SOL Republic’s headphones and earphones are deliberately bass-heavy, so purists looking for flat response can probably stop reading now. However, the $39.99 (direct) SOL Republic Jax In-Ear Headphones represent a solid deal for bass lovers looking to save a little money. The Jax features an inline remote control and microphone for mobile devices, and delivers thunderous low-end with no distortion when listening at moderate-to-loud volumes. There are certainly more balanced earphones out there, but the Jax’s low price and admirable power might make it easy for bass fiends on budgets to overlook the sometimes lacking definition in the higher frequencies.
The Jax sports a clean, simple design: black earpieces emblazoned with the SOL logo are matched with either a white or blue cable. Overall, the fit is secure and comfortable, but the flat cable can feel like it tugs. A compartment housing the inline remote control and microphone sits where the left and right ear cables meet. The wide cable seems particularly prone to cable microphonics—the thumping sound you hear when wearing earphones and the cable bumps or brushes against your torso.
Call clarity through the inline mic is decent—don’t expect to hear a pin drop, but your call partner will understand you well enough. It’s nice that the remote is of the three-button, volume-controlling variety, as we’ve seen remotes on far more expensive models that lack volume controls. Four total pairs of silicone eartips are included with the otherwise accessory-free Jax.
On tracks with intense deep bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Jax delivers booming low-end with little or no distortion, even at top, unsafe listening levels. At maximum volume, it teeters on the edge of distortion, but at any slightly lower level, the delivery of sub-bass frequencies is clean and clear—an impressive feat for any sub-$50 earphone pair.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” the drums and his baritone vocals get a heavy coating of deep bass response and things sound pretty unbalanced. His vocals lack the treble edge and presence in the high-mids they need in order to keep center-stage in the mix, and the drums sound overly-thunderous and unnatural. Even for bass lovers, the balance shift on tracks like this may be too intense—this is a very bass-heavy sound, less muddy than booming, but still heavily weighted to the low-frequency side.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” has a kick drum loop that can sound dull and undefined on earphones that boost the bass too much and don’t provide enough high-mid sculpting. Through the Jax, we’re not quite left with a dull-sounding loop—the attack of the kick drum does have some crunch to it—but for the most part, it’s another deep bass-heavy affair. The sustain of the drum loop is bursting with powerful low frequency boosting, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with a serious presence, as well. You can understand the vocals on this track, but you end up paying less attention to them because the dominance the lows have in the mix pushes the drum loop and synth parts into the forefront.
Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” often have a natural high-mid dominance to them that lets the higher register strings and brass have the spotlight. On pairs with less bass response, the lower register strings and brass are often a very subtle, even quiet presence, but through the Jax, this is not the case. The lower strings receive a nice added richness while the higher register strings fend for themselves capably, and the overall balance here is decent. It’s in quieter passages that we hear some added low-frequency boosting on the lower strings that sounds a bit forced, and at the end, the large drum hits can sound less like classical percussion and more like Dave Grohl’s kick drum. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Dave Grohl’s kick drum typically sounds magnificent—it’s just that it’s not what the drum on this track typically sounds like.
Purists should obviously look elsewhere, but the Jax won’t disappoint bass fiends on a budget. If you’re looking for a pair with a bit more balance and less booming bass in this price range the RHA MA450i is a solid earphone pair for the price, while the NuForce NE-650M is also worth consideration. And if you’re just looking for the cheapest pair you can find that doesn’t sound miserable, the id America New Metropolitan and the RHA MA150 both offer decent audio despite their dirt-cheap pricing. It’s hard to complain much about a $40 earphone pair that doesn’t really distort and offers powerful, deep bass. The Jax is a bass-heavy pair that needs more definition in the higher frequencies, but its powerful delivery and inline remote make it a fair deal for bass lovers looking in this price range.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc