Joining his contemporaries, 50 Cent paired with SMS Audio for the Street by 50 headphones. These $249 cans look sleek and are comfortable, but how do they compare sound-wise to more established players?
Stylish and comfortable, the Street by 50 headphones have very good padding and low headband tension, good for long listening sessions. The matte black finish and glossy black trim with blue accents (you can also get them in blue with black trim) and cabling look chic, though we're surprised that the only branding on the cans is SMS Audio -- no on-board mention of 50.
The headband doesn't fold up and seems like it was made for larger heads, but the headphones are very comfortable and well-padded, and they store easily in the bundled large drawstring bag. However, the headband tension is very low and felt loose on our average-size head, and the earcups don't block as much noise as most other closed-backed cans, which can be a plus or a minus depending on where you do most of your listening.
The fairly thick cable has an inline playback controller with a built in mic for smartphones; oddly, the controller has a single button, so you can skip tracks and play/pause, but not control volume.
On 50's "In Da Club," the headphones emphasized 50's vocals and the upper bass popped, keeping the overall sound very "in your face." But the same tweak that boosts 50's vocals doesn't work as well with other performers, making many voices -- such as Dr. Dre on "Let Me Ride" -- sound distant and even a little shrill. The low bass in tunes like "How Low Can You Go" is there, but it's not as strongly emphasized as on the other cans, such as the Beats Pro by Dr. Dre.
The distant quality persists with horns in acoustic jazz, but electronic music like Kruder & Dorfmeister's "Going Under" sounds full and rich. In general, though, we preferred the Soul by Ludacris SL300s, which have better bass and a smoother response across all frequencies than the Street by 50.
In our testing, both ends of phone calls were adequately clear, and hearing some ambient noise helped us avoid feeling like we were talking with earplugs in.
50 Cent's Street by 50 headphones are a good match for the rap star's own music, but they sometimes fall short on other material. We also wished they blocked out more ambient sounds than other headphones. For just $50 more, the Soul by Ludacris SL300s offer more consistent quality, and have active noise cancellation, to boot.