Back in the ’80s, big over-the-ear headphones were all the rage. The bigger, the better. Then came the ’90s and the new millennium and everything was about getting smaller, sleeker, nearly invisible. Headphones became earbuds and pretty soon we will almost be able to hide the fact that we are listening to music or other audio altogether. Yet in the last few years there has been a resurgence of big headphones with power and sound quality, and even more importantly in terms of style. Big names throughout the entertainment industry are lending their personae to headphone creators, while a choice few folks are diving in even further and creating their own brands, like Dr. Dre (Beats by Dre) and the man behind this product review, 50 Cent (SMS Audio) and his Sync by 50 Wireless Headphones.
The Sync by 50 On-Ear Wireless Headphones ($229.95) are sleek, well-designed and well-crafted. The packaging alone makes a statement when they arrive, with a slide-out pressboard folding box and soft mini-football-shaped carrying case. The headphones collapse inward and fold up to about half-size, which is handy for storing in your bag without worry that the frame will get yanked open. It has an incredibly snug fit, which in some cases could be painful over long periods of usage, but the padding on the earphones is very soft. I’m one of those people who usually can’t use headphones like this for very long because my ears stick out farther than normal, so having them pushed back against my head normally causes soreness very quickly. I found the care used in the design and comfort of these headphone pays off in longer time without ear fatigue.
I chatted with a few of my more audiophile friends about what they looked for in studio quality headphones and most were leery of wireless Bluetooth transmission because it compacts the audio size and can result in less powerful sound. Keeping that in mind I tried these out with a number of sources (iPhone music, iPad music, Netflix, both wired and wireless) and found the wireless quality was nearly equal to or exactly the same as wired in all cases. (But note that I am not nearly the audio snob some of my friends are. I would place myself squarely in the middle of the consumer base in regards to sound snobbishness.) I did find in some cases there was a slight audio drift, when it seemed the sound was coming more strongly from one side than the other, but that would disappear by either unplugging the phones and putting them back or turning on and off the Bluetooth connection.
I also pumped the volume up to the maximum to find out if there was any distortion or sparking in the speakers. Not in the least. That is a nice thing to find because I like to play my music loud enough to not hear how terrible I sound singing along.
It’s incredibly simple to pair them with any Bluetooth-enabled device and switch back and forth between them. You can also answer phone calls while wearing them. The quality of the incoming sound on phone calls is not bad, while the outgoing sound is similar to what it sounds like with an open-air Bluetooth microphone in a car. One of the other nice touches is that while many wireless devices will completely die once they are out of juice and stay off once you start charging them again, even if these are dead you can still plug in the normal headphone wire and keep on chugging along.
The Sync by 50 On-Ear Wireless headphones pack a hefty price punch, but you get what you pay for: high quality sound and high quality comfort.