SOL Republic made a name for itself a couple years back with its debut headphone pair, the Tracks, which brought big bass to the $100 realm—something not many headphones had done yet. Today, we look at SOL Republic’s identically-priced contribution to the in-canal earphone realm. The Amps HD In-Ear headphones, at $99.99 (direct), pack a similar big bass sound signature, and deliver distortion-free audio, even at top volumes. An inline microphone and remote control for mobile devices add value to the price, but purists will not be interested in this sound signature that leans heavily toward the bass-end of the frequency range. Bass lovers will likely enjoy the Amps HD very much, provided they can get past some design hiccups, like a cable that produces intense in-ear thumps when it brushes against the listener’s torso.
Available in three colors (gray, blue, and black), the Amps HD have a chunky, attention-grabbing look to them. The SOL logo graces each earpiece, and clear plastic accents add a bit of sturdiness to the cable’s connection points. The ear tips themselves angle in toward the canal. The Amps HD offer an overall secure fit, but it’s possible for the large earpieces to become a bit loose over time because of the fairly heavily cable that tugs on them. A quick adjustment solves the problem.
A flat, linguini-like cable descends from each earpiece, and the two lines converge around mid-torso where the inline remote control and microphone are located. The remote has three buttons for controlling playback, track navigation, answering phone calls, and adjusting volume. Call clarity through the Amps HD’s mic is about par for the course for inline mics—your partner will understand you just fine, but cellular audio fidelity is weak to begin with, and there’s not much these earphones can do to change this fact.
The cable, by the way, suffers from some serious microphonics—also known as cable thump. When it hits your chest while you walk, you’ll likely hear it. Most in-ear pairs have this issue to some extent, but the Amps HD’s cable, with its wide surface area, has some serious thump.
The Amps HD ships with four pairs of silicon ear tips in various sizes, as well as a rubber carrying case with an opening at the top to stuff the earphones in. The case has a carabiner attached to it, and if you have pets, it also acts as a superb pet hair magnet, picking up and wearing any and all hair in near proximity like a Swiffer. This isn’t a plus.
On tracks with heavy sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Amps HD provides subwoofer-esque low frequency response. At top, unsafe listening levels, the Amps HD doesn’t distort, and at more reasonable levels, the low frequency presence is still notably intense. Bass lovers will enjoy what these earphones can do.
Purists looking for accurate low frequency response will be less enchanted with the Amps HD. On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” the drumming takes center-stage, thanks to some intense bass boosting. Callahan’s vocals also receive a healthy dose of the Amps HD’s low frequency power, but thankfully the earphones have enough mid-high presence that things never get muddy. His voice could definitely use more treble edge to help it stand out, but there’s enough here to keep this bass-heavy pair from sounding completely unbalanced.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop’s attack would benefit from a bit more high-mid presence, but it gets enough through the Amps HD that it never sounds dull or undefined. The bass response again steals the show, predictably—the kick drum thuds that are heavy here can sound thin on some earphones, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat pack some serious low frequency power. The vocals receive enough crisp edge to remain intelligible, but the bass gets most of the attention through the Amps HD.
Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” get a heavier dose of bass response than purists will want, but none of them are still reading anyway. The lower register strings and brass on this track are actually graced with a nice low end coloring—it’s definitely heavier than these instruments sound in real life, but the embellishment can sound exciting at times. Meanwhile, the high-mids and higher register strings and brass have little trouble fending for themselves—they’re already edgy and bright enough to stand out, so they don’t need much in the way of extra boosting. The drum hits at the end of the piece can sound comical if they get way too much sub-bass boosting, but here they merely sound powerful, not ridiculous.
If you’re looking for a bit less bass-heavy sound in this price range, without completely sacrificing low-end, the Shure SE215 packs less low-end, and also features a removable (and thus replaceable) cable for added value, for a slightly higher price. Also for a bit more, the excellent TDK EB950 brings wonderful balance without sacrificing bass response. Meanwhile, the Sennheiser MM 70s brings plenty of low-end and maintains a slightly less bass-skewed balance than the Amps HD. Finally, if all of these are out of your price range and you just want some earphones that can reproduce bass, the RHA MA450i delivers distortion-free low-end for significantly less money.
In the $100 range, there is plenty of competition for the SOL Republic Amps HD. The cable thump is an annoyance, but beyond that, the earphones are a solid value for bass lovers—there’s no distortion, and while we could’ve used a bit more crispness to counterbalance the low-end, the sound is never muddy or unclear.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc