Sennheiser Urbanite On-Ear Headphone

Sennheiser has consistently impressed me with practically every single headphone I have ever heard from their repertoire. During the adolescence of my audiophile journey, Sennheiser was one of the very first brands that I looked into. I wanted something serious, classy, and not targeted towards the average consumer who more often than not only looked at brands like Bose, Sony, and Skullcandy (pre-Beats explosion).

I did my homework, and felt that the Sennheiser HD201 sounded like a headphone I’d enjoy. The HD201 was purely entry level, and purely worth it’s price. It was a safe, balanced sound that worked well for most purposes. Little did I know back then, Sennheiser was well known for a balanced, inoffensive, fatigue-free, house sound in general.

Since then, I have listened to or owned quite a bit more Sennheiser headphones including: PC360, Momentum, PX100-II, and my favorite all-time Sennheiser headphone, the venerable HD650.

In came the Sennheiser Urbanite brand. Somewhat of a departure from Sennheiser’s mature, no-nonsense designs, the Urbanites are aesthetically a bit more adventurous, which look to be aimed for the younger crowd, which wouldn’t typically look at Sennheiser headphones in general. This is a bold step outside of Sennheiser’s well-constructed box, one that some long-time Sennheiser faithful, may not want to follow. The Urbanite line of headphones is the opposite of what I normally expect and like from Sennheiser, but I’ll play along.

Build Quality

Rating: Amazing

The Urbanite On-Ear may look a bit young and inexperienced, but that is where that notion ends. The Urbanite showcases some truly masterful engineering.

Starting with the headband, the topside is covered in a dark, denim-like fabric with white stitching for visual contrast. It certainly pops, and looks unlike any other headband I have ever seen, as well as pleasing my sense of touch.

The underside of the headband is an all white, smooth rubbery material that appears sweat proof, and has minimal padding, though never caused any comfort issues on my head. I worry the color may fade to an off white with heavy use, though that is merely a cosmetic nitpick.

My main gripe with the headband is that it is simply too big/out of proportion relative to the cups. I’m fairly certain the headband is also used on the Urbanite XL, which makes a lot more sense. I’m not speaking of length (which is perfect), but rather the width. As a headphone targeted for the younger crowd (which do take looks into account), the headband misses the mark – aesthetically – due to sheer size. I would’ve liked for Sennheiser to use this headband exclusively for the Urbanite XL, and a smaller one for the On Ear to match it’s overall proportions.

The hinges are often overlooked on headphones, and are usually amongst the first things to break. I don’t see the Urbanite’s metal hinges ever breaking under all forms of use, short of pure abuse. They allow the cups to fold inward, though the Urbanite On Ear is far from being the most compact headphone. It will at least fit carrying pouches with ease. Do take note: be very careful with the hinges, as they are strong enough to rip off a piece of flesh when it snaps back to its un-collapsed state.

The black, aluminum sliders, complete the headband assembly, and like the metal hinges, will stand the test of time. The cups slide smoothly, while remaining secure once a preferred length is found. The plastic cups are matte black, and house the left/right audio channel entries on the top. The wires are covered by flat, rubbery sleeves, which I feel is a nice protective touch, compared to Beyerdynamic’s Premium headphones, which use thin cables between the cups and the headband. The left cup houses the 2.5mm twist locking input. The input is pretty recessed inside the cup, meaning no easy way to fit aftermarket cables.

Much to my relief, the ear pads are covered in velour, and stuffed with memory foam. The velour keeps the ears from building heat and sweat, unlike commonly used, synthetic leather pads. The pads easily slip off and on, for quick cleaning or future replacement.

The supplied 1.2m cable is detachable: 2.5mm on the headphone side, right angled 3.5mm low-profile plug on the other. The cable is flat, black, and rubbery, housing the 3-button remote with mic. The volume buttons appear to only work for Apple devices, with Android devices only utilizing the play/pause button. The Urbanite is a fine example of German engineering: Lightweight, incredibly rugged, and durable. But it’s a shame about the wide headband.

Accessories included:

1.2m flat cable with three-button remote and inline mic.

Gray Sennheiser carrying pouch

Comfort

Rating: Good

It’s no secret that I don’t care for on ear headphones when it comes to comfort. There is comfort, and then there is comfortable for an on ear headphone. What the latter means, is that on ear headphones can be comfortable for a brief period, until I can no longer tolerate the pressure of having the headphones press down on my ears. Even the most comfortable on ear headphones (example: Ultrasone HFI-15G) that don’t clamp strongly still manage to become an issue after some time.

