Sennheiser Urbanite XL Black Over-Ear Headphones

General Information

Step up and step out, it's time to let your ears be loved. Sennheiser URBANITE XL Over-Ear headphones are the new choice for great sound, deep bass, and urban style on the move. URBANITE XL Over-Ear headphones deliver an intense club sound, serving up massive bass but with Sennheiser' s uncompromising clarity through the entire frequency range. URBANITE XL headphones are for those that love their tunes, love to look good, and respect great sound. URBANITE XL is perfect for staying connected on the move, with integrated in-line remote controls and microphones for taking calls and controlling music on smartphones and tablets, with two dedicated versions for either Apple iOS, or for Windows Phone and Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy models. A range of color choices includes black and denim across all models (both for iOS and Android), with the iOS URBANITE XL also available in sand, olive and nation. Ready for life on the go, URBANITE XL headphones are built tough to take on anything life can throw at them. Constructed using durable, high quality materials like stainless steel hinges and aluminum ear cup sliders, they're rugged with urban cool style. The fabric-wrapped headband is comfortable and steezy. The extra-large ear cups fitted with soft ear cushions wrap you in comfort. URBANITE XL is a Sennheiser, so looking great and performing brilliantly are one and the same. Being tough using a foldable design is a perfect fit for life on the move, and a perfect fit comes naturally to URBANITE. The durable sliders and hinges work with super soft ear pads insulating the listener from external noise to ensure great comfort during long listening sessions. So make a statement. URBANITE XL. Because you love your ears.

Latest reviews

Pros: Looks, comfort, lightweight, clever construction.
Cons: Horrible SQ, low sensitivity, bulky.
I bought these headphones based on positive reviews, mainly here, on head-fi. I own a few good ones, (Sennheiser PX-200 II, JVC Victor HA-S500-B, Sennheiser HD 415, Klipsch Image One, a House of Marley Destiny TTR, and some more), as source i use an Fiio X3 filled up with FLAC, and i still have my iPod Touch also, but since i have the X3, i don´t really use that. The reason i bought these was the arrival of my X3. For the iPod my Klipsch Image One was absolutely perfect, a bit bass heavy, but really sensitive, so without an external amp ithey provided insane loud and heavy sound, without distortion, which i like. (My House of Marley cans were perfect too, of course those are different league, cost 3x more as the Image Ones, but as they are heavy, big, i use them at home, not really on the go). But, after i bought my X3 (i paid 120 euro for it, brand new, what a deal), and started using it with high quality lossless audio, i noticed the drawbacks of my Image One. The recessed highs, a bit overwhelming bass. Listening to Bowers and Wilkins Audiophile Recordings in FLAC, i noticed that the guitar doesn´t sound natural, i cannot hear the strings as i should, becuse of the recessed highs. On my TTR´s Allan Taylor´s "Colour to the Moon" sounds just fantastic. So, i looked for something with more open treble, with the same dynamics, and also portable ones. I´ve read mainly positive reviews about the Urbanite XL´s, and as i had positive experiences with Sennheisers, i bought a pair. Was a huge mistake. Although all of my other cans i kept sounded pretty well straight of the box, i didn´t have too high expectations, as i knew that they need some time to break in. But, what i got, was a lot less than i expected. Since then, i gave them agood 30-40 hours to break in, maybe isn´t enough, but i don´t have more patience. I just don´t think it is worthy to waste more time. The sound is still unbearable. The lower section of the bass is just not there at all, (i visited hundreds of concerts, live music events from death metal to acoustic blues, jazz, classical, and i´m still visiting at least one event a week), and what´s left, is really annoying. The treble is too sharp, sounds kinda "metallic", on higher volumes starts to pierce my ears. The snare drums sound like someone threw a bunch of bamboo chopsticks on a plastic table. The foot drum has no bottom at all. Listening to Sara K´s "Would you beak my heart", poor lady has a sooo bad metallic coloration on her voice, the song sounds like it´s been sung by C3PO of Star Wars. :D On top of that, i cannot listen to my music too loud, as these bad cans cannot stand high volumes, they start to distort the sound, and rattle really badly, on a level where my Image Ones still sound perfectly. I thought maybe my cans are fake of faulty, but i bought them from a very reliable retailer, and since then i compared them to a n another pair, and they sounded similar. I didn´t pay too much for them,119 euros, but i honestly say, that my 35 euro JVC HA-S500 cans sound a LOT better. I mean a LOT: And, on top of that, i tried these with my iPod touch. I had to laugh. Despite these were made for iPods, because of their low sensitivity, the music wasn´t loud enough even on max volume, and sounded dull, with no dynamics at all. So, better to look for an alternative, there are hundreds of better ones outside, even lot cheaper ones, than these patethic ones from Sennheiser.
Tomtattoo
Tomtattoo
And u have to read my reviews more carefully, cuz apparently u haven´t got a faintest clue what are u talking about. But, funilly enough, u seem upset like a 5 year old kid, cuz i said something wrong about your beloved Sennheisers. Sorry i didn´t know that it hurts sooo much... Anyway, i don´t care. I hated these cans, and even if all the others say they are good, ´no one can convince me. I quit.
Rafique Adzam
Rafique Adzam
Well, you cannot harass this poor guy for simply having a different sound taste then you.
O
OleOlafOle
I have them, only decent thing I could get in Costa Rica. Or so I thought. Real bad. I mean reaaaaaaaaaaaaal bad.
Pros: Balance, mid-range and bass SQ, clarity through mid-range, build, pad options
Cons: Ear pads are small - affecting overall comfort, lacks “perfect” sparkle with some tracks, accessory package is sparse, RRP in Australasia is pricey
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For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

