No ear-hooks, hangers or a neckband – are these sports headphones really fit for purpose? You wouldn't think so going by appearances - they look like any old pair of in-ears. Don’t be fooled though, the Relays' design is cleverly geared towards the active aficionado.
Build and design
With just a flat, rubber disc (resembling a wheel trim and making up most of the ear bud itself), tucking inside the bottom of your inner ear, they are surprisingly tight fitting. Sol Republic calls its patented ‘easy to put in, won’t fall out’ design ‘FreeFlex’ technology – and it’s genius.
It makes for an astonishingly light (13.4g, to be precise) and universal-fitting headphone, and one of least intrusive, hassle-free designs we’ve laid eyes on. They’re versatile, too. Don’t fret if you get caught in a rainstorm – the Relays are both sweat and water resistant (including the remote).
They can be bought with either a 3-button remote (with controls and mic) designed for Apple devices, or a single-button version to simply play/pause music and answer/end calls with a range of Android and Windows devices (we’d check compatibility). That said, we tested the 3-button version and the play/pause function worked fine with the LG G3.
Do they look like £60 headphones? Probably not. Their minimal design is more functional than fancy. Still, fashionistas will be pleased with the choice of colours: black, white, horizon blue, lemon lime or fluoro-red.
One thing is for sure: sound quality won’t have you questioning their price. The Relays fly the flag for articulacy and precision, and are natural musical performers. They bound along to Daft Punk’s Give Life Back to Music with handfuls of pep and pizzazz, while showing off space, clarity and good control of the dense strings in Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody.
Electric guitars don’t have the weight or richness we’d like, mind – the Relays’ tonal balance sits on the cusp of leanness, and hardness creeps into the treble as cymbals come crashing into the soundstage. Rival in-ears, such as the Soul Electronics Flex, are a more rounded listen.
Turn to something mellower, like The xx’s VCR, and the Relays are happier. There’s texture and crispness to the precisely placed xylophone notes – the acoustics ring through the soundstage – and a good level of insight into the vocals’ celestial sound.
The Relays’ engaging sound and compact, fuss-free design makes them an attractive buy – and not just for workout sessions...