Urbanista Los Angeles headphones review: Wireless, solar-powered noise cancellation

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Buy now £169, Urbanista.com

  • Drivers: Urbanista 40mm neodymium
  • Weight: 500g
  • Dimensions: 24.3cm x 20.2cm x 7.9cm
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Battery life: Infinite, potentially
  • Compatible with: iOS and Android
  • Rating: 8/10

Design

There’s a pleasing chunkiness to the look and feel of the vegan leather cushions and pleasingly tactile plastic earcups. Everything’s very demurely tucked away, and there’s a very handsome, clean aesthetic to the Los Angeles. Though they look modestly proportioned and sleek, the heft of the headphones adds to the sense of a high-grade product.

Of course, the high point of the design is in the unobtrusive and, perhaps, revolutionary powerfoyle. It’s a smart idea which works excellently with the overall look of the Los Angeles, and the vegan leather carry case is open at the top to let the headphones charge constantly. The headphones themselves feel really robustly made too – every element of the construction is satisfyingly chunky.

There is, however, a certain stiffness in the headband thanks to the Powerfoyle which could make the headphones feel a little restrictive if you were blessed with a large head, which along with this model’s weight could potentially make long term wear uncomfortable.

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Over a day’s work, the ample padding on the headband did stop the weight becoming an issue, but the firm grip might not be to everyone’s taste. This pair was tested by a reviewer with a tiny little noggin, and they clamped very tightly even onto his cranium.

And, if we’re really splitting hairs, the buttons feel a little plasticky and cheap compared to the rest of the set. Overall, though, the high-end construction matches the price.

Sound

The guts of the Los Angeles are based on Urbanista’s Miami model (£129, Urbanista.com), and the sound the Los Angeles give you is as beefy as the build.

Wet Leg’s Chaise Longue thrums with fizzing energy, its fuzz tone guitars sounding taut and punchy. While the mellifluous strains of Nicholas Cleobury’s rendition of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending are really competently handled – there’s great depth and liveliness to the sound-picture, and it feels genuinely immersive.

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The noise-cancelling is very effective, filtering out a good chunk of the ambient noise around a busy London street and giving the whole sound a lift.

It’s vivid and peppy, but not perfect. With so much bass in the mix as standard, you get what feels like a very maximalist sound, with everything pushed up. That means that while the sound is always detailed, it’s sometimes not exactly crisp. On some tracks, too, the bass drum sounded oddly roomy, like it was coming from the end of a tunnel.

It can be a little unbalanced. Certain slightly higher, airier frequencies can become piercing – turning flutes, for instance, or the upper reaches of the piano keyboard into something of an endurance test. A spin of The Boy with the Arab Strap by Belle and Sebastian is a case in point. Despite the fantastic separation and clarity of guitars, piano, drums and bass, its recorders sound suddenly shrill.

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The Los Angeles handled podcasts nicely, with a lively, lifelike feel. There are odd moments though. Jon Ronson’s Things Fell Apart sounds tremendous until it’s just Ronson’s voice, at which point it abruptly sounds like the journalist is broadcasting from a small cupboard. It’s a minor gripe, but at the price point you’d hope for a touch more.

Software and features

As with nearly all high end headphones now, there’s an Urbanista audio app to link your headphones up to and expand your experience. Unlike with nearly all high end headphones now, though, there’s not an awful lot on the Urbanista Audio app.

There’s a lot to be admired about the pared-back design and simplified functionality. However, the Urbanista takes it to extremes. It lets you see how much your headphones are being charged by the mighty orb in the sky, switch between ambient noise cancellation modes, personalise how the buttons on the earcups work and… that’s about it.

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The lack of an EQ (equalisation) function on the app does imply a deep confidence in the standard set-up, but given what you can expect from most of the Los Angeles’ competitors, this feels like a misstep.

Seeing the charging suddenly pick up when you’re in a blast of wintry sunshine is still fun though, and the inbuilt microphone which lets you handle incoming calls and orders for either Google Assistant or Siri is good quality.

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