INTRODUCTION

In my Head-Fi journey to date the one headphone category that remains unfulfilled for me at the moment continues to be the ideal portable headphone. For me personally, that means a mix of SQ, comfort, size, build and isolation. In my journey so far, I’ve tried a lot of different portable headphones, and owned (at one stage or another) the Momentum on ear, UE6000, and Beyer T51p. All of them are good headphones in their own right, but all of them have also had shortcomings which ultimately have led to me either selling them or giving them away.

So when Sennheiser suggested an Australasian tour, and Noisy Motel and our own White Lotus arranged for the Urbanite XL to be available, I was lucky enough to be included in the review tour. I’d like to take this moment to thank Sennheiser, Noisy Motel, and White Lotus for organising everything. It is this type of community interaction which makes Head-Fi such a wonderful community.

I received the courier pack with the Urbanite XL last week – and have already spent as much time as I could with the Urbanite XL. This has included using them at work, walking outside, and just generally playing around at home.

I’ve listed price at USD $190.00 (approx. current Amazon price at time of writing) – however as stated earlier, the pair I have is part of a demo tour, and will be returned to Noisy Motel at its completion. Australian RRP is listed at AUD 399 and NZ at NZD 449.

ABOUT SENNHEISER

The Sennheiser Group based in Wedemark near Hanover, Germany, was founded in 1945 and has gone on to become a leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Sales in 2013 totaled 590.4 million euros. Sennheiser employs more than 2,500 staff worldwide and operates plants in Germany, Ireland and the USA. The company has a worldwide network of subsidiaries in France, Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Germany, Denmark (Nordic), Russia, Hongkong, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and the USA. It also has long-established trading partners in other countries. Georg Neumann GmbH, Berlin, a maker of studio microphones and monitor speakers, and Sennheiser Communications A/S, a joint venture making headsets for PCs, offices and call centers, are also part of the Sennheiser Group.

SENNHEISER’S QUOTES (from the Urbanite marketing campaign)

Sennheiser URBANITE headphones are for the generation of Millennials who know more and demand more. They love their tunes heavy and love to look good, but are smart consumers who won´t compromise on quality. They want bass but want it done right. The Sennheiser URBANITE is answering these demands.
Tim Voelker, Director Sales & Marketing Consumer, Sennheiser Communications A/S
We’re bringing something fresh and new that will finally meet the expectations of this tough audience, and will be building the buzz for the URBANITE range through an exciting social media campaign this autumn under the headline ‘Let your ears be loved’.
Tim Voelker, Director Sales & Marketing Consumer, Sennheiser Communications A/S
With the Sennheiser URBANITE series we´ve created a range of headphones that are incredibly robust, using durable high quality materials and metal parts that – alongside the sound – set them apart from other fashionable headphones. With a unique folding mechanism that makes them easily portable, the Sennheiser URBANITE headphones are truly ready for life on the streets.
Dr. Christian Ern, Director Product Management Consumer, Sennheiser Communications A/S

DISCLAIMER

I was provided the Sennheiser Urbanite XL as a tour review unit (loaner) from Sennheiser. I am in no way affiliated with Sennheiser - and this review is my subjective opinion of the Urbanite XL.

PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'. (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

I'm a 47 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last few years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, X1, X3ii and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP). I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5/X1 > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83, Dunu Titan and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.

I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent. I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 47, my hearing is less than perfect.

For the purposes of this review - I used the Urbanite XL straight from the headphone-out socket of my iPhone 5S, X5, X3 gen 2, and also from the X3ii + E11K amplifier. In the time I have spent with the Urbanite CL, I have noticed no change to the overall sonic presentation (break-in), but am aware that I am becoming more used to the signature of the Urbanite XL as I use them more often (brain burn-in). This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

THE REVIEW

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

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Front of retail box

Rear of retail box

The Urbanite arrived in a very “Sennheiser-like” retail box (if you’ve owned any higher end Sennheisers in the past, you’ll know what I mean. It is very well built, attractive, and just a little conservative in the darker black with “Sennheiser-blue” accenting. On the front is a picture of the Urbanites, while the rear and sides give you information on the specifications and accessories.

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Side of retail box

Inside the retail box - Urbanites nestled in their foam


The retail box consists of a box and lid (both really well built). Taking the top off the box reveals a foam padded interior designed to perfectly house and protect the Urbanites, and a compartment for the cable and the cloth carry bag.

Bundled along with this tour unit was also a press release from Sennheiser, and small fold-out feature / specification booklets.

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Collapsed Urbanite - ideal footprint for travel

Travel bag and cable


For accessories, they include a cloth drawstring carry bag …. and that pretty much is it. For a headphone in this price range, I’d have preferred to also see a 3.5-6.3mm adaptor, spare pads, and perhaps a slightly longer spare cable – maybe without the i-device controls.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

(From Sennheiser)
Type
Sealed circumaural portable headphone
Driver
Dynamic full sized
Frequency Range
16 Hz – 22 Khz
Impedance
18 ohm
Sensitivity
110 dB at 1 kHz & 1 Vrms
THD
< 0.5% (1 kHz, 100 dB)
Plug
3.5mm gold plated 4 pole, low profile right angle jack
Cable
1.2m flat with smartphone controls on cable
Weight
312g (including cable)

FREQUENCY GRAPH

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I’ve included the graph from Innerfidelity (thanks Tyll) - and this is the graph for the XL (thanks @depleted)

BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN

From the first time I saw them, the Urbanite XL physically “looked” like they were extremely well designed, and very robust. Closer inspection simply confirms what my eyes were already telling me.

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Stellar designa nd build quality

Adjustment mechanism for earpieces


The Urbanite’s headband seems to be made of a sprung steel inner headband with denim exterior, and rubberised interior padding. It is very wide and extremely flexible. The padding itself doesn’t appear to have any foam internal – instead there seems to be a pocket of air. Anyway – despite its thin nature, I personally find it really comfortable, and have no problems wearing it for hours (no hot or hard spots). The band is also really robust and can be twisted and stretched with no signs of stress. The band is connected to a metal hinge structure which looks incredibly strong, is definitely metal, and has a smooth action. Both cups fold inward so that the Urbanite can be collapsed to save space while on the move.

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The headband - denim outer

Flat inner section - air pocket rather than foam


The adjusting mechanism is metal, has a really smooth action, and manages to hold its position despite not having the usual clicky extenders. This is helped by the rubber suspension arms which recess into the actual cups (I understand these are connected to a robust spring mechanism). For more information on the internals, be sure to check out Tyll’s article over at Innerfidelity.

