Sol Republic is doing something interesting with the Relays Sport Wireless, its new in-ear Bluetooth headphone. It's selling direct to consumers through a pre-order campaign on Indiegogo and then will sell them through Amazon after they ship in mid November.
The idea is that by going direct the company can sell the product at a more affordable price. The list price is $100, but you get an early-bird discount by pre-ordering them (you can currently pick them up for $85).
I've been using a pair for about a week and like them. Their design is unique. Instead of trying to build the battery and electronics into the buds themselves like Jaybird, Sol Republic's engineers have integrated the battery on one side of the cord and the electronics on the other. The weight gets balanced out that way and even with the extra components in the cord, they don't feel too heavy dangling from your ears.
The sound is quite decent for a pair of in-ear wireless headphones in this price range. There's a little bit of siblance in the treble (it's a little bright) but the overall clarity is good and there's ample bass, especially if you choose to engage the bass boost mode. Battery life is rated at 8 hours and the headphones are sweat-resistant though not completely waterproof.
With its Relays Sport line, which also includes a wired model for $50, the headphones come with a FreeFlex ring around the 'bud that's designed to help you get a secure fit. For the most part the headphones stayed in my ears though I did have a little trouble using them while running. From time to time I had to adjust one or both ears and push the tip back in to try to get a tight seal.
You lose some bass when you don't get a tight seal, which is why Sol Republic added a bass-boost mode, and it helped improve the sound when I was getting a little sound leakage while running.
Overall, I think Sol Republic has done a good job with the design and I like how it integrated the cord shortener into the cord. Jaybird should go with a system like that. However, there were some small problems. The power button feels a little cheap and is a bit hard to press. So, too, is the universal remote button, which acts as a call answer/end button, pause/play button, and track skip forward/back button.
The gasket that covers the micro USB charging port is poorly designed. If you pull it away from the port too quickly you can end up pulling the whole gasket off the headphone and it's tedious to try to put back on. Chances are you will lose it.
I also think that this type of headphone should come with some sort of carrying case. The headphone seems reasonably sturdy but it's not the thing you want to risk throwing in your bag all the time. You should really protect it a bit.
Apart from those downsides, the Relays Sport Wireless has a lot to like for the price and it's a good alternative to, which costs twice as much and doesn't sound any better.
The one caveat I have is that its design won't appeal to everyone (not everyone is going to like having the electronics and battery integrated into either side of the cord) and I think the headphone is better suited to workouts in the gym and biking than rigorous running outside.
It's hard to build this type of in-ear wireless sports headphone. The Sol Republic Relays Sport Wireless doesn't quite get everything right -- and cuts a few corners to get to its sub-$100 price -- but Sol republic's off too a good start with this new design.
As noted, the Relays Sport Wireless ships in mid-November and is currently available in two colors: black and mint.