The headphone market is more competitive now than it has ever been with a range of wired- and wireless headphones on the market at almost every price point. While once upon a time you had to spend hundreds on a pair of high-quality wireless headphones, it’s no longer the case. In fact, you can find good headphones for under £100.
The latest release from fashion-focused tech company Urbanista, the Urbanista Seattle, offers an attractive design and wireless functionality for less than £100 – but are they worth the money? I’ve spent some time with the wireless Urbanista Seattle headphones, and here’s what I thought.
UK pricing and availability
It may seem a little expensive on the surface but when you take into consideration that the headphones are wireless and feature touch-sensitive controls, you start to understand the reasoning.
Design and features
Urbanista is a fashion-conscious brand, there’s no doubting that, and that is obvious in the design of the Seattle on-ear headphones.
The look of the headphones is based upon Scandinavian design, offering a simple, minimalistic look without compromising on functionality. They’re lightweight at only 172g and the fold-away design means they can be easily transported in a bag or rucksack.
Although the headphones look simple at a glance, they’re anything but. Take the cups for example – upon examination you may notice a power switch and a port to plug in a 3.5mm headphone jack when the battery dies, but not much else. How are you supposed to control your music without getting your phone out of your pocket?
The Urbanista Seattle headphones do feature media controls, but they’re hidden. The outside of the right cup is touch-sensitive and by swiping your finger in a certain direction, you can control the playback and volume of the music. Doing away with big, bulky buttons help give the Seattle the sleek, premium look it’s chasing after, although it’s not as great in real-world use.
Why? I’ve accidentally triggered the media controls on several occasions when I didn’t mean to – especially when adjusting the fit of the headphones on my head or when taking them off. So, while the idea behind the move is a smart one, I think there needs to be a little more R&D before I really fall in love with the feature.
Along with hit-and-miss media controls, there’s the issue of comfort: the headphones aren’t that comfortable to wear over long periods of time.
Now I must admit that my head is slightly on the large side (and that’s not talking about my ego!) so it may not be the case for all users, but I found that the headphones put pressure on my ears and felt like they were squeezing my head no matter how I adjusted them.
While this is an issue that affects many on-ear headphones, the leather-covered memory foam cups of the Seattle headphones aren’t enough to negate the effects. There’s also nothing in the way of cushioning across the headband beyond a soft-touch plastic finish. A small bit of cushioning could go a long way to negating the discomfort, but nothing like that can be found.
The benefit of having memory foam cups? The Urbanista Seattle headphones are surprisingly good at blocking out outside noise, meaning you don’t have to turn the headphones up too loud to hear music clearly.
On the flip side, audio leakage isn’t much of a problem either as my colleagues couldn’t hear music even when played near maximum volume.
As briefly mentioned above, the Urbanista Seattle headphones are completely wireless and feature Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, although there’s no NFC support for one-touch pairing on Android. The Bluetooth range is fairly decent – you won’t be able to listen to your music downstairs but it shouldn’t struggle when your phone is in your rucksack or pocket.
There’s also a built-in microphone, allowing you to take calls on-the-go or activate your virtual assistant (Google Now and Siri are supported at the time of writing) for hands-free smartphone control.
The headphones last around 12 hours per charge – but what happens if you’re out and about when they die? Don’t panic as battery is only required for Bluetooth connectivity, and Urbanista provides a fabric cord that allows you to listen to music the old-fashioned way if/when needed.
While the Urbanista Seattle headphones are a little hit-and-miss in terms of design, audio is a different story.
Powered by 40mm drivers, the quality of audio produced is surprisingly good considering the price – while the high-end is lacking, the vocals are rich and the low-end performs well.
If you’re into Dubstep, Drum and Bass or Hip Hop, the Seattles are a decent option as the bass is pronounced without drowning out the mid-range. There’s nothing in the way of distortion either, even at maximum (or as close as my ears could manage) volume.
There are better quality headphones available on the market, but we rarely find quality this good at this price point.