There are few hipper-looking headphones than the Seattle Urbanista, with their sleek, minimalist, branding-free form factor and conspicuous lack of buttons other than the simple on-off switch protruding daintily from the right cup.
The headband is coated in soft-touch plastic, the earcups are coated in faux leather, and the plastic of the outer cup has a velvety feel. There’s no branding or detailing of any kind – just your chosen colour, in matte, giving the Urbanista a pleasing, functional, unitary appearance. It’s almost surprising (but completely welcome) that you can fold them up, though the earcups don’t swivel.
In terms of comfort, these are pretty much unimprovable. At 172g they’re extremely light, and they clamp firmly to your head, so that you never have to worry about them falling off or moving, even during a vigorous run. The memory foam (at least, we think it’s memory foam) in the earcups provides excellent passive noise reduction while being breathable enough that your ears never get sweaty or uncomfortable. These cans just disappear.
To preserve the Seattle’s clean lines, Urbanista has come up with an ingenious and problematic touch control system. The right earcup is touch-sensitive, and a variety of taps and swipes let you increase the volume, pause a track, skip to the next track, answer calls, and so on.
On the face of it this is fine. It takes a few goes to master the feat of performing touch gestures on a surface that you can’t see, but once you get used to it you’ll be able to make use of the feature fairly straightforwardly. However, if our experience is anything to go by, 95% of the gestures you perform in the first week will be unintended as you accidentally brush your headphones while putting on a hat, or scratching your head, or whatever.
Eventually, you’ll start to maintain a sort of invisible barrier around your right ear, unconsciously avoiding all contact with it, meaning the controls don’t really get in the way after a few initial moments of irritation. But are these touch controls a good thing? The jury’s out.
Otherwise, the Urbanista Seattle has pretty much the features you’d expect for headphones in this price range: Bluetooth 4.0, a mic for calls, a respectable 12-hour battery life, but no aptX or NFC. The Bluetooth connection is mostly solid, with absolutely no hiss or static.
The Urbanista Seattle is incredibly good value for money when it comes to sound. The bass is sharp and punchy, the mids are assertive enough that vocals feel very present, and the treble is clean and rich. The separation and soundstage are both highly creditable – particularly in this price range – allowing you to pick out and locate different instruments clearly.
Every genre of music shines, but fans of folk and acoustic songs in particular will appreciate the clean, rich sound and the perfect, hiss-free stillness. It doesn’t matter, though – whether you’re listning to thrash metal, hip-hop, or classical music it’s impossible to be disappointed.
Of course, these are not premium audiophile headphones, and you’ll notice a difference in terms of clarity and refinement between them and, say, the Sennheiser Momentum, but that’s kind of beside the point. The Urbanista Seattle costs less than half as much, and it’s easily more than half as good.
The AKG Y50BT is a strong alternative in terms of sound, and probably narrowly outclasses the Urbanista Seattle on that front, but AKG’s cans are more expensive, and pretty much everything else about them is less attractive. We wouldn’t swap.
The Urbanista Seattle is a weird and wonderful pair of headphones. In terms of sound, comfort, and style, they casually outclass everything in their price range. Whether you’re going for a run, sitting at home on the sofa, or strutting through town, they’re uncannily perfect for the job, and they’ll quickly become your go-to cans.
They’re a better pair of headphones than you would reasonably expect to pick up for under £70, which is what they currently – and frequently – cost on Amazon. With their slightly obscure brand name and elegant looks, they seem a natural candidate for the ‘style over substance’ category, but they’re exactly the opposite of that. Their nod to stylishness – an innovative touch interface to keep them sleek – is their only vulnerability.
Thankfully, in every respect that really counts, from sound to comfort to versatility, they’re absolutely brilliant.
Specs (from the Urbanista site):
- Bluetooth: 4.1
- Speaker size: φ40mm
- Sensitivity: 97dB±3dB At 1KHz
- Impedance: 26Ω10﹪
- Frequency: 20-20.000Hz
- Hands-free with microphone and volume control
- Stand-by time: 500h
- Play time: 12h
- Charging: Micro USB, <2.5hrs charging time
- Compatible with Android, iOS and Windows
- Weight: 172g (without packaging)
- Weight including packaging: 566g
- Package size: 200x200x85mm