SMS Audio Street by 50 ANC Headphones

Much to the dismay of audiophile old fogies, the audio scene has been overrun by punks and their celebrity endorsements. Everywhere you look (Dre, I’m looking at you) you see audio gear, headphones in particular, with a famous DJ or other artist name attached. Of course, even old fogies were young once, and now it’s another generation’s turn to discover how cool audio is.

Latest to the party is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and his line of SMS Audio headphones. And the latest in that line is the Street by 50 ANC, an over-ear, active noise cancellation model selling for a cool $280 direct from Just another potentially overpriced headphone, or a solid offering worth every cent? I slipped on a pair to find out.

The Street headphones are available in black or silver; mine sported a subtle “Shadow Black” finish. In any case, there is nothing subtle about their size. They are relatively bulky, which apparently makes them even more of a fashion statement when worn around the neck. I wore my Streets to the grocery store and got lots of admiring stares. The fit and finish is quite nice and they certainly look their price. The leather ear cushions and headband (both well padded with memory foam) are quite comfortable even over extended periods.

Each cup holds a single 40-mm driver. As noted in the literature, they are “professionally tuned.” This is probably better than “amateurishly tuned” headphones. The headband is hinged, so the headphones can be folded for storage or travel. An aside: SMS has several models of Street headphones; make sure you know which one you’re ordering.

The active noise cancellation circuitry, combined with the soft over-ear cups, provide good noise reduction that is similar to that of my trusty Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones. The numbers: the internal 260 mAh battery is rechargeable via a supplied micro-USB cable. Battery playing time is up to 70 hours, but this is decreased if you crank up the volume. This hybrid plays with or without a charge; of course, ANC is only operable with battery power. The ANC has an on/off switch. The removable cable features an inline microphone/remote. A hard-shell carrying case is provided.

When listening, the first thing you notice about these headphones is the bass response. It is deep, full and loud. Traditional mixes sound a bit bass-heavy, and bass-heavy mixes are more so. If you’ve never met a bass decibel you didn’t like, these are the headphones for you. Although not flat, and perhaps a little too prominent, the midrange is quite clear with a natural vocal sound. The high end is also clear, sometimes too bright, but free of any brittle sound.

The Street headphones are a little pricey, but they are worth it. Yes, you could hunt around and find another model with similar sound and a lower price. But rest assured that these are the real deal. The deep bass really kicks ass. Although not particularly flat, other lesser-important frequencies are well served with low distortion. Finally, the noise cancellation (active circuitry plus comfy cups) makes long flights a breeze. You’ll enjoy the sound and the quiet, and look fashionable too. If you’re an old fogie, you probably need all the fashion help you can get.