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Extremely robust hinge

Build quality on the adjustment slider


The cups themselves are round, made of moulded plastic, and have removable circular pads (more on them in the next section). The cable is detachable, 2.5mm, has a proprietary locking mechanism (so finding after-market cables won’t be easy), and is standard 1.2m in length. It is a flat cable, rubbery but appears reasonably well built, and so far for me hasn’t tangled. The cable is attached single sided to the bottom of the left earpiece. The cable includes smartphone controls – including a central button (pause/play – single push, next track – two pushes & previous track – three pushes), and also volume up and down controls. It also includes a microphone for taking calls. The controls work really well with my iPhone 5S – and the quality of the microphone for making calls was brilliant. When I used this with Fiio’s X3 gen 2 (due to be released soon), the push button also worked extremely well with this device (play/pause, next, previous).

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2.5 mm locking plug for the cup

i-device / smart phone control unit and mic


The jack is 4 pole, right angled and very low profile. For my X3ii and iPhone 5S – the fit was perfect (even with cases intact). But it is very low profile, so some owners of thicker cases may want to check for compatibility first.

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3.5mm 4 pole low profile jack

Jack inserted into my 5S (fits perfectly - no issues with case)


Overall, the build quality is absolutely excellent – very robust, and I can now see why they only felt the need to include a cloth carry bag rather than a harder case. They come with a 2 year warranty – but really, you’d have to be abusing these pretty badly to break them IMO.

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Amazingly good build quality is evident when stretching the headband

And twisting it!


FIT / COMFORT / STYLE / ISOLATION

Style is always going to be a personal thing – but what I do like about the Urbanite XL’s is the range of colour styles in the series (sand, olive, two-tone navy/red, denim, and black). On me (I’m bald by choice) the headband does looks lightly goofy, but on both my wife and daughter I have to admit they look pretty stylish, and modern. And to be honest, once I’m wearing them I couldn’t really give a toss how I look.

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May daughter Emma modelling the Urbanites

She definitely looked better than I did wearing them


For comfort, I have absolutely no issue with the headband – but I do find the Urbanite XL earpads just a little too small. They are very soft (the material seems to be the same sort of alcantara used on the HD800), and have good memory foam.

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Alcantera covered low profile round pads

Rear of pads


The issue for me is simply the internal size. They measure around 4.5 cm in diameter (circular) and approx. 1.6 cm deep. Compare this to the extremely comfortable UE6000 – with oval ear cups just over 5.5 cm long and only 3.5 cm wide and 1.8 cm deep. The difference is the length of all of our ears. Quite simply – no-one I know has round ears. Yes my ears do fit inside the cup, but to fit they have to conform to the round shape of the Urbanite XL – and this does cause contact points, heat spots, and for longer listening – minor discomfort. I think I’d get used to it over time – but I shouldn’t have to. It’s a pity really. They are not too bad on the comfort stakes – but they could have been perfect with a slightly different (oval) design.

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Completely round pads - not a perfect fit to our ear shape

Brainwavz pads (top) are a much better shape for our anatomy


For isolation, they are pretty good. In an open plan office environment, whilst I could still hear those around me with music off, it didn’t take much volume to isolate myself. More importantly, there is not a lot of leakage.

SOUND QUALITY

The following is what I hear from the Urbanite XL. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my Fiio X3 gen 2 and Fiio X5.

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Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

Thoughts on General Signature

If I was to describe the signature in a few words – I’d choose the words “clear”, “full bodied”, and “slightly warm”.

I have to admit, the first time I tried the Urbanite XL, the thing I expected was normal consumer type robust bass with an ample bottom end, and darkish boomy signature – which seems to be so prevalent with headphones for today’s younger generation. What I wasn’t prepared for was the really nice overall balance, quality of the bass, and clarity of the mid-range. For me personally, the only thing missing was just an occasional touch of upper end sparkle. The treble is present, but it is very smooth, unobtrusive, and laid back.

Overall Detail / Clarity

For this I always use both Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” as there is a lot of micro detail in both tracks, and the recording quality for both is excellent.

Gaucho was quite simply stunning. The sax intro was smooth, yet not overly dark. Bass is really nicely matched with the mid-range (no apparent bleed), and it is surprising how detailed the Urbanites are with cymbals, little hits of snare – everything is there, I’d personally just like a tiny bit more sparkle.

