With the headphones market booming we've often seen increasing price tags for products that don't always mean better sound or build quality. Not so the Sennheiser Urbanite on-ear headphones: these affordable £150 cans don't scrimp on sound, style or build quality.
As fans of the company's lightweight Momentum On-Ear headphones from last year, do the more affordable yet bulkier Urbanites fill a necessary gap in Sennheiser's line-up? We've been donning a pair of the blue denim-clad cans for a couple of weeks to find out.
You read that subheading correctly: the Urbanite headphones are finished in fabric. But far from feeling like there's a pair of jeans wrapped around your noggin, it's a subtle effect across the top of the headband, complete with detailed stitching. Not only does it look cool, it adds a textured element to the finish that we much prefer to many of the budget plasticky finishes we've seen all too often.
Our review Urbanite sample came in blue, but there are black, brown (sand), purple (plum), and a beige with blue combination featuring red earcups (Nation) also available. Plenty of choice there then.
There are metal hinges keeping the adjustable-height foam-padded earcups in place, which also cater for the space-saving folding design. Push the earcups up towards the headband and they'll occupy less space in your bag.
However, we found the earcups' foam pad covers aren't held into place as rigidly as we would like as they have come off on a number of occasions and are fiddly to get back on. Also the folding design may have its use for transportation - and there's a simple carry pouch included - but keep an eye on your hands as we've caught fingers and skin in the hinges when unfolding sometimes.
But irrelevant of that, for the £150 asking price the mixture of premium materials and comfortable overall wear make the Urbanite range an undeniably tempting proposition. We find the lightweight finish of the Momentum On-Ear to be preferable when out and about, but the Urbanite on-ears have already become our go-to work headphones when tied to the desk.
With regards to comfort, as with any headphones you may need a little patience. At first we found the Urbanites to press a little too much against the ears, but extended wear has seen that pinch soften to an ample grip that's no longer excessive, while the single piece soft headband is comfortable up top and stops the 260g cans slipping around.
It goes without saying: the reason to buy headphones is for overall audio quality. And just like their eye-catching design, the Sennheiser Urbanite on-ears deliver an equally standout audio experience.
From use on the London tube, to the big metal tube in the sky, in addition to our desk-based wear we've taken these cans with us on journeys long and short to plug into some tunes. And not once have they disappointed.
A single twist-lock 3.5mm jack plugs into the 'phones and includes a volume control suitable for Apple and non-Apple devices (you select which when ordering). It's a non-tangle cable, that's flat rather than rounded, which has remained relatively well in shape whether tucked down a shirt, plugged into a phone, a plane's audio system, or anywhere you might want to plug in.
Despite the Android volume warnings on our smartphone, we've been able to crank the volume high - output is measured as 118dB maximum - and there's no discernible distortion. We gave Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon (Remastered) a start-to-finish listen and from buzzing synths to chirpy hi-hats, through to mid-range sax and choir every element of the 1973 classic sat firmly in place.
But that's not our typical listen, nor likely the Sennheiser target audience. It's a company that delivers great balance for electronic music, with burbling bass delivered effortlessly whatever genre you happen to listen to. With a 16hz low-end capability, sub bass is not a problem, but the Urbanites bathe you in the low-end rather than dunking you in to drown like some other brands.
Snappy snares and high-end still cut through the low-end with the right amplitude and thanks to a 22,000Hz maximum frequency response you won't miss anything. Indeed, most of us can't even hear all the way up to 20,000Hz. So whether you want those kick-drums to thump in a loud mixdown or listen to less-compressed ambience the full frequency range is covered.
As with the Momentum On-Ear headphones the Urbanites don't offer noise-cancellation though. For us that's not a deal-breaker at this price point, particularly as the design nestles the drivers to the ears enough to avoid too much sound leaking. Your surrounding commuters will appreciate that.
We have very few if any moans about the Sennheiser Ubranite on-ear headphones' sound quality. It's not a neutral listen, though, so if that's what you're after then perhaps Bowers & Wilkins or another brand will better cater to your needs. But for a bright, colourful and bassy listen that doesn't over-stretch things the Sennhesier balance is just right.
Our only real complaints regard the foam pads coming off the earcups from time to time and getting the odd finger pinch from the folding hinges when not looking what we've been doing. We also find the company's lighter weight Momentum On-Ears to be more comfortable for on-the-go listening.
But irrelevant of those qualms, the sheer quality of audio from these well-designed cans makes them worth every penny of their £150 asking price. Some competitors would charge twice as much as that and yet deliver nothing more in terms of style, build or sound quality.