Soul X-Tra Review
- Solid fit for running and most purposes
- Washable ear cushions
- Easy to use media controls
- Long battery life and fast charging
- So-so sound quality
- Slightly uncomfortable ear cushions
- Review Price: £90.00
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Breathable headband
- Removable, washable ear cushions
- Media playback controls
- Dual-mode safety LEDs
What are the Soul X-Tra?
Over-ear cans aren’t necessarily the first thing most people consider when it comes to running or exercise-orientated headphones. But then that’s never stopped people wearing a pair of Beats Studio headphones to the gym – and these are headphones that aren’t designed to handle the wear, tear and sweat of a workout.
The Soul X-Tra, on the other hand, do just that. These wireless headphones have removable earpads that you can wash when they become grubby, and a wireless design for workout freedom. They also feature a set of LEDs to keep you visible if you’re one of those people who enjoys an evening or early morning run when the light is low.
Top this off with 24 hours of battery life, fast charging and a compact, foldable design, and you have a pair of cans that can happily cope with exercise. It’s a decent choice if you really don’t get on with in-ear headphones.
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Soul X-Tra – Design and Comfort
The Soul X-Tra come in either an all-black finish or black with blue accents on the earpads and headband. They’re made of plastic, which doesn’t feel premium but does help to keep the weight down.
The earpads use a synthetic material and offer a decent amount of cushioning. The material is a little rough, though. That helps create friction and keep the headphones from slipping around too much – but it can become a tad abrasive, especially after prolonged, sweaty use.
Rather than attaching with magnets, the washable earpads stretch over the earcups, which makes them pretty tough to reattach. It isn’t something you’ll likely be doing very often.
On the outside of the right ear cup you’ll find a multi-function power button and volume controls that can be used for track skipping. All the buttons have a very distinct click, and you need only hold the volume button for a short amount of time to skip tracks. This doesn’t sound important, but you’ll appreciate both when trying to adjust your music while running.
On the underside of the cup is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB charging port covered by a rubber flap. On the rear of both ear cups are two pairs of LEDs. These can be configured to light up permanently, flash intermittently, or be turned off.
This is a useful function if you plan to run at night, for added visibility and safety. It’s similar to the feature available on the Gibson Trainer Ti100, but it is better implemented here since the lights sit high up towards your head, lessening the possibility of them being obstructed.
The Soul website’s product page says the X-Tra are ‘guaranteed to stay on, even during your toughest workout’, which is a bold statement – especially when it comes to cans. Depending on what your definition of a workout is, though, this might be true.
When I wore them running I found that they did indeed stay in place. Those grippy ear cushions helped balance the fact that the headband isn’t particularly tight – as has been the case with other exercise over-ear headphones I’ve tested. The headphones didn’t particularly bounce up and down on the top of my head, either.
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However, as a pair of gym headphones for weight training, performance is more of a mixed bag. If you’re upright they will be fine, and I found they even coped with more explosive movements – such as power cleans – without a hitch. But for anything horizontal – such as a bench press, for example – the headphones will slide off your head and become annoying. If everyday isn’t a chest day then you’ll likely get along just fine, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
The X-Tra are designed to collapse down to a more compact, easily transportable size. The hinges where the earcups fold down on themselves are a little sharp for my liking, but the folding design is handy for throwing the headphones into a gym bag.
A hard case is included that adds a good degree of protection and provides a place to stow the micro-USB cable and included 3.5mm cable for wired use and when the battery dies. Battery life is rated at 24 hours, which felt pretty close. I only had to plug them in after two weeks.
There’s even fast charging, which will help in a pinch if you realise they’re dead just before heading out for a workout. A 15-minute charge can get you 150 minutes of playback.
Soul X-Tra – Sound Quality and Bluetooth
Sadly, sound quality isn’t one of the X-Tra’s strongest points. But that might not prove a deal-breaker when it checks so many of the important boxes for exercise headphones.
They’re a little lacking in the bass department, not helped by the fact that there isn’t much in the way of passive noise isolation – this results from the breathable ear cushions failing to block out ambient sound.
It means if you’re wearing these in a gym then you’ll continue to hear the clang of weights or the music blaring over the speaker system. On the other hand, letting in some outside noise will be useful for road running in terms of situational awareness.
The X-Tra skew heavily towards the high-end, on occasion sounding overly bright. This does make them easier to hear over that ambient sound I mentioned earlier. The X-Tra don’t sound bad, and a bit of EQ adjustment to boost the bass does help to a degree – but I’d still describe them as middling overall.
For most people, however, they’ll do just fine to get you motivated enough to pound the pavement or knock out a few more reps to your own soundtrack.
Bluetooth connectivity is solid and I didn’t experience any annoying dropouts or Bluetooth glitches that can hinder many cheap headphones. Range is decent, too, and could easily reach 10m – even on a busy gym floor if you’re the type that leaves their audio player in a bag.
Wearing my phone in a waistband positioned towards my lower back during runs didn’t impact connectivity, which can be a problem due to the obstructed signal.
Should I buy the Soul X-Tra?
If you’re in the market for a pair of over-ear cans for your workout, the Soul X-Tra are one of the better options out there and reasonably priced to boot. They’re not going to win any awards for sound quality, which is only passable, but a good fit, sensible controls and some runner-friendly LEDs make them a much better choice over the more expensive Monster iSport Freedom V2.
If you want a pair of cans for exercise, the Soul X-Tra tick many of the right boxes.