What happens when 50 Cent meets active noise-cancellation technology? You get the SMS Audio Street by 50 Over-Ear ANC Headphones. These $179 cans deliver many of the qualities you'd expect from a 50 Cent-branded product, including a sturdy and flashy design, and loud, thumping bass. Throw in powerful ANC with approximately 70 hours of battery life, and you've got headphones that will definitely get heads nodding to the beat.
The Street by 50 ANC headphones have a decidedly mature look, thanks to the decision to use a shadow-black matte soft-touch finish in lieu of the usual shiny plastics. The top of the headband has a semi-glossy SMS Audio decal, while the underside houses a thick band of memory foam wrapped in black leather with electric-blue stitching. If black isn't your color, the headphones are also available in cool silver.
The black soft-touch finish extends to the ear cups, with each side rocking a blue backlit "S" in the center. SMS Audio adds a touch of shine, covering the back of the cup in glossy black plastic. The insides feature more memory foam swaddled in ebony leather. The cups fold upward, creating a compact shape for easy storage in the accompanying black-and-blue soft carrying case.
As far as ports and switches, you'll find a micro USB port on the left cap, with a switch for ANC and an audio jack.
Like a new pair of Jimmy Choos, the 50 ANC headphones need to be broken in. When I initially started wearing the headphones, I felt a fair amount of pressure around my ears. It's almost like when your grandma or aunt gives you that overly enthusiastic hug.
After wearing the SMS 50 several times, the pressure waned to the point where I could only feel it around the bottom of my ears. Still, the ear cups remained stiff and ungiving, to the point where the headphones became uncomfortable if I wore them continually for more than 2 hours.
For longer listening sessions, I preferred the Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones. Not only are the QC 25 lighter (6.9 ounces compared to 9.6 ounces), but they enveloped my ears with pillowy softness and a snug fit.
SMS Audio includes a 56-inch 3.5mm audio cable with an in-line microphone and remote. The electric-blue cord doesn't discriminate when it comes to operating systems. I had no problem using the three-click remote on iOS, Android or Windows Phone.
A single click plays/pauses a track or answers a call, while a double click skips forward or ignores a call. Quickly press the button three times to skip backward.
In addition to the audio cable, the 50 ANC are bundled with a micro USB cable to charge the headphones.
For a brand known for its deafening audio, SMS does a great job of delivering the quiet. The headphones' active noise-cancelling technology significantly muffled conversations in the office, making it sound as if they were taking place in a closed office as opposed to open air.
However, the SMS 50 were no match for the Bose QuietComfort 25, the current gold standard for ANC. Wearing the QC 25 is akin to placing yourself in a sound vacuum. There's no white noise, or anything else for that matter.
The 50 ANC pump in white noise to help block out ambient sound. It's not distracting, but it's definitely noticeable. The QC 25 delivered just clean silence.
Like its brethren, the SMS Audio Street by 50 Over-Ear ANC headphones' 40mm drivers consistently deliver a loud, aggressive audio profile. When playing music through my HTC One M8, I rarely had to raise the volume past 20 (out of 30), even on a cacophonous subway car.
Due to the softer delivery of the Bose QuietComfort 25, I needed to raise the volume on the One M8 to 30 to match the volume delivered by the 50 ANC.
When listening to Janelle Monáe's "Ghetto Woman" on the 50 ANC, I felt like I had front-row seats at her concert. But while the lively electric piano and Monáe's soaring soprano were clear, the rest of the track sounded congested; I could barely make out the rhythm guitar beneath the synthesizer. The QC 25 had a cooler, more distant delivery, but instruments were more defined.
When I switched to Jay Z's "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)...," the trombones sounded harsh on the 50 ANC, which drew attention to the slight flatness in the rapper's vocal. The QC25 once again had a colder delivery, but the trumpet and trombones sounded more balanced.
The 50 ANC shined on the low end, delivering warmth and depth on Sade's up-tempo "Never As Good As The First Time" and Kanye West's heavily autotuned "Love Lockdown." The Bose delivered more precise performance, but the 50 ANCs' aggressiveness induced more feeling.
SMS Audio claims that the Street by 50 ANC headphones will provide up to 70 hours of active noise cancellation on a single charge. That's significantly longer than the 60 hours promised by the Plantronics BackBeat Pro and more than twice the 35 hours from the Bose QuietComfort 25. Once the battery finally dies out, consumers can still listen to their music — just without the active noise cancellation.
With ANC activated, I listened to music for 2 hours straight and then intermittently over 3 hours, and the soft-touch cans showed no signs of dying.
In a quiet office setting, the 50 ANCs' active noise cancelling effectively shut out ambient noise, allowing me to chat with my mom. The call was crystal clear and loud on both ends of the line.
When I stepped out into the hustle and bustle of New York City, the headphones performed just as well. Despite sirens, construction work and wind resistance, my mom reported relatively clear audio.
The SMS Audio Street by 50 Cent Over-Ear ANC headphones excel in several areas. You get a good-looking, sturdy design; extremely long battery life; and warm, aggressive bass. The $179 headphones also offer effective active noise cancellation, though the pricier $299 Bose QuietComfort 25 is still the king of quiet.
If you're trying to stick to a budget, the $199 Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 QuietPoint headphones offer a lightweight design and active noise cancellation. However, we prefer the SMS Audio Street by 50 ANC headphones because they’re more comfortable and provide more bass, making them the better choice in this price range.