For my first review on this site, I thought I’d do a review of some surprisingly nice headphones I picked up at the University book store. The SOL REPUBLIC Jax model 3-button ear buds!
List Price: $39.99
- I2 sound engines
- 3 button Mic/Music Control (Vol Up|Play-Pause|Vol Down)
- High-clarity microphone
- Compatibility with Android/Mac/Windows systems
So, Sol Republic is a company I have only recognized by name. To be honest, this is my first purchase from their company. I had no idea what to expect going in, and I’m actually rather impressed by the quality of these ear buds! For a list price of Forty bucks, there are a few things I expect in a pair of headphones. The following are my criteria for judging them:
- Quality and clarity of sound
- Overall satisfaction with/enjoyment of the product
As a full-time student and full-time member of the University staff, I pretty much live in my headphones. For the longest time I’ve been using skull candies which, while fine, are certainly not of the quality I need. My demands range from loud and extreme music, to mellow and highly tonal, to podcasts, and of course that one thing we sometimes use phones for… oh right, phone calls!
Placing high demand on headphones while simultaneously seeking to spend less than $50 may seem impossible, but it turns out that there is at least one brand that can provide: Sol Republic.
These headphones have all the basics: multiple bud sizes, mic and volume controls (play/pause music doubles as answer/end call), and a lower price on Amazon than in stores. These features, while standard, are also important and convenient and a pair of headphones which lacks them is incomplete to me. Also, I have no idea what separates the i2 sound engine from other digital engines, but it definitely held up to my standards.
Test 1: The Schmoes
SchmoesKnow is a popular youtube channel, known for its vivacious debates which fluctuate between commentators desperately shouting over each other, to whispered hints of a joke. At the phone’s recommended volume setting, these things held up perfectly. Every voice is clear and distinct, and the stereo depth is approaching 3-D sound. You can tell you’re listening to a roundtable and not a small panel. Every voice shines through clearly enough that you don’t even have to rewind to hear each commentator over the other… all the voices are distinct and the finer points of why the new Spider-Man will or won’t suck are easily distinguished. In the chaos of debate, you never lose track of the voice you are listening to. When the volume is turned up to the max, there is no distortion or overdrive during shouting matches. The one thing to note was that when the volume drops, the difference in quality seems to dip as well, with voices becoming more difficult to identify (and not from the volume drop itself). I can’t say with certainty, but I would imagine the i2 sound engine links volume and compression, with lower volume equaling less compression. Still, I’d rather have distortions happen on the lower end of the volume scale than the higher end.
Test 2: Here Comes The Metal
Metal is the true test of a speaker. It’s analog recording, which means there is no regulation of the sound, except in editing. At that point, digital processing can only do so much to take the edge off and the presence of analog sound simply can’t be overcome. So, turn up the volume. Uh oh… getting close to the red line. Here we go….
I love when my phone gives me that little warning, cautioning against raising the volume any higher. It actually requires user consent, an acknowledgement that you are doing something that could damage your hearing irreparably. As a metal head, this warning may as well be tattooed on my forehead. This is the first real challenge to the speaker quality and durability. The issue at lower volume is still present, though the extra refinement that goes into music releases makes it less of an issue (as it applies to my theory, the music is better equalized and requires less adjustment across all decibel ranges). At maximum volume, each track is clearly identifiable and the layering remains intact clear enough that it almost feels like I’m listening to the music in my car or a larger area in general. This is a big sell for me, because I really dislike the feeling I get in analog headphones where turning up the volume is just getting louder. The natural distortion is present enough. Adding in the lack of clarity most headphones bring at high volumes generally leads to a defeat or a speaker blowout. The digital engine in these headphones compensates and I have been unable to stress the speakers to the point of blowout (Note: Every Speaker has a limit, listening to music on high volumes for prolonged periods is not recommended).
Test 3: The Dub… The Step (And Other Electronic and Beat-Driven Music)
I think this is less of a challenge for headphones than Metal, as digital music is always more controlled than analog recordings. So what I seek in this test is very specifically about clarity of sound. In the metal test, analog tracks lay very neatly on top of each other to create an overall sound and effect. This side of the musical spectrum, however, is built on blending the sounds together as much as possible to create a continuous stream of sounds whose layers are lost to each other and become one (very reflective of the culture behind EDM, I might add). So, how clear do the headphones make it? Do the layers become distinguishable so that the melody sounds like three voices instead of one complicated instrument? The answer, quite simply, is yes. As a side note, the clarity of digital and electronic music stays strong at lower volumes (somewhat unexpected based on my theory, except that EDM is so refined that decompression may not be possible in some cases). Of course, I’ve established that the headphones work wondrously at average and even high volumes. What impressed me most though, was that even at the lowest volume setting on the phone, these headphones manage to clearly distinguish background sampled tracks and the overlayer of remixes. The blend between them isn’t lost, but the distinction between is there as well. In my opinion, this is a great thing and nearly impossible with analog headphones.
Test 4: Nondroids
Not much to say here. The controls all work with my windows tablet, my brother’s iphone, and my Note 4. I can’t guarantee every product, but I think a safe assumption is that the 2014 generation of tech should be compatible with Sol Republic’s Jax.
Clarity and quality of sound: 8/10
The loss of clarity at lower volumes (the lowest two settings on my phone are where I noticed it) dropped this from an 8.5. Still, for under $50, the sound is miles ahead of its competition.
Soft silicate rubber. What more needs to be said?
I spent 4 hours delving into the limits of these speakers and during that entire time, they didn’t fall out of my ears and I hardly even noticed their presence. If your playlist ends and you’re in the middle of working, you’ll forget you’re wearing these things. I imagine they are less durable than sport-specific headphones, but they did survive my trail run and subsequent kitty attacks. There’s not too much wire, but there is definitely enough for a full range of motion. What brought it up from an 8 to a 9 is that sweat didn’t seem to have any impact on the speaker performance, a common problem with other brands of headphones.
Overall Rating: 9/10
This product is great for: Listenin’ to stuff
This product is terrible for: stirring peach chutney (though they seem to work well for mango)