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Review: Tracks HD by SOL Republic

Whenever I open a new i-Whatever, I throw those crappy included headphones into my box of extra electronic junk – subsequently never using them. Music is too important to me to waste on dull, ill-fitting buds. Surely, I’m not alone in believing this. If you prefer on-ear headphones and you have $130 to slam down on some new head-cans, perhaps the new SOL Republic Tracks HD are your jam, Sam. SOL Republic is a new company formed by Kevin Lee, a major player in the creation of Beats by Dre. It’s no surprise that their headphones lean towards a bass heavy sound wrapped in a stylish design.

DESIGN

The Tracks HD are on-ear, like the Beats Solos. They sport a clever minimalist design that allows you to take them apart. The concept is you could customize them with different color cables, headbands, or speakers. The cable contains an inline mic with iPod controls. The mic works fine. No one I talked to complained of any problems. Normally with headphones this price, you’d receive a simple clip that keeps the line close to your body, ultimately dampening noise that travels up the cable from movement. There were plenty of times the cable bounced off my walking or pathetically dancing body, causing a noticeable tapping sound. Also, don’t crouch. You’re putting yourself at risk of catching the wire under your knee and pulling the connections out of the speakers. Remember, they are made to be removed. It’s just annoying. This can be easily remedied by using a clip from a different set of headphones if you have one.

The headband is made of some fancy, shmancy polymer that doesn’t seem to want to break. They call it Flextech. I call it awesome. I bent these backwards and twisted them up. It didn’t even misshape them. If there is anything I HATE about the Beats, it is how you can easily break the damn headband. A durable headphone these days is hard to come by.

A warning to my glasses-wearing brethren: On-ear designs may be uncomfortable. These aren’t the most uncomfortable, but long listening sessions can lead to sore ears.

SOUND

Please notice the tower of 50+ pizza boxes I own.

The metal “V10 Sound Engines” used in the Tracks HD pack in some serious value for $130. Someone looking for a flat or “natural” sound may want to stick with the similarly priced, but fairly ugly, Sennheiser HD 280 Pros or the Bose AE2s or OE2s. Where those will give you more of a sense of being in the recording studio with the musicians, the Tracks HD create more of a feeling of being in the center of floor at a concert. Everything is big and bold. The mid tones aren’t washed away by the swelling bass like the Beats are. Their presence is well known. The highs are bright and detailed. Unfortunately, some songs that contain a lot of feedback and hum can aggravate the ears slightly. That’s not to say these aren’t good for some solid rock listening. I particularly love what they do for cymbals. They brought out a quality in the drums on my Sonic Youth albums that is lost on most sub-$200 headphones.

If bass isn’t really your thing, may I suggest trout. HA! See what I did there? These do have a ton of bass. This adds to that concert vibe I mentioned earlier. They are punchy while remaining deep. Fast moving bass gets handled quite nicely. All my speed and black metal sounded badass. Even more impressive was my electronic collection. I was more than happy to put down my commonly used Bose to listen to a shit ton of Modeselektor, Thom Yorke, Little Dragon, MNDR, and M83. You want to shake your tail a bit, toss on the self-titled The Bird & The Bee release. This albums really jumps out on these headphones. Not only are the beats smooth and the bass deep, the phones do a great job with vocals. I love what they do for female voices. All vocals sound great, but female voices really shine.

They kind of make you look like a Cyberman!

If you listen to mostly folky, organic music, these may not be for you. Same with jazz and classical. If rock is more your thing, these are a great choice. There are other great choices out there, but these definitely contend. Electronic and hip hop fans should take notice. I found myself getting lost in all my electro-infused albums from Animal Collective to Kid Cudi.

The $100 versions of the Tracks are on display at most Best Buys. If you like the sound but want a little more clarity, I suggest the Tracks HD. However, do yourself a favor and make sure your files are at least 320kbps if possible. At times, the effects of low compression rates are obvious. Besides, you spent a lot on headphones. You might as well make sure to play high quality sounds through them.

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39 comments

  • eeeh, i had a pair and they were good, but i bought a pair of audiotechnika ath m20′s and not only is the sound better with studio grade specs, but they are more my style, WAAAYY more comfortable as an over ear headphone. and for a mere $50

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  • Hi,

    I recently ran into some trouble with my SOL republic headphones – ‘tingy’ background noise/music and lead vocals absent altogether.

    Anyone else have this problem?

    Thanks.
    Mitch

  • And a heads up to everyone SOL REPUBLIC will be releasing a new pair of over ear headphones that sound better than the Tracks HD for the small price tag of $199. Sounds good! Should be released by the end of feb.

  • Don’t know, but the HD 280 Pro’s are nice, very clear headphones the problem is they lack bass, which is why I went the Sol Republics, I had them on for 3 hours last night with little/no discomfort, I am getting really used to them.

