Looking to outgrow its hip-hop headphone origins, Soul has set its sights on the mobile professional crowd with the Jet headphones. Starting at $249, these smart-looking headphones deliver loud audio, a comfortable fit and effective active noise-cancelling technology. But are these cans, endorsed by former Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, an all-star or a bench warmer?
Sporting a matte blue-gray hard plastic band with black tips, the Jets look rather stately despite being made primarily of plastic. The underside of the headband is padded with foam wrapped in quilted faux leather. The soft-touch portions of the band have three large Xs etched on either side, which makes for an interesting tactile contrast.
Soul covered the majority of the oblong earcups in a black soft-touch finish, giving us even more reason to fondle them. Thankfully, the material is highly resistant to fingerprints.
A small switch on the back of the left earcup activates the active noise-cancelling technology. The audio port for the included cable is located at the bottom of the cup. Pushing upward on the bottom of the right earcup reveals the battery compartment for a single AAA battery.
Thanks to metal hinges, the Jet's earcups fold upward, allowing us to quickly stash the headphones in the included hard black case.
The circumaural Jets encompassed our small ears, surrounding them with a thick layer of pleather-wrapped foam. The oval-shaped cans incorporate a proprietary design that Soul claims add a little more ear space. The cans fit snugly around our ears, creating a tight seal that provided a level of passive noise-cancellation.
Although we wore the headphones comfortably for more than two hours, we found that the foam felt stiff against our heads. We preferred the softer feel of the Bose QuietComfort 15 and the Monster Inspiration headphones.
The Jet's mostly plastic frame weighs 8.8 ounces, which is lighter than the Beats Executive (11.9 ounces) and the Monster Inspirations (10.9 ounces). However, the QC 15s and the Audio-Technica ANC70s are much lighter, weighing 6.4 and 7.7 ounces, respectively.
Soul packaged two sets of flat, tangle-free, 49-inch, 3.5mm audio cables. One cable is iOS-exclusive and has a three-button remote for skipping tracks, answering/ignoring calls, launching Siri and adjusting the volume. Android and Windows Phones users will use the one-button universal remote cable to handle audio playback and volume control.
In addition to the two cords, Soul bundles a 6.3mm plug adapter and a two-prong in-flight adapter for when you want to listen to music or watch TV on the plane.
The Soul Jet headphones use a set of four microphones (two inside, two outside) on each earcup for active noise-cancellation. When enabled without music, the effect itself is rather quiet, creating only a small amount of white noise. Using the feature in our office greatly dampened our co-workers' conversation, but didn't totally shut it out. The Jet's ANC performed better than the Monster Inspiration, but couldn't compete with the level of quiet provided by the Bose QC 15.
On the New York City subway, the Jets reduced a cranky baby's cries to a tolerable level. They also significantly reduced the volume of a break-dancer's blaring boombox in our train car. However, the QC 15 did a better job of keeping things quiet, shutting out most noises and making others sound distant or as if they were underwater.
You won't get audiophile-level audio from the Soul Jet, but they're fine for traveling. Listening to Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," we found the piano was particularly muddy with overly pronounced bass. The mid-level strings sounded harsh at higher volumes, but the mournful vocal was nice and bright.
The Bose QuietComfort 15s performance was somewhat colder, but had more definition. Piano chords were most distinct, as were the cymbals. The vocal, however, was a grating at spots, particularly on the hook. The Monster Inspirations sounded the best of the three with deep vocals, strong piano and a lilting string arrangement. We particularly enjoyed the bass that was full without being overwhelming.
It was a two-way competition for most-exaggerated bass on Nas' "One Mic," with the Inspiration snagging the win over the Soul Jet. However, the Jets were right on its heels with bass that consistently monopolized the track, overshadowing the steady pulse of the snare drum. The QC 15 had the best definition of the three, faithfully reproducing the jagged tinkling of a breaking glass bottle.
Although the Jets can play music without its active noise-cancellation technology enabled, we wouldn't recommend using that feature. The resulting audio is a relative whisper, delivering shallow bass and highs. However, we noticed that the audio had more definition without ANC than with it enabled.
Unfortunately, the Soul Jet's endurance is equivalent to Tebow's NFL career. Soul claims that the Jets can last 13 hours on a single AAA battery. That's much shorter than the QC 15 and Executive, which last 25 and 35 hours, respectively. However, the Jets can play music even after its battery dies, an ability the Executives and QC 15 lack.
Callers on both ends sounded fairly clear (given the limitations of a cellular connection), and the Jets' ANC did a decent job of blocking background noise. However, our call partner said she could hear the some of the New York City traffic in the background as we were talking.
The $249 Soul Jet headphones offer sleek looks with a comfortable fit and active-noise cancelling good enough to muffle most ambient noise. However, it lasts too short on a charge, and audio, while loud, could use more definition, particularly in the lows. For $50 more, the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones continue to be the gold standard, delivering excellent active noise-cancellation as well as balanced audio and longer battery life. Overall, though, the Soul Jet headphones are a good choice for music lovers searching for active noise cancellation in a stylish frame.