Sennheiser is one of those brand names I look to for high quality audio. I admit that my relationship with Sennheiser has been a bit touch and go over the years. It’s been a little bit more “go” recently since we purchased a headset for our TV last year and I had a lot of connection and sound quality issues. However, I’d heard some really good things about the Urbanite line. It was receiving a lot of praise for its sound quality, comfort and most importantly, bang for the buck. When Sennheiser contacted me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their Urbanite XL Over-Ear Bluetooth Headphones, I jumped on the opportunity immediately.
Setup on this thing is a snap. For a wireless setup, all you have to do is set the headphones to its pairing mode and sync up with Bluetooth. While I’ve had problems with this in the past, the Urbanite XL hooked up flawlessly and easily. I think it’s a reasonable expectation of buyers that this something this high end somehow works wired as well. Strangely, this isn’t always a luxury provided by these types of headsets. Fortunately, you have two ways that you can utilize the Urbanite XL wired, which is fantastic news. There are cables included to allow for you to listen to your music on any standard audio device or through USB on your computer while it’s charging. The headphones themselves function as standard ones in wired mode but the real treat happens to be with the features of the wireless mode.
The Urbanite XL tries to make your music listening experience as seamless and handsfree as possible. The main way that it succeeds is a hidden touchpad remote on each earpiece. Do you see the Sennheiser logos that emblazen the ear cups there? On both sides, they have hidden command capabilities. Swipe your finger up/down to adjust the volume and tap your finger to play and pause music. It’s a great feature really but I did find this to be a bit too sensitive for my liking. It seemed like every time the headphones would start to slip down and I had to adjust, I’d accidentally trigger the volume controls or shut my music off. It’s easy enough to re-adjust and start the music up again, but I admit it was a little annoying. Bear in mind again that this feature is only available while its in wireless Bluetooth mode. If you are plugged into your PC listening to music while charging the headset, it functions like a set of regular headphones.
Comfort is key when you’re wearing something like this. You’ll run into situations often where either comfort or quality is sacrificed. You can have the best sounding earphones but you can’t keep them on your head for longer than a half hour. It could be the other way around too. You could feel like your ears are snuggly wrapped in a pillow and be forced to listen to static filled tinny music. The Urbanite XL blends great sound quality with a comfortable listening experience. I’ve had headphones in the past where the ear cups were so resistant to breathing that my ears would quickly reach the temperature of 1000 suns. Not only are the foam earcups soft and breathable, but you’ll hardly notice that they’re on your ears. That’s a great feeling considering that because of the fact that it has more metal construction than a lot of its competition, it is a bit heavier than some over-ear sets. It’s not an uncomfortable feeling at all, but it was noticeable to me who reviews up to a dozen different headsets each year.
A quite small gripe here, but the carrying case (if you can call it that) it comes with is basically a thin sheet of nylon. I don’t tend to use these cases/pouches at all so I’d comfortably say I’m unaffected, but if you will be using it yourself, consider that it may not withstand a lot of wear and tear if you’re going to be shoving it in and out of, say, a messy backpack.
If I could compare the sound quality from the Sennheiser Urbanite XL to a real life occupation, it would fall somewhere in the realm of “motivational speaker” The sound output is very vigorous and downright dynamic. It touches down in all of the right spots. Bass heavy music will sound it. Even EDM sounded great on these headphones, which is a true compliment coming from me. For a headset at a price point that comes into direct competition with some of the most popular brands out there, it definitely stands out. How is this relevant to your needs? Let’s break down the ever-so-crucial sound quality into two major elements to today’s music:
Online Streaming: If you do a lot of music or audio/video streaming (ie. Spotify, Shazam or Youtube,) the Urbanite XL is a definite treat. Music sounded fantastic coming from mastered streaming sources. I must have spent at least 4 to 5 hours the first night I took these out of the box working and messing around with Spotify. In a way, my phone company should be thanking Sennheiser for forcing me to use this Spotify Plus account they gave me with my last contract.
The only area that I found the Urbanite XL was at a disadvantage was with some of the older music in my iTunes library. Where I had a bit of trouble was with older music and older, lower quality mp3s. I could definitely hear a bit more hiss and a lot less refinement and automatic cleanup than I’ve received from others in its class. However, I will also add that much of my mp3 library dates back to the times where you had to use separate programs to “rip” and “encode” your music and would run out of Hard Drive space after ripping 2 CDs. But if this brings back nostalgic feelings of your typical Thursday night back in 1999, you probably know what I’m talking about.
You should have little to no issues with any music of the last 10-15 years or anything older that has been recently digitally remastered.
The Urbanite XL also comes with a microphone onboard to take phone calls. Phone calls were clear and I had no concerns with them whatsoever.I admit that I don’t tend to use headphones to take phone calls but if you do, know that it is a pretty seamless process and it sounds on-par with its competition.
Over the past few months, I’ve reviewed or had the chance to play test headsets and earbuds from Beats, SMS and Monster. The Sennheiser Urbanite XL is comparable to pretty well all of its contemporaries. I actually prefer the rugged construction style of the Urbanite XL to most plastic single-hinge models and wish more headphones had this type of flexible construction. Getting used to adjusting your headset and accidentally tinkering with your music volume is a bit of a growing pain at first, but in time, you’ll habitually start adjusting your ear cups from the sides like I did.
Regardless, the Sennheiser Urbanite XL is definitely one of the most comfortable and flexible higher end headphone options out in the market. I would highly recommend these if they are in your budget and you’re seeking a one stop experience for music, whether it be on the go or not. It’s worth your time of day and the price of admission.