    • Some might find them uncomfortable, I don’t find mine problematic much, they feel fine up to an hour and are still bearable afterwards, I am still wearing mine after an hour an a half and am feeling fine. Sennheisers are comfy headphones though, my bro has a pair for recording.

  • I need headphones which have brilliant base and which I comfortable over long journeys. I’m looking for headphones in which the sound will not distort at high volumes… I usually listen to hip hop, house, trance and that type( kid cudi, shm, alesso etc.) would sol republic be good or HD 518 ?

    • Hey Ud, I am loving these Sol Republic’s still, they are amazing, my brother is into heaps of rap and thinks they are awesome, were talking, Immortal Technique, Cypress Hill, all the hardcore hip hop/rap. I listen to heaps of House, Electrionica, Dubstep, sounds so good. You would never regret getting these :)

  • Got to say that these Sol Republic Tracks HD are extremely impressive headphones, they provide comfort and style as well as clear mids and highs and boomy, punchy bass. And sound even better after the 24 hour burn in period. They knock Beats right out of the water and are as good if not better than the Pro’s which retail for $500 AUD.

  • @Tony Stark. Funny you mention complete lack of tech specs for Bose as Sol Republic are the exact same way. I own a pair of Tracks HD and I emailed them to ask what impedance they were at. They emailed back and told me they couldn’t divulge that information. They too are top secret!
    On a side note, I love the sound quality but they hurt my ears after a couple of hours plus they suck for ANY kinda of noise cancellation (to be expected but its worse than my old sony’s). Heard everything on a plane.

    ON

  • I’ve been thinking about getting new headphones for a while now and these have been one of my options.. the music i listen to varies heaps – from classical to rock, i like a bit of everything, but i probably listen to classical and pop the most – would you say these headphones are a good all-round performer?

    Also, i have a smaller head (female).. would it still fit pretty comfortably?

    Is there a major difference between the HD and regular tracks?

    Thanks!!

  • There’s a reason audiophiles also have an acronym for BOSE: Buy Other Sound Equipment.

    The company consistently refuses to have any type of transparency about specs on its products… On that alone I avoid their line entirely.

    But back to the topic at hand, yeah, the Tracks HD offer a killer value and sound great.

  • IMHO, anyone who would write that Bose are better than Beats must be white and over 50! Bose have smooth and clear mids, mediocre everything else. The Beats Studio are great with mediocre mids.
    Tracks HD are boomy with great mids and more energy than Bose.
    (You know what they say “No highs no lows it must be Bose”.)

    All three make great products, Bose does not target young people (price, look and sound), Beats now has a problem with the Tracks HD going after their demographic… My Beats studio are now 3 years old, and served me well, the Tracks HD are brand new and I like them a bit better. Tracks HD are more comfortable in a long flight.
    I’m a 50 sound engineer and play everything loud. The Tracks HD are amazing for the price! I would say that the Tracks HD are only in the range of the Beats PRO as far as sound. The PROs are a work of art.

  • I hate to disagree with you, but Bose headphones are far superior than any Beats. But I’m really looking forward to these Sol Republic cans, based on yours and other reviews, thanks!

  • Got them for Christmas. They are awesome. As good as beats solo hds. My dad had klipsh image ones. 5 pairs and returns later we sold them on ebay and got another pair of sols

  • I just picked up a set of the Sol Republic HD’s, Soul by Ludacris and klipsch Imagine one’s to see which i prefer better. The Klipsch were the better sounding (not by much) of the bunch for the type of music i listen to. The Imagine Ones’s and the Soul by Ludacris were returned and i kept the Sol Republics because of the sturdiness of their build, the sound quality and price. IMO the SOL’s sound better than the Soul by Luda and are on par with the Imagine One’s with certain types of music. I listen to Jazz, R&B and Hip Hop and these headphones will be used mainly at work so they are almost perfect for me.

  • I had a pair of the regular, and they hurt my ears. I went through two sets of cords for them and both went out with normal use in under a month. I loved the sound and the aesthetic design but…who knows, maybe my head is just shaped funny.

  • thanks for the review brah! I was looking for something to listen to my black and thrash metal with, these seem like a good choice. I’ll consider the HDs over the non-hd because it seems the clarity is much better.

  • If anyone has any iPod buds they don’t want, they can send ‘em my way. I love them, but mine are from 2006 & are at the end of their life. I can’t justify buying new ones since my iPod is so old, the remote function is useless. Plus they changed the design. The originals are the only buds that fit me comfortably :-/

  • I’ve had a pair of the regular Tracks since Oct this year and have really enjoyed them. I actually had an incident where the tiny jack that plugs into the sound engine broke from a manufacturing defect and Sol Republic send me a new sound engine and cord without any hangups. Great product and great company! I really recommend these.

  • These look/sound great, but one problem I have had trying to use non-Apple headphones is that the radio doesn’t work on my iPod (apparently the put a secret radio device in the headphones? I don’t know.).

    Would these headphones allow me to also use the radio function on my iPod?