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

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).

Like the Deck by Sol Republic x Motorola wireless speaker, the Tracks Air also features extended Bluetooth wireless range. Standard Bluetooth range is 30 feet, but Sol Republic says you can be up to 150 feet away from your source Bluetooth device and still stream music. In my test in our New York office, I managed to wander about 100 feet away from my device before I lost the signal, but I could see how you could do even better in an open area without any obstructions.

As with virtually all stereo Bluetooth headphones, there's a microphone integrated into the headphone for making and receiving cell phone calls. And finally, there's NFC tap-to-pair for devices that support that feature. I personally found it pretty useless since the headphone should automatically pair with your device after you've paired it once successfully.

The headphones charge via Micro-USB. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
The Airs grew on me the more I listened to them. I didn't love them, but I thought they acquitted themselves quite well for Bluetooth headphones. They accentuate the bass -- as a lot headphones do these days -- and have a little treble push that amps up the detail. If you're someone who prefers a more neutral, balanced sound profile, this isn't it, but it will appeal to folks who want a faster headphone with some muscular oomph to the bass.

That bass holds together well at higher volumes, though I wouldn't say it's incredibly well defined. And, on the whole, this isn't the most refined headphone, though that's partially a product of it being a Bluetooth headphone.

Switching from wireless to wired mode, you do gain something in the low end (it's a little bit more defined), but it's not a big leap in sound quality.

The Airs don't fold up but they do come with a protective carrying pouch. Sarah Tew/CNET

I haven't spent enough time with the Beats Wireless On-Ear ($279) to make a definitive judgment, but from what I remember, the Tracks Airs are more durable and sound at least as good, if not better. However, I did prefer the sound of the new Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone (2013). It has a more comfortable fit and a bit more accurate, natural sound. But at $379, that model costs nearly twice as much as the wireless Tracks.

I also prefer the fit of the $250 Bose AE2w, which sounds very good for a Bluetooth headphone. Bose's sound profile tends to be a bit creamier and more laid back (it's designed to make all music sources sound good). In contrast, the Tracks Air has a more aggressive headphone and has bigger bass.

There are a couple of other models in this $200 price range: the Jabra Revo Wireless (I like it, but the Tracks Air sounds slightly better) and the Harman Kardon BT. It's more refined sounding than the Sol Republic. But it's a larger over-the-ear model and its metallic, square design isn't for everybody.

Conclusion
Like the original Tracks, these headphones are targeted at a certain type of listener, someone who's considering a model like the Beats Wireless On-Ear but is looking for something a little more affordable. Sure, I'd like to see this model sell for $179 -- or even slightly less -- but more premium Bluetooth headphones tend to sell for $200 or more, so the Air's price isn't out of line with the competition. The headphone's decent battery life is a plus, as is its increased wireless range over standard Bluetooth. It's also good that you can use it as a wired headphone.

My only reservation about the headphone is that it might not fit everyone equally well. For those with smaller heads, it may not be such a good pick. But CNET editor Ty Pendlebury, who has a somewhat large head (but not a big ego), liked the fit and found these headphones comfortable and sturdy. They didn't fit me quite as well, but overall I think they have a lot going for them and should be on your short list if you're considering an on-ear Bluetooth headphone.

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Where to Buy See all prices

SOL Republic Tracks Air Wireless Headphones (Gunmetal)

Part Number: 1430-02 Released: Dec. 18, 2013
MSRP: $199.99 Low Price: $186.06 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Dec. 18, 2013
  • Color ice white
  • Additional Features EasyPair technology
  • Sound Output Mode stereo