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Old October 14th, 2013, 01:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Review of SMS Audio SYNC by 50 on-ear wireless headphones (2013) w/lots of pics!!!

This is a review of a new model of SMS Audio SYNC by 50 on-ear wireless headphones. SMS Audio - SYNC by 50 - On-Ear Wireless

Before anyone makes a judgment of "uh, another pair of status headphones by a rapper", I want you to open up your mind and your ears because this is one of the BEST pairs of wireless headphones I have tested and reviewed so far. Period. And since it offers a hybrid option of being used either wireless or wired - the sound quality is almost the same when comparing it. To be honest, I didn't have a high expectation when I received these for review. But after charging it up and running through 4+ burn in (white/pink noise loop to condition drivers), I couldn't believe my ears how sweet these sounds and even took a trip to a nearest Best Buy for a/b comparison with the latest Beats Studio. By far the clear winner was SYNC by 50. Now let's go more into review details.

First, let's start with packaging. This sets a tone of the product quality even before you get to the headphones itself. Opening it up definitely felt like x-mas time going through your presents. You slide off the outside sleeve to reveal a big blue box, a common color scheme of black'n'blue with these headphones. Under the cover you are greeted with Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson picture pointing at you like Uncle Sam "I want you" to join him. Another flipped cover and you get to the middle where you see a well crafted hard shell carrying case with a same black'n'blue design. Also in a side pocket you have owners manual, product catalog brochure, soft touch cleaning cloth (blue), and SMS Audio stickers (nice touch!). Yes, presentation is very impressive but it means absolutely nothing without a golden egg inside of that football shaped hard shell case. That's where we are headed next.

Once you take headphones out of the case you notice how light they are, at only 190g and with a neatly foldable design they fit snugly in the case which makes it easy for traveling. With a precise click action of the hinges, after unfolding these you can adjust the headband to your liking. The design and construction felt very sturdy, and plastic parts had a nice shiny piano finish where use of cleaning cloth will come very handy. The inner side of headband top has a foam cushioning wrapped in black leather with blue stitching. Earpads are marshmallow soft made out of ultra plush memory foam OVALFIT. Here is something a lot of people get confused, a difference between on-ear versus over-ear headphones. These are on-ear headphones which mean earpads will be smaller pressing against your ears creating an air pocket between drivers and your ear canal. Over-ear are typically bigger and go "over" your ear. I actually prefer on-ear design since it improves sound quality and doesn't "sweat" as much. One side of earphones has micro-usb charging port and opening for charging led, and I assume that's where battery is housed. Full charging from empty takes less then 4hr and battery should last 10-12hr which also depends on level of your listening volume. The other side has 3.5mm port to use a cable for wired application, built in mic, power on/off switch, and VERY WELL laid out playback and volume controls. The large round button in the middle, discretely hidden by S logo, is your play/pause/pickup/hangup call button. Volume up and down positioned logically at the top and the bottom, and track skip next/prev positioned at the front and the back. There is no second guessing or fumbling to locate these buttons, the layout makes perfect sense without looking at it, in daylight or at night.

I was happy to see physical on/off switch which also has dual functionality with a spring loaded push for Bluetooth pair up that was very fast and painless. These headphones support the latest Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX codec, and backward compatible with BT2.1, 3.0+EDR, and support HFP, HSP, A2DP, and AVRCP protocols. If you are out of battery juice or want to listen to a device without bluetooth connection, it's just as simple as plugging included cable and going wired. As a matter of fact, while paired up with my Note 2, I was going back'n'forth wired and wireless by connecting and disconnecting the cable. And speaking of cables, both usb to micro-usb and audio cables were included and neatly stored inside of the inner pocket of hard shell case. Both of the cables are crafted with black'n'blue theme, felt very heavy duty with a nice shielding and overall cool design details. I tested and found included usb cable to be ONLY for charging, not for data transfer. The audio cable has in-line remote with a single multi-function button and built-in mic. Multi-function button worked perfectly with Android devices with single click play/pause/call controls, double-click to skip next and triple-click to skip prev to control playback of music tracks. I also thought it was a great idea for the side of the connector going to your phone/tablet to be angled for a better strain relief.

