If I had been sitting across from someone I’d never heard of who was starting yet another headphone company, I’d have probably steered the conversation to the weather or Lady Gaga’s latest outfit. But I was sitting across from Scott Hix, the guy who once bragged to me that he’d make InFocus number one in home theater projectors — then did it just six months later. And I knew his partner in his latest venture is Kevin Lee, son of Monster Cable's “Head Monster,” Noel Lee, the ultra-successful businessman largely responsible for starting the whole celebrity headphone endorsement trend.
Hix, Lee and chief marketing officer Seth Combs founded the new SOL Republic headphone company for two reasons. One is that “Music has the power to touch you, move you and inspire you.” And more stuff like that. The other — which gets more buy-in from me — is that there’s a hole in the market between Skullcandy's sub-$50 headphones and higher-end (and pricier) offerings from Beats, Bose, Sennheiser and others.
These aren’t me-too headphones designed for cool looks and so-so sound. SOL Republic has augmented its hip styling with a few cool and unique features. The driver enclosures can be removed from the headbands and cables, so you can mix’n’match for style purposes — and also easily replace busted parts. The headphones are made from FlexTech, a proprietary polymer said to be virtually indestructible.
Prices start at $59.99 and go up to $129.99, and the offerings include the in-ear Amps and on-ear Tracks. I and my fellow Tech^2 blogger Geoff Morrison got a chance to hear the Tracks and we were both pretty impressed. To me, the 'phones sounded pretty close to neutral — i.e., what you’d get from Sennheiser — but with a little more life and sparkle. I was eager to hear more.
Lest you remain unconvinced that SOL Republic has potential, I submit to you the names of the company’s first two dealers: the Apple Store and Best Buy.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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