A Great Headphone for the Kids: The Sennheiser Urbanite Page 2

Sennheiser_Urbanite_Photo_Folded

Sound Quality
The Urbanite is a moderately warm sounding headphone that's somewhat rolled-off from the mid-treble up giving it a somewhat veiled sound. Bass response is well proportioned relative to the mid-range response and is terrifically tight and impactive. Likewise the mid-range response is clear, well balanced, and dynamic. Where these cans fall a little flat is a treble response that starts rolling off at 2kHz and remains some 5-10dB too low through the bulk of upper octaves resulting in a veiled sound. However, it might be back on track between 10kHz and 20kHz giving these cans enough top-end sparkle to prevent them from sounding dull.

It's quite interesting to compare the Urbanite to the Beats Solo2; both have warm responses, but they're somewhat different in nature. The Beats Solo2 does a better job proportioning the upper-mids to treble transition, but the bass accentuation reaches too far into the mid-range giving it a thick sound. The Urbanite with it's really good bass and mid-range response but rolled-off treble sounds overly polite or veiled.

I think it's important to think about the intended use of both these headphones when considering their sound quality. Being headphones for the broader consuming public and focussed primarily on the younger generation, both these cans will very often be used to reproduce really crappy files. For example, much of my 18 year old daughter's music is ripped from YouTube videos. (Don't ask me what program she uses...kids are pretty adept with computers these days.) Cranking up the volume with high dynamic range compressed tracks and low bit-rate streams with result in harsh, annoying sound. The warm and somewhat rolled-off nature of both the Sennheiser Urbanite and Solo2 will yield a more listenable result for these listeners.

Both the Urbanite and Solo2 slay the V-Moda XS and Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear in tightness of bass—no contest here. The Momentum On-Ear best of the bunch in terms of treble resolution, but it's the worst of the group in terms of it's somewhat uneven frequency response. The V-Moda XS has a more even response, possibly the most balanced and neutral of the group, but the low-frequency distortion (it shares with the Sennheiser Momentum) and a mild hazy tizz in the treble may make it less desirable than the Solo2 or Urbanite for bass lovers.

In their promotional videos, Sennheiser characterizes their Urbanites bass response as "better, not louder." I would say the bass response of the Urbanite is excellent and somewhat better than the Solo2, which can be a bit too thick. As a result, I would say Sennheiser's video from their Urbanite campaign is a pretty fair statement...though really weird.

If you haven't checked out the Urbanite micro-site please do!!! Make sure to push play at the top of the page...a weirder headphone advertisement I've never seen. Also, it appears some of the videos produced by ad agency McKinney for the campaign are not yet available at the Urbanite site, but can be viewed on McKinney's YouTube page. Very bizarre, I can't wait to find out how well this ad campaign goes over.

Summary
Sennheiser claims the bass is "better, not louder", in the Urbanite. My ears and measurements tell me they're spot on, the Urbanite packs one hell of a wallop. The bass transitions nicely into a well behaved mid-range, but the treble rolls-off significantly between 2kHz and 10kHz leaving these a somewhat veiled sounding headphone. Fortunately, some of the treble response comes back above 10kHz for a little leading edge crispness, providing a fairly articulate and clean impression of the highs even though they're a bit low in level.

Though a tad utilitarian, the look of the Urbanite is bold and snappy. Anodized aluminum slider arms, cast metal hinges, fabric headband cover, and plush velour earpads highlight the terrific mix of materials use in the Urbanite. Build quality appears to be simply top-notch.

The Urbanite is available in five colors for iOS device users, but only in black and denim for Android and other mobile device fans. Accessories include a simple drawstring bag for storage and transport...and that's it.

Head-to-head with the other headphones currently in the $200 on-ear category the Urbanite faired well, but did not particularly stand out in the crowd. With a punchy slightly emphasized bass and very good bass to mids transition, the Urbanite is the best of the group in this area, but a veiled though nicely articulate treble was its weak point. The Beats Solo2's moderately emphasized bass response is tight and punchy, but the emphasis bleeds into the mids producing a somewhat thick sound. Mid treble response is good, but the top octave is somewhat rolled-off. The V-Moda XS seems the most tonally neutral of the bunch, but bass is somewhat distorted and loose sounding, and the treble while tonally good is a bit indistinct and hazy. Like the V-Moda, the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear has similar poor bass response, but does do a very nice job of delivering a clean, airy treble. Unfortunately, it's the most uneven tonally of the group with a somewhat "V" shaped response.

