Urbanista Los Angeles Review: Solar-powered headphones fulfill high promises

Solar power headphones are a fascinating outlook. The battery life of the wireless model has improved significantly over the years, but it’s still far from perfect. These wide headbands provide the perfect surface for the solar cell seat to be continuously charged.

Urbanista wasn’t the first company to take advantage of this idea — JBL announced in 2019 its own pair that had to be postponed due to a pandemic — but Los Angeles has solar-powered headphones. It was the first company to actually hit the market. The design is similar to the company’s existing Miami headphones, but a layer of Powerfoyle solar cells on the headband allows for continuous absorption of solar energy when exposed to light. Urbanistas believe that the average listener should be able to go for months without charging them.

It’s a fascinating idea and could remove items from the list of devices that people have to recharge on a regular basis, but can it live up to expectations? And even so, are these $ 199 (£ 169 / € 199) solar power headphones worth keeping charging in the first place?

Urbanista’s Los Angeles has a basic, non-stimulating design that closely matches the company’s existing Miami headphones. My review sample was pretty boring black, but if you want more adventure, there’s also a more colorful “sand gold” option.

Things get interesting with the Los Angeles headband. This headband has a layer of Powerfoyle material generated by Exeger to capture the light that will eventually turn into battery power. Unfortunately, this material is black no matter what color the headphones are used in, and from the press image, I don’t think the gold option looks good.

The Urbanista app shows exactly how much power is being gained and lost. Here, the headphones were used in direct sunlight, with ANC turned on to play music and power.
Screenshot: Urbanista

In most cases, the solar charging feature of headphones does not need to be considered aggressively. It charges automatically regardless of whether you’re wearing it and listening to music, or if it’s turned off (although the software limits solar charging to 90% to protect the battery. increase). But if you want a deeper understanding of what’s happening inside, Urbanista’s companion app provides a great interface for showing headphone power consumption and solar charging. Playing around with the app while seeing how turning ANC on and off affects battery drain, or how much solar power you can get by exposing your headphones to direct sunlight. It’s a lot of fun.

I think the benefit most people get from solar charging in Los Angeles is that, as a figurative parachute, it slows down battery drain so you don’t have to recharge it often. How effective this parachute is depends on whether you use it to listen to music on your desk or in the subway, or wear it while you’re out in the sunny places of the world. However, as a baseline, if you listen to them in a pitch-black room with ANC turned off, you’ll be able to hear them for 80 hours.

In my experience using them on a cloudy autumn day in the UK, I’ve generally seen Urbanista apps report minimal power consumption or add an amount of power that’s roughly equal to the consumption. .. It wasn’t very common to see the actual power gained when using headphones, but it happened when used in direct sunlight (as you can see from the screenshot above).

I saw the headphones get the most power from solar charging when they were sitting unused in the sun. I think you can get into the habit of keeping it on a sunny window. Place the headband so that it faces the sun directly to maximize the effect, but if you make that effort, you may too. Connect them. The beauty of Los Angeles headphones is that you don’t really have to think about it. And being obsessed with leaving them to charge in the sun feels like it’s missing a point.

Headphones fit snugly on large heads.

This little logo is the only visible indicator of solar charging capacity.

After listening for 2 hours and 2 weeks a day, such as when sitting at a desk next to a west-facing window or sitting on the London Underground with ANC turned on, the Urbanista app is still 81% for me. It reports that it is using power. Even when used in unlit or cloudy conditions, the battery drain is very low.

I don’t think anyone will run away because you don’t have to connect your Los Angeles headphones to a USB-C charger. However, in my experience, it has been found that during the winter, it lasts for more than a month under normal use and even longer when used in sunny conditions.

With the exception of headbands with solar cells, Los Angeles looks and works like typical wireless noise canceling headphones. Those controls will be familiar to anyone who has used wireless headphones in the last five years. The right earcup has three buttons, volume up, down, and a central play control button, and you can also turn the headphones on and off. On the left is a customizable shortcut button that responds to either a short press or a long press to switch between noise cancellation, transparency mode, or voice assistant.

It’s a wise button choice. I wish the volume controls weren’t so ridiculous and close. You can learn to live with them, but with a little space, it’s much easier to pinch and feel the pause button with your fingers. Also, it would have been nice to have a dedicated shortcut to put the headphones into pairing mode instead of manually disconnecting from the previous device first.

Playback control on the right and ANC and USB-C charging on the left.

Headphone branding is minimal.

The left earcup has a USB-C port in case the sun doesn’t have enough to charge these headphones, but unfortunately it doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack for a wired connection. Urbanistas say they omitted the physical jacks to keep the power consumption of the headphones as low as possible. To be fair, Los Angeles’ battery life is 30 hours longer than Urbanista’s Miami headphones, which only supply 50 hours, suggesting that these power optimizations worked. However, the 3.5mm option is still useful for in-flight entertainment and work calls where you don’t want to risk disconnecting Bluetooth. It’s also a shame that Los Angeles doesn’t have this flexibility built in.

Avoiding the sun and getting inside the London Underground network, I was pleasantly surprised by the noise-cancelling performance of Los Angeles. This performance quite well eliminated the squeaking noise of the tube as it passed through a subway tunnel. It’s not as powerful as a class leader like the AirPods Max or Sony WH-1000XM4, but I think the level of ANC offered by Los Angeles is worth the price.

Los Angeles’ ability to cancel noise is aided by the fact that it fits snugly on the head while worn. They were so snug at first that they were uncomfortable to use for my first few days. However, as the headband softened over the course of two weeks, the headphones changed from “uncomfortable” to “perfect” with my slightly larger head. If you have a chance to try it on before you buy, please try it. For your safety.

Los Angeles offers a rich, rounded sound with impact.Listen to techno like recently released 7 songs By humanoids, and the intense baseline has weight and impact, you can stay shy to be overwhelmed. However, switching to something more layered, such as Bloc Party’s We Are Not Good People, makes the limitations of this base-first approach more apparent. Los Angeles doesn’t leave much space for the rest of the truck to be heard. For Bloc Party tracks, some of the overdriven guitar definitions and crackling sounds are lost in the process.

Los Angeles is not bad at all. Far from that — they are a pair of headphones that are very easy to hear. However, their sound has a weight that can crush the more delicate parts of the track. There are much worse headphones out there at this price, but if you want to hear every detail of the song, Los Angeles isn’t interested in offering it.

In the cup.

Los Angeles from the right.

Make headphones that can be charged without using light They look like they can be charged with light It’s not a small feat. The biggest compliment you can pay to Los Angeles is to forget that this feature is so seamlessly integrated that you basically can’t do solar charging at all. That is, until you look at the battery level after using it for a few days and find that the battery level is only 10% lower. The only important compromise is the lack of an optional 3.5mm port for line input listening. For some people this is not a problem. For others, that wouldn’t be a big deal.

As a pair of headphones, Urbanista Los Angeles makes some mistakes. Those controls can be placed more clearly and more spaced apart, and their fit can be more comfortable with a larger head. But even if their sound quality can’t compete with more expensive pairs like Sony and Sennheiser, they end up with a very audible pair of headphones.

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