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 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.
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
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.