Sol Republic Tracks HD Review
At a Glance
Reviewing headphones shouldn't bring to mind dismal Greek myths about the harrowing pitfalls of beauty, but lately that keeps happening.
At least no one will start a war over Sol Republic's Tracks HD on ears... unless it's in attempt to return them. While customizable, durable, and great looking, the Tracks HD don't back things up with quality sound or comfort.
Definitely not 130-dollar sound
Your piggy bank does not deserve to die for the Tracks HD. Sol Republic promises to deliver "deeper bass"—and they do. In fact, the bass sometimes seems like all you can hear; prominent portions of the midrange, as well as many high notes, are very underemphasized. Even bass lovers may not appreciate the fact that vocals get masked; the same unpleasant effect impacts the midrange and highest notes on everything from strings, to woodwinds, to percussion, brass, and more. The rata-tat tat of a snare drum in one of my favorite songs was sadly diminished.
Problems continue from there. The lowest sub bass notes are nearly twice as loud in the right ear as in the left. Enjoy that Deadmau5— in one ear! High frequencies are also much louder in the right ear, but at least the rest of the range is nicely balanced.
Worst of all, you can't even listen to these ho-hum headphones in peace, because the Tracks HD are lousy isolators, too. Normally, on ears do a fine job blocking out midrange and high range noise pollutants, but the Tracks only combat the high range irritants. At this very moment, construction workers on the second floor are banging away on demolition duty, and the low poundings break right past my music. The game of Magic transpiring to my right? Well, at least I can't hear them.
I'm not finished! There's more! You know all that extra bass Sol Republic promised you? It comes with audible distortion.
Design & Features
Plastic as far as the eye can see
If there's one thing we do like about the Tracks HD, it's the modular build. You can swap the band, remove the ear cups, and detach the Y-shaped cable. Headbands come in silver, red, purple, and many more. If you want a blue band, silver ear cups, and a purple cord, you can have it. Quite literally, you can replace anything on the Tracks HD, so if you break something at least you don't need to replace the entire rig.
The headband doesn't fold in half, but it does detach from the ear cups. The band is very flexible—nearly indestructible in fact, but as far as packing it up, you're stuck with a headband shape. A memory foam cushion lends a comfy feel to the upper curve of the headband, and the same material pads each ear cup. After that, it's plastic, plastic, plastic.
Designers included a plastic remote control on the four-foot cable. Users can answer calls, change songs, and tinker with volume on Apple devices, but on my coworker's Android, I noticed that the volume controls didn't work.
Were these made for a human head?
While the Tracks HD do come with a carry case, the fact that the band doesn't fold or collapse makes them rather inconvenient for on the go. The band does appear to be quite durable, though; we twisted, bent, and contorted the band as rigorously as we pleased—it flipped back to its original shape without a scratch, crack, or dent.
But the fit is awful. The Tracks HD feel... wrong. Most people's ears aren't perfectly flat—our ears tend to sit at a bit of an angle. These headphones sit flush on either side of the head, with no allowance for the natural angle of the ears—which probably accounts for both the poor isolation and the discomfort.
Additionally, when you don the Tracks HD and attempt to adjust the ear cups to suit your head, you will find the task at hand much more difficult than usual. Adjusting an ear cup requires two hands—one to hold the band in place on top, and the other to cajole the stubborn, slow-moving cup into place. This turned out to be a constant frustration—a fit like this for $130 is inexcusable. It was a relief to be finished with the Tracks. Replacing them with over ears felt like swapping a suit for some pajamas—sweet relief!
Not on track
This is no way to spend upwards of 100 dollars. The Sol Republic Tracks HD allow for bass to overwhelm. With an imbalance like this, music loses much of its mid and high range complexity. And the fit is terrible; since the ear cups don't pivot at all, it's nearly impossible to get a comfortable fit—these don't feel designed for a human head.
From comfort, to frequency response, to price, the Tracks HD can't keep up with competition. You can do better. What if they go on sale? That's probably just a sign that everyone's doing better.
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