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We test a lot of headphones here at CNET, and the good ones tend to set you back more than $100. But a new headphone company, Sol Republic, is hoping to change that with a line of headphones that deliver very good sound and durability for a more affordable price.
In case you're wondering what "Sol" stands for, it has nothing to do with the sun but is an acronym for "soundtrack of life." The company's founders have a good pedigree in the headphone business, and co-founder and CEO Kevin Lee is the son of Monster Cable founder Noel Lee, widely credited for driving the popular at Monster.
The new line consists of two flavors of Amps in-ear headphones and two flavors ofthat feature "swappable headbands, speakers, and cables in various colors and designs." The Tracks' headband also boasts a proprietary new polymer called FlexTech, which the company says makes the headphones virtually indestructible.
Both the Amps and the Tracks have a built-in microphone for cell phone calls. The Tracks model reviewed here costs $99.99, while the higher-end $129.99 Tracks HD model will debut in late 2011.
With their deep bass and aggressive sound, these headphones aren't for everyone (read: if you like well-balanced "natural" sounding headphones, these aren't a good fit), but if you're someone who likes a Beats-like sound, the Tracks certainly fit the bill--and cost less.
While the Tracks don't look anything like the $179 Beats Solo headphones by Dr. Dre from Monster, they're arguably spiritual cousins. They have the same on-ear design, which means these guys sit on top of your ears rather than completely enveloping them like the over-the-ear headphones.
I found these headphones pretty comfortable, but they're not in the same league as Bose's OE2 on-ear headphones, which cost $179.99 with an integrated microphone and inline remote, and $149.99 without.
I jury tested these with a few editors and one said the headphones just didn't sit quite right on his ears due to the angle of the headband, and the other said the fit was secure. Based on those anecdotal judgments, I'd say users will have mixed results on the level of comfort.
As I said earlier, one of the Tracks' claims is that you can basically disassemble the headphones and swap in a new headband. The earphones also have detachable cords and pads, so there's a lot of flexibility in terms of accessorizing the earphones (Sol Republic calls them "sound engines").