Do you like having your music with you all day but hate wearing large headphones, or just can't because of work? Do you want to have a bluetooth earpiece at the ready? SOL Republic is back with another pair of wireless bluetooth headphones, building on the success of the Tracks Air wireless, but this time they've gone utilitarian, and ear bud. This time around we're taking a listen to the new Shadow Wireless "natural-fit collar."
For their mix of price and performance, the Tracks Air Wireless from SOL Republic was one of my top headsets in 2014, so I was looking forward to checking out the Shadow Wireless headphones. I was particularly interested because I'm on a hunt to find the perfect ear buds- I generally hate ear buds. I made this known to the folks over at SOL as well, but they accepted the challenge and sent me a pair for review.
So, what do you get with the Shadow Wireless ear buds? SOL Republic's new "natural-fit" collar which is similar to other collar-style ear buds on the market but trades a fixed collar for one that molds to your body and is loose enough to fold up and put in a purse or pants pocket. My wife liked a competing product enough that we bought a pair, but I honestly don't like talking to her on the phone that much when she wears them because they don't sound all that great and I have to deal with the constant sound of things rubbing against the microphone on the collar. I have to say that the microphone on the Shadow is much improved and I didn't mind carrying on conversations with her while wearing them. The Shadows are rain and sweat resistant, should get you over 7 hours battery-life and for those of you who lose the ear gels that these types of headphones come with, you get free ear tips for life. That's right! SOL says that if you lose them, they'll replace them. Not bad.
Having the ear gels sized for comfort is just the beginning. Overall, you really feel like you're wearing nothing! The collar is so light, and the ear buds stay in place so well that you may forget you have them on. Matter of fact, for me, there were many times I didn't have them on. Yep, that's pretty much the only negative I found with the natural-fit collar. It didn't really fit me and kept falling off. If SOL made a Shadow XL I think I'd be fine, but as is, if you're built more like a linebacker you might want to try a pair on before you buy. That said, I had other people around the office try them out for stretches and I'm the only one who had that problem. Everyone else commented on just how comfortable they were and how well they fit. Speaking of comfort, the controls are well placed and easy to access right on the collar, which keeps the ear buds light. From the right side of the collar, you can access the volume up and down buttons as well as the multi-function button that allows you to control music and phone calls. You have all the usual call and music controls with the exception of triple tapping to skip back a track on the music controls. You can play and pause, and double tap the multi-function button to skip forward. Also on the right side is the power/pairing button, which allows you to connect up to two bluetooth devices simultaneously.
When you're connected to and streaming music from one of those connected devices, you'll be treated to sounds that are tuned for urban listening but reproduce clear mids and highs. The Shadow Wireless use the aptX wireless protocol to provide wireless over bluetooth encoding/decoding that purports to bring you sound that's as good as wired and in my testing with the Tracks Air which also use the technology, there's very little difference between wired and wireless. Of course, since you can't use the Shadows as wired headsets, there's no ability to compare but the sound out of them is solid if you're not looking for flat response headphones. Having called my wife and listened to her speaking through the Shadow Wireless, I can also say that the sound quality from the microphone is pretty good. I could hear her clearly and she didn't sound tinny or distant.
Solid sound, comfortable, all-day wear and easily accessible controls make the Shadow Wireless from SOL Republic a very strong product on the bluetooth headphone market. Couple that with little touches like the ability for multiple connections and free ear gel replacements for the life of the device and the product becomes an even stronger option, but what takes it over the edge is the price point. Coming in at only $99 for either color, Steel Black or Rich Grey, this is one headset that won't have you feeling buyer's remorse once you've had it for a bit and sunk into that daily wear routine. SOL got a lot of things right with the Shadow Wireless so I'm eager to see what they do with a version two, being this is their first generation of this form factor.