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Sol Republic Amps Air, another AirPods rival, takes flight (hands-on)

Meet the Amps Air, a set of totally wireless sweat-resistant earphones that are distinguished by their "tapered groove" design.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
2 min read

Add another totally wireless headphone to the growing list of totally wireless headphones.

Sol Republic's new Amps Air looks similar to other totally wireless earphones out there, such as the Bragi Dash and Samsung IconX, and costs $180. No word yet on UK or Australian pricing, but we'll give it to you as soon as we get it. (For reference that converts to about £150 or AU$240, but expect final pricing to be considerably more.)

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Like those competing models -- and Apple's delayed AirPods -- you get two independent buds that are join together wirelessly to create a stereo pair.

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The Amps Air have no wire between the two earbuds.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design-wise, what distinguishes the Amps Air is that it's wrapped in a silicone sleeve with tapered grooves. Sol Republic says it "grips the ear like treads on a tire for a comfortable yet secure fit and also allows airflow to reduce sweat build up during workouts." So, yes, the Amps Air is being billed as a wireless sports headphone and it is sweat-resistant.

The buds fit my ears pretty well and also managed to hold a steady connection -- both between my phone and the two buds themselves. There's a little bit of lag in the Bluetooth transmission, so these aren't going to be much good for watching video, but they're fine with music and sound decent if you can maintain a tight seal.

If you don't get a tight seal, you'll lose a lot of bass with the sound coming across as thin and recessed. I also thought they had some treble push, which can give certain tracks a harsh edge. And the headphone performed only so-so as a headset -- some callers said I sounded muffled.

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In their charging case, which also can charge your phone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like competing models, battery life is mediocre at 3 hours, but you get a portable charging case with a 2,200 mAh battery that recharges the buds more than 15 times. The charging case also doubles as portable charger for your phone.

Each earpiece has a button on its exterior that allows you to pause and play your music, answer calls, and access voice assistants like Siri and Google Voice Search. The buds automatically turn off when you put them in their charging case and turn on when you take them out. You can also just use one bud as a mono headset for your phone. (When you make calls with both of them on, the sound only comes through one bud anyway.)

I like the design of the Amps Air and found that it worked reliably with minimal hiccups, which is an achievement with this type of headphone. I'm not sure it really distinguishes itself that much from the competition, but perhaps its price will come down with time, giving it an edge.