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Sol Republic Jax in-ear headphones review: They look cheap but sound good

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The Good The Sol Republic Jax in-ear headphones deliver good sound for a relatively modest price. They also fit comfortably and have a tangle-resistant flat cord, and there's an Apple-friendly inline remote with microphone for making cell phone calls.

The Bad The Jax's simple, plastic design looks cheap.

The Bottom Line The $40 Sol Republic Jax in-ear headphones have the look of a bargain pair but sound as good as some headphones that cost twice as much.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Sound 7
  • Value 8

It used to be that to get a really decent-sounding set of earphones, you had to spend $75 or more. But these days, more and more in-ear headphones in the $20-to-$40 range -- and sometimes even lower -- sound surprisingly good.

Sol Republic's $39.99 Jax in-ear headphones fall into this category, offering strong bass along with good clarity in a lightweight pair of earphones that are comfortable to wear and come equipped with an inline remote and microphone.

The only downside to the Jax earphones is that they look -- and feel -- like they should cost $20. Not that they're unattractive, but the very simple plastic design has got a bit of a Fisher-Price kid's toy vibe to it.

Design and features
So there's no getting around it: these earphones look cheap. The tangle-resistant flat cord is good but the driver's housing comes across as very plasticky. Also, the build quality of the inline remote doesn't inspire a tremendous amount of confidence.

The driver housing has a simple, plastic design. Sarah Tew/CNET

The upside is that both the housing and remote are very lightweight, and I found the earphones comfortable to wear. They come with four different-size pairs of silicone eartips and the second-to-largest size -- the default -- offered a tight seal, which is essential to maximizing bass response.

The Jax headphones are Apple-certified, so the inline remote features won't fully work with many other smartphones, but the microphone should. It's worth mentioning that the remote/microphone combo is a little lower on the cord -- and thus, farther away from your mouth -- than usual. I didn't think those few inches made a meaningful difference, but some people may feel it's a little low. Of course, a lot of people end up raising the microphone closer to their mouth regardless of where the microphone is placed.

The flat cord is tangle-resistant. Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from the inline remote/microphone, you don't get anything else in the way of extras. The earphones do not include a carrying case, and the cord terminates in a straight plug.

Sol Republic says that the Jax earphones have the i2 Sound Engine, whatever that is, and that it delivers "deep bass and high clarity."

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