We loved the Sol Republic Calvin Harris tuned over-the-ear headphones that we reviewed last year. In fact we loved them so much that we nominated them for an award. What made those headphones so special was that they were a perfect package of sound quality, comfort and design, with lots of clever tricks that other headphones don't do.
The newest in-ear headphones we've been sent by Sol Republic are called Relays, a product aimed at people who do physical activity and want some earphones that stay in when you run, but don't compromise on sound quality.
They also have another advantage: they're a reasonable £60. Expensive on the face of it, but not as costly as some we've tested. The question is, how do the Sol Republic Relays sound and are they fit for their sporty job?
A choice of colour
We remarked the other day that joggers have become very stylish. When we run, on go the most unflattering trackies and dirtied trainers. Everyone else, it seems, has colour-matched trainers and Lycra gear, armbands and all sorts. They look as good as they would going out for the night. Running, it seems, has become as much about fashion as every other human activity.
So our only fashionable attribution is the Relays. They're designed to look good - there are white, black, blue and yellow options in the range; and we predict there will be more - and fit in the ear incredibly well.
Also included is a microphone, multi-function button and volume control for iPhone. For Android you'll want to choose the one-button mic and music control option for compatibility.
To keep the headphones attached, there's a clip, but we found it quite hopeless. It wouldn't grasp anything with enough ferocity to stay attached to us. It's not the end of the world, but we'd like to use this, especially to attach to our coat when we're on the way to work, to avoid it getting snarled up with other people.
Comfort and sports compatibility
The Relays have a rubberised ring that looks a bit like a bike wheel in some ways. This looks interesting, but the idea is really cool because it moulds to your ear as you put it in and aims to grip you as tightly as a someone being deployed to war might hug their loved one before shipping out. This keeps them in if you run, and it keeps them in when you walk. And what's more they are the most comfortable in-ear headphones we've used for a long time.
The problem with activity headphones is that they often feel dreadful when you're wearing them. That might be okay for an hour of exercise, but it's not cool for the commute to work, the train to your weekend away or the plane abroad for your holiday. We love wearing the Relays, and we have done so for many, many hours since we received them.
We've done a bit of running too. Mostly, it has to be said, because we have some sort of condition that prevents us leaving the house on time to get to a regularly scheduled train, but a run is a run, right? The headphones never popped out, and we got to hear the best of our music all the time.
They are also resistant to sweat and rain. That's great if, like us, you're a bit clammy and live in a county where it rains all the livelong day.
Years ago when we put on a pair of big-name sports headphones they pretty much destroyed our shell-likes; the buds felt uncomfortable. And this is before even turning them on.
Sound quality matters, even on sports headphones. And how do the Relays sound? Marvellous, that's how.
When we spoke to Sol Republic, it told us the company sound philosophy is that most people do not want flat-sounding headphones, so it makes headphones that have a sound that boosts music where it needs to be boosted. The concept is to make your earphones sound like a studio environment.
Purists need not apply, but for the rest of us who just want to hear good-sounding music that's been coaxed into its best, the little Relays work brilliantly. They really have an amazing sound, and it is exactly what we found ourselves wanting. They've now pushed out most of our other headphones as the pair we pick up first because they're small and easy to carry.
The Sol Republic Relays in-ear headphones sound amazing and, although not a budget buy, they're the right side of affordable.
And they're worth every penny: the Relays look good, feel good and sound great. We have no major complaints other than some minor moans about the included clip. But, ignoring that, and the sound quality won us over to the point that all else was forgotten.
Sol Republic continues to produce headphones that offer a lot in their price range and the Relays achieve top marks in both form and function.