SMSEarbudsLead.jpgSMS (Studio Mastered Sound) Audio is a rising force in the growing market of headphones and earbuds. Founded by Curtis Jackson (known better as the rapper 50 Cent,) SMS has become a high quality, trusty alternative for your musical needs. In recent years, they’ve even launched full scale sponsorships in many sports, notably NASCAR and Mixed Martial Arts. As they continue to improve their technology, you get to see all sorts of interesting innovation coming from them. You’ll see what I mean throughout this review.

Today, we’re going to take a look at 2 sets of earbuds. First is the rechargeable bluetooth “Sync by 50” set made for all of your workouts or day to day commutes. Then, we’ll take a look at the SMS BioSport earbuds which are designed for all of your tougher and more strenuous workouts. At the heart of BioSport’s technology is Intel power and a functioning built-in heartrate monitor. Pretty neat isn’t it? Let’s get started with SMS Sync by 50.

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SMS Sync by 50

SMS Sync by 50 earbuds (pictured in black but also available with blue trim) are a smaller version of the popular over-ear headphones of the same name. The first thing you will notice when you pull these out of the box is how nice and simply designed they are. The earbuds themselves appear as they are, with no visible plugs or ports. They come with an accompanying USB to micro USB cable, and the latter plugs into the earbuds (if you expose the hidden input behind one of the earpieces) to charge on your PC.

Since the whole thing is Bluetooth based, you’re obviously going to have to pair them before you get started. It wasn’t the easiest pairing experience but I had it going within about 2 minutes and a few tries without instructions. As with most Bluetooth sets, there’s a very obvious pairing mode where you hold the power button down and the main light (located on the left earbud in this case) flashes red and blue until you’ve successfully paired the device. You have about a 30 second window before the device stops attempting to pair. It’s more than enough time. Once my iPhone located the signal, it took about 10 seconds for the devices to sync and then off I went listening to music and playing my mobile vice of the month (Fallout Shelter.)

I thought the sound quality on these were great and better than most earbuds out there. The problem you get with a lot of earbuds nowadays is an unrefined, often treble-heavy sound. While you’re never going to get the same bass tones you get with actual headphones, too many alleged “high quality” earbuds project your music like you’re listening to music from an 80s AM clock radio. The music coming out of these are loud and definitely more than enough then you’ll need for a good workout or commute.

On that note, the signal range on these earbuds are alright. I was able to walk around 20-25 feet away before the signal started to break which was a little less than the 10 metres the product claims but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt given the number of wireless signals bouncing throughout my house. However, I admit this was in a straight line between my living room and kitchen. Once I purposefully obstructed the signal in any way (ie. walking behind a wall,) the signal usually broke. While I would doubt highly that you’ll be that far out of range of your device, keep this in mind in case you’re a bit of a wanderer like I am.

My only PERSONAL gripe was comfort-based. It will take a little while for you to get these to properly fit in your ears. Even with the 3 sizes of rubber earpieces included, I had a bit of trouble figuring out to wear these and how they fit the best. I found that the rubber ear pieces slipped a little bit too often on my ears even with the little earguards in place. This meant that on my ears, it always felt like there was a bit of a lopsided fit and it was always on the right side, even when I tried wearing the left bud on my right ear.

Sync by 50 are considered to be sweat and water resistant, meaning they’re tailored with your workouts in mind. They come with an IPX4 ingress protection rating. For something to obtain this measure, it will have had to have been splashed with around 10 litres of water for at least 5 minutes. You may have the sweatiest workouts at the gym (and if you do, I hope you actually wipe down the equipment when you’re down) and that’s alright as far as SMS is concerned. There’s no worry of your own sweat shorting out these earbuds.