Switching to Sultans of Swing, and once again, detail is all there. Knopfler’s vocals are forward and nicely balanced with the guitar crunch. Not too much to complain about really – this is brilliant. One nice thing is the quality of the bass – not boomy at all. Some really nice detail coming through too – cymbal hits are there – nothing seems to be missing.

Sound-stage & Imaging

For this I use Amber Rubarth’s binaural recording “Tundra”. I use this because it’s a pretty simple way to get comparative data on sound-stage.

It’s usually difficult to get a reasonable stage size from a closed can. The stage is often quite small / close – with an average impression of space. The Urbanite has an intimate stage with this track compared to open cans like the HD600 and T1, but it does give some impression of space – just not hugely out of your head. More importantly directional imaging and instrument separation is very good. This is aided by the absolute clarity of the overall presentation.

I also used Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” and the Urbanite was once again very good with this track – it was intimate, but once again the overall imaging was really good. The vocals are quite close, very clear, and portrayal of the cello in particular is wonderful. The applause at the end of the track is immersive with my open headphones, and unfortunately the Urbanites can’t quite replicate that sense of actually being there – but it isn’t surprising (and too much to expect), few closed headphone cans. Overall a great presentation of the track though.

Lastly I switched to Amada Marshall’s “Let It Rain”. This track is recorded with a natural sense of space and separation (almost holographic in nature) – and I’ve even had IEMs convey space when playing it. The Urbanites are very good – still quite intimate, but once again the overall imaging continues to shine through.

Bass Quality and Quantity

Sennheiser openly advertises the Urbanite as “bass done right”, and so far I’ve been liking what I’ve heard.

First test track is always Bleeding Muddy Water by Mark Lanegan. This blues rock track is dark and brooding – and the Urbanites were brilliant with it. There was some visceral slam, yet Mark’s vocals were extremely clear, and although the track was dark (as it is supposed to be), it was eminently enjoyable.

Time to see how low the bass would go – so switched to Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” – and the Urbanites delivered – and actually knocked it out of the park really. Usually I find this track too boomy on many headphones (the T1 is an exception), but the bass is both effortless and fast on the Urbanite and once again Amy’s vocals come through crystal clear – no bleed. Next up was Lorde’s “Royals” (my sub-bass test) – and again I’m impressed by how much quality bass the Urbanites deliver – yet how clear the mid-range is. The bass guitar in this track is low, and extends well into the sub bass. The Urbanites handle it easily, and serve up the rumble I know is naturally there. Great job.

Female Vocals

Around 60-65% of my music revolves around female vocals – be it jazz, pop, rock, electronic, or even opera. I’m an unabashed fan. For me the sign of a successful headphone is how successfully it conveys emotion and timbre with my female vocalists. Other headphones I’ve owned in the past had sometimes struggled with some of the artists I like – and this can be a deal breaker for me.

My early litmus test is usually queuing Agnes Obel – as some of her recordings can become quite strident or shouty if the mids aren’t quite right. With the Urbanite, her vocals have almost a perfect tone, I’d just like a tiny bit of upper mid-range emphasis – but the overall magic is definitely there. The also cello has great timbre and tone.

Next up is my usual medley of other tracks from artists including Christina Perri, Gabriella Cilmi, Florence and the Machine, and Norah Jones. The Urbanite handles vocals brilliantly – and every track I threw at them was impressively rendered. Ayla Nereo’s “Dawn to Flight” was incredible (breath-taking) and once again it is stunning just how well Sennheiser has tuned the mid-range on the Urbanites.

Male Vocals

At the other end of the scale sits a lot of my rock tracks – generally male vocal based.

Kicking off with 3 Doors Down “Away from the Sun”, and the vocal presentation is very natural – intimate, clear and very pleasant to listen to. Moving to Seether, and once again the vocal quality is very good – guitar crunch is excellent, as is the cymbal presentation. The bass quality is incredible for rock – impact and extension without the boom or bloom. I wouldn’t change anything for the rock music I’ve tested so far – everything just gels so well.
Time for my litmus test – Pearl Jam. Vedder’s voice is perfect with the Urbanites - plenty of clarity and emotion. And the overall balance in the track is magic. Once again, sonically I wouldn’t change anything with this track.