With design and built quality covered, here comes the most important part - the sound quality. According to their website, these are professionally tuned 40mm drivers, and from my personal experience you always have to burn in these before starting to judge the sound. I did give it initial 4+ hours of burn in connected wired to my laptop while running white/pink noise loop. That really made a sound delivery shine and brought up a lot of details and clarity. That is normal and expected from true high quality drivers. Once I had them on, I couldn't put it down going through my collection of music. Another important point to note, I switched to using Neutron media player (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.neutroncode.mp) and would HIGHLY recommend only to use that player for your audio if you want to unlock true potential of your multimedia phone or tablet. Don't get discouraged with enormous array of settings and control options. Take your time and you will really appreciate quality of it's 32/64-bit audio processing engine and audiophile controls. But audio player can only bring up the best of the source and in order to hear that you need drivers that can translate it into analog sound delivered to your ears. SYNC by 50 truly DELIVERED it with a perfectly balanced sound across entire frequency range with an extra bump in powerful bass delivery, yet without overpowering or distorting it, a vibrant mids and crisp highs sounding clear and natural, bringing vocals right in your face surrounded by details of other instruments around them. I'm not going to lie and tell you these sound better than my audiophile $400 UE900, but for wireless headphones these sound truly incredible, thanks to BT4.0 + aptX. I was also pleased with a soundstage of these and how clearly I was able to hear position of every sound. The dynamics and clarify also held very well over the whole volume range. While doing a/b comparison between wireless and wired, I can only mention a slight improvement in sound width and a few more sparkling details of high frequencies with wires on. Also I should mention while taking/making calls, sound was great and people on the other side had no complains except while connected wireless they felt my voice was a bit distant verses wired using in-line remote/mic.

Overall, I was VERY impressed with SYNC by 50 on-ear wireless headphones. Everything from the design details to controls and sound quality was executed perfectly. I have seen and read before about their previous over-ear wireless model with KLEER technology, but was put off by a need to use separate wireless transmitter. Looks like SMS Audio done their homework and put a lot of thought into improving the design while also following the latest technology trend of BT4.0+aptX, and that really paid off! If I have to think of some negatives, I would say not being able to know how much charge is left in the battery since there is no led or voice prompt indicator (unless I missed it), and also assuming some people with big size heads might find these headphones to be a bit tight on their nugget, judging this by my average size head where I felt fitment to be very comfortable but perhaps closer to it's limit in terms of tightness. Currently, you can only get these directly from www.smsaudio.com website and they retail for $229 and come in shadow black or cool silver. It is pricey, but considering design and sound quality, as well as factor of brand name recognition, these are a much better value then Beats. Plus keep in mind, once it becomes available on Amazon, you probably will be able to get a better discount deal. Definitely gets my recommendation!

Here are the pictures.


























































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Old October 15th, 2013, 09:23 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Excellent review! You are man after my own heart with such a detailed review and the photos - I do the same thing!

I have been waiting for some decent BT headphones for quite a long time. When I went into Verizon last Thursday to buy the new Note 3 (which is awesome, btw) I noticed that Bose finally put out a set.

I know most audiophile types pan the Bose 'colored' sound, but I love them. However, a quick look at the headphones and they were pretty ugly with a stupid looking protrusion for the controls.

Anyway, your review was great, I like the emphasis on the low end because I'm a bass head and love the thump. I do have a large head so I worry about ear fatigue if they are too tight. I had that with the Bose on-ear models they made a while back and ended up going with a set of the QC-15's. Truth be told, I've been waiting for the next generation of the Bose QC series to be BT.

