In the past, most of our reviews have focused on mobile devices, but since we try to cover everything mobile, we thought we’d cover a product that goes hand-and-hand with mobile devices, headphones. With phones, MP3 players and now tablets allowing us to have all our favorite content on the go, sometimes listening to that content without a headset can be annoying to those around us. While there are plenty of headsets out there, from in-ear, on-ear and over-the-ear to low-end, mid-range and finally high-end prices, for those of you looking for a quality experience for a decent price, we’re going to be looking at the SOUL by Ludacris SL100s.
The first thing you’ll notice about SOUL headphones is that they are not Beats by Dr. Dre and to be brutally honest, that’s a good thing. Beats headphones were created by Monster Inc. in collaboration with rap mogul Dr. Dre, a deal which is set to expire later this year. Monster Inc, is known for its notoriously over priced products, adding little value to their products, which are then over promoted to the point where Monster can then charge a premium for something that doesn’t do anything better than an equally made counterpart with less marketing muscle. When you combine that with the star power of Dr. Dre, you get a product that is extremely over-priced that produces sub-par sound. Beats has caught on as the popular brand simply because of the slick logo and marketing power, but there are better headphones out there, for less money and the SL100s by SOUL is one of them.
SOUL headphones are manufactured by Signeo, a company who has been involved in AV and Audio products since 1997, who teamed with rap superstar and actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and created a series of headphones that are not only more comfortable than Beats, but produce a better sound for less money. The SL100s are comparable to the Beat by Dr. Dre “Solo” line, both are on-ear headphones and produce heavy bass, but unfortunately for the Beats Solo, that’s where the “magic” fizzles. The SOUL SL100s, at least in my tests, not only produced deep thumping base, but also very clear mids and high’s. I initially tested the SL100s with music, first with artists like Ludacris (it seemed appropriate) Pitbull, Eminem, and Jay-Z, I then switched genres to groups like Foster the People, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Black Keys, Jack White and Civil Twilight for a different style of music, all the sound, in both genres seemed clear, even at a high volume. The SL100s also added a touch of base to the alternative music, but in a way that worked and didn’t interfere or feel forced, it just felt as though the music was enhanced and not overproduced with bass, unlike Beats by Dr. Dre.
As I said earlier, mobile devices like phones and tablets are a part of our daily lives, so I decided to test the SL100s with Netflix and watch the film “Immortals” with upcoming “Man of Steel” star, Henry Cavill. The film, which feels like an unofficial sequel to 300—and even shares the same producers—is action packed with a lot of heavy music, that when combined with the SOUL SL100s, really lets you feel every heart thumping battle to every sword piercing stab. I was really amazed at the level of sound I was receiving from a streaming movie via Netflix on my Nexus 7 tablet. I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just the film, Netflix or the Nexus 7 producing the sound, so I switched out my SL100s for a pair of Skull Candy ear buds that cost me $19.99, the result was exactly as I had anticipated, the Skull Candy ear buds sounded flat and hollow, letting me hear the movie, but not feel it as the SL100s had done. Next, I switched to an old pair of over the ear Sennheisers I’ve had for a few years, which I had thought to be a great pair of headphones—seeing how I paid $129 for them—but they too couldn’t match the sound of the SL100s. I also decided to test the SL100s with an iPad and a great racing game from FireMonkeys (formerly FireMint) called Real Racing 2, and let me tell you, the experience was phenomenal. The sounds of the engines, the screeching of the tires, to the music, everything sounded enhanced and crystal clear. It almost felt as though the game had been developed with the SL100s in mind, or at least a comparable headset.
The SL100′s have a great faux leather cushion on each ear pad that feels very comfortable, enough for me to watch the entire two hour movie without my ears sweating or feeling compressed. Under the bridge (the part that spans your head) there is another faux leather padding which has a nice cross stitch pattern, giving the SL100s a quality look and feel. While there’s no actual noise cancellation feature on the SL100s, the on-ear design actually creates a nice seal with your ear and when you’re playing music or audio, you’ll barely hear anything around you.
At this point, I was pretty much sold on the SL100′s but there was one last thing I wanted to test the SL100s on, a Beats by Dr. Dre owner. I called my nephew who owns a bright green pair of Beats Solo headphones and told him I wanted him to try out these new SOUL headphones by Ludacris. His first reaction was yeah, okay, whatever. He already it in his mind that because Beats was more widely known, the fact that he owned a pair and that his were more expensive, that the must be better. I let him plug in the SL100 into his iPod Touch and fire up his own music selection, he started off nodding his head to the beat, his eyes started pacing back and forth, suddenly the sound got his attention, he looked at me and gave me a smile, not a smirk. After about a minute and half, he took them off and said, “Damn, those are sweet, I really like how clear they sound when I turned up the volume, my Beats tend to crack a little when I get to loud.” He was reeling, dazed, I had to go for the finisher, I told him they cost $50 less than his and said, “Oh come on Uncle Mike, why didn’t you tell me this three weeks ago?”
I do have a few minor complaints that I feel I need to share as well, the SL100 comes with two audio cables, a standard cable that will allow you to use your headphones on pretty much any device that plugs into any 3.5mm jack and another that features a microphone and audio controls, this cord allows users to control the music on their iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and even accept incoming calls, assuming you’re using an iPhone. The bad part is that this features isn’t available for other devices using Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry. I also had the headphones slide forward on my head quite a few times, even with the arms set to the smallest size, but this could be due to the fact my head is shaved and thus it makes my head slick and smaller than those of you with hair. Lastly, I’d like to see more color choices, right now there are only three variations of the SL100 (and the SL150), black and red, black and blue and finally an orange and black gradient model.
Overall, I can’t say enough nice things about the SOUL by Ludacris SL100 headphones, for only $149.99, you not only get a stylish pair of headphones, but you also get comfort, quality and amazing sound to boot. I highly recommend that if you are in the market for a high-end pair of headphones, visit your local Best Buy, or a retailer that sells SOUL by Ludacris, and try a pair out for yourself. I think you’ll agree, that the SOUL SL100s are proof that quality performance and comfort doesn’t always need to cost more, sometimes you end up paying more for marketing and brand name, but with the SOUL SL100s, you get all of that and peace of mind, without the buyers remorse.