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Sol Republic Master Tracks review: A slick, sturdy headphone with strong bass

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The Good The over-the-ear Sol Republic Master Tracks have a clean, modern design, and offer a relatively comfortable fit with good sound that's punctuated by strong bass response. Also, the headband can be swapped out; the cords are detachable; and there's an Apple friendly inline remote/microphone.

The Bad The headphones don't fold up or fold flat. Also, they don't sound as detailed at lower volumes.

The Bottom Line The Sol Republic Master Tracks have a distinct, eye-catching design and good performance, offering better, more refined sound than the original Tracks.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

Sol Republic, the fledgling headphone company that launched in 2012, has done a great job marketing its products. In a relatively short time frame, it's managed to sell thousands of its distinct looking on-ear Tracks headphones, many of them to consumers who -- whether they admit it or not -- consider headphones a fashion accessory.

Last year (2013), the company released its second-generation Master Tracks, a more expensive over-the-ear model ($199.99 list) that sports a new design with a more comfortable fit. It also sounds better than the original Tracks and Tracks HD, offering up clearer, more balanced sound to go along with the company's signature strong bass.

I liked it. It has a clean, modern design, appears to be sturdily built, and comes with an Apple friendly inline remote/microphone. And like with Sol Republic's previous full-size models (it also makes the Amps in-ear headphones), you can swap out the headband and customize the look of the headphones.

Since its launch, the headphone has come down in price to around $150 online, which helps its case. While you can get other full-size headphones -- such as the Audio Technica ATH-M50 (and its newer doppelganger, the ATH-M50x) -- that sound better for slightly less, the Master Tracks is a lighter headphone (more mobile friendly) and there's just enough here in terms of design and audio quality to make you think that it isn't grossly overpriced.

Design and Features

Master Tracks are supposed to come in three different "base" color options -- gunmetal, white, and blue -- but at the time of this writing I'd only seen the gunmetal version available for sale. As with previous Tracks models, you can basically disassemble the headphones and swap in a new "FlexTech Sound Track" headband, which is made out of bendable yet very strong plastic that makes the headband nearly unbreakable. The headphones also have detachable cords, so there's a lot of flexibility in terms of accessorizing the product.

Sol Republic Master Tracks (Gunmetal)
The "engines" come off the swappable headband. Sarah Tew/CNET

"Remix bands" are available in fluoro red, ion green, and progressive purple for $29.99, which is somewhat pricey, but if you are getting bored of your headphones, it's a cheaper way to give them a new look that buying a whole new pair.

I didn't love the fit of the original Tracks, and while I can't say these are incredibly comfortable, I thought they were more comfortable than Sol Republic's on-ear models. It helps to bend the headband so the headphones don't fit quite as snugly against your head. The earcups do have a little play to them, so they will conform to your head -- yes, they offer a tight seal -- but the headphones do not fold up or fold flat.

They are nicely weighted (8.6 ounces) and when you take them off your ears and wear them around your neck, they feel comfortable sitting there. I only mention this because I have feeling Sol Republic's designers considered how they would feel perched on your neck because there's some expectation that people will wear these throughout the day, whether they're listening to something or not.

Sol Republic Master Tracks (Gunmetal)
The headphones are nicely padded and do a decent job sealing out ambient noise. Sarah Tew/CNET

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