The Urbanite’s headband padding is a bit barren, with a miniscule amount of cushion near the center. That being said, the Urbanite doesn’t produce much down force, and merely rests on my head. Most of the Urbanite’s force in remaining secure on the head comes from the ear pads.

Clamping force is moderate, allowing the Urbanite to remain quite secure on the head. Unfortunately, this means that the pads will be pushed towards the ears, reducing long-term comfort. The dense, memory foam packed, velour pads are quite comfortable for an on ear, though not on the level of on ear, comfort kings like the Ultrasone HFI-15G.

Weight-wise, the Urbanite on ear is lightweight, but with enough weight to feel substantial and premium. It doesn’t disappear on the head, but the heft won’t cause any discomfort. The Urbanite’s comfort is, generally speaking, on the good side. It will be better suited for headphones users to listen for brief periods of time, compared to users who listen to their headphones for hours on end. I must admit that comfort is certainly among the best for on-ear headphones that I’ve tested.

Isolation/Leakage

Rating: Very Good

The Urbanite On Ear is excellent keeping noises out, and very good at keeping sounds in, though I’ve heard better in terms of noise control (i.e. Beyerdynamic T51). There shouldn’t be any complaints of noise leakage. With music playing at a moderate volume, it’s passive noise cancelling is excellent.

Microphone

Rating: Decent

I mainly tested the Urbanite’s microphone while playing video games like Destiny, as was told the sound quality was decent, but not as good as the V-moda Boompro I was using with my Monster DNA Pro. I wasn’t able to extensively test the microphone otherwise.

Sound

After a brief period of using some bright headphones, I was ready to go back to the loving embrace of warm, non-fatiguing headphones. The Urbanite On Ear did not disappoint.

The Urbanite On Ear is classic Sennheiser: Warm, full bodied, and non-fatiguing. If I could define the Urbanite On Ear’s sound in one word, it would be…sultry. It could also be described as chocolaty, silky, and rich. There is great texture, meatiness, and tenderness in the Urbanite’s sound, which makes it a great choice for highly pleasurable, lengthy, listening sessions. Like a sip of premium roast coffee, it can also have some bite (like it’s exceptional lower end), keeping it from treading towards being too safe or boring.

The intimate, and emotive sound, keeps it from disconnecting with the listener, though at the cost of some aural space.

Digging into the specifics…

Bass

Quantity: Strong

Quality: Excellent

Sennheiser’s Urbanite campaign marketed the Urbanites as having “Massive bass without compromised clarity”, compared to the copious amount of urban-styled headphones that simply boost the loudness in bass, quality be damned. Sennheiser successfully managed to give the Urbanite On Ear bass worthy of street credibility, without sacrificing the detail, texture, and tightness.

The Urbanite On Ear can certainly hit with an authoritative amount of force, though ‘massive’ may be a bit of an overstatement. However, it certainly is quite strong, while maintaining excellent control. The bass can be felt all the way down to the lower <30hz range, even relative to the rest of the sound. I’d call it somewhat planar magnetic in presence, due to the bass reaching down low, remaining powerful, controlled, and unobtrusive to the midrange.

I’m a bit surprised by how strong the bass is, although it doesn’t exactly sound louder in the mix relative to the mids. They’re both very well balanced with one another, as if they’re both emphasized over the neutral point. The bass works harmoniously with the mids, giving the Urbanite a full-bodied sound, with no sacrifices made between the two.

Sennheiser has done amazing things with the Urbanite On Ear’s bass. It’s a strong bridge between newbie bassheads looking for something better, and the seasoned audiophile with a taste for bass. All other companies should take note: this presentation of bass is what all other closed headphones marketed for their ‘massive’ bass should strive to sound like and improve upon.

Midrange

Quantity: Full, recessed upper mids

Quality: Excellent

Like the bass, the mids are quite excellent. Intimate, fluid, full, forward, and well balanced with the bass. The bass never creeps up on the lower mids. It’s syrupy, euphonic, and never overly aggressive.

As for as problem areas in the mids, the upper mids are a bit relaxed relative to the bass and general mids, with some peaks just over 5khz, 6.5khz-7khz, that never manage to become a real issue due to the broad recession in general.