You see the trouble I have here? The Urbanite deserves a slot on the Wall of Fame, but it doesn't cleanly best the other three headphones already there. I've decided to put the Urbanite on the Wall of Fame for its sound quality that, like the Beats Solo2, will surely suite its intended audience well. It seems to me the weakest of the group is the Sennheiser Momentum on ear with its uneven response. Other aspects like build quality and styling should count for something in these decisions, and while the Momentum On-Ear does very well in that regard, it does not have any folding features that it allow it to become significantly smaller for storage and transport—I think this is significant drawback for the MOE as a portable headphone. So, the Urbanite goes up, and the Momentum On-ear comes off. Congrats and condolences to Sennheiser.

Video

Resources
Sennheiser U.S.A. home page and Urbanite product page.
Don't miss the Sennheiser Urbanite micro-site, make sure to push play at the top.
More videos available on Urbanite campaign creator McKinney at their YouTube site.
Head-Fi threads are thin as the Urbanite has just become available, thread here.

COMPANY INFO
Sennheiser USA
1 Enterprise Dr.
Old Lyme, CT 06371
(860) 434-9190
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Claritas's picture

How would you say they compare against the B&W P5, and have you heard anything about the P5 Series 2? Thanks much.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Good question. Haven't heard the new one, but have requested a sample. From memory alone I would think they're somewhat similar to the original P5, but didn't do the comparison.
gabriel_c_v's picture

Hi Tyll! first of all congrats on the superb job you've been doing all these years. Now, I didn't know where else to put this comment, so here it goes. I own this set of headphones and I absolutely love them, just as you pointed out they're sturdy and the sound is near perfect with a few tweaks on the equalizer. I've never really liked the L shaped 3.5mm plug though, I always felt it moves a lot around whichever device you plug it to. Well after nearly 3yrs of everyday heavy use, there's an annoying hissing sound everytime it the plug rotates, which is almost inevitable. I tried replacing it with a generic Amazon bought cable (since all senheiser replacements have the same L shaped plug that I came to dread), and somehow I feel the sound's different! can this really be true? can a (rather) cheap cable alter (or even) damage my cans? I kinda feel the answer's yes, but I thought I'd ask the expert first. Anyways, thanks again for an amazing job!

bernardperu's picture

Nice review, Tyll.

Did you have a chance to listen to the Urbanites over-ear? How was the sound?

By the way, the Momentums over-ear are awesome. I use them for walking and they are light, discrete, comfortable, and sound great! Much better choice for walking that the Visos or the Focal Classics over ear, which I also own.

bronson's picture

Yeah, I've those three cans also and definitely agree that the Momentum over ears are awesome and definitely give a very svelte classy subtle look, but I prefer the sound of the solo2 over them.

The Viso's squared off headband make them a no-no for me to wear out and about, plus I feel,that they really do require the benefit of an amp which also drops their portability over others already mentioned which sound good directly plugged into source DAP.

Nit I'm eager to hear these new urbanites for myself and look forward to Tyll's no doubt upcoming review of the XL variant.

bernardperu's picture

Solo2 superior to Momentum over-ear? Don't the Solos have smaller drivers? Size of drivers makes a big difference.

I think I am also lucky to have small ears, as my ears tend to be great fits for all kind of over the ear headphones.

bronson's picture

I don't know about the solo2 being "superior" to Momentum over ears, but the solo2 sound signature is more preferable to me personally, but that's just because I appreciate more at the low end.

The Momentum oe are more neutral sounding/balanced than the solo2 and are built with more luxury materials and maybe have a more classic svelte look about them over the solo2, but both are very good IMO.

Why not just get both? (lol)

bronson's picture

Well, well, well, the Urb is a winner and I think that's great news for the consumer no matter what age buys into these cans, though I expect they will do best with their intended "millennial" target audience, complete with hilarious advertising campaign - I love their quirky videos and think this is exactly the right approach required to make the Urb's stand out in an already crowded sector of the market.

I've got to say though that I'm disappointed with Sennheiser's marketing spiel that claimed "massive bass" - from what you describe, this isn't the case and is kind of contradictory of their ad campaign which message is of a better but not louder sound, so bassheads may or may not be interested - that depends maybe on how well the Urb's EQ I guess.

It's looking still very crowded up there on your WOF with no clear winner with the caveat that there's very good choices within the portable closed back headphone category - so it's kind of a win - win in my eyes anyway.

I wonder if you've had opportunity to check the Thinksound On1 Monitor as of yet, as I still believe that that particular headphone could still knock off everything current of clutter and be your singular class leader, with the rub that the On1 is the most expensive out of all, so I guess they should be the better sounding for that reason alone.

I might have missed this, but what size are the drivers in these on ear urbanites - 40mm?

I'd be very grateful if you could add driver sizes to your already detailed and excellent reviews for sure.

