I’ve got a new pair of headphones here from Urbanista called Los Angeles, they retail at £169 here in the UK, so a fair amount of money and I’m expecting something good for that. The thing that caught my attention was that they are solar-powered. Where, how, it’s interesting so stay tuned and ill go through it.
At nearly £170, you expect a premium, top-performing product and straight out the box, I’m impressed and I am getting that premium vibe. Open the box and you find the headphones are already in a case and I have to say, it’s one of the nicer cases I’ve seen in a very long time. Unclip the band at the top and you can pull the headphones out. The case is padded inside with a soft finish, there is elastic to both sides to allow the headphones to slide in and out easily, and the front & back of the case is somewhat hard. It feels like a thick piece of cardboard so not the most durable material and you could probably bend it you put a little effort in. Matte black finish, some subtle branding and it’s a very nice looking and feeling case. The headphones don’t fold in on themselves, so the case is slightly larger than the headphones themselves.
The headphones themselves follow that matte black and subtle branding look. Thick, over the ear cushions on either side, with a padded, flexible headband. The headband is the solar panel like area, so it’s fairly chunky but it’s not too big. Each earcup adjusts smoothly by pulling it out and in from the headband. There are a couple of buttons, the right cup has control button 1, used for turning the headphones on etc plus volume up/down or track forwards/backwards. To the left cup is the feature button, used for turning the ANC or voice assistant on, plus a battery indicator light and the USB C port used for charging.
Spec-wise, we’ve got hybrid active noise cancellation and ambient mode, plus on-ear detection, an app that works with them, they run on Bluetooth 5.0 and of course, this solar charging.
So let’s talk solar self-charging for a minute. The headband has a built-in Powerfoyle solar cell that continuously charges the headphones whenever they are exposed to any light, natural or artificial. Essentially, this works like a solar panel you may have on your house, the better the sunlight, the better the charge. Just how effective is this Powerfoyle cell though? Well, I put the headphones on a stand, got one of my LED panel lights, turned it all the way up and left the headphones underneath it for an hour, to see if they would charge. As for the results, not great and in fact, over an hour period, the battery level went down from 70% to 68%. The headphones were off while charging and the headphones were quite close to the light. Sitting at this desk behind me, with the spotlights above me on, the app is stating the headphones are not generating any energy either. Within the app, there is a neat little drain and gain wheel that changes the closer to light you are. So if I stick the headphones very very close to my LED light, impractically close I should add, I can see the dial go from draining, to gaining, meaning I’m listening to some music and its actually generating enough energy for me to listen and charge at the same time. It’s rather miserable outside, it’s overcast, some daylight midday and the app tells me it’s generating some energy but not enough to charge and listen, only enough to help prolong the battery.
As for audio performance, great, exactly what I wanted for this price tag. Punchy, good clarity and overall very well rounded. I’ve been listening to old pop punk, some Four Year Strong and that double peddle bass drum is thumping through but the riffage is keeping up. There is no EQ options with these, just ANC, ambient and default. ANC works a treat and without any music playing, you instantly notice the reduction in background sounds. Play some music and you’re away from it, no distractions. Ambient works ok, it’s not the best ambient I’ve heard but there is a slight difference when you switch it on, passing cars are a little more defined.
There is a built-in microphone, so you can take calls while wearing them. As always, I made a few calls with them, no complaints on either end.
I found the headphones comfortable, the earcups are well cushioned, the headband not so much but I’d have an hour stint with these on while working and it was fine. I did find that out the box they were a little stiff but over time, they loosened and almost moulded to my head in a way and felt more comfortable. There is an auto-pause detection when you remove the headphones which is nice to have and this includes one ear, so sometimes id slide one cup to the back of my head if I hear someone calling me, that’s enough to pause the music.
So there we have it, they were the Urbanista Los Angeles and as a pair of headphones, fantastic, I’ve got no complaints. However when it comes to the self-charging, it works, I can see it works but it doesn’t work well enough I don’t think. Imagine you’re in an office, at your desk, you’ve got a light above you, your headphones are on and you’re using them, it would be fantastic if they charged at the same time. Unfortunately from my testing, it only helped prolong the battery life, slow its depletion, rather than charge. Leave them out while you’re not using them, it may help a little bit but don’t rely on it. Also, you can charge them up with the USB C port anyway and you’ll get a day or two playback without any self-charge.
For more info, head over to the official Urbanista website.