*WINNER* Urbanista Seattle
Urbanista makes affordable headphones that are sold at places where people who aren’t real sound fans might end up. Like Argos. Or HMV, where CDs can generally be found hidden behind £3 comedy and Anime DVDs. So it’s a real surprise the Urbanista Seattles are some of the best-sounding affordable wireless headphones around.
There’s little sign of this in the design. The Seattles are out to “glorify the urban lifestyle” according to the box, and that means offering loads of colours and hiding as much of the tech as possible. How often do you see wireless headphones with just a subtle ‘on’ switch? The rest of the controls are part of the right pad’s surface: you tap to play/pause, swipe vertically to change volume and horizontally to change tracks. There’s a knack to getting the latter to work, but no headphone gesture controls like this are perfect.
All the other hardware basics are present. They fold up, feel sturdy and while these are definitely on-ear headphones rather than full-size ones, their chunky memory foam pads do their best to keep ear ache away. They manage for at least a few hours, but could do with a slightly firmer grip. The battery lasts for up to 12 hours and there’s a standard 3.5mm cable included to let you carry on urban’ing when it’s dead.
So far, so ordinary, but the Urbanista Seattles' sound is unexpectedly good. These headphones have a far more expansive and involving soundstage than most budget wireless pairs - they're full and rich-sounding, with the sort of tasteful bass drive that will please the masses without instantly turning off the chin-stroking crowd. Their delivery of vocals is particularly great despite not having a very forward mid-range, with very natural tonality, although they could be a hint less smooth and soft, to add hi-fi-like separation to the wide soundstage.
Support for aptX would be an extra bonus, but you can’t expect everything from £90 wireless headphones - and what you do get here is still very impressive.