I think when Amazon final get's the SMS phones I'll give them a try as I can always return if they are uncomfortable. The packing says, "Passive noise-cancellation" - is that just the dampened sound from the on-ear padding?

Also, can you review or detail that music app some more? I'm an app junkie and already own a couple paid music apps and have at least four standalone music apps on my player (not to mention the five streaming services). Can you detail what makes this app so good, what the converter engine essentially does? I have large CD collection that I've ripped a fair amount of but I didn't do it in the highest bit rate. Truth be told, my hearing is pretty bad from a hearing loss suffered in the military. I have chronic tinnitus and they ring ALL the time so being able to enjoy subtle improvements from high end phones or apps is unrealistic, but I can still hear and enjoy quality. Music is the single biggest thing I use my phone for so I like have the best quality I can enjoy.

Thanks for taking the time and answering my questions.
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Old October 15th, 2013, 11:45 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Regarding the headband size, it is adjustable/expandable so there is definite a room to grow. My only concerns that an actual distance between cans might be a bit narrow. In theory that is compensated by very generous size of marshmallow earpads (and they really feel like fluffy marshmallows ). So perhaps with extra stretch it will still be comfortable.

Noise canceling is Passive which for this kind of a design preferable. This is on-ear, not over-ear headphones, and they will seal your ears very well from outside noise. I absolutely hate implementation of active noise canceling in most of the headphones (except Bose). That annoying hissing noise gets on my nerves and ruins quite parts of the song by raising the noise level. Beats and others implement active noise canceling by simply sampling outside noise, inverting it, and summing together with original waveform to cancel it out. There is hardly any other post sampling or filtering, thus you get hissing noise. In this case, passive noise canceling is adequate.

Regarding Neutron Media Player - Neutron Music Player , it's 32-/64-bit audio processing will have a better resolution/representation of original audio signal (just think of it as pixitaled lo-res picture versus smooth hi-res picture), and you have 3 ways of how to resample the signal (fast to save cpu, medium, or audiophile quality). Plus, it does dithering of the signal to smooth out digital distortion. Furthermore, it has crossfeed dsp audio effect for adjustment of stereo separation while listening on headphones. Plus it has very accurate parametric EQ where it transparently adjust the sound. There is a very accurate Rumble DSP filter to cut any noise below 20Hz (you can do that with a regular EQ without cutting a big chunk of low frequency band), you can normalize your tracks for uniform sound level, enable audio gain processing, apply surround effect, etc. A lot of controls for headphone and smart phone use. One of the most fantastic controls is enabling Proximity Sensor to control your music. So while you playing a song you wave your hand once to skip to next song, twice to go to prev track, and cover proximity sensor to stop/pause and again to resume. There is a ton more options and setting to go through. Plus, once you register on Google Play (free version is trial for 5 days, then it cost $4.99 for the app), you can go to their webpage and get special Neutron+Neon optimized version (works great on Samsung device, on my Note 2 or yours Note 3) and it actually accelerate the performance by almost 40%. I highly recommend this app!
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Old October 15th, 2013, 12:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Sounds really cool. Looks like I'm about to buy yet another music player. I'll let you know if I do, and what I think.
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Old October 15th, 2013, 12:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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When you say "accelerate performance by 40%" can you tell me what you mean by that? Is the performance slow due to some sort of on-the-fly conversion of bit rates, or something like that? Do you notice any sort of lag time when playing songs?
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Old October 15th, 2013, 12:20 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Methos1979 View Post
When you say "accelerate performance by 40%" can you tell me what you mean by that? Is the performance slow due to some sort of on-the-fly conversion of bit rates, or something like that? Do you notice any sort of lag time when playing songs?
Once you first install it, it feels a big laggy switching between screens or when it starts playing and cpu load was a lot higher. That new "Neon" version takes advantage of some kind of processor hardware acceleration instructions.

I would definitely recommend getting their free trial version from Google Play, and also download and install ARMv7+Neon version from their page: Download to see the difference.
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