Aiaiai Tracks Headset w/mic review: Aiaiai Tracks Headset w/mic

4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The innovative Aiaiai Tracks headphones combine a broad sonic range with a built-in microphone for hands-free calling, and the clever microadjusting rail system improves comfort.

The Bad The thin steel headband is susceptible to nicks and chips, and we're apprehensive about its long-term structural durability.

The Bottom Line The affordable Aiaiai Tracks push headphone design forward with an unobtrusive aesthetic. They sound as wonderful as they look and deserve your consideration if you're shopping for a new pair.

8.7 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0

The Aiaiai Tracks headphones are inspired by the original Sony MDR-006 headphones that came with Sony Walkman portable cassette players in the 1980s. Aside from keeping the steel headband, Aiaiai completely reinvents the shape of with an innovative rail-style headband that offers unprecedented adjustability. The black paint on our test pair's headband is already starting to chip away, giving us some doubt about its durability, but we still consider $84 a fair price for open headphones with such spacious sound quality. And with many online retailers charging half price for select color combinations, we have no reservations recommending the Aiaiai Tracks for your new set of on-ear cans.

Design and features
The Tracks headphones come disassembled in the box, so it's up to you to put them together. The three parts consist of the curved steel headband (ours is the black version, but they come in multiple colors), the two padded earcups, and three sets of sliders that attach to the outside of each earcup and guide them onto the band.

We don't have evidence to support our suspicions, but we're concerned that the hard plastic connecting the earcup to the slider may erode over time with constant adjustment. We recommend assembling the headphones with the slider of your choosing and sticking with that combination to prevent unnecessary wear on the pivoting stress points.

The obvious benefit of the rail headband over traditional designs is that the tapered opening gives you a range of sizes to choose from, as opposed to the preset adjustments you see in traditional headphones; think of it as the difference between using a notched belt with holes versus a sliding-clasp buckle that can clamp onto any part of the strap.

Our only critique of the headband is that the steel is susceptible to chips and nicks in the paint that, depending on your taste, can create either a beautiful patina or an ugly display that cries out for clearcoat.

Either way, our test model is already developing several nicks on the edges that reveal the silver finish underneath, so expect to see similar results if you listen to music on the run or store your headphones in a carry-all bag.

A thinly coated rubber cord protrudes from both sides of the padded earcups and extends slightly longer than the average headphone cord at just under 4.5 feet from the reinforced connection points. At 6 inches down, you'll find a small remote control on the wire with three buttons that control the music on your smartphone; we tested the track navigation and volume features on a series of Apple iPhone and Android models and the remote worked well.

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