Basic smartphone headset
Tearing open the box will teach you two things: Yes, a patience is a virtue, and that these in-ears are very basic. There's really nothing groundbreaking or dazzling about the form of the headphones—they have a remote, a simple 1/8th inch plug, and a flat cable that is very tough to tangle. That's really it.
You shouldn't be expecting much for the price you'd pay, but Sol Republic gave the JAX just about all it could reasonably give. It seems like the JAX is meant to capture the audience that is ready to ditch the cheapo $10 earbuds at the drugstore for something better, and they make a good case for doing so.
Flat cables may not seem all that exciting, but they do offer a much improved experience. In-ears with the standard thin cable tangle easily because the cable can bend in all directions, leading to snags, knots, and pinches. Cables that are flat have only one axis in which they can bend, making the same tangle problems much more difficult to achieve—thus reducing the hassle of having cheap cables.
Unexpectedly decent, with low distortion
These Sol Republic in-ears have surprisingly good audio quality. Entry-level consumers will not want for more bass, nor will they suffer from the telltale high distortion of the cheap headphones—the JAX has very little issue with either of these performance points, and they will appeal to a broad range of consumers.
Don't worry about the fact that these don't have a "studio sound" claim plastered on the box—that really doesn't mean what people think it does, and it's definitely something to avoid for consumer headphones. Instead, the JAX gives you what a pair of consumer headphones should: A dynamic response that makes all the notes in your music sound about where they should be.
For travelers and outdoorsy folk, the JAX makes a good isolation solution, as it blocks out a quite notable amount of sound. While the sensation of the world around you getting muted can be disorienting, if you really cannot stand an engine or loud talker near you masking some of your music, in-ears are a great way to avoid that issue. Also, it allows you to keep your volume low to prevent hearing loss (personal crusades of mine notwithstanding).
In-ears aren't comfortable for the most part
I'm not going to lie—in-ear headphones are not very comfortable for a lot of people, and that can be very hard to get over. The JAX offers different sleeve sizes to avoid putting additional pressure on your tender ear canals, but they can only do so much. If you really cannot stand anything going in your ear, the JAX will not give you a reprieve from this sensation.
Beyond that, though, many people like in-ears because they are conveniently portable, and the JAX are just that. The cable that is less prone to tangle reduces a lot of the frustration associated with owning the tiny in-ears, and the remote with microphone is very convenient for all you smartphone owners out there. It certainly prevents you from having to pull the old "keep-the-headphones-on-and-hold-the-phone-in-front-of-your-mouth" maneuver that I see constantly on the metro. Don't do that.
Due to the low weight and the somewhat low tangle risk, these are quite portable, and can pretty much handle whatever you can dish out. Because they're also very low-cost, if they do break, you haven't lost a set of high-end headphones—and can at least replace them without clearing out your bank account. Definitely baby these if you can, but if the worst happens it won't be a day filled with cursing or tears.
Honestly, it'd be tough to find a pair of in-ears that work as well as the Sol Republic JAX for a similar price. Not only is the sound pretty decent, but the convenience of a smartphone headset is a huge plus. It's a bonus that they're also very affordable.
That being said, in-ears aren't for everyone, and if you've had bad experiences jamming silicone and plastic into your ears before, you may want to steer clear of these. There's only so much you can get out of entry-level headphones, and it's asking a bit much to expect opulent comfort from a set of $39.99 in-ears.
So if you're on a budget, go through headphones quickly, or are curious to get something better than your $10 drugstore earbuds—give these a shot. You won't be disappointed if you like in-ears.
I've heaped just about enough praise on the JAX without showing my work, so that should probably change. Hopefully, my notes from the lab—which you'll find below—will shed some light on the situation.
Consumer-oriented sound ditches misleading marketing
Behold—a chart. From this, we see that bass notes are quite strong, as well as notes around the 6-11kHz mark, meaning drums and 808s will rattle your skull, and cymbals will come in loud and clear over vocals and other instruments.
At first glance, this looks like a very dynamic response, but that's okay. Studio sound (all sounds the same volume) is not something your average consumer is going to care much for because our ears don't work the same as a microphone does. Human ears require more emphasis on some sounds than others; a response that looks uneven on paper will be perceived with equal loudness when actually heard. Therefore, the ideal curve that headphones should shoot for if this is their goal is aptly called an equal loudness contour, and I've taken the time to compare the two:
Okay, so it doesn't line up perfectly, but from what we can see, it's not too far off. This is quite good for someone who just wants to listen to music and really does not care so much about mixing or buying a set of audiophile-grade headphones. These work famously for mobile use.
Where'd the noise go?
So honestly, I'm a bit mystified that these in-ears had such a low distortion measure. I had to retest a few times to believe it, but the JAX seems to keep added garbage noise and clipped harmonics to an absolute minimum—far less than what you'd be able to hear normally.
There's a little bit of added noise, but really none that is perceptibly loud—it's in the low end and not much over 1phon past the masking threshold, so you won't hear it (unless there's a manufacturing defect).
Should you really crank the volume, the JAX keeps its distortion under 3% up to 114.131dB, but we really don't want you testing this for yourself. Please, we have a robot; HATS' ears can't be hurt, but yours can, so trust us on this one.
In-ears are awesome for isolation
By physically blocking sound from ever entering your ear canal, you can expect the Sol Republic JAX to reduce outside noise in loudness by over 75% on average. In-ears are typically good at this, but it's not something that's obvious to everyone. If you take these in high-noise environments, you can expect low-frequency noise like car engines to be cut down to half as loud, but higher-pitched sounds like airplane engines and shrieking infants can be cut down to 1/16th their original loudness.
It's not surprising that these don't leak sound, either—if you get a good seal in your ear canal, you can listen to anything you want without other passengers or friends judging you.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email