When I review headphones or earphones, I love to be surprised. Soul Electronics can best be described as hip hop star Ludacris’s answer to Dr. Dre’s Beats lineup of bass monsters. Soul has a good selection of headphones, earphones in many price ranges. This review will cover the SL150CB Pro Hi-Definition On-Ear Headphones. That’s a mouthful, but mostly, it’s a mouthful of crow that I have to swallow. Before hearing the SL150, I would have sworn that the bass would overpower everything else to the point of distraction. After all, this is a hip hop branded headphone, so that’s a given. Right?
Wrong. Very, very wrong. I am totally shocked by how UN-bass heavy the SL150 phones are. But I’m even more shocked by how accurate the bass is. I was not expecting this! It doesn’t seem to matter what I listen to; the music (especially bass) sounds detailed, warm and fun. Is the bass heavier than other headphones? In some cases, absolutely. But here it doesn’t matter because the mid and high frequencies are given as much attention as the bass.
Soundstage – that feeling of instrument and vocalist placement around you – is represented fairly well with the SL150. Keep in mind that these are on-ear closed-back headphones, so any aural space will not be as airy sounding as open-backed headphones. Then again, you can’t listen to open-backed headphones in a quiet office or while commuting because people around you can hear what you hear. So, getting any soundstage with closed-back phones is a plus.
I appreciate the way the SL150 will pick up little subtleties in certain songs. One of the things I always liked about the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever” from the album “Magical Mystery Tour” was that it is ever-so-slightly out of tune. Things don’t quite happen when expected on this song, and the newer 2009 remix brings out so much. The SL150 allows you to appreciate just how good the Fab Four were with rediscovered subtleties and detail.
“Baby, You’re So Strange”, from the Australian group Icehouse, has a bass undercurrent overlaid with a horn section that competes with distortion-laden guitar. It’s a sonically wonderful mess that gets louder and louder until it abruptly crashes with an ironic comment, “You’re weird, man” from lead singer Iva Davies . The SL150 handles it all by allowing individual instruments to be heard within the dense wall-of-sound.
A real bass test is Lou Reed’s classic “Walk On the Wild Side.” If your speakers don’t buzz with distortion on this song, then you probably have decent speakers. The SL150 exhibited no buzzing, even when pushed to a painful volume level. Later in the song, when the now famous saxophone solo comes in, it’s not muffled by the bottom end. This tells me that not only can any basshead appreciate these headphones, but that people preferring a more accurate sound can like them just as much for entirely different reasons.
The SL150 is constructed in shiny plastic, leather, and stainless steel. The steel serves as a skeleton for the headband. The outer covering is almost all plastic. The black on chrome look is masculine, with the logo prominently placed on each ear cup and at the top of the headband. There are blue and white versions for those wanting a brighter look. Unfortunately, they are all fingerprint magnets.
The SL150 folds into a compact shape for easy storage in a form-fitted case. This zippered case is sturdy and felt-lined with a caribiner for attaching to a backpack loop. There are two sets of replaceable cords: one with a mic for making/receiving calls with play/pause/skip capabilities and one without.
Another feature of the SL150 is comfort. The ear cups rotate a bit, which helps with fit. These are on-ear, so they are lighter and more compact than over-ear phones. The leather-covered cups and quilted headband are both thick and soft. I’ve been listening to the SL150 for almost two months straight at my office, sometimes up to 6 straight hours with no issues other than “headphone hair” when removed. That’s appreciated, because there are headphones costing much more that I can only wear for a couple of hours until they become uncomfortable. Longterm comfort is not as easy to achieve as one might think.
The headphone snaps open with a satisfying click, but pulling the earpiece down is not as precise as it could be in this price range. There is plenty of flexibility in bending and twisting the headband. It feels well constructed as long as you don’t abuse them.
The Soul by Ludacris SL150 headphone is a first-rate headphone. What I find interesting – and a little bit funny – is that many people will buy these headphones solely because of the celebrity association that’s so common today. However, take away that name brand with its bling look, and the SL150 will still compete with any headphone in its price range – and then some.
I wonder if crow tastes like chicken?