(Pocket-lint) - It's no surprise that wire-free earphones are here to stay, we're pleased to say. Technology has been on a mission to eradicate wires ever since we realised wireless is more convenient. What's more, with Apple bringing the concept to mass market with its AirPods, it was never going to take long for almost every other earphone maker to hop aboard.
A 2017 addition to this market is the Sol Republic Amps Air. For those unaware, Sol Republic prides itself on building attractive earphones that sound good and don't cost the earth. With the Amps Air, the company brings that philosophy to the wire-free market.
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Sol Republic Amps Air review: Design
- Sweat and rain resistant
- Silicone sleeve for grip
- Four ear tip sizes
- 2200mAh battery case included
- Black and rose gold (teal and green in some markets)
Being wire-free means the form is now familiar. Amps Air is made up of two independent earbuds that connect to each other via Bluetooth. But just because the form is familiar, doesn't mean the Amps Air is the same as every other pair out there.
While the casing is built from plastic, Sol Republic has covered the entire earbud in a grippy silicone sleeve with small ridges across the whole surface to provide a secure fit. The resulting shape of each is a small rectangle that's rounded and bulging, like a miniature loaf of bread, except with the driver/ear tip sticking out of one of the corners.
The entire flat surface of the earbud exterior is a single button. Both sides offer the exact same function: press once to play/pause; press-and-hold to launch Siri on your iPhone.
This kind of earphone is always on the snug fitting side, to ensure they don't fall out, and the Amps Air is no different. The eartip fittings being designed to block out exterior noise also means sometimes it feels a little too snug, even if you are getting the benefit of the earphones never falling out of your ears.
Being sweat and rain resistant also means you can take them out on your rainy commutes, or when dripping wet after a running session, and they'll survive just fine.
The carrying case is attractive too. Its big pill-shape is pleasant to look at and comfortable to hold. Although it's built almost entirely from plastic its finish isn't too dissimilar to anodised metal. There is a glossy strip running along the sides, visually separating the base from the lid. And it's within this strip - on the front - that you'll find the four LED lights used to indicate the case's battery level.
Inside, there are two specifically designed docks; one for each earbud. There are no magnets to keep the earphones stuck inside the cradle, however, the docks are so precisely cut that the fit is very snug, meaning they shouldn't fall out at all. That said, this does make them a tiny bit fiddly to remove.
One thing that could be improved is the case's lid. The hinge feels flimsy, the material feels cheap and light as if it wouldn't be too difficult to break it clean off.
Sol Republic Amps Air review: Sound
- 20Hz - 20kHz frequency response
- Passive noise isolation design
Considering their price point and the wire-free design, the sound achieved by the Sol Republic Amps Air is great. Expectations should be restrained slightly however, given where the Amps Air sit in terms of price, but they sound so much fuller than the Apple Airpods.
There's plenty of bass, filling out the background with immersive, easy-listening tones. Sound isn't overly muddy either. High frequencies are still clear enough to ring through, although we did think that some more subtle details in the music should be more prominent.
The Amps Air is an earphone for people who love full-sounding, bass-filled tracks; so particularly great for listening to electronic/dance and modern pop songs. We could comfortably use these in-ears day in, day out and enjoy all kinds of music though.
With the right sized eartip fitted, the Amps Air perform well at cutting out ambient noise, passively, sealing your ear to kill out unwanted surrounding sound.
Sol Republic Amps Air review: Battery life
- 3 hours playtime per charge
- 15 recharges in travel case
- Total 45 hours of playtime
As far as wire-free earphone battery life goes, the promised three hours of playtime between charges of the Amps Air isn't actually that great. Apple's AirPods offer five hours, Jabra's Elite Sport goes up to four and a half hours, while Bragi's Dash Pro is between 3-5 hours depending on how you're listening.
However, Sol Republic's Amps Air exceed that claim. In our tests, when listening to Spotify uninterrupted, we got to three hours and 15 minutes of playback before the voice pumped in our ear even told us the battery was low and needed recharging.
And as the carry case features a capacious battery, it's possible to recharge the Amps Air some 15 times over before that runs empty. As an added bonus, the USB output also ensures you can use it to give a quick boost to your other devices if they run empty. In an emergency, it could even fully recharge your iPhone. How about that?
Sol Republic Amps Air review: Wireless performance
Since the Amps Air isn't designed as a sports tracking device, the only connectivity needs to be between each earphone and your phone or host device in order that you can listen without interruption. Even during long listening stints this is no problem and the Bluetooth range is surprisingly good too (around seven to eight metres). We've not once had an instance of the connection dropping.
It's not a perfect experience, however. We're used to wire-free earphones that automatically connect to our phone once taken out of their charging case. The Amps Air don't manage this, at least not consistently. Most times we removed the earphones from their case, we had to access our phone's Bluetooth menu to connect to the them again - or wait a few seconds longer than we would expect.
As a whole package, the Sol Republic Amps Air is a pair of wire-free earphones that work hard for their price point.
These in-ears sound better than AirPods, look and feel nicer than Bragi's The Headphone, and will last a solid three hours listening without needing to be plugged in. Having a backup battery pack built into the case just makes them that much more useful, convenient and great value for money.
At under £100 don't expect the best sound you've ever heard, but pound for pound Sol Republic is onto a winner with the Amps Air.
Alternatives to consider
Bragi The Headphone
Having got the ball rolling with its high-tech Dash earphones, Bragi released a more affordable, simple option in "The Headphone". This pair doesn't have the fitness tracking capabilities of the Dash, and lacks the design finesse of the more expensive wire-free model, but they work well. Unlike the Amps Air, however, there's no built-in battery in the case, so you have to reach for the USB cable everytime you need to charge them.
Read the full article: Bragi The Headphone review
Apple's peripherals are designed primarily for convenience, and no wire-free earphones match the convenience of AirPods for iPhone users, thanks to that W1 chip and its ability to pair quickly. They don't sound great, but they're very simple, versatile and work well.
Read the full article: Apple Airpods review