Sol Republic Tracks Air Wireless Headphones review: A Beats-like wireless headphone for less

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SOL Republic Tracks Air Wireless Headphones (Gunmetal)

(Part #: 1430-02) Released: Dec 18, 2013
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Sol Republic Tracks Air Wireless are stereo Bluetooth headphones that sports a durable design with an interchangeable headband, detachable cordage (for wired listening), and an integrated microphone. They deliver plenty of bass with a decent amount of clarity, and offer above-average battery life (15 hours) and long wireless range.

The Bad May not fit everyone equally well; sound isn't incredibly refined.

The Bottom Line At $200, the Sol Republic Tracks Air aren't cheap, but they're better priced than some of the premium Bluetooth headphone competition -- and sound relatively good, too, with a strong feature set.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Value 8.0
  • Sound quality 8.0

Back in 2011, Sol Republic launched its Tracks headphones, which sold remarkably well thanks to a great marketing campaign and the fact that the headphones had an eye-catching design and delivered good sound for the relatively affordable price of $99.99.

Over the last couple of years, the fledgling but fast-growing company has released a few different iterations of the Tracks, including the Tracks HD and Track Ultra, as well as the over-the-ear Master Tracks. But now, in a joint partnership with Motorola, Sol Republic's gone wireless with its first stereo Bluetooth headphone, the Tracks Air.

It shares many of the same strengths as the original Tracks -- an eye-catching design, durable build quality, muscular sound -- and small shortcomings that may affect some people more than others.

Like the wired Tracks, you can disassemble these headphones and swap in a new headband if you like. The big difference here is that the headband on this model has some metal embedded into it that acts as a conduit and connects the two earpieces, which Sol Republic calls "sound engines." So the company has retained the modular flexibility of accessorizing the earphones while not making any cumbersome changes to the design. Kind of brilliant.

The Tracks Air has some metal embedded into the headband that connects the two 'sound engines.' (Click image to enlarge). Sarah Tew/CNET

That headband is bendable yet very strong. In all, these headphones seem very durable, but you can't fold them up into a more compact form factor. However, they do come with a simple protective carrying case (it's more of a pouch) that works well for storing the headphones.

This is an on-ear model which means these guys sit on top of your ears rather than completely enveloping them. The Tracks Airs are nicely padded and should be pretty comfortable for most people, but not everyone. Due to the angle of the headband, they may not sit quite right on some people's ears and if you have a smaller head, the headband can end up poking out of the bottom of the sound engines a little too much -- it doesn't look quite right.

The headphones can be used as wired headphones with the included cable (click image to enlarge). Sarah Tew/CNET

I wouldn't call these lightweight headphones, but at 0.48 pound, they're lighter than many full-size headphones, including the Beats Studio Wireless 2013 (0.57 pound) and the Parrot Zik, (0.72 pound).

The headphones charge via a Micro-USB port on the right earpiece and in the box you'll find a set of cables that allow you to use these as wired headphones.

The power button is a little awkwardly placed on the top of the earpiece right next to the headband, but on a more positive note, it's easy to find by feel. So, too, is the volume control and one-button remote, which you use to pause/play tracks and skip forward and back (two quick presses to jump forward, three to jump back). Those buttons, which are the ones you'll use most frequently, are well situated on the right earpiece.

I also liked how when you power on the headphones a voice tells you how much battery life you have left (in hours). Battery life is rated at 15 hours, which is above average for this type of Bluetooth headphone (by contrast the Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear's battery life is rated at 20 hours).

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