Genre Specific Notes

Again for tracks, albums, artists – please refer to this list: http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks

Rock – covered above. The Urbanites are a natural match for the rock I listen to.

Alt Rock – First up (in my usual test rotation) is Pink Floyd’s “Money”, and the Urbanite continues to shine. It delivers the needed contrast beautifully. Beautiful balance between bass guitar and other instruments, and the vocals are again stunningly clear. Porcupine Tree’s “Trains” is similar – Wilson’s vocals are fantastic. Surprisingly though, this is one of those tracks where I’d like just a tiny bit more sparkle (it’s almost too smooth). Bass is dynamic, clean, brilliant.

Jazz / Blues / Bluegrass – Portico Quartet’s “Ruins” was dynamic, clean, detailed – maybe missing just a little top end crispness, but enjoyable all the same. Switching to some Miles Davis - “So What” and (once again) more magic. Mile’s trumpet is smooth, the double bass has good timbre and presence, and the cymbals are showing nice touches of detail.

Onto Blues – and the combination of Bonamassa’s vocals and guitar work is magical. I’ve said this review that with the occasional track that I’d like a bit more sparkle – so I next tried Beth Hart’s “Live at Paradiso” album – which is mastered very hot (bright). For my personal tastes the combination of this mastering and the Urbanite’s natural tonality was really good – and it does reinforce that for me, just a little more upper end sparkle would be the cream on the cake for me. Funny thing is that for a lot of tracks I didn’t really notice it was missing – until it is introduced again.

Rap / EDM / Pop – Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is my go to track for testing contrast, clarity and bass impact for the Rap genre, and the Urbanite is perfect with this track. Again I’m stunned by the clarity of the bass and the lack of bleed. Bass done right Sennheiser? Absolutely! Switching to Pop, and it doesn’t matter what I throw at the Urbanites – it all sounds good. Jessie Ware, Lana Del Ray, London Grammar, Coldplay – the Urbanite XL seems to take it all in its stride.

Switching next to some Electronic / EDM – and Lindsay Stirling’s “Electric Daisy Violin” = dynamic magic. There is fantastic bass response, and crystal clarity and vibrancy with her violin. Next up is Little Dragon and also The Flashbulb, and even some Trance with Van Buuren. The Urbanites excel with anything bass heavy – but the magic isn’t just the bass quality, but the rest of the music contrasting with it.

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

The Urbanite is easily powered straight out of the portable devices I have, and although I tested it with both the X3ii – both unamped and amped with the E11K, I haven’t noticed any difference in dynamics. The Urbanite were designed to be efficiently run straight from a DAP or smart phone – and they shine without the need for extra power.

RESPONSE TO EQ?

This was an interesting one because as I’ve listened critically through the review, the more time I’ve spent, the more I’ve become accustomed to the Urbanite’s “polite” (slightly subdued) treble. The X3ii comes with a 10 band equaliser, so time to have a play. I lifted the 4K and 8K bands by around 3-4 dB and replayed both Gaucho and Aventine. It was a definite improvement for my personal tastes – and one I’d probably stick with for most tracks. Anyway – the Urbanites respond well to EQ – another plus.

WHAT ABOUT PADS?

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Brainwavz pad fitted

Brainwavz pads fitted - much more comfortable fit for my ears


After the 3-4 hours critical listening tonight, and the sessions last week, I’ve noticed that there continues to be some discomfort – not outright pain, but enough physical pressure to notice that I’m wearing headphones.
So once I made sure the earpads were able to be removed, I set about looking for options. The first port of call was the HM5 pads from Brainwavz. The ones sent by Audrey for a previous review slipped straight over the outer cups, and fit snugly. Best of all – instant cure for the comfort issues. Added bonus – because my ears are now further away from the drivers, there is a little added sense of space, and due to the bass being reduced slightly, an added sense of sparkle.

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Brainwavz pads fitted over rear of cup

Different height of the pads - drivers further away from your ears.


It does highlight (especially the comfort) what could be achieved with another pad option. I’m not sure if these are the absolute answer though – as I find myself missing some of the bass that has been taken away ….. but at least I can EQ that again if I need to.

