Sol Republic’s latest earbuds try capturing your attention by quieting the world around you. The Sol Republic Amps Air Plus are the company’s first noise cancelling earbuds and roughhouse with the big dogs like Sony and Apple. No matter your needs, these sweat-resistant earbuds are bound to be a good pick for you.
Editor’s note: this Sol Republic Amps Air Plus review was updated on March 11, 2021, to address other noise cancelling true wireless earbuds, add a contents menu, and add context to the sound quality section.
Who should get the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus?
- Commuters should consider any noise cancelling earbuds, and the Amps Air Plus stand out due to their relatively affordable price.
- Athletes will appreciate the style and water-resistant build of these earphones. Plus, the charging case can quickly top up your earbuds, so you never need to exercise in silence again.
- General consumers can benefit from all that Sol Republic’s noise cancelling earbuds have to offer. ANC is surprisingly effective, assuming you’re able to get a good fit, and battery life is average for the technology. The auto play/pause functionality makes these a convenient headset and the lack of audio-visual lag is great for anyone who watches TV on their ride to work.
What’s it like to use the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus?
These are Sol Republic’s debut noise cancelling true wireless earbuds, and the company nailed it. Sol Republic’s logo is brandished on both earbuds and the case, and the Amps Air Plus is available in three neutral colorways: black, steel grey, and champagne. You’re afforded four pairs of ear tips (small, medium, large) with one pair of medium tips installed by default. The company doesn’t provide extra silicone collars, but I don’t anticipate the provided pair will rip easily.
The Sol Republic Amps Air Plus is a great travel companion.
An all-plastic construction may seem cheap especially when compared to Master & Dynamic’s acetate housings, but this material choice keeps costs down and keeps the ‘buds lightweight. Sol Republic jumped through certification hoops for listeners: these warrant an IPX4 rating, making them a great option for gym-goers. Fit is highly variable with in-ears: these work well with our test head but aren’t the most comfortable for me. Regardless of what ear tips are installed, the earbuds manage to wiggle loose. If I were to use these long term, I’d swap out the silicone tips for memory foam ones.
Touch gestures are immediately registered but control options are limited compared to cheaper earbuds like the JLab JBuds Air Icon. You can pause/play music, skip tracks, answer calls, and access your virtual assistant, but if you want to adjust the volume or go back a track, you’ll need to tap away on your phone instead. To cycle through noise cancelling and ambient sound modes, triple tap the left earbud. Doing so prompts a disembodied voice to notify you of the active listening mode.
Sol Republic packed in sensors beside the 9.2.mm drivers: the housings automatically detect when they’re removed from the ear and automatically pause playback. Media automatically resumes when the earbud or earbuds are reinserted. Auto play/pause functionality is some of the most responsive that I’ve experienced. There was never an odd two-second delay between putting the earbuds in and hearing my music start back up.
Is the noise cancelling good?
Yes, the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus noise cancelling performance exceeded my expectations. Low-frequency sounds are rendered nearly five times quieter with ANC on than with it inactive. This makes the Amps Air Plus a fine pick for air travel. Bear in mind, performance is completely dependent on your ability to achieve a proper fit. You could have the best noise cancelling headphones in the world, but if you’re unable to get a good seal, external noise will immediately nullify noise cancelling technology.
Sol Republic doesn’t use any DSP technology like the AirPods Pro, however. If you’re working with a less-than-ideal fit, there isn’t integrated technology to combat this. You are saving $50 with the Amps Air Plus, though; so some features have to go.
How do you connect the earbuds?
These Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds afford a 15-meter wireless range, which is five meters more than the standard. aptX and AAC, two of the most popular high-quality Bluetooth codecs, are both supported. Oddly enough, Sol Republic doesn’t state this on its official product page, but delving into Android developer settings reveals this compatibility.
These earbuds support both aptX and AAC for high-quality playback.
Sometimes headsets suffer from audio-visual lag even with premium Bluetooth codec support, but that’s not the case with the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus: latency is imperceptible, which is great for anyone who likes to stream videos from their laptops or smartphones. To my dismay, the earbuds do not support multipoint connectivity: in order to switch devices, you must manually disconnect from the current device before connecting to the desired one. Although it’s annoying, re-connecting is immediate so it hardly feels like an extra step.
How long does the battery last?
