Most helpful critical review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic Sound Quality/Uncomfortable for some users
on June 19, 2013
Ordered the Sol Republic headphones from Amazon, which were promptly delivered (as always! Great Job Amazon!). I did quite a bit of research as I was looking for something more than ear buds or in-ear headsets and less than full size over the ear headphones to use with my growing music collection on my iPhone. My choice came down to the Beats Solo and the Sol Republic Tracks HD.
I got an opportunity to do some headphone-to-headphone comparisons of the Beats and Sol Republic via the displays available in a number of retailers like Target and Best Buy. While both were excellent sounding headsets, it became apparent that the Beats was balanced with more of an emphasis on providing a deep, thumping bass line at the expense of clear mid-range and treble sounds. In particular, I thought the Beats over-balanced bass drowned out voices - making vocals a bit muddy sounding. In contrast, the Sol Republic sounded great - very clear mid's and treble tone with a pleasant bass line. The bass was there, but never overpowering. It was pretty much a no-brainer and at a cost nearly half of the Beats, I chose the Sol Republic's.
*Very sturdy construction
*Modular construction - virtually every piece of the Sol's can be replaced or customized to your taste like headbands, cables and even the cans themselves.
*Excellent sound quality - I don't consider myself a true audiophile, but I can appreciate great sounding audio. The Sol's provide sound quality that I seem to go back to time and again.
Now for what's not so great.
*Markings for Right Speaker/Left Speaker could be clearer. The markings are on the bottom of each speak near the cable. On my unit, it's a black R and L against a dark gunmetal background and is not very legible. There are also markings on the headband, but those are often obscured by the placement of the speaker, requiring sliding the speaker up the headband to reveal.
*Comfort - For me personally, the Sol's out-of-the-box new were uncomfortable after about 15-20 minutes of wearing. The major source of the discomfort stems from the design of the Sol's, particularly the headband.
1) The Sol Republic headphone uses a very rigid, almost polycarbonate type plastic in their headband construction. It's one solid piece of thick, translucent plastic. Out of the box, the headband is incredibly tight. The two ends of the headband virtually touch without the speakers installed. Even with the speakers installed, the bend of the headphones causes the speakers to rest against each other when the unit is not in use.
2) Due to the design of the Sol's and its headband - the two speakers are exactly parallel with each other. I can't speak for others and as a middle-aged man, I don't think I have a particularly large head....but - my ears do not lay perfectly flat on my head. The back of my ear extends more than the front. With its rigid headband and parallel speakers, the Sol's begin to press quite heavily on the back and upper edge of my ears. The way it presses is due to the tension in the headband pushing in on itself inward toward the tips. There is a complete lack of any kind of lateral articulation present. Simply put, the speakers don't swivel so that the face of the ear pads sits evenly on the ear. The end result is that the ear pads push in quite tightly, crushing against the back and upper edge of my ears and not much at the front of the ear.
3) Positioning - the Sol's are a bit unforgiving in terms of comfort based on the vertical positioning of the speakers. Push them too high and they rest over the top of the ear and crushing the top of the ear. Push them too low and they sit mid-ear and extend past the bottom of the ear. While you might think this a silly issue, in terms of comfort it's not. I had an old pair of Sennheiser on-ear headphones that were always comfortable and could be made more so by minor adjustments. The Sol's almost require you to hit a "sweet spot" in the vertical placement of the speaker to wear them comfortably. You'll also find that after as little as 5 minutes, you are constantly adjusting to find that sweet spot, and then again after that and yet again after that. You never seem to be able to place them and leave them. You're constantly fidgeting to find the comfort zone.
4) Eyeglass wearers - Folks with glasses may find the Sol's very uncomfortable to wear, almost to the point of calling them painful to wear. Again this is due to the extreme inward pressure of the headband design. Due to the inward pressure of the headband. the ear pad pushes in against the back and top of the ear. Folks with glasses will find the extreme pressure against the outside of the ear causes the ear to crush the glasses ear piece against the side of the head. Wearing the Sol's with thick framed glasses can be very painful.
OK - your probably wondering if I returned the Sol's. The answer is No - I did not for a simple reason. I like how they sound. What I did do is come up with a couple of tips and tricks to make the Sol's comfortable for extended use.
Tip #1 - Try stretching out the headband to loosen the tension. What I did is found a small sized soccer ball laying around the house and using that like a "head". I then slid the Sol speakers very high up the headband, almost to the point of reaching the padding. I then mounted the Sol on the soccer ball so that the speakers almost sat at Mickey Mouse ear height when positioned on the ball. I just let the Sol sit like that on the ball for a couple of days. After removing the Sol off the ball, the headband probably stretched a good 1-2 inches, reducing the inward tension. I have read that you can try slowly warming the crown of the headband with a blow dryer and then pulling apart the tips for a period of time. I was reluctant to try that out of fear of melting the headband - it is plastic after all.
Tip #2 - Try wearing the Sol with the headband pitched a bit forward towards the forehead instead of straight perpendicular over the top of the head. By pushing the headband a bit forward, it shifts the tension line pressure from the headband from being horizontal across the face of the ear to being a bit more diagonal/vertical. Don't ask me why, but just pushing the Sol headband a bit forward over the top of the head makes it much, much more comfortable to wear. I can easily wear them comfortably for extended periods. That inch or 2 really can make a difference.
Would I recommend the Sol's. Yes - based on the quality of the sound for the price. But it would be with the caveat that some folks may be better suited to the Sol Republic Tracks HD than others. Kids, teens, or folks with small to average size heads may find the Sol perfectly comfortable. Others like myself may find the comfort issue overshadows the sound quality. Eyeglass wearers should probably try out a pair in a store to check the comfort level themselves.
I found my happy medium by basically breaking in my Sol's. You may not want to bother with fiddling with a set of headphones to make them comfortable - hence my 3 star rating.