Many thanks for making this urbanite review - I really enjoyed reading through it!

tony's picture

It does seem to be about Style , doesn't it ? , a nice pair of "In Ear" would be more practical unless having that "Look" is important enough to overcome all the added stuff to carry around , "darn I forgot my headphones or did I leave the headphones by mistake , have to go back , darn it , darn it , darn it " . Little tiny things fit in a shirt pocket or bag , soooooo easy , why bother with big Cans ?

But , I'm in my 7 Decade & not tempted to wear headphones out on a business trip , seems a silly concept . I like the Presidential Guard ( or Stage Performer ) look of IEMs vs. the Bubblegum look of Beats .

Tony in Michigan

Ps. nice Red shirt , wifey says it's a bit loud , I'd wear the shirt instead of the headphones !! , the shirt says I'm confident in myself and not at all afraid , trying to fit in , trying too hard to be cool .

bronson's picture

Personally I prefer on or over ear headphones rather than in ear buds - I just don't like the feel of having something in my ears.

I wonder what the sales ratio is between in ear buds compared to on/over ear cans within the same price bracket?

Maybe Tyll knows - be interesting to know for sure.

With regards Tyll's shirt - maybe he's gone for the Urbanite look for this review - though he should have gone more swag when he did his solo2 review methinks - lol ;)

tony's picture

Thanks for writing ,

Something in my ears is a must , noisy environments of Air Travel , busy streets , noisy stores , horribly noisy restaurants , how else can one find peace ? If nothing else , I'll be wearing those yellow ear protectors ( 30db of quieting ) , I'll keep a few pair in every travel kit !!! The Etymotics are super for quieting the outside racket one must try to cope with everywhere one goes nowadays .

When someone tries to talk to me I can just point to one of my ears and shake my head , they seem to understand that I'm deaf which simplifies all public nonsense discourse , a God-Send for a public person like me .

Impulse's picture

I love my Etys, in ears are nice and all when you want all that isolation... But I don't always need or want that degree of isolation.

I wear my on ear M-80 when I'm gonna be walking across traffic a lot, or taking them off to talk to others, or when I want to be aware of what's going on without hearing EVERYTHING around me (like about to board a flight), or when my ears are just tired of in ears...

So yeah, there's plenty of reasons for on ear portables if you think outside of your personal bubble. I particularly like the collapsing design of the XS since it makes them smaller than just about anything else.

tony's picture

Hello Impulse ,

Thank You for writing back ,

I suppose that I'd have to agree , there are plenty of reasons for headphones , I don't know the M-80 product ( I will research them ) , I have read our Tyll's comments about noise canceling phones and promised myself a try-out , I already travel with tons of technical stuff so a portable headphone may have a place in my travel kits , what's one more item in this ever-increasingly complex world . Back in the Day I just brought a book and the little yellow noise suppression ear protectors . No going back now !!

Tony in Michigan

tom22's picture

Tyll, how do you think they fair against the oldies like the hd25s/ amperiors/ aluminum and the dt1350.

all these recent releases seems to be fighting each other for the same spot on the wall of fame but what about those other ones (the oldies i mean) are any of them threatening to dethrone those guys?

BarbecueGamer's picture

Hello Tyll, fantastic review! I'm about to purchase my first pair of high quality headphones. And I was hoping I could get your advice. I'm wondering if there's anything better out there than the NAD Viso HP50. But something that doesn't require an amp just like the HP50. I have exactly $400 to spend, so do you think there's anything better out there that I could get for that price that wouldn't require an amp? I want something that's well balanced, and will do good with anything I throw at it. That's why I'm pretty much set on the HP50. But I just wanted to ask you really quick if there's anything better I could be getting with my money. Hope to hear from you soon, thanks in advance!

Impulse's picture

I think depending on your needs Tyll might have other viable choices on the WoF, from Focal and Shure in particular... I've been looking for a closed pair for living room use too, the only other headphone I'm looking at besides the NADs are Mrspeaker Mad Dogs, but those benefit even more from a good amp so that's probably of no use to ya.

That Mad Dog Pro/Alpha review still coming Tyll?

Impulse's picture

I wish Senn would stop using these recessed/locking jacks that make it hard or impossible to replace cables with aftermarket options... I guess it's more profitable for them but not very consumer friendly.

It's really nice to be able to freely choose shorter cables for use with clip on DAPs and BT receivers, cables with different remotes or no mic/remote, longer cables for home, coiled cables, etc.

V-Moda deserves some credit for going the opposite route IMO (never mind best collapsing design and case, bar none), so XS it is for me. I rather like the look of the Urbanite line tho, dunno why they're being so stingy with cables as to limit Android users to two only two color choices.

Takato14's picture

Hipster Beats.

snowcat's picture

Hi Tyl,
I am currently looking for a new headphone so I wan to task you wich one of those would you recommend more for all sorts of Metal, Rock and somewhat symphonic music

Chrisknos's picture

Tyll, do you at least have possessions of the XL version of the urbanites? I wonder if the isolation of the XL to be at the very least stellar.

neoterix's picture

Solid review Tyll! I appreciate your reviewing some of the more mainstream-oriented part of the headphone market (in addition to the more expensive, flagship-style equipment). If I can make a recommendation for a future headphone to review, I'd love to see your thoughts on the Samsung Level Over, a fairly new entrant to the high-end Bluetooth (high end is relative, particularly for Bluetooth) headphone market, and would complement headphones you've previously reviewed like the Sony MDR-1RBT, Parrot Zik, and Phiaton Chord MS530. Thanks!

El Capo Ninja's picture

There's a new Samsung over ear headphones call "Level" and they look really good , i was wondering if you're thinking on doing a review on them? Thanks.

veggieboy2001's picture

I really hope Tyll get his hands (ears) on a pair of these...I've heard nothing but good stuff about them....I'd love to hear them myself.

veggieboy2001's picture

I guess you can't edit or delete whats already been posted any more..sorry for the duplication.

veggieboy2001's picture

Right on Bronson!
I really hope Tyll get his hands (ears) on a pair of these...I've heard nothing but good stuff about them....I'd love to hear them myself.

scribbs's picture

Your reviews are a pleasure to read, but this time around the typos were just killing me. :)

I know how they can creep in from time to time, especially when you are burning the midnight oil. Too many without my morning coffee and them's fightin' words. It's a pet peeve of mine, so maybe I should just get over it. Feel free to ignore/flame as you see fit. However, I'm guessing you pride yourself on accuracy, so if you'd like another pair of eyes to proofread your posts before pushing them to the website, I would be happy to help.

That aside, keep up the good fight! :)

guerillaw's picture

"suite its intended audience well"

Yes Tyll, thanks for what you do and put me on the list of potential proof-readers.

thelostMIDrange's picture

for even adults. Sennheiser must be digging at the bottom of its marketing and ethical barrel for this one aimed at teenagers. Thanks for being part of the problem.

TMRaven's picture

Seems like Tyll's giving out wall of fame tags to every headphone he reviews these days. Those fr graphs look horrible.

SkylarGray's picture

Let me fix that for you:

I give you "Normal."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tmhdOfIEqU

lenbell's picture

i'm mid 40s(so not a kiddo) ..i need ONE portable headphone..beats solo2 or momentum OVER ear.

thanks,

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Momentum Over Ear....but check the fit on your head. It can be a bit odd.
bronson's picture

Depends on whether you like a little or less bass sound.

If you prefer a bit more bass - solo2 and obviously the Momentums for less.

Also, for portability, the solo2's are much more convenient to the Momentums in as much as the solo2 fold into a smaller form compared to the fixed frame Momentums.

tony's picture

Well , Tyll , they didn't ask you , did they ?

Tony in Michigan

ps. The Mags had these lists years ago when I was in this Business , I'm glad to be away from them , glad I don't have a dog in the fight , as they say !!

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

"For example, much of my 18 year old daughter's music is ripped from YouTube videos"

For the love of god buy her some CD's man! Gah I hate this so much, they killed napster and limewire so no people get there music from dog shit quality youtube rips iweHFLiwgfliusHDFjhdiuhuhsDIUHFJDKSADFL

I care if its the ne mily cyrus record go get her like 20 CD's for xmas and put them on her iPod for her haha

natal's picture

I love the sound of the Urbanite but I feel the headband could use more padding. The phone is kind of heavy and it presses a bit hard on my head. The high frequency roll-off doesn't bother me as I have severe hearing loss after 2000 hz. It's perfect for listening to podcasts while doing the dishes blotting out the noise of running water.

natal's picture

While lying in bed with my head on a pillow an earpad came off easily as I turned my head. My main concern is not so much it came off but it's a bit of a challenge putting it back on the cup rim without overly stretching the rubber band. Advice: Phones not suitable for bedtime listening lying down.

drbenco's picture

Hi everyone}
I purchase Urbanite XL headphone for IPhone, and now my daughter has changed his cellphone to a Samsung Galaxy S5. I can conect those headphones to the galaxy, or i need to purchase a replacement cable for the Urbanite XL for Android?

Tnx in advance

Wilfredo Morales's picture

Hi @Tyll I am really thankful to you for this informative article on great Headphone. I am going to share this useful information with my friends as well.

Regards
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