Here lately (especially during all of the Vegas-fueled CES madness) we’ve been seeing a ton of celebrity-endorsed headphones. We haven’t really got anyone to blame for this, save Beats by Dr. Dre and the undeniably powerful sales-by-name-drop technique. Either way, we felt it’s about time we shed some light on all the various celebrity headphone offerings running around, as well as a flat rating of each.
If you’ve been wanting to catch up on all the action, now’s your chance. We’ll even promise to keep the bias to a minimum! Okay, so maybe that’s a bit out of our journalistic prowess, but we’ll get you up to speed all the same. And no roundup of celeb headphones would be complete without.
Them Beats by Dr. Dre
About twelve years ago, hi-fi cable manufacturer Monster formed a partnership with a “little known” producer by the name of Dr. Dre. The end result was a brand-spanking new line of headphones called Beats by Dr. Dre. Unbelievably, the mix of “You got your Monster in my Dr. Dre!” became an overnight success, ushering in an entirely new era of headphones for the common consumption.
Since that year, we’ve seen an endless number of headphones emerging from the partnership, as well as a few new celebrity models worth mentioning. But before we dive into the specifics of those sub-partnerships, let’s talk about a few of the basic aspects you’ll find common across the entire Beats lineup.
First and foremost, the headphones are big on bass. Every single model in the lineup offers a pleasantly robust amount of low-end that, depending on the genre, can range from supremely overpowering to simply enhanced. Either way, if you’re a fan of hip-hop, electronica, dubstep, or any of the other thousand house varieties, you’ll find a lot to love with the Beats headphones.
Aside from their sound qualities, almost every Beats model comes with a signature black and red color scheme, as well as a bold lowercase letter B on the earcaps. The Beats lineup also introduced a more subdued yet flashy sort of sex appeal that took off like wildfire. You can see the influence of this design in almost every other celebrity-endorsed headphone out there.
Speaking of celeb-patterned headphones, we did mention that Beats has a few of its own models tucked under the wing. Some of the choice offerings in this category are the Heartbeats and Heartbeats 2.0 by Lady Gaga, as well as the Diddybeats by P. Diddy – or Sean Combs, Diddy, etc.
Soul by Ludacris
A more recent addition to the celebrity-endorsed lineup are the Soul model headphones by our favorite rapper, Ludacris. The celebrity turned business mogul really put a lot of thought into these cans, and across the entire board, we’ve been very impressed by the sound quality they offer.
The design of these puppies bears a lot of resemblance to the aforementioned Beats brand, drawing on everything from the smoothed and plush headband down to the emblazoned lowercase letter on the earcaps. However, it’s a design that works, which means we can’t complain about it too much, especially as the higher-end Soul headphones come with some pretty incredible noise cancellation.
Sound quality here is about the same as the Beats by Dr. Dre series, offering a similarly robust amount of low-end. However, we did find the overall experience somewhat more subdued than with the Dr. Dre models. The bass isn’t quite as staggered or stuttered, and though the high end is nice and punchy, we still found ourselves wishing for a bit more in the mid-range department.
All in all, though, it’s an impressive amount of quality from an upstart, disregarding the famous name attached. Expect to see a lot more entries in the Soul lineup as time goes on, and if you’re like us, we can’t wait to get our hands on next year’s models.
SMS Audio and 50 Cent
Since last Christmas, 50 Cent has been quietly promoting and producing his own signature line of headphones under the guise of his audio brainchild corporation, SMS Audio. He’s managed to concoct an entirely comprehensive line of cans, including a couple of in-ears, a full range of over-ears, and even a wireless-enabled flagship model called the Sync by 50. All in all, we were undeniably impressed by the effort, and in our review of both the wired Street by 50 and the Sync by 50, we applauded the headphones for their incredible comfort level, as well as their top-notch noise-cancelation and isolation technology.
More importantly, though, the SMS Audio models tend to take a more subdued sound approach than almost any other celebrity-model headphone we’ve looked at. If you’re looking for a bass boost, you’ll certainly find it with Fiddy’s headphones, however, we were surprised to find a much more rounded tonal quality with the Sync by 50 than with the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio or Studio HD. There’s a much higher emphasis on the highs and mids, producing a tone that’s more clarified and easily ten times more defined. Obviously, you might be stretching Fiddy’s cans to their plausible limits with a good Mingus record, but at the least, they’ll do better with other genres like rock, country, blues, etc.
And out of all the celebrity-sponsored headphones, we have to admit we like the SMS Audio options the best. The designs are still quite Beats influenced, as is the sound, but at least 50 Cent’s headphones provide a more unique look at the tones possible with such a brand.
And who knows… As Monster and Beats go their separate ways in the coming year, we may be seeing much more of 50 Cent than we ever thought we might before.