Sol Republic Master Tracks Headphones First Listen: Noticeable Upgrade

Sol Republic's new Master Tracks headphones promise the big sound and distinctive style of fancy, fashionable headphones for a not-so fancy price. It's basically the same formula behind the company's successful $US100 Tracks headphones applied to a $US200 step-up. And after trying out the new cans, we can say that they're absolutely better than the $US100 model. We're still not convinced you should buy them — yet

The Master Tracks are over-ear headphones where the Tracks were on-ear headphones. Where the Tracks would start to pinch and feel uncomfortable after a while, the super-soft earpads on the Master Tracks cacoon your ears so you can wear them longer. In a nice design touch, the earcups are fitted onto the earpads on a hinge so that they swivel to fit to your head.

As for the sound, the on-ear design provides a lot more isolation from the outside world, and the sealed chamber inside sounds full. We've only listened to these cans for a few minutes, but so far they're solid performers. The low-end response is hearty without killing the higher frequencies. Still, overall, the headphones aren't ultra-clear across all frequencies. That's not always a bad thing. But without a doubt, these headphones sound better than the older, cheaper model. Maybe that goes without saying.

The big question is are these headphones better enough to cost $US200? Sol Republic is pretty open about the fact that they're not out to please audiophiles so much as self-styled audiophiles. In other words, people who want quality headphones that look like you care about what your headphones sound like.

And at $US100, that formula works. The Tracks are a great value. Something that's good, that you can feel good about, that doesn't cost too much. Win, win, win. But at $US200, the Master Tracks are competing with some very serious gear. We'll let you know if they're worth the extra money it when we run our full review soon.

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