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Hardik Patel

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Friday, July 4, 2014

50 Cent's new sports headphones aren't subtle, and that's OK

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson was kind enough to give us an early look at his line of sport-friendly headphones on stage back at CES. Today, you get to see them out in the wild. As a refresher, there are on-ear and in-ear models and you can choose wired (Street) or wireless (Sync) varieties depending on how you roll. The on-ears come with a sweat-proof inner chamber and a rubberized coating to keep them looking box-fresh no matter how many laps you put them through, and there's even a sports "towel" (it's more of a cloth) included to mop your brow! The in-ears won't come with such luxuries, but they do come in the same striking blue, pink or yellow color options. The Bluetooth variants all support aptX, which is more than can be said for the other rapper-backed sports buds we saw recently. Prices are $80/$150 for the in-ears (wired/wireless) and $180/230 for the on-ears -- and we got an early look at some.

Running with headphones is a divisive subject. Some swear by it; others deplore it. Whatever camp you're in, earbuds are usually the weapon of choice. Not me. I much prefer the extra isolation that on-ears provide. I don't run on the roads, so traffic and other such obstacles aren't much of a concern. The problem is, until now, there haven't been many sweat/sport-friendly pairs of on-ears. Let alone wireless ones. These are two instant plus points for the new Sync model straight away. Not to mention that running isn't the only activity that might cause a sweat, where the participants want to listen to their tunes; there's a whole host of music-loving active types to cater to.

The new Sync wireless sports from SMS are, unsurprisingly, very similar to the existing Sync model. The most significant difference is the finish. The shiny plastic of the current model is out, and a new rubberized nano-coating is in. It's a decent upgrade both in terms of aesthetics (shiny plastic never really looks that good), and the textured finish also feelsnicer. The ear pads have been toughened up too. Not only are they covered with a perforated leather, but also the chamber inside is sweat-proof. The result is a sporty-looking headset that definitely feels comfortable once the heart rate (and sweat) starts to rise.

Looks are one thing, but audio is the money here, right? Already I suspect that critics are sharpening their knives, as is de rigueur when discussing any celebrity-made/owned/built/endorsed headphones. The Sync wireless sport are loud and definitely "ample" when it comes to the low-end frequencies; there's no skirting it. But, you know what? When I'm five miles deep on a run, that's pretty much what I want. The bass isn't ridiculous -- it's what you might refer to as "generous." I'd reach for these over a pair with a flatter response every workout, every time. You may differ of course, but if thick, pronounced jams are what you want, then these will give it to you.

Despite the obvious leaning toward sporting use, the Syncs will gladly fill the role of full-time headphones if you wish. The battery should be good for upwards of eight hours of playback (or talk, given that they double as a hands-free too). If you find you do drain them, there's a 3.5mm jack (and cable) so you can wire them in like regular headphones (which means they're good for all devices, Bluetooth or otherwise). When it comes to sport-friendly on-ears, the Sync wireless are hard to knock. Yes, some will malign the "healthy" bass; others (like me) will appreciate it when trying to eke out that extra drop of energy. More than that, these are the best wireless model I've seen from SMS to date, so either way, things are looking up.