SOL Republic Tracks
In August of 2011, I published this news piece on the birth of SOL Republic. Son of Monster's CEO Noel Lee, Kevin Lee previously held senior positions in Monster's headphone division--like many of Monster's efforts, a spectacularly successful venture. Monster has an uncanny ability to bring products to the popular market. They've been so successful, in fact, that Noel Lee has just received the prestigious "Plus X Lifetime Achievement Award" joining Amar Bose and James Dyson as its only recipients. Kevin has marketing chops in his blood. But rather than comment about their 56,000 FaceBook likes, 5,000 Twitter followers, or 500 YouTube subscribers, let's have a nice close look at their first product.
SOL Republic Tracks ($99)
The Tracks is a rather largish acoustically sealed, on-ear headphone. It readily comes apart into four separate pieces: the headband; two ear capsules; and the cable. The headband is a simple arc with a pleather covered head pad at the top center. Ear capsules are circular with doughnut-shaped earpads, and a 2.5 mm jack at the bottom for the cable. The cable is a "Y" type with 2.5mm stereo plugs for each ear capsule; a 90 degree 3.5mm stereo plug; and a three-button iDevice compatible remote and mike.
The earpads of these headphones are held on with 6 snaps, and are easily removed with a good tug at edge of the cushion at each snap point. Four deeply recessed screws under the pads allow for ear capsule disassembly. Drivers are angled somewhat toward the ear, and measure about 40mm in diameter.
All materials visible are synthetic, but appear to be of very nice quality and finish. SOL touts the headband as nearly indestructible, and after some serious bending, twisting, and flattening, I'd have to agree. I'm really quite taken aback at the rugged construction of these cans and think the SOL engineers did a very nice job.
The look of the headphones is simple and elegant; it's one of the nicer looking and feeling headphones I've seen at this price. The outside finish of the ear capsules is high-gloss, semi-metallic looking, and the logo is bold and attractive, and appears to be laser etched into the finish. The remaining plastic parts have a semi-matte finish. Branding and "L" and "R" labels appear to be painted on, but I haven't been able to mar them with fingernail scratching in the least. Again, I'm quite impressed.
The comfort of the Tracks is quite good for an on-ear headphone at this price. Despite being adjustable only up and down the headband and without any swiveling movement, the ear cushions align nicely with my ears at a good angle, provide a good seal, and are comfortable enough for fairly long listening sessions.
Isolation is moderately good for the Tracks. Good enough for walking around headphones, but not enough for air and train travel.
Overall, I'd say SOL Republic has done a very good job on the build quality, styling, and comfort of these low-cost cans. In my experience, economically priced products are the most difficult to design due to the severe manufacturing cost constraints. In the case of the Tracks, I think SOL has very deftly navigated this issue. Kevin's experience with Monster's headphone team surely shows in the construction of these headphones.
Let's talk about the sound, though.