were able to get quite a distance between our headphones and the device we were using – SOL REPUBLIC claims the headphones have a range of up to 150 feet.
Bluetooth controls were also great and due to the standardized media communications, all controls on the headphones worked perfectly with the Nokia Lumia we were using. We could easily play/pause, rewind, fast forward, and answer/end calls with a few taps. The wired cable is another story though and will only be able to play/pause your music without volume control.
When we talk about headphones, the most important thing to mention is, of course, the audio quality that the unit produces. We are going to say outright that the “audiophile” will not enjoy these headphones as they have a tendency to overpower bass and drain out the highs (and some of the mids).
We feel that these headphones are perfect for the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) fan on the go. The bass is not tight and punchy, but is instead reminiscent of music that you would hear in a club. Fans of tight bass and clear highs, will find themselves disappointed by the output of these “cans” (audiophile slang for headphones).
I have personally always referred to SOL REPUBLIC headphones as Beats by Dre headphones done correctly. SOL REPUBLIC caters to lovers of high-bass modern music and does so at a great price. If you compare the cheaper $129 Tracks HD to Beats by Dre’s Solo HD headphones – the Tracks HD simply blow the Solo HD headphones out of the water in terms of quality, sound, and value.
Overall, the SOL REPUBLIC Tracks Air are great headphones for the bass lover on the go. I have always used wired headphones in the past and the freedom granted by wireless headphones is well worth the $199 USD price tag.
If you like the headphones, but want to save some money by going wired, you can pick the Tracks for $99 or the Tracks HD for $129. The sound from the Tracks Air is said to be comparable between one of these two units, so essentially you are paying $70-100 more for the wireless Bluetooth functionality.
Like all products, we recommend that you stop by a local consumer electronics store such as Best Buy to try them out first as our opinions may differ. To purchase the headphones, you can check out the official SOL REPUBLIC website by clicking here.
Enjoy your music and let us know if you have ever used SOL REPUBLIC headphones – what do you think?