The True Wireless earphones market is booming these days, with pairs for almost every budget. Urbanista, the Swedish audio company, is continuing the line of wireless earbuds named after big cities – this time with my favourite city in the world – London. So, are they as vibrant and loud as the city they’re named after?
The Urbanista London True Wireless Earbuds were clearly meant to be Apple Airpod competitors (they even look the same) – but at a much lower price. With excellent sound quality, touch buttons, decent battery life and even Active Noise Cancellation, they aim to give you a lot for your money.
But can they really compete with earphones that cost almost £100 more? In this review, I take a look at what the Urbanista London do very well, where there’s room for improvement, and whether they’re the right buds for YOU.
Quick Look – Urbanista London
What are they: True wireless earphones with Active Noise Cancellation that connect to your phone/laptop/streaming device via Bluetooth. Retail Price at the time of writing: £129.
- Great audio quality
- Active noise cancelling
- Very comfortable in the ear
- IPX4 Waterproof
- Built-in mic works well for phone calls
- In-ear detection sensors
- The noise cancellation isn’t very impressive
- Hard to put/remove without touching the buttons
- No track skipping
- Battery time is on the low end of the market
Features and Specs
- Battery Playing Time: 5 hours
- Additional Battery Time in Case: 20 Hours (25 in total)
- Quick Charging Time: 10 minutes for 1 hour
- Case charging port: USB-C (And Wireless with QI support)
- Bluetooth Version: 5
- Extra Features: Ambient Sound Mode, Can be used to control Siri / Google Assistant, Available in four different colours
Excellent true wireless earphones for the price, with impressive sound quality and some nifty features. The noise cancellation isn’t overly impressive, especially outside – but it does help.
Table of Contents
Who Are The Urbanista London Earphones For?
Remember the days when we had to connect our earphones with a cable? Those days are a distant memory now, with most mobile phones not even having a 3.5mm jack.
Which is why wireless headphones are so popular, and true wireless earphones – that don’t have cables of any sort – top the popularity contest.
With Apple’s Airpods serving as the benchmark for some (especially iPhone owners), many manufactures try to beat the Cupertino giant, either by out-performing the Airpods, or by lowering the price considerably, while still giving high-quality sound.
And that’s where the Urbanista London earphones come in. They’re available in four different colours (White, Black, Rose Gold and Blue), but there’s no mistaking their shape, which is very similar to the Airpods. The price, however, is nowhere near as expensive.
The Active Noise Cancellation is supposed to be the main selling point – as it’s rarely found on earphones at this price range. It uses the microphones to pick up and neutralise some of the sounds that creep into your ears from the outside world, when you’re using the earphones.
Other than that, Urbanista threw in almost every feature that earphone shoppers are looking for these days – from In-ear detection (which will automatically stop the music when you pull an earbud out of your ear), to touch controls, wireless charging, IPX4 water protection, and the list goes on and on.
However, HAVING every feature doesn’t always mean it’s implemented well – so let’s dive in.
Using The Urbanista London Earphones
Size And Comfort
I keep saying the Urbanista London look a lot like the Apple Airpods – which is true – but then, why mess with a form factor that works?
And indeed, the earbuds are perfectly sized, with the “stick” part not, well, sticking out too much. They’re also very lightweight, with the high-quality silicone tips (you get several sizes) fitting nicely in your ear.
All that is to say that they’re one of the most comfortable earbuds I’ve tested. At times, I forgot they were even in my ears – but there was also no risk of them falling out, even when running.
The touch-controls are placed on the tiny logo at the back of the stick – it takes some practice to learn exactly where to touch, but it’s easy enough to do. And thanks to the touch controls, you don’t have to “jam” the buds into your ear, as you do with earphones that have regular buttons.
The carrying case, which both holds and charges the earphones, is also quite compact so you can easily put it in your pocket.
The only downside with the design and the touch-control mechanism, is that it’s hard to put or pull the earphones out of your ears without pressing something. Even just moving them around in my ear a bit caused me to accidentally touch the control buttons – so that’s something to keep in mind.
Pairing And Controlling The Urbanista London
While Bluetooth has improved over its many years of existence, it’s still a very finicky standard. I can’t begin to count the number of times headphones caused me to throw mild curse words at the Bluetooth connection disconnecting, pairing not working, pairing finding only one earphone instead of two, etc’.
The Urbanista London, thankfully, managed to avoid most of these issues. Pairing is surprisingly easy – when you open the case (with the earphones still inside it), the earphones automatically go into pairing mode, so there’s no need to remember peculiar button presses for this.
Both my mobile phone and laptop managed to find – and pair with – the Londons pretty quickly. Plus, in a genius move, the case also has a Bluetooth “Reset” button, which lets you remove all existing pairings from the earphones.
That’s more important than you realise – because the Urbanista London can’t pair to more than one device at a time. So if you connect them to the laptop upstairs, for example, and then try to connect them to your mobile phone while you’re in the basement – you would normally need to physically go up and disconnect them on your laptop, before you could connect them to the second device.
