Sennheiser is one of the dominant players in the headphones/in ear monitor market, with offerings ranging from reasonably priced in-ears to the HD 800 over-ear headphones that go for close to Rs 90,000. Its new Urbanite line is clearly aimed at the Beats generation.
No, we aren't talking about followers of the poetry movement pioneered by Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac but the generation which loves those shiny, bass-heavy headphones made the company founded by rapper Dr Dre and record producer Jimmy Iovine that is now part of the Apple empire.
Just a look at the Urbanite is enough to convince you that Sennheiser is aiming at the demographic that loves their headphones in shiny colours with bling. But what sets the Urbanite apart from the competition is Sennheiser's focus on robust build and sound.
The headband is covered with a denim-like material that comes in five colours if you're buying the model meant for use with iPhones and iPads. (The review model came in plum colour.) Android smartphone users get only two colours - black and blue. The part of the headband that rests on your head is covered with a white silicone rubber-like material (that could discolour over time).
There are classy touches that show the Urbanite is built to last, including hinges of stainless less and aluminium sliders on which the ear cups are positioned. The headphones fold inwards so that it is small enough to be stowed in a drawstring bag.
I've never been a big fan of on-ear headphones. For me, they get uncomfortable with prolonged use, especially if I'm wearing my glasses. The Urbanite did little to change that impression, though the memory foam filled ear pads covered with velour were comfortable even after a few hours of use.
However, the Urbanite moved quite a bit with any sharp head movements - this is probably not the pair of headphones you'll pick up when you're going jogging.
The Urbanite is great at shutting out sounds even in noisy environments, allowing the music to come through loud and clear without the need to pump up the volume. It is also very easily driven and sounded fine even at moderate volume levels with most smartphones.
Sennheiser's promotional materials state the Urbanite serves up "massive bass" but this isn't the sort of thick, artificially boosted bass that muddies up the overall sound. The bass is strong and controlled, going pretty low without ever spilling over to the mids.
The mids are nice and warm but the highs, especially the uppermost notes, are rolled off, making the Urbanite sound a little recessed. The overall sound signature is fine if you're listening to rock or hip-hop but the Urbanite may not cut it for those who are into genres like jazz or classical which require more finesse.
Making calls on my smartphone using the Urbanite presented no problems and the other party came through loud and clear. The microphone is placed at just the right position on the flat cable and I never had to speak loudly or bring the mic closer to my mouth.
For a pair of headphones priced at Rs 15,990, it's a little surprising that the Urbanite's cable isn't user replaceable and that it comes with a bag made of very thin fabric. The headphone end of the 1.2-metre cable has a 2.5 mm connector that twist locks in place while most aftermarket cables come with a 3.5 mm connector.
Frequency range: 16-22,000Hz
Sensitivity: 118 dB SPL/V