By Ajay Joseph
It is 2019 and we live in an age of wireless Bluetooth headphones, and though they have existed for some time, their audio quality has only recently caught up to wired pairs, which have always been the choice for purists.
Sony is the current reigning champ in the wireless department with its WH-1000XM2, but also commands a hefty P18,000 price tag. If you aren’t particular about wireless connectivity, there are some solid options from a year or two ago, that are available at half the price. In line with that, below are notes from my experience with the very competent Sennheiser Urbanite XL Over-Ear headphones.
For those unfamiliar with Sennheiser, it’s a German audio company specializing in high-fidelity products. They’ve been in the audio business for over 70 years, and are pioneers who have made a significant impact on the development of the industry. Not to mention the several awards they have won, and patents that they own. The Urbanite headphones are positioned towards the younger market, for contemporary music, with a sensible emphasis on bass (more on that later).
The Urbanite XL Over-Ear headphones are quite large and comfortable. The hefty ear-cups are designed to encapsulate your ears, and thus the “Over-Ear” moniker. There is a regular non-XL version, that’s smaller. While it’s lighter and more portable, the XL is more comfortable; even worn for several hours, on transatlantic flights, it remains comfortable.
The design is angular and attractive. The headband has a white inner silicone surface and has a fabric exterior. In addition to the black model pictured here, there are other colors including blue, brown, and purple. The colors are mostly subdued. The headband has good flex but does not put unnecessary pressures on the ears. The ear cups are height adjustable, and for transit are foldable.
There is only one connector, which is for the 3.5mm audio cable. The unit does not need an external power source, which is a big plus. The audio cable has limited audio controls and a mic. Depending on the version you order, it comes with Android or Apple specific control cables; not both. I’ve tested the Android version with a Windows Phone, and it worked perfectly.
Fidelity and clarity of sound are where the Urbanite XL shines and keeps with the warm, quality sound expected from a Sennheiser product. Though these are positioned as bass heavy headphones, the bass is tight and accurate. None of that overemphasized bass that muddies up other frequencies, masking and drowning out the mids.
For a discerning listener, this is one of the examples of really well-executed bass delivery. To the general listener, be warned that if you’re looking for considerable oomph, even at the cost of other frequency delivery, you’re probably better off with the Beats Solo 2 or Monster Ntune.
Compared to Sennheisers own Momentum Over-Ear headphones, the sound is similar, but the Momentum has a noticeably weaker low-frequency response, which is no surprise, given that the Urbanite is bass focused.
Needless to say, thanks to its good frequency response and tight bass, it’s great for movie watching, where it’s important that dialog is not muffled when coupled with ambient sounds. I tested it out watching a couple of scenes from recent movies, that included dialog, action sequences, and such, and the audio spectrum coverage was exemplary.
The original release price back in 2016 was a significant $350. In the Philippines, at the Sennheiser stores and other retailers, it was available for between P15,000 and P20,000. But now in 2019, it’s available on Lazada for as little as P8,000. Other retailers carry the unit for prices ranging between P8,500 and P10,500.
At the time of release, it was priced similarly to the Beats Solo, which it trumps in terms of sound quality. Now in 2019 though, thanks to its attractive pricing, the Urbanite XL is far superior to much more expensive products.
Worth noting is that replacement parts allow for specific individual changes, versus needing to replace the complete unit. The Beats models for example, do not allow for this.
With its limited brand presence, Sennheiser goes under the radar in the Philippines, with Beats being the aspirational millennial pop-culture brand, and Audio Technica being preferred by enthusiasts. Though initial pricing kept the Sennheiser products out of reach, lowered pricing on previous flagship products now makes for exciting options.
Given the excellent sound stage, superb audio fidelity, and all-around suitability of the Urbanite XL Over-Ear headphones, it’s hard to pass them up. Unless you absolutely need wireless connectivity, and given the lack of charging and battery woes, the Urbanite makes for a perfect choice.
Model – Sennheiser Urbanite XL Over-Ear
Price – P7,999
Verdict – Crisp, clear, tight bass, with all-around good fidelity, for the discerning listener.