QUICK COMPARISON – OTHER PORTABLES

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This is simply going to be a very rough comparison with the portables I have on hand – the UE6000 and Momentum On Ears.


  1. Urbanite vs UE6000
    1. Comfort – no question UE600 trumps here
    2. Build quality / strength – Urbanite by a large margin
    3. SQ – comparatively both have very clear vocal range, slightly emphasised bass, but really nice balance. Urbanite has more quantity and better definition in the bass, and slightly more sparkle up top. UE6000 is just slightly less clear, and also slightly boomier.
    4. Overall – I’d take the Urbanite on everything except comfort.
  2. Urbanite vs Momentum OE
    1. Comfort – long term I find the MOE painful whereas I just find the Urbanites slightly annoying – so Urbanites definitely the preference
    2. Build quality / strength – tied on actual strength as the MOE are built really well.
    3. But the Urbanites are collapsible and better for travel, so once again – Urbanites
    4. SQ – this one is a lot easier. The MOE tend to be a little boomy downstairs, and a little thin and hazy up top (unlike their circumaural model). They are still a good listen once you adjust to their tonality, but for my tastes, I find the Urbanites, fuller, richer and more natural sounding.
    5. Overall – for me the Urbanite wins on all counts

URBANITE - SUMMARY

The Sennheiser Urbanite XL is one of those headphones that comes very close to ticking all of my boxes when it comes to portable listening.

For starters, it is wonderfully built, and I would have no issues carting it around the World (during my global travels). Add in the absolutely stellar SQ, and very natural sound, and you have a headphone that has almost all of my bases covered. Their bass quality in particular is among the best I’ve heard in a portable headphone – and the magic is that it never encroaches on the quality of the mid-range. Vocals shine with the Urbanite XL – it is the thing I love most about it.

My issue with the Urbanite though is mainly around long-term comfort, and unfortunately I think this is the one area Sennheiser’s designers may have picked form/looks over actual function/comfort. Unfortunately for me – despite everything else being almost perfect – I’d have to pass because it really is a deal breaker.

If you’re already used to wearing on-ears, this isn’t probably going to bother you – and the Urbanites are likely to be exceedingly comfortable to the likes of MOE, T51p and Grado wearers. But I was expecting circumaural – and unfortunately they aren’t quite there.

But the Urbanites deliver in almost every other area – and for that I would give a definite recommendation. My kids - with their smaller ears – love them!

On the question of value – Amazon’s price of ~ 190 USD is actually a brilliant asking price for these, and they are well worth picking up at that level. I also see “used like new” on Amazon at the moment for USD 143 – and for this price they are a steal. If I was in the States, I’d pick up a pair right now. Unfortunately for us in Australia and NZ, we end up getting gouged at $300 and $400 respectively. For that price locally – I’d have to pass, as the value proposition simply isn’t there.

Finally – my thanks once again to Sennheiser, Noisy Motel and White Lotus. I’ve really enjoyed my time with these, and hopefully someday I can repay the favour. I’m going to miss these next week after I send them back.


urbanite15.jpg

RECOMMENDATIONS TO SENNHEISER

My recommendations are pretty simple – and hopefully they may be addressed in future models:

  • Don’t change the SQ – unless you can very slightly lift the lower treble / upper mid-range without overly affecting the rest of the signature. Otherwise I’m fine with EQ, and I think you’ve probably hit your target markets’ preferences admirably.
  • Fix the earcups (comfort). Take a look at the UE6000 – small earpieces shaped to fit the ear. For a portable headphone, ultimate comfort is one of the things most people will not compromise on. It is the one area you fall short on.
  • At the current RRP, the accessory package is too sparse. For that I would expect an adaptor, spare cable and spare pads. Maybe reconsider the RRP (especially Down Under), or look at what you are offering compared to the competition.
Brooko
Brooko
Hi Agito - good question and one I can't answer. The Urbanites were part of a loaner tour - ie they were returned. And my sons MOE have been "retired" because he broke the cable (he is quite hard on headphones).  Maybe try asking the Sennheiser rep on the forums:
http://www.head-fi.org/u/146072/rosmadi-mahmood
Agito
Agito
Thank you, Brooko. I'll try asking him.
C
canonite
thanks to your pictures that i understood how to fit on the HM5 pads.. the original pads started flaking after a year of use...
Pros: High quality rugged design with strong sound
Cons: Fit
The Start
This review is part of the Official Sennheiser URBANITE Australian review tour organized by White Lotus and made possible by Sennheiser Australia .
Many thanks to White Lotus for his efforts and Sennheiser Australia for their trust and generosity .
I have no connection to either party and received no reward or inducement for this review
 
