Jonathan Takiff: 50 Cent's designer headphones pack mean punch

SYNC by 50 Cent, the rapper's entry into the headphones business.
SYNC by 50 Cent, the rapper's entry into the headphones business.
Posted: February 22, 2013

WHO ARE YOU wearing on your ears? Lady Gaga? Quincy Jones? Earth, Wind & Fire?

Celebrity-endorsed headphones have been selling like hotcakes, none with more success than the Beats by Dr. Dre line, which has made the hip-hop mogul one of the most prosperous figures in the entertainment industry.

Priced at $200 and up, Beats don't sound all that good to these trained ears. The things are boomy and bass heavy. And while the design is sleek, the smallish ear cups fit too snugly.

It was thus with some trepidation that I agreed to test SMS Audio's SYNC by 50, wireless headphones bearing the signature, input and financial backing of rapper 50 Cent.

This hard-edged artist never struck me as an audiophile. But a key word in the promotional literature perked up my ears: KLEER.

KLEER is an alternative (to Bluetooth or Apple Airplay) technology for sending high-fidelity audio signals wirelessly from a transmitter to the receiver in headphones or speakers.

The sound travels on the fairly crowded 2.4 GHz band, but KLEER automatically switches among 12 different channels to avoid interference from cordless phones and other wireless devices.

Better still, KLEER has 16-bit Audio Lossless Coding that doesn't squeeze out sonic details, a gripe with most compressed digital streaming formats.

While carrying a lofty $399 list price, SYNCS are discounted to $238.98 at and, bundled with hard-shell case, charger and cables.

I'd previously enjoyed KLEER tech in high-end Sennheiser HDR 170 wireless headphones. SYNCs by 50 perform virtually as well.

The operative sound descriptors are: uncolored, neutral and natural. Be it hard rock or jazz, hip-hop or classical, every instrument, voice and effect seems properly placed. Nothing's too bright or boomy.

While bulkier than Beats, SYNCS are reasonably snazzy, lightweight and comfortable. The leather-wrapped memory-foam ear cups are sized right. The padded headband is made of a flexible, break-resistant polymer plastic.

The transmitter component is unique - a tiny, battery-operated dongle that plugs into a 3.5 mm headphone jack on a phone, PC, tablet, TV set, portable CD player or radio. The maker claims a 50-foot signal-throwing range and seven hours of run time between dongle recharges, both validated in my home test.

It's also claimed that four SYNC headset wearers can wirelessly listen to one dongle-connected sound source, though I didn't test that claim.

One big advantage with SYNC over a mobile phone's Bluetooth circuitry and companion Bluetooth headphones is its extension of the phone's battery life.

The downside with Fitty's phones is that you can't use forward/reverse track-skipping buttons, common on Bluetooth headsets.

Oddly, SYNC has those buttons, but the controls work only with an $80 accessory.

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