Designed for people with active lifestyles, the Sol Republic Relays are small, light and fit just right. Just as important, these $80 sweatproof earbuds deliver great sound and can be rinsed, keeping them fresh for your next run, bike or session with the trainer. If you're looking for earbuds that will keep up with you, the Relays will do the trick.
The small, circular Sol Republic Relays have an attractive, sporty look; the outer ring of each earbud is perforated, which adds to the overall sleekness. The Relays are available in black, white/black, blue, yellow or red.
Flat cabling exits the bottom of each ear loop, with an inline mic/controller on the cable just below the right jawline. An anti-tangle slider moves from where the cables meet to the inline controller, and a small shirt clip lets you secure the cable to your workout gear.
The three-button controller handles volume and track skip (iOS devices only), play/pause, call send/end and voice commands. Although the controller is on the right earbud and I'm left-handed, it was easy to use and find by feel while I was on a treadmill or bike.
MORE: Best Headphones
Included in the box is a standard drawstring pouch, and its soft flexible molding made it easy to cram in my workout bag. It's not waterproof or weatherproof, though.
Comfort and Operation
The Relays' angular ear-canal insertion earbud can be wrapped with one of four different sizes of highly pliable moldings. I started small, but found larger sizes to be comfier. The comfort factor was higher than I expected because of the pliability of the bud molds, and the seal was better because of this, too.
I shook the Relays as hard as I could during testing, and they stayed put. In fact, tugging on the buds simply drove them into the ear canal a bit more deeply. The molded strain relief looked stronger than many earbuds I've used, too.
I like that you can use the removable plastic alligator clip to attach the left-ear/right-ear junction point to clothes. This clip is sturdy and unlikely to rip cloth, as there are no sharp teeth serrations.
Rock played well through the Sol Republic Relays — the hard stuff sounds good, but the best sound came from DJ Kramer's sets. Loud or soft, the dynamic range sounded high, and I detected no sibilance distortion at even insane, don't-do-this-at-home levels.
The lows are solid, but not stellar, so if you're looking for a kicker in your ears, this one's not for you. Nonetheless, the dynamic range makes for a "live" sound.
MORE: Best Soundbars
DJ beats and remixes sounded especially good, but blues tunes were not quite as amazing. And jazz, such as music from Joe Satriani, didn't sound quite live enough until I dropped the midrange down slightly.
Orchestral music was hit or miss, and occasionally suffered from too much bass. The bass drums in Wynton Marsalis' recording of "Carnival of Venice" sounded like booming cannons. That heavy bass added excitement (and a sinister quality) to Eugene Ormandy's recording of "Carmina Burana."
I found I kept twiddling the equalizer in iTunes to get that perfect mix. The problem? There was no single setting that did the job, so I tweaked a lot of tracks.
The three button controls on the Sol Republic Relays worked perfectly. The center switch can be used to launch Siri on the iPhone and Google Now on Android devices that support it, as well as answer and reject calls. The bump on the center switch made it — as well as the volume up and down controls — easy to locate by feel.
Over T-Mobile's network, sound quality was very good on both ends.
The Sol Republic Relays (3-Button) are tough, washable, surprisingly comfy and good for a broad spectrum of music. They do a reasonable job of shutting out ambient noise and have the sturdiness needed for working people — and people who work out. In this price range, we slightly prefer the Soul Flex, which are about $10 less, also water-resistant and deliver even better sound. But you won't go wrong with the small and sporty Relays.
Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.