STREET by 50 headphones: the Beats alternative

STREET by 50 headphones: the Beats alternative story image

By Jerrod Kingery

Maybe I’m just an audio dinosaur, but I felt as a culture we had decided that earbuds were the preferred method for listening to music on our phones these days. After all, you can carry a pair of them around with little concern for weight or the space they take up.

Recently, though, larger headphones like Beats by Dre, reminiscent of the headphones you used to use to listen to CDs at the used record store, have been creeping their way into the mainstream in spite of their high sticker price. But when you’ve got your music collection in your pocket at all times, why wouldn’t you want high-end headphones to go with it? A well-curated music library--as well as the smartphone that holds it--is an investment. There’s no shame in spending some money to listen to it as clearly as possible.

In an effort to see what all the fuss was about with high-end headphones, SMS Audio provided me with their latest over-the-ear offering, the STREET by 50 ANC wired headphones. Yes, the 50 is a reference to rapper 50 Cent and yes, every pair of headphones needs an endorsement from a rapper in this market.

The noise-cancelling headphones arrive in their own hard-shell zippered case folded up like a toddler’s Transformer toy. Along for the ride are a USB charging cable (for the battery that runs the noise-cancelling) and a standard audio cable with a built-in microphone. The pair provided to me is white and silver which wouldn’t have been my first choice—they also come in black—but they’re pretty stylish nonetheless. When unfolded from their slumbering state, the STREET by 50 headphones feel sturdy and locked into place, with a heft that’s lighter than they appear. All of the parts that actually touch your head, meaning both ear cuffs and the top bar, are padded with memory foam and wrapped in soft leather. After years of using tiny earbuds, the way they feel takes some getting used to, but after about 15 minutes, I forgot they were wrapped around my skull and was just enjoying the music.

After using the pack-in buds that came with my iPhone for so long, the sound from the STREET by 50s was nearly a revelation. In the back of my mind I always knew the listening method I was using was sub-par, but wow, these are great. The sound quality, paired with the noise cancelling, is more than enough to drown out the din of the newsroom, and my Pandora channels have never sounded better. The noise cancelling works well, but left me feeling too much pressure on my ears, especially during lulls in the music, but it’s not something you’ll need to use all the time anyway. The battery life is outstanding, with a charge lasting a full 2 weeks of regular day-to-day use, and the headphones function just fine with it dead as a doornail.

Since 99% of the people will be using these with their smartphones anyway, the STREET by 50 headphones allow you to use them to make phone calls using the built-in mic on the audio cable. While it works fine, the headphones’ ability to shut out outside noise makes it difficult to hear and modulate your own voice, the importance of which doesn’t cross your mind until you can’t hear yourself talk. At a retail price of $279.95, the STREET by 50 headphones aren’t cheap, but if you’re a music fan, you owe it to yourself to hear what you’ve been missing.

To purchase the STREET by 50 headphones and for more technical specs, click here.

STREET by 50 headphones: the Beats alternative
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