A week with: Sol Republic Tracks HD and Master Tracks
After a bit of light DIY, some seamless sounds
Price: £99.99/£169.99 from Apple stores, John Lewis and Dixons
Compatability: devices with a 3.5mm jack
What are they?
Ever since Beats by Dr Dre was launched six years ago, its big, brash headphones have appeared on ears everywhere. But having joined the masses, I was stung three times with pairs of Beats 'phones and their – in my experience – disappointing build quality. Sure, they looked great and sounded good at first, but after a few months of listening (and jogging, commuting, working and chilling) they buckled.
Not only that, but I'd felt that their wow factor was on the wane, what with huge bunches of knock-off versions festooning every other stall in the market near my house. So when I was sent two pairs of headphones to test from newish kid on the block Sol Republic – whose chief executive Kevin is the son of Monster (the brand behind Beats) founder Noel Lee, and used to work on the Dre 'phones – I was intrigued. How different could these cans be?
First up was the cheaper Tracks HD and, right from opening the box, they caught me off guard. You need to do some light DIY to get them going because what you get are two separate ear pieces, a cable and a thick plastic strip. This strip, made from Sol Republic's "FlexTech" polymer, is the headpiece on to which you have to slide the ear bits. The idea is two-fold. Firstly, it means you can customise your Tracks with different colour bands (and leads) and, secondly, the headpiece is so sturdy (the brand call it "virtually indestructible" and offers a 1,000-day guarantee) that it should withstand almost everything you throw at it.
Sol Republic's most recent release, the Master Tracks , are an even sturdier beast. Over-ear and kitted out in a Mastermind chair's worth of black leather, they're the company's top-of-the-range offering. The changeable band is still a feature, as is a three-button remote on the cable.
Do they work?
When it comes to headphones, sound is hugely important to me. Not so much the quality (I spend my days listening to, at best, Daft Punk, and at worst, Carly Rae Jepsen), but the amount that leaks out. I loathe hearing other people's tunes and I would hate myself if I polluted anyone else's commute with the tinny hiss of "Get Lucky".
I'd read that the Tracks HD, by nature of their on-ear design, were prone to some sound leakage, but despite testing them at varying volumes at close proximity to friends and family – "CAN YOU HEAR IT NOW?" – no one reported a whisper. The Master Tracks were so superbly solid, I had no qualms in cranking up the volume. Soundwise, Jepsen's repertoire might not have been the greatest test, but both pairs offered balanced, immersive sound.
Are they worth the money?
Neither pair is cheap, despite Sol Republic's intention to bring affordable audio to all. But I was impressed by the look, sound, fit and sturdiness of these sets. My favourites were the Tracks HD, but for a pair of forever 'phones, you could do a lot worse than those Mastermind-style Master Tracks.
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