Sennheiser URBANITE XL WIRELESS - Club Sound on the Move

October 15, 2015

Sennheiser announced a flurry of headphones at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015. One of the new products was the URBANITE XL Wireless (SGD 419), an extension of its URBANITE product line which had wired and on-ears variants previously.

Before checking out the actual product, let's see the unboxing.

The box is massive. But on the other hand, for a relatively bulky pair of headphones, you need a box of size to match.

The Sennheiser is packaged in a no frills manner. Taking out the cover gives you direct access to the folded over-ears with the other contents tucked in a hole on the bottom right.

On laying everything out nicely, we see that the full package contents include:
- Headphones
- USB charging cable
- Audio cable (3.5mm to 2.5mm with in-line remote)
- Carrying pouch
- Quick start and safety guides

And now for the headphones. The URBANITE XL WIRELESS weighs a hefty 300g, quite on par with several over-ears like the Parrot Zik 3 (270g) and Sony MDR-1ABT (300g) but way heavier than the Bose SoundLink around-ear wireless headphones II (198g). 

The headband, made from stitched canvas on the top side and lined with white-coated rubber on the underside, looks and feels great. The ear cups actually follow the circular design of its on-ear sibling instead of going for the more traditional elliptical shape for an over-ears. When fitted on the head, they are undeniably comfortable though not to the level of a snug fit as they tended to tilt when I shifted my neck from side to side. 
Sennheiser put in some nice touches too - when adjusting the cups up and down for head/ear fit, the flat cable delivering the audio extends and retracts cleanly. The cans have an inward folding mechanism for easier storage, but we've gotta say it's still bulky nonetheless. Try storing it in the carrying pouch and you'll get the picture.

When connecting the audio cable for a wired connection, I just had to plug the 2.5mm jack and align the protrusion, into the right ear cup and twist clockwise to secure it in place.

The Sennheiser crams all the latest textbook features of what a pair of Bluetooth headphones should include. There's aptX codec usage, allowing CD quality transmission of audio over Bluetooth. 

There's near field communication (NFC) that allows a quick connection with your NFC-enabled player to the Sennheisers. These over-ears meet the Bluetooth 4.0 standard, which promises lower power consumption, and also allow convenient connection to two devices simultaneously. 

To pair the URBANITE XL WIRELESS, just flick and hold the power switch to the Bluetooth logo and the LED will flicker blue and red. Activate Bluetooth on your source, select the headphones to pair and you're good to go.

The touch panel lies on the right side. It allows playing of music / taking calls (single touch) and volume adjustment (slide the finger up / down). However, it can get a little sensitive and I ended up canceling some calls that were accidentally initiated when adjusting the fit of the headphones. 
The sticker says it all
The in-line remote is designed to function when the audio cable is plugged in which in turn deactivate Bluetooth and the touch panel. The multifunction button plays tracks and takes calls with a single touch and skips tracks with a double / triple press. The volume control is a slider is great 'cos it allows compatibility for both iOS and Android.

The ear pads are easily removable and replaceable. We are currently checking on the cost of the pads.

Update (16 Oct 2015)
In Singapore, the ear pads cost SGD 48.15 (inc. GST) and are available at the Sennheiser Service Centre at 438B Alexandra Technopark.

The voice and sound prompts were certainly useful. Let's take two examples. When increasing the volume to the max, two beep alerts will sound. When finalizing the Bluetooth pairing, the voice prompt 'Connected' will confirm that there's a handshake.

Sennheiser put in their press release that the URBANITE series is geared for 'an emotional, powerful club sound on the move'. We put this claim to the test. 

We tried Skrillex and Diplo's electronic dance-themed Where Are Ü Now which delivered a controlled performance with a good balance between the infusion of beats and the vastly contrasting dolphin like wails (of Justin Bieber's pitched voice methinks?).

Nothing beats David Guetta's Sexy Bitch when it comes to thumping basslines punctuating the 'emotive' outbursts from Akon about finding the right words to describe a girl. 

The result from the URBANITE XL 'phones for both tracks is an engaging performance where the bass delivery is top notch. Unlike other bass-enhanced headphones, it doesn't overwhelm and it complements the treble which comes across as sufficiently clear.

On to noise isolation. This was tested during a bus commute and the result was unexpectedly poor, especially for an over-ears, as ambient sounds could easily heard through the music playback.

For the battery power, Sennheiser claims an excellent playback / talk time of up to 25 hours with a 2 hour charge of the built-in Lithium Polymer battery. This is remarkable given its performance of its Bluetooth over-ears peers like the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless (12 hours) and comparable to the Sony MDR-1ABT (28 hours). 

The Sennheiser URBANITE XL WIRELESS is a well built and fashionable pair of over-ears. Though the touch controls come somewhat short, these headphones sparkle with excellent audio reproduction and a diverse feature set, inclusive of a 2 year international warranty.

Audio Sources
Where Are Ü Now - Jack Ü (Skrillex and Diplo) with Justin Bieber (Spotify 320kbps MP3) on iPad Air
Sexy Bitch - David Guetta feat. Akon (Spotify 320kbps MP3) on Samsung Galaxy S4

Credit to Sennheiser and Ketchum for a review unit.

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