Review: Urbanista London wireless earbuds – slough far, slough good
Solid earbuds at a predictable price point.
Wireless earphones are ten-a-penny. The market is flooded with a dizzying array of options, catering to a wide variety of price ranges. Still, some still manage to make an impact, like the affordable and well-rounded Urbanista London.
I’ve been impressed with the output from Urbanista in the past. The Swedish brand has a very distinct playbook. Firstly, all its headphones are named after cities. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, although I do look forward to the day when options run dry and they’re forced to name some buds after Hackensack, New Jersey.
The Urbanista London faithfully follows tradition, both in the sense that London is a city (in both Canada and England, although we all know who got there first), and that with a price tag of $149 they’re neither cheap nor budget-busting. Nonetheless, these buds manage to shoehorn in almost every feature you’d conceivably want in a premium offering, including active noise cancellation and wireless charging.
Look and feel
Like a London hackney cab, the Urbanista London reviewed by this correspondent comes clad entirely in black. Visually distinguishing features are few and far between, although the front of the charging contains an LED battery monitor. Meanwhile, the Urbanista logo is embossed prominently on the top of the charging case.
Could you pick them out of a police line-up? Probably not. But then again, looks aren’t everything — what about build quality?
Well, let’s start with the charging case. In terms of construction, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The chassis is clad in a matte plastic that picks up fingerprints like a magpie picks up loose change. It’s also not the heaviest or sturdiest casing in the world, making one question whether it could survive a particularly nasty drop onto the asphalt.
Nonetheless, it does manage to win points with the lid mechanism, which stays put via magnetic force, and closes with a hugely satisfying snap. Meanwhile, the individual buds are guided to their charging pins via a magnet, and I’m yet to find that one has charged while the other came loose.
The buds themselves are fairly small, but do come with the same dangling antenna found on the AirPods, making them easy to put in and take out. And they’re light, making them comfortable to wear for long stretches.
On the side, you’ll find touch-sensitive controls that allow you to activate Siri, turn on noise cancellation, and so on. Sadly, these are very hit-and-miss. That said, capacitive controls on earbuds are almost always dreadful. This is largely a flaw of the form factor, rather than the Urbanista London.
Battery and sound
One piece of advice I repeat to any prospective wireless earbuds buyer is they should lower their expectations. Really, you’re paying a premium for a particular form factor. Everything else — from sound to battery performance — comes second. If you’re concerned about those two metrics, you’ll get more bang for your buck looking elsewhere.
And that is evident in the Urbanista London. In terms of listening quality and ANC, they’re solid — good, even. But they struggle to hold a candle to similarly-priced over-ear cans. The noise cancellation can spare your favorite podcast from the drone of passing cars, but some inevitably creeps in.
Similarly, the sound quality is solid, with a well-balanced profile that avoids falling into the “bass trap” of consumer-oriented buds. But similarly, it’s not exactly the most distinguished and detailed listening experience you’ll ever have.
One area where it does well is battery life, or more specifically, charging. The inclusion of USB-C isn’t something that can be taken for granted. Likewise, being able to recharge your buds by plonking them on a compatible Qi mat is another nice touch — and one typically the preserve of pricier offerings.
Overall, you can get 25 hours of playback time between charges, depending on conditions (like whether you’ve turned ANC on or not). This felt about right, in our testing.
On a happier note, I can’t fault the Urbanista London is call quality. I’m yet to encounter any issues where the opposite party can’t hear me clearly, and I’ve made calls walking my dogs on busy streets, with plenty of passing traffic.
Are the Urbanista London earbuds worth it?
Ultimately, the Urbanista London delivers on what it promises, and is one of the stronger offerings in the $150 mark. Although its design is unremarkable, ergonomics are satisfactory. Meanwhile, battery performance is nothing short of outstanding.
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