The Soul Electronics SL300s are the flagship model of a line of headphones designed and curated by hip-hop artist Ludacris. With their active noise cancellation, fold-up design, and sexy features, these headphones are undoubtedly in direct competition with the Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Studio, but with an important difference: you can still listen to music through the Soul headphones even if you don't engage the powered isolation switch. And with a handful of accessories like the hard-shell case and two detachable cables included for the same $300 price, we're secure in recommending these headphones for "modern music" enthusiasts with a sartorial edge.
Design and features
The SL300 headphones come in two colors--black/white and gold, both of which are designed to communicate a certain style whether you wear them worn on your head or resting around your neck. The emphasis on style extends to the argyle pattern stitched into the leather. They also have status-symbol aspirations, evidenced by the small tactile button on the inside of the headphones that toggles a glowing white LED around the Soul branding on the outside of the earcups.
In terms of their actual fit, the headphones have minimal contact points on your head aside from the leather padding underneath the headband and on the earcups. We found them more comfortable to wear over long listening sessions than the Beats. You'll also notice a considerable amount of flex in the plastic housing, and while we don't recommend you use these headphones for DJing a party, the expandable width of the earpieces relative to the headband allows for a universal fit across a wide range of head sizes.
A small right and left indicator located on the inside of the hardware helps distinguish the cups, but you can also take cues from the power switch on the left earcup that turns on the powered noise cancellation. An important difference to note between these headphones and the Beats is that the SL300s can still play music even if you happen to lose power to the noise cancellation, although you'll notice a serious drop in sonic clarity since the internal equalizer boost only works with the isolation engaged. Regardless, it's a useful feature to have when you don't have access to another pair of AA batteries (two are included in the package to get you started).
The left and right earcup arms fold into the headband of the SL300's for transportable storage in the hard carrying case you get in the box, and there's also a small carabineer attached if you're courageous enough to carry them around on your belt loop or backpack. We also appreciate the small webbed netting pocket inside the case with room for the detachable cables you get with the SL300s--one with a microphone and in-line smartphone remote control for playback navigation, and another flat cable for just listening to music. They both feature a straight plug on the side that goes into the headphone with an angled plug on the opposite end with ample length for case-covered devices.
The Soul SL300's combination of active noise cancellation and boosted equalization place these headphones in a specific niche, and these headphones are designed with a deliberate bass push meant to simulate an active subwoofer common in music genres like hip-hop, R&B, rock, and pop music. If your main buying concern for headphones is sonic clarity and balanced fidelity, then we don't recommend the SL300s.
If your focus is bass, the lively treble flares and rounded lower frequencies are similar to the Beats by Dre headphones. Whereas the bass on the Monsters feels more staggered and all over the place, we actually prefer the Soul by Ludacris headphones for their controlled sparkle and ample noise isolation.
Still, although the headphones will definitely block outside noise as you walk down the street or listen to music in the office, they also leak a lot of sound, so we don't recommend you crank the volume up on an airplane, a subway, or anywhere else where others may not want to hear your favorite Ludacris beat.
We'll also note that the limited frequency response inhibits the headphone's ability to accurately pinpoint spatial changes in music recordings; in other words, you'll have a hard time placing the location of the instruments in relation to where the microphones were placed in the recording space.
The spatial realism suffers as a result, although that won't be an issue if you're primarily listening to music with artificial instruments like drum machines and synthesizers.
The Soul by Ludacris SL300 headphones are suitable for blocking outside noise and add a colorful sonic boost to bass-heavy genres like hip-hop, house, and rock music. We recommend them over competing models like the Monster Beats by Dr. Dre headphones thanks to their more controlled low-end that doesn't sacrifice ambient noise isolation.