Sennheiser Urbanite XL
Right out of the box I loved the look and the build of Sennheiser’s Urbanite XLs, with their strong stainlesssteel hinges and aluminium sliders, their comfy velour earpads, and their colours of olive, black, ‘denim’, ‘sand’ and one whose colour is called ‘Nation’ but turned out to be a curious blend of black, red and blue. I initially imagined these might be colours representing the East Frisian flag, were Sennheiser’s Wedemark German headquarters not rather to the South-East of this. Despite further enquiries, it remains a mystery. The Urbanite XL is available in two versions—one designed for use with iOS devices, and the other for use with Android devices—and the colour choices are different for each. Given this bi-partisan approach, it was a surprise that white is not one of the optionally available colours for iOS devices… iPod, iPhone et al. However, it wasn’t surprising that the colour choice is widest for iDevices. Android (and other phone flavour) owners are only given the choice between olive and black.
I wasn’t so sure that I loved the name of these headphones. Does Sennheiser equate ‘Urban’ with ‘Street’ and is therefore pitching these Urbanites against the now Apple-owned Beats? It certainly leads its marketing with a promise of ‘massive bass’… although it then immediately follows up with ‘without compromised quality’. So don’t write them off just because you’re not a Beats fan. They’re far better than that… as you will find.
The cable on the Urbanite XL model is flat and quiet, with an inline microphone and controls that are slightly tricky to come to terms with at first, being black-on-black and not quite obvious-enough in tactile terms. Also missing out in the area of tactile was that unlike every other pair of Sennheiser headphones I have had the pleasure to hear, there were no trademark ‘bumps’ so you can easily identify the left earpiece by touch alone… at least that was what I initially thought (and in fact wrote in a review for another publication) but it turned out that I was looking for the guiding bumps in the wrong place. Instead of being on the outside of the headband, the three ‘bumps’ that identify the left earpiece are on the Urbanite XL positioned on the inside of the headband. The issue with positioning them here is that they’re very difficult to find when you’re actually wearing the ‘phones, because it’s almost impossible to bend your arms in such a way that your fingers can reach inside the band, and even if you do manage to do this, you only need to get a few strands of hair in the way before it’s nigh-on impossible to feel the bumps at all through the strands of hair.