The Sol Republic Amps Air Plus lasted 4 hours, 36 minutes during our testing with noise cancelling on. While this is less than Sol Republic’s posited six-hour battery life (ANC on), it’s still significant and lasts nearly as long as the Sony WF-1000XM3. The earbuds should always be in the case when not in use anyway, so battery life should rarely be an issue unless you make a lot of intercontinental flights. In that case, over-ear noise cancelling headphones are probably a better choice for you.
The rounded case supplies you with 2.5 charge cycles while out and about. Once the case is drained, you’ll have to set aside 1.5 hours to top it up via USB-C. This is impressive seeing how it takes two hours to completely charge the Amps Air Plus earbuds. Sol Republic states that quick charging is supported without specifying the efficiency; anecdotally, I noticed a little less than an hour of playtime after keeping the earbuds in the case for 10-15 minutes.
Do the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus sound good?
Sol Republic went with a moderate frequency response for its Amps Air Plus headset: low-end notes are amplified but don’t even sound twice as loud as mids. This response is nice and caters to most listeners as we generally prefer some bass emphasis but it isn’t so exaggerated here as to severely mask vocals. That means you should be able to enjoy a wide range of musical genres with the Amps Air Plus.
Again, noise cancellation is great but you need to ensure a proper fit so that passive isolation is as effective as it can be. This means swapping out the ear tips until you get the most comfortable fit.
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Lows, mids, and highs
Heydaze’s song New Religion opens with a high-pitched guitar riff and complementary drum beat. The latter is slightly louder than it should be but this is to be expected from the frequency response chart. Vocalist Jesse Fink gets lost in the din of the song’s first chorus at 0:40. It’s not that he’s rendered completely inaudible, rather that it becomes a bit more difficult to hear him over the louder drum beats and lower guitar chords.
Bass notes sound louder than mids, but most listeners prefer this kind of sound profile.
You have to pay pretty close attention to notice this minor vocal attenuation, though. For most, it will sound fine, but I did observe low-end distortion when bass frequencies get especially loud. This can be heard at 2:38, as Fink begins the hook, “People get lost in repetition…” At this point, a clattering of noise reigns down in the song: a simultaneous hard-hitting kick drum and cymbal crash. It’s very hard to hear the word “lost” through the smattering sounds, something I don’t observe when listening with my Philips Fidelio X2 over-ear headphones.
Can you use the Amps Air Plus for phone calls?
Sol Republic’s microphone system isn’t going to win any awards but it’s fine for casual phone calls. The array amplifies sound, making it easier for the person on the other end of the call to hear what you’re saying. A major drawback to this is the introduction of noise and distortion: the mic amplifies everything, not just your voice, so static and the proximity effect are made even more apparent.
Sol Republic Amps Air Plus microphone demo:
Should you buy the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus?
The Sol Republic Amps Air Plus is a great pair of earbuds with minor drawbacks.
Although it doesn’t introduce novel features to stand out from the hoards of true wireless earbuds, its greatest offering is the relatively low price of $200. This is the sweet spot for noise cancelling totally wireless earbuds as it affords effective ANC and a few extra goodies without completely breaking the bank.
If you’ve realized $200 is out of your budget, don’t worry it’s out of mine too. There are a bunch of top-notch cheap true wireless earbuds around now. Sure, they might not have noise cancelling—or if they do, it’s not very good—but many of them support at least one high-quality codec, merit an IP rating, and have solid battery life like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Plus.
How does the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus compare to other workout headphones?
The Sol Republic Amps Air Plus is $30-plus cheaper than its top competitors, and perform quite well in comparison.
One of the biggest knocks against the Amps Air Plus compared to the Apple AirPods Pro is the lack of DSP and comprehensive software features. This could prove problematic for anyone who generally has a hard time finding a proper fit: the AirPods Pro ANC can compensate for this. For most listeners, though, the fit should be fine with any of the three standard-sized ear tips. The AirPods Pro battery life affords 30 more minutes of playtime than the Amps Air Plus which could make a real difference to frequent flyers.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 are another direct threat to the Sol Republic Amps Air. Sony’s noise cancelling technology is very good, though shows its age against newer competitors from Bose and Sennheiser. The earbuds fit very well and are more comfortable than Sol Republic’s ANC earbuds. Sony’s design is arguably the most elegant around.
Sol Republic’s totally wireless earbuds are just as durable as the AirPods Pro and are tougher than Sony’s earphones, which lack water-resistance altogether. Again, the best thing about the Amps Air Plus headset is its affordable price, some may also prefer its design. One thing is for sure: the Sol Republic Amps Air Plus are leagues ahead of the original Amps Air.