The best celebrity endorsed headphones

1st Jul 2012 | 09:00

The best celebrity endorsed headphones

We look at the cans designed by the music scene's top dogs so you too can walk with a limp

Celebrity endorsed in-ear headphones

If celebrity subtlety's your thing, then we have the headphones for you to add a lil' swagger to your style.

Here we look at the cans designed by the music scene's top dogs so you too can walk with a limp.

First we test in-ear headphones and then on the next page we look at over-ear headphones.

1. Monster Beats By Dre Heartbeats 2.0

Price: £120 ($190)
Manufacturer: Monster

Lady Gaga? She means business. Just check out these spiky black metallic earbuds, complete with matte anti-tangle cord and snapband-topped pouch. More gimp than pimp, the design won't be to everybody's taste - just like the gal herself.

The sound is likely to be appreciated across the board, however: it's full, clear and nicely balanced, with a rounded - though not terribly detailed - bass. Pop and other melodic genres, from folk to progressive house, all sound great.

The treble can slice a little too harshly at times, but then this is Lady Gaga - she likes it rough - sounding!

Verdict: 4/5

2. SMS Audio Street By 50

Price: £70 ($100)
Manufacturer: SMS Audio

Your first impression of Fiddy's Street in-ears is likely to be the highpoint. The packaging and rugged, yo-yo-shaped carry case are great; 50 has thoughtfully gone to the trouble of including an airplane adapter (an essential accessory for such a globe-trotting, glamorous clientele, we're sure); and although the earbuds feel a little plasticky, they look discreetly stylish in the ear.

But that's the problem - putting the things in your ear. From the muddy, bass-heavy sound to the uncomfortable, achey fit (swapping the eartips to a smaller size simply caused the bass to drop out entirely), the STREET listening experience just ain't fly.

Verdict: 2/5

3. House Of Marley Freedom Zion

Price: £70 ($100)
Manufacturer: House of Marley

House of Marley credit the late Jamaican musician as the inspiration for their eco-friendly products, and while we'll never know what the reggae icon himself would think, there's no denying that these in-ears look as cool and inviting as a rum punch on the beach.

Made from sapele wood, aluminium and recycled plastic, with cute touches like a Rastafarian flag-striped fabric cord, the Zions invoke admiration every time. The sound is unapologetically warm and bass-heavy, but it's still well balanced and detailed, with clear treble and slightly coarse mids.

Verdict: 4/5

4. Monster Beats By Dre Diddybeats

Price: £120 ($190)
Manufacturer: Monster

Here the body and anti-tangle cord are so badly weighted that the earbuds fall out of your ears every few minutes - and that's not the only reason you'll be holding your head in your hands.

The sound is pretty fair - it's well-balanced if a little muddy, with a warm, thuddy bass and snappy treble - but you'll be hard-pressed to hear anything for long, because the quality degrades as the earbuds slowly wiggle their way out. We're certain the sound isn't bad enough for our ears to eject the DiddyBeats, but that's what happens.

Verdict: 2/5

5. Soul By Ludacris SL99

Price: £90 ($140)
Manufacturer: Soul Electronics

We've been trying to avoid this obvious pun, honest we have, but the only way we can possibly describe their design is as, well, ludicrous.

With the eartip sat exposed on the end of an extended asymmetrical plastic arm, the massive, unwieldy body sticks a good inch out of your ear. Despite their aesthetic shortcomings, the sound is actually crisp, with a full, powerful bass, though the treble is overpowering at times.

We enjoyed every track we listened to, from the clear vocals and thudding bass of hip-hop to taxing full rock arrangements.

Verdict: 3/5

Celebrity endorsed over-ear headphones

over-ear lineup

1. Monster Beats By Dre Studio

Price: £280 ($440)
Manufacturer: Monster

We thought that the most influential man in hip-hop knew a thing or two about production, but now, we're not so sure. Thick, muddy sound made these the worst of all the cans we tried.

The analogue tones of hip-hop accepted the added warmth with the most grace, but vocals were a little indistinct. The active noise cancellation blocked out environmental annoyances well, although ironically, the headphones actually become one for those in close vicinity.

Verdict: 2/5

2. Skullcandy Supreme Sound Mix Master

Price: £243 ($380)
Manufacturer: Skullcandy

The Skullcandy Supreme's sound is neutral (aside for a dip in the treble), with heavy mids; it could be crisper, erring on the side of warmth, but vocals come through loud and clear.

Electronic genres are flavour of the day, sounding far more vibrant than acoustic/rock productions. Those who dabble in the wheels of steel will appreciate the swoon-inducing ambidextrous ports, easily accessible mute button and clever cue-driving, sound-isolating swivelling earcups. Great for both dancefloor and desktop warriors, but expensive.

Verdict: 3/5

3. WeSC Chambers By Rza Premium

Price: £250 ($400)
Manufacturer: WeSC

RZA is the man behind the Wu-Tang Clan, and now he hopes to conquer street style as well as street sound. Aesthetically, the RZA Premium cans do the business, looking sleek, elegant and surprisingly understated, with tiny white LEDs on the chrome earcup trim.

But it's a case of form over function: they feel flimsy and are uncomfortable, with the earcups too shallow, the headband hard and the fit loose - even looking down tests their staying power.

The sound is decent, with smooth mids and a crisp, punchy treble, though the bass is a little flabby and tracks can sound hollow at times. Hip-hop sounds great, with a heavy, warm bass, and surprisingly, rock also shines. The active noise cancellation works fairly well, though it sometimes creates an audible hiss.

Verdict: 3/5

4. SMS Audio Sync By 50

Price: £300 ($400)
Manufacturer: SMS Audio

50 isn't a man to do things by halves. These huge, white headphones are guaranteed to draw swagger-inducing glances, and the sound will attract attention, too - it's pumped-up and exciting, nicely balanced and not overly bassy. It's not totally accurate to the music, but it's a lot of fun!

All of our tracks sounded brilliant, and despite the cans' exaggerated size, they're not heavy enough to pin you to the pavement (though we can't promise this won't happen if you're in a bad neighbourhood).

The wireless element was enjoyable, making gangster scenarios such as walking to the printer or brewing tea for colleagues far less of a nuisance than normal. Onto the downsides, then: the headphones don't fold away.

Verdict: 3/5

5. Soul SL300 By Ludacris

Price: £270 ($420)
Manufacturer: Soul Electronics

The space-age SOUL SL300s are in no danger of being described as subtle, even boasting illuminated earcup badges. There might be something in the sci-fi concept, though, because once you've got these headphones clamped over your ears, you somehow enter another world.

The active noise cancelling is so effective that you're cut off from mundane reality. It's a fantastically enjoyable effect that's at its best on electronic productions, though audiophiles will likely tear their ears off.

With noise cancelling on, the sound has a mild bass boost, lively highs, held-back mids and a subtle reverb effect; without, the quality rolls off.

Verdict: 4/5

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