With the Reset button, however, you can re-pair them to a new device without having to go to the original device first. It’s a first-world-problem, I know, but it causes a lot of friction with other earphones – so I’m thankfull for the inclusion of that reset button here.
The Bluetooth connection itself was stable, most of the time. As with almost any pair of wireless headphones, I did have the odd hiccup here and there – sound stopping or skipping a short beat, for example. But for the most part it was fine, even in congested areas.
The touch buttons generally work well – a single tap on the right raises the volume, a tap on the left lowers it. And you can also tap for starting and stopping the music, activate noise cancelling and ambient mode, or answer/disconnect phone calls.
Surprisingly, you can’t skip tracks (or go back) with the touch controls. That’s a serious misfire, as it’s one of my most used commands on any other earphones, and I can’t for the life of me understand why it’s absent here (And there’s also no way to re-map what the buttons do).
The Londons also have an in-ear detection feature, which will stop playing when you take one of the buds out of your ears – that’s useful when you want to stop and talk to someone on the street. Once you put the bud back in your ear – the playing automatically resumes.
Urbanista London Audio Quality
Features are nice to have, but the sound quality is obviously the most important part of any earphones. And the Urbanista London certainly deliver on that front.
The sound, when listening to music, is clear and well balanced. When reviewing Urbanista’s previous model, the Urbanista Athens, I was taken aback a bit by their overpowering bass.
The Urbanista London, however, manage to fix that issue – the bass is still powerful, but it doesn’t take over the sound-stage. There’s also no distortion at all on high volumes.
The highs are cutting through without being harsh, and the bass has a nice range for such small earphones. It’s just the right balance of keeping you immersed without being too overwhelming.
That being said, the sound is a bit low-key. If you’re a fan of bombastic sound that goes up to 11, you won’t get it here. Instead, you get a clean representation of what the song you’re listening to was meant to sound like.
Podcasts and audiobooks also sound good – the voices are loud and clear, with the bass doing just enough to make even bad recordings sound better than they actually are.
But now we get to the Active Noise Cancellation, which is – well – a bit boring. It does… something.
Once you turn the ANC on, even if you’re not listening to anything, you will notice a difference, as outside sounds will get a bit muffled. And when you ARE listening to music, it mainly feels as if the effect increases the volume – and the bass – of the music you’re listening to.
So, I actually found myself listening with the ANC on most of the time – simply because the music sounded better that way – even when there were no outside noises at all.
But don’t expect it to make crying babies or barking dogs disappear. It fares better with low, consistent sounds (like the hum of the tube), but it’s just a small improvement, and not something I would put front and centre as a selling point.
The Urbanista London also have an “Ambient Mode”, which is basically the opposite of Noise Cancellation, as it actually increases some outside sounds, which is useful when you’re walking near traffic, for example.
It works – but don’t count on it too much. It’ll always work better to simply take the earbud out of your ear when you want to hear something from the outside world.
As for phone calls (remember those?) – the Urbanista London do these very well. The person you’re talking to sounds loud and clear, and the person on the other side was always able to hear me perfectly well, even with loud noises around me.
Urbanista London Battery Time
When fully charged, you can use the Urbanista London earphones for up to 5 hours of play time.
While decent (and similar to the Airpods), Urbanista’s own Athens earphones give you 8 hours of play time, with some other similar models offering up to 10 hours.
So while five hours are enough for most – they’re on the low end of the market, and I would have preferred more. That being said, the tiny case holds 4 full additional charges, so you can get up to 25 hours without having to find a power socket.
Watching Movies With The Urbanista London
You can connect the earphones to any device that supports Bluetooth – such as the Amazon Fire TV or even some Smart TVs.
When using wireless earphones to watch videos, however, the main possible issue is the lip-syncing, since Bluetooth is notoriously laggy. But the London’s connection with my devices was stable enough for TV-watching, in most cases.
When watching Netflix and Disney+ programmes on my mobile phone, the dialogues were clear and well balanced, and again – they sounded even better with the Noise Cancellation turned on.
They worked well when connected to the Fire TV as well, and there were no lip-syncing issues at all.
While these won’t replace big over-the-ear headphones (like the Creative SXFI-Air, for example) for a larger-than-life cinematic experience – they’re perfect for when you want to watch movies on the go, or when you’re watching TV late at night and don’t want to wake the house.
Bottom Line: Are The Urbanista London Worth It?
With so many true wireless earphones on the market, choosing the right ones for YOU is becoming a difficult task.
The Urbanista London are at the top end of the list, though. The sound quality is very good and very balanced, with a feature-set that rivals most competing earphones, especially at this price.
Battery time is a bit low at 5 hours, but it’s good enough for most use-cases, and the comfort level is truly excellent.
The one disappointment is the noise cancelling, which promises a lot but delivers a ho-hum experience. There’s still a noticeable difference when it’s ON, but it’s still far from what the Apple Airpods Pro can do (for an extra cost, of course).
So when you consider the Urbanista London’s price – which is very competitive for what they offer – you get excellent value for money. And if noise cancelling is not your main concern – these deserve your careful consideration.
The Urbanista London can only be bought directly from Urbanista at the moment, but should soon be available from other retailers as well.
Note: The earphones were supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.