THE STREET IS IN YOUR EARS
I wondered how soon it would be before SMS Audio released an in-ear model. While the wired Street by 50 model and wireless Sync by 50 model was becoming a popular choice among the headphone-consumer public, it was obvious to me that their product line was missing an in-ear model. Well...Still well within their first year since debuting their original product-line, SMS Audio did in fact inform us at headphones.com that their in-ear model was on its way.
Well…they're finally here! Let's see how they are...
THE FIT & THE FINISH
The name of the SMS Audio in-ear model is Street by 50. I find this confusing because the wired full-size headphone is also known as the Street by 50. Call me a skeptic, but I don't think it's the best idea for the two models to share the same name. Either way, that's probably my biggest criticism here, which is not so bad considering it's just a name.
The Street by 50 in-ear is a very attractive in-ear. They clearly share design elements of SMS by 50's full-size headphones, giving the whole product line a very nice uniform look. It is offered in two color combinations: white/blue (Ghost White) & black/blue (Shadow Black).
The faceplates of the earpieces showcase the SMS logo in blue while the perimeter has an attractive chrome-like finish. The cable is Y-split and design and is flat. The cable is blue on one side and then either white or black depending on which model you choose. Embedded into the left side at about chin-level is the Apple remote control and microphone. The remote here is very sleek and really complements the overall design very nicely.
The cable is worn straight down (rather than behind the ear) as is common in the consumer earphone market. This style is not my preference as it permits a lot more noise to be heard while the cable is tugged and moved. That said, the earphones themselves fit in the ear rather comfortably. The nozzle on each earpiece is at a slight angle which makes for easy insertion. The earphones come with a variety of differently sized silicone sleeves. I opted for the largest size as I found I was able to achieve the best seal with these. It's interesting to note that for their white model the silicone sleeves are white and for their black model the silicone sleeves are black. The Street by 50 also ships with a hard shell carrying case for easy storage and commuting.
When comparing the overall feel and look of the Street by 50 with similar offerings by Soul by Ludacris and Beats by Dr Dre, I find that the Street by 50 are the sleekest and, perhaps, most attractive looking.
But how do they sound?
ALL ABOUT THE SOUND...
The in-ear market is chock-full of sub-$100 offerings, many of which can out-perform the celebrity endorsed products which carry a higher price tag. But much of what you pay for is the name and the fashion. Headphones and earphones are far more than just about sound today. They are one of the most lauded fashion accessories on the market. Even with this consideration, you don't want to pay a lot of money for bad sound.
The Street by 50 in-ear sounds fair, not great. The clarity is lacking overall and the bass may not be enough to appeal to people who love full (sometimes bloated) bass. Listening to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" I was impressed first off that the earphones were able to be driven loudly without showing any signs of clipping. But towards the end of the track I was underwhelmed by the lack of air surrounding the voice. It felt less than 3 dimensional. The bass didn't have the thump that I typically associate with rapper headphones - a thump I don't always prefer but many do particularly for hip hop.
Listening to Bjork's "Isobel" I felt that there was simply not enough instrument separation. The sound was far too cluttered to really take in all the wonderful ornaments that the song has to offer. On the plus side, Bjork's voice was not at all sibilant, which it sometimes can be on this track. The bass response worked better here than on Jay-Z's track.
Listening to "Taxman" by The Beatles (in mono mind you), I checked to see how sharp the cymbal transients would sound on the big crashes. Fortunately they were not sharp. However, the overall tone of the song was duller than I would have liked. It sounded somehow blanketed and I began to become weary that the Street by 50 was not an earphone that I could recommend.
Finally, a track that really impressed me was "Cathedral in a Suitcase" by Pat Metheny. This track is exceptionally well-recorded and showcases a lot of upper harmonics in the percussion. The Street by 50 managed to hold the mix together very well without being too strident in the treble. It also showed me that the midrange itself is closer to neutral than a lot of other in-ear offerings in the consumer market. I still however felt that the bass and lower mids was lacking somewhat.
The Street by 50 is a good looking earphone that misses the mark a bit on audio fidelity. I recommend it to those who are won over by its impressive appearance, but for those who seek a rapper earphone for sound alone, I suggest the SL99 from Soul by Ludacris. It is superior sounding in my opinion and actually less money.