Treble

Quantity: Recessed

Quality: Smooth with some upper treble sparkle

The treble section on the Urbanite On Ear is the weakest aspect of the Urbanite On Ear’s frequency response, being considerably recessed relative to the bass and mids. This gives the Urbanite On Ear a thick, intimate sound, with little air. It isn’t entirely devoid of sparkle, as there are small peaks that give it some semblance of energy. If you’re looking for a sparkly, energetic treble response, look elsewhere.

Soundstage

Rating: Fair

The soundstage ultimately takes a backseat in favor of highlight the other aspects of sound. If you want a spacious sound, you may be a tad disappointed. The Urbanite On Ear will to excite you with upfront and center bass and mids with little space between you and the action.

Clarity

Rating: Decent

The Urbanite’s strength in clarity is in the bass and the meaty portion of the midrange. Due to the upper mid to treble recession, upper range clarity will be perceptively lacking. This isn’t entirely true or accurate, as the Urbanite does have some clarity up top, but the differences in volume between the treble and everything else will always be a factor that ultimately hampers it’s general clarity.

The Urbanite On Ear works exceptionally well at controlling hot, bright, sibilant recordings, ultimately making the Urbanite On ear, one of the most forgiving headphones I’ve heard to date.

Amping = Unnecessary

The Urbanite is pretty sensitive (built for portable use) and as such, does not require much power beyond what portable devices are capable of. As far as amps go, I recommend a detailed oriented, solid-state amp to mitigate its upper range deficiency.

Personal Recommendation

Movies? Yes

Music? Hip hop, EDM, vocal

Gaming? Non-competitive, Action

While the soundstage is one of it’s biggest weakness, the Urbanite On Ear is plenty impactful in other areas. The Urbanite On Ear is very good headphone for general media like TV shows (speech is very intelligible), and movies (immersion is plentiful). Ear fatigue is kept to a bare minimum, so harsh or bright recordings are easily handled. The Urbanite On Ear is one of the best headphones I have ever used for anime viewing (anime tends to be a bit liberal in applying extra brightness).

Final Impressions

The Urbanite On Ear was a great surprise for me. I particularly liked the general sound signature. The bass is strong; reaches way down low, and never gets in the way of well-integrated mids. The treble, while a bit blunted, still has some energy, and remains almost entirely fatigue free. It’s sound signature would be almost perfect for all day use, if only I found on ears comfortable enough to use for a prolonged period.

The Urbanite On Ear isn’t a particularly impressive headphone in terms of clarity and hyper detail. That being said, the bass is incredibly well done for a bassy headphone, and was surprised that it stayed away from the midrange. This made the Urbanite On Ear a rare headphone for me, as one that I could enjoy for my bass driven music, as well as TV shows and anime, which I watch a lot while wearing headphones. I could easily understand what people are saying on TV shows, which isn’t typical for bassy headphones.

I wouldn’t choose the Urbanite On Ear for my gaming needs, as the soundstage is a bit too intimate for gaming, but on the flipside, the intimate soundstage brought better attention and focus to the mids while listening to music. If Sennheiser manages to makes a second version with less treble recession, I believe they will have found the perfect sound signature for those venturing into the audiophile landscape. Even those who have dabbled in it for years would also appreciate the overall traits of Sennheiser’s multi-purpose sound and quality.

If you’re a fan of bass, rich vocals, warmth, intimate sound, the Urbanite On Ear will work very well for those needs. It would remind me of something like a much cheaper, closed, Audeze LCD2.2 alternative. Not Mad Dog level, but still quite good.

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Pros:

  • Bass is strong but unobtrusive
  • Mids are well balanced and natural
  • Treble fatigue is nearly non-existent, no added sibilance
  • Exceptional build quality
  • Sensitive, easy to drive
  • Forgiving of harsh recordings

Cons:

  • Treble range is a bit muted
  • Considerably warm, stuffy at times
  • Soundstage deficient
  • Headband disproportionate from the cups
  • Clamp leads to less long-term comfort

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Christian Gabiel [Mad Lust Envy]

Under the name Mad Lust Envy, known for the surprisingly popular headphone gaming guide on Head-fi's Video Game Discussion sub-forum. Avid anime and gamer geek with a penchant for headphone audiophilia, though admittedly more for general media use, less so for music. Plenty of music listening when reviewing, however. While the headphone hobby started in 2010, it was full steam ahead from the start, never looking back.

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REPLY
  • Michael Mercer
  • 2015-02-04 07:54:51
  • Great job as always Mad Lust Envy!! I love mine!
  • Reply


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