Cast and crew
For the week the Urbanite was with me it alternated between the following
Ipod nano gen2
FIIO X1
Ipod Classic + Denon DA10
Dell Inspiron 17r
Woo Wa7+Tp
 
Venue
In order to test the Urbanites suitability to the urban environment we went for a ride on the train , a walk in the park with my dog Pea and hung out at home listening to music and watching TV
 
Players
I listen mostly to Indie/Alternative music last weeks play list comprised random selections from the following albums
Gary Clark Jr Live  : Gary Clark Jr
Planet Blue Eyes  : The Preatures
.5: The Grey Chapter  : Slipknot
Goin' Boogaloo  : C.W. Stoneking
Neutral Ground  : Maggie Koerner
Seeds  : TV On The Radio
Echo Of Miles  : Soundgarden
Roll The Bones  : Shakey Graves
 
The Good
First thing that struck me was build quality
No throw away blister pack here instead you get a keep forever thick card slip box with form fitting foam lining
Sennheiser make plastic feel classy it never looks like the cheap option always the best considered material for the job
From the hard plastic cups and slider through the silicone liner on the headband with fabric top cover to the metal hinge plates and cable guides , everything feels like the right tool for the job
On to design
Sennheiser have clearly dropped some big time and money on some serious industrial design in the Urbanite
Everything here is new , innovative slider and cup gimbal , flat cable which slides in and out of the headband and solid hinges which allow the Urbanite to curl up into a little ball for transport
Sennheisers design brief appears to have been one of quiet strength there is nothing flashy or eye catching but I get a sense of solid dependability about the Urbanite
In Use
While on my train journey to the big city I cranked up the volume while looking for expressions of disapproval from my fellow travelers there were no awkward glances , near journeys end I inquired politely to the elderly couple sitting opposite if they had been disturbed by my loud music to which they replied "Didn't hear a thing dear" 
With the volume set low I listened for the rumble of the diesel and the clunk of the track both were subdued to unobtrusive levels
During my walk with Pea who can be quite demanding the Urbanite never felt cumbersome and were easy to manage single handed
Sound quality is in the high end of the spectrum I would say neutral to dark
Bass
Bass is a little distant particularly with my lower powered devices but fills in nicely with more power
Overall bass is good for this price point and the flaws are apparent only when compared to more expensive headphones
Midrange
All is good in the midrange very pleasant timbre and good detail regardless of device
Voice tone was particularly noticeable when watching TV streamed on the laptop great depth and realism
Treble
Treble is never harsh or sibilant , much like bass a little rolled of on the low power gear but full of detail and sparkle with more juice
Stage
Stage is tight as I would expect of a headphone with small closed cups but image is good with clear separation
 
The Bad
For me the only major downside with the Urbanite was fit while the ear pads are beautifully made from a material similar to the HD800 they are just too small for my ears
While it was possible to achieve a good seal by performing some origami on my ears this caused some discomfort over a long session and when combined with the arms of my glasses it became painful
Headband padding is minimal and although the Urbanite is quite light they still became uncomfortable within an hour
There were also minor quibbles with sound quality on the low power devices , merging bass lines and confused treble but a small amp fixed that
 
The Ugly
P2240025.jpg  P2240047.jpg  P2240060.jpg

 P2240073.jpg  P2240147.jpg  P2240238.jpg
 
The End
I enjoyed my time with the Urbanite despite my fit issues which are largely due to my large sticky out ears and wearing glasses
While the Urbanite is not spectacular in any respect it never really offends or disappoints
I think they would make a great gift for someone (with average to small ears) new to quality headphones as they have a pleasing sound and are built to last
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White Lotus
White Lotus
Great review mate, awesome photos too!
DJScope
DJScope
Good stuff mate!

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