Sol Republic Master Tracks Review
Sporting a creative design, the Master Tracks are popular for a reason.
Sol Republic has gotten their headphones seen at several events in the past couple years, perhaps the most memorable being Michael Phelps' use of the Tracks headphones at the 2012 Olympics. What we're looking at today is another iteration of the famed Tracks cans: The Master Tracks. They're certainly interesting from a form standpoint, and they perform well enough for mobile users, don't expect the best audio quality you've ever heard, however.
Design & Features
Radical design, not-so-radical comfort
Basic headphone design can get stale after a while. I mean, when you think about it, over-ears have a band, ear cups, and cable; even if there are minor changes over the years, the basic function of headphones are seldom altered. The Tracks line of headphones are a bit different in that they can be removed from their band routinely—it may not sound like much, but it does open the door for more possibilities.
While the Master Tracks currently don't have any alternate bands or drivers on the Sol Republic website, it's not inconceivable that it might in the future to increase the longevity of its product. Comparisons of me and Vizzini aside, having easily replaceable parts is a huge plus. So if your cable causes you to grumble and swear at its breakage, tear it out and throw it away.
I will caution you to try to find a fit that works without trying to squeeze your head too firmly, because the band does not lock—it's a true slider. This will have a few consequences, but nothing too major. First, you're going to notice that a bit of extra pressure will ride on your pinna and not your skull. That in turn will make long-term wear of these cans a bit uncomfortable.
Decent option for the younger crowd
As far as consumer headphones go, the audio quality of the Master Tracks should satisfy anybody looking for a portable upgrade to entry-level cans. They may not be an audiophile's cup of tea, but they'll do well in an office or other setting with low-ish noise.
I will point out that the performance is tailored a bit towards younger listeners, as it emphasizes bass notes strongly as well as cymbal shimmer. These are not something that an enthusiast would probably want to keep by the computer: There's a bit of distortion in the deepest notes, and there is some underemphasis in high notes of a piano, synth, or flute, but overall nothing too grating or apparent.
These are also not the greatest cans in terms of isolation, but they work better than they appear—high-end noise will be all but muted, even if low-end noise like engines and voices will reach your ears almost undiminished.
Durable smartphone headset
So how does this all translate into normal use? Well, you're buying a set of cans that look really cool, are far more durable than they appear, and will sound great—until you've reached your limit in terms of comfort.
For some the comfort thing is a deal-breaker because—while the foam isn't stiff—the pressure that the band puts on your outer ear gets more and more intolerable over a long period of time. Thankfully, the ear cups don't tend to slip or get caught in long hair, but it's a problem that dampens the overall experience.
However, that's not to say that these are bad headphones—quite the contrary. Because they will survive the most common breakages and can be used with a smartphone, many consumers will find the Master Tracks to be a serviceable option for portable listening, even if things like the Y-shaped cable and the comfort may be a notable drawback to some.
Their predecessors made a splash at events in the past, but the Master Tracks might not be the headphones you're looking for if you want to dip your toes in the high-end of audio products. I'm not saying they're without their bright spots, but these are best suited to listening with a smartphone on a commute or outdoors.
Sol Republic's Master Tracks are definitely attractive and versatile with their ability to be disassembled, but it may be a while before they offer replacement drivers. Still, being able to repair your cable for $19.99 is a great feature that protects your investment in your cans, and definitely takes away much of the stress of casual use.
If you're looking to buy cans for yourself or someone who's fashion-minded, these are far from a bad bet. Just be aware of the comfort issues, and you'll be golden. For two hundie-sticks ($200), you can pick these up from the store, though their price varies online.
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