As someone who travels quite a bit, I’m never without my iPod. Sometimes you just want to drown out the world, whether you’re hopping on to the Metro or flying seventeen hours to LA. And while having a great selection of music is always important, it’s also crucial that you have a decent pair of headphones to match. Nothing can ruin your listening experience faster than headphones that don’t sound good or even fall out of your ears. I’ve been using a pair of in-ear headphones for nearly two years now, but this weekend I swapped them out for the SMS Audio Street by 50 Cent Wired On-Ear headphones. Yes, that’s certainly a mouthful so hopefully I won’t have to say that too often.
These headphones are part of a design collaboration between SMS Audio and rapper 50 Cent. Similar to how Beats paired up with Dr Dre, the SMS Audio lineup features a variety of headphones with 50 Cent’s scrawled signature and face on them; whether he’s actually picked up a pair and listened to them is another story. The headphones came packaged in a large blue box – diving into it revealed a large egg-shaped case in which the headphones were nestled, as well as a 3.5mm audio cable and cleaning cloth. It would have been nice if the box included an adaptor to use them on an airplane, but sadly there’s none here. On the flip side, there is a small sheet of stickers which lets you declare you love for these headphones to the world, should you choose to do so.
Build quality for me was a bit of a mixed bag. The headphones themselves are made entirely of plastic, presumably to make them lighter and more comfortable. They can certainly be bent at alarming angles, but I wouldn’t recommend you test out just how far you can bend them. The headphones can be folded up a bit, but when popped into their carry case makes for a rather bulky addition to your travel bag. Comfort comes in the form of ear cups lined with memory foam, which make for a snug yet comfortable fit. The headband also features a small amount of padding to make them sit properly.
As these are wired headphones, you get a 3.5mm cable included which you plug into the left earcup and the other end into your audio device. The cable also has a small microphone and one-button for track control; tap once to pause a song, twice to skip to the next track, and thrice to go to the precious track. It’s a bit tricky to master this at first, but what’s really annoying is that there’s no volume control, so you have to keep fishing out your phone or iPod to adjust the volume. No amount of clicking or holding down the button would adjust the volume, so if you’ve figured out a way to control volume with these headphones then please do enlighten me.
I cycled through my routine tracks when testing out the audio quality, which included everything from classical music to vocal pop numbers to heavy bass-infused dance tracks. Overall the headphones did deliver a decent listening experience for mid-high range tracks, but raised the bar when heavy bass kicked in. Like the Beats by Dr Dre series, these headphones were clearly designed for anyone who enjoys bass-heavy tracks at max volume.
On the flip side however, the headphones aren’t noise-cancelling, and instead feature passive noise cancellation. This means that they rely on the earcups sitting snugly against your ears to block out any noise. This doesn’t always work in theory, and I found that I had to crank up the volume quite a bit in order to block out the sounds of a busy shopping mall. Also, cranking up the volume at about 80% will also share your music with the rest of the world – I’m sure that anyone sitting next to you won’t really appreciate it, so I recommend that you keep the volume at a comfortable level, unless you want to annoy your fellow passengers.
The Street by 50 Cent Wired On-Ear headphones offer a decent listening experience for more uses, but their lack of true noise-cancelling and somewhat bulky form factor might not please everyone. Still, if you’re looking for a pair of headphones by a famous rapper and you don’t want to spend a fortune, then your choice is simple.