For someone used to leading the pack in musical promotion, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson sure took his time in unleashing his SMS Audio headphones range.
The market is already flooded with signature brands by the respectable (Quincy Jones and Dr Dre), the opportunistic (Ludacris) and the just plain wrong (Justin -Bieber).
I decided to take the entry-point cans – called Street by 50, with prices beginning at Dh450 – for a spin on a recent trip to Egypt.
First up, the look. Now, you would think Fiddy would have this covered. Whereas Beats by Dr Dre is super slick and the House of Marley brand looks pleasantly retro, Street by 50 is stiff and fragile; like it was designed by Toys R Us.
Since Street by 50 doesn’t fold, like Beats, it causes serious portability issues when travelling. I resorted to placing them around my neck when checking in and out of airports.
When it comes to the sound, you have to understand these are not noise-cancellation headphones. This is not necessarily a bad thing as you don’t have to fret over how much money you are spending on premium AAA batteries – and Street by 50 does block most of the abrasive sounds outside.
My first test was conducted during a three-hour flight and I found the headphones doing a decent job of keeping me engrossed during an in-flight movie.
However, the exterior noise became a nuisance during those moody quiet scenes integral to the plot.
In a busy street you just have to crank up the volume – mind you, I was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – so if you are audio sensitive this product won’t work for you.
Street by 50 does a much better job when you put it through its paces at home. Naturally, the bass of hip-hop albums is well rendered and packs a punch. The cans also responded well to David Guetta’s Nothing But the Beat, producing a full and rich sound.
When it came to the punk rockers Green Day’s bouncy new release, ¡Uno!, the drums were produced with surprising intensity, hitting you in the gut at high volume.
Let’s face it, even 10-year-old children are wearing (mostly fake) Beats by Dr Dre now. If you want to stand out with something a bit lighter (both in weight and on your wallet) but a few notches below on sound quality, Street by 50 does the job.
Saeed Saeed is a reporter for The National’s Arts&Life