This is Part 4 of a four-part Playback report and new headphone, earphone, and personal audio products seen at CES 2012. This section of the report covers products from: Skullcandy, SMS Audio, Stax, Urbanears/Zounds, Velodyne, V-MODA, Waterfall, WESC, Westone, and Woo Audio.
I’ve been tracking developments at Skullcandy for some years, noting with interest (and a certain amount of bewilderment) the incredible proliferation of models and SKU’s (stock keeping units). Seriously, the last time I visited the Skullcandy web site, I found the firm offered no less than 24 (count ‘em) discrete models, with numerous color/décor variations for each. That’s an awfully broad product line to keep track of.
At CES 2012, I saw signs Skullcandy was taking first steps toward streamlining and perhaps simplifying its future offerings by rallying them around one common theme, which Skullcandy terms its “Supreme Sound” initiative. This is a good thing, since it marks a point where a major, internationally-recognized headphone/earphone manufacturer is essentially driving a stake in the ground and saying, “at the end of the day, sound quality must come first.” Refreshingly, then, Skullcandy has developed demo stations (which could presumably be made available for use in retail outlets) that attempt to show what’s wrong the inaccurate and highly-colored voicing of many headphone products, and thus to show what’s right about Skullcandy’s “Supreme Sound”-qualified products.
As specific examples of headphone and earphones designed to put sound quality first, Skullcandy is focusing specifically on the four of its twenty-four models: the Mix Master DJ-style headphones (starting at $249.99), the Aviator over-the-ear headphones (starting at $149.99), the Fix earphones ($69.99), and the entry-level Hesh over-the-ear headphones (starting at $49.99), which one Skullcandy spokesperson described as, “…the best $50 headphone you’re ever likely to hear.”
50Cent is not just a contemporary artist; he’s a global brand complete with essential merchandize including clothing, personal accessories, and—you guessed it—his own line of headphones produced by SMS Audio (indeed, the URL for SMS Audio is smsby50.com).
The are actually three different SMS by 50 models: the Street by 50 earphone ($129.95), the Street by 50 passive, over-the-ear headphone ($299.95), and the Sync by 50 wireless, over-the-ear headphone ($399.95). The Street by 50 over-the-ear headphones are nicely finished, features 40mm drivers, and is said to offer “professional studio sound” with “enhanced bass.” The Sync by 50 wireless model provides “16-bit lossless digital sound,” uses “custom 40mm drivers,”
incorporates “professionally tuned digital EQ,” and provides onboard controls for volume levels, muting, and bass boost. The Sync has a range of about 50 feet, and is designed so that up to four Sync headphones can be, well, synced to a single source component.
In what can often feel like a selfish “every man for himself” world, I’m pleased to report that SMS Audio is a supporter of the Feed America program where the official offer is as follows: “For each domestic purchase of a headphone at smsaudio.com, SMS Audio will donate 250 meals to Feeding America."