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Sol Republic JAX Review$39.99
Tiny and not very expensive, they're among the best in their price range.
Meet the JAX
Entry-level headphones typically leave you holding a broken tangle of junk if you buy cheap enough. The real tragedy is that it doesn't always take all that much more to get a set of headphones that will keep you satisfied—and the Sol Republic JAX in-ears are exemplary of this: They're great for the price. Keep in mind, you will not be seeing this guy in the package, however.
Design & Features
Basic smartphone headset
Tearing open the box will teach you two things: Yes, a patience is a virtue, and that these in-ears are very basic. There's really nothing groundbreaking or dazzling about the form of the headphones—they have a remote, a simple 1/8th inch plug, and a flat cable that is very tough to tangle. That's really it.
Flat cables may not seem all that exciting, but they do offer a much improved experience. In-ears with the standard thin cable tangle easily because the cable can bend in all directions, leading to snags, knots, and pinches. Cables that are flat have only one axis in which they can bend, making the same tangle problems much more difficult to achieve—thus reducing the hassle of having cheap cables.
Unexpectedly decent, with low distortion
These Sol Republic in-ears have surprisingly good audio quality. Entry-level consumers will not want for more bass, nor will they suffer from the telltale high distortion of the cheap headphones—the JAX has very little issue with either of these performance points, and they will appeal to a broad range of consumers.
For travelers and outdoorsy folk, the JAX makes a good isolation solution, as it blocks out a quite notable amount of sound. While the sensation of the world around you getting muted can be disorienting, if you really cannot stand an engine or loud talker near you masking some of your music, in-ears are a great way to avoid that issue. Also, it allows you to keep your volume low to prevent hearing loss (personal crusades of mine notwithstanding).
In-ears aren't comfortable for the most part
I'm not going to lie—in-ear headphones are not very comfortable for a lot of people, and that can be very hard to get over. The JAX offers different sleeve sizes to avoid putting additional pressure on your tender ear canals, but they can only do so much. If you really cannot stand anything going in your ear, the JAX will not give you a reprieve from this sensation.
Due to the low weight and the somewhat low tangle risk, these are quite portable, and can pretty much handle whatever you can dish out. Because they're also very low-cost, if they do break, you haven't lost a set of high-end headphones—and can at least replace them without clearing out your bank account. Definitely baby these if you can, but if the worst happens it won't be a day filled with cursing or tears.
Honestly, it'd be tough to find a pair of in-ears that work as well as the Sol Republic JAX for a similar price. Not only is the sound pretty decent, but the convenience of a smartphone headset is a huge plus. It's a bonus that they're also very affordable.
That being said, in-ears aren't for everyone, and if you've had bad experiences jamming silicone and plastic into your ears before, you may want to steer clear of these. There's only so much you can get out of entry-level headphones, and it's asking a bit much to expect opulent comfort from a set of $39.99 in-ears.
So if you're on a budget, go through headphones quickly, or are curious to get something better than your $10 drugstore earbuds—give these a shot. You won't be disappointed if you like in-ears.