The main downfall to the earbuds in general is one thing that some will find beneficial and some won’t. The earbuds are solely for bluetooth devices. There are no wired options for this at all. This means that if you have an older mp3 device (like my iPod classic which I’ll remain loyal to until the day it dies,) these are automatically a no go for you. This was a bit disappointing to me considering the sound quality was so rich, but at the same time there are more of you using your phones as music players, or newer than 2008 mp3 players. The lightweight wirelessness is great and my compatibility disappointment aside, it’s very easy to take on the go with you. In fact, they’ve regularly been with me at work to pull out and use on my lunch breaks even though I’ve had trouble with the fit (which could just be an awkwardly shaped ear canal for all I know.) I just charge them at my desk in the morning and they’re good to go with me on whatever I’m doing that lunch, whether it be actually eating something (unlikely) or running an errand (likelier.)

SMS BioSport

BioSportLead.jpgSMS BioSport is up next, and when I had originally heard about the fact that these had a heart-rate monitor on-board, I was a bit skeptical. After all, everything nowadays claims to be able to measure your heart-rate it seems. There’s even an app that I saw that can measure your heart-rate through your camera’s phone. Seriously? Anyway, color me intrigued.

The BioSport earbud set, by the way, IS wired, so it plugs into your music devices through a traditional aux jack. There are no batteries involved-Simply plug in and get going. For what it’s worth, BioSport also has an IPX4 Ingress Protection rating.

RunKeeperLogo.jpgLastly, BioSport also includes a heart monitor which tracks your heartrate if you have it plugged into a device that is running a supported app. It also comes with 1 month free of RunKeeper Elite, a full service stat-tracking, deadline managing, progress monitoring app system. While the basic features of RunKeeper are free, the Elite service is around $40 a year (or $10 a month with a pay as you go.) RunKeeper hangs onto your stats for life and leverages your progress compared to your other

MattBioSport.jpgOne thing you will notice immediately is the size of the earpieces on these which are far larger than most other earbuds. The bud shape is designed as such so that sweat can’t collect in the ear canal and drip into the earbuds themselves. They also fit a bit more snugly in your ears which is good for those of you running or playing sports that require a lot of movement. Honestly, they don’t look very comfortable when you pick them out of the box for the first time. However, once you’ve worn them and have had them on for a full workout, they’re no less or no more comfortable than any other earbud. I don’t tend to think earbuds are very comfortable to begin with, but I’d put these in the upper half of that category among the dozens I’ve owned, tested or reviewed over the years. I tend to go through earbuds more than the average person because I’m a bit finicky about the fit and comfort and I don’t like the bulkiness of ear cans for my day to day activities. The sound quality itself is fine; again inline with many other earbuds I’ve tested lately. 

RunKeeperGPS.pngThe heartbeat monitor is extremely accurate. It’s not immediately on so you have to activate it through the switch on the attached control. This threw me for a loop the first time I went for a walk and got no results, but it pays to read the instructions I suppose. The RunKeeper app’s GPS feature, however, is not and you’ll really want to keep this in mind if you’re doing an awkward hike or are walking stairs in your office or something to that effect. The GPS is measured through your mobile device and as such, if you’re walking in overlapping circles on different floors or taking elevators at all throughout whatever you’re doing, the distance walked (and likely calorie burning) data is skewed. At one point, I put everything into my pocket while I walked through my office building dropping some papers off to a couple different floors. When I returned from this quick errand, RunKeeper was sure that I had walked much farther than I had and said I’d burned a lot more calories than a couple flights of stairs and an elevator ride normally do. Needless to say, tread a bit lightly on the data if your paths crossover a lot and you’re not on flat terrain like a track. If you want to see this awkward journey tracked on, check the picture to the right. Below is an example of how your heartbeat is tracked in progress during a walk.

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I really like this as an alternative to regular wearables. I don’t personally like wearing watches and things on my wrists and the BioSport tracks things well enough for my liking. BioSport allows me to track enough results to keep me satisfied and the music sounds great. I have no gripes whatsoever in recommending this to anybody and would definitely agree put this in discussion for anybody that’s looking for a pair of earbuds or an entry level wearable for their workouts.

Both the SMS Sync by 50 and SMS BioSport earbuds are now available at your local Best Buy and BestBuy.ca