Urbanista London. It sounds like some upscale design handbag, but in actuality, they’re the latest challenger for the ANC truly wireless buds throne. But don’t get it twisted. These aren’t some cheap knockoffs. OK, at $149, they’re definitely affordable, but by no means cheap. The Urbanista London offers premium good looks, strong active noise cancellation and great audio. Throw in 5 hours of battery life (25 hours with charging case) and you’ve got a serious AirPods Pro contender. But a few small missteps cause the earbuds to come up short of the mark.
Urbanista London design
In a world dominated by bone-white AirPods and AirPods clones, Urbanista dared to be different. Opening the pretty pink packaging, I’m greeted by a ravishing Rose Gold box with the company’s name stamped on top of the lid. The corners are nicely rounded and there’s a soft-touch finish on the pearlescent paint that makes the charging case incredibly pleasant to hold.
Four indicator lights keep you abreast of how much battery life is left while showing you where to open the lid. A USB Type-C port resides in the back whenever it's time to recharge. I’m not going to lie, I would have been happy just holding the case. But that wouldn’t be much of a review now, would it?
Opening the case, exposed some of the cutest truly wireless buds I’ve seen to date. I don’t know if it’s the blush hue, but the London buds are just adorable. The stems and body of the buds are coated in that same soft-touch, pink pearlescent goodness as the case. A pair of white Us is stamped at the top of the stem. A glossy black dot along the body of the buds demarcates the sensor while the tiny divot at the bottom is the integrated mics. A white silicone eartip completes the look.
Despite their pretty appearance, the earbuds are also a little tough thanks to their IPX4 rating. The water and sweat-resistance allowed me to push my way through a 30-minute workout on my Bowflex Max Total without any impromptu slippage. By the way, if pink isn’t your color, the London is also available in Midnight Black, White Pearl and Dark Sapphire.
The London buds are seriously dainty, weighing only 0.17 ounces and measuring 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.8 inches. They’re even lighter and smaller than the AirPods Pro (1.9 ounces, 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches). However, the London’s charging case (1.7 ounces 2.6 x 1.8 x 1 inches) is a bit heavier and thicker compared to the AirPods Pro (1.6 ounces, 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches).
Urbanista London comfort
When I initially inserted the London into my ears, there was an immediate uncomfortable pressure in my ear canal. That was easily fixed as I quickly swapped the silicone eartips for the smallest ones in the box. From there, it was comfort city as I wore the buds for a little over two hours with no ill effect. Although I was worried about slippage when I was working out, the eartips stayed put.
Urbanista London setup
Just a button press and you’re ready to go. Well, it takes a few more steps than that, but not many. Connecting the London to my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone Max XS was as simple as pressing the pair button inside the charging case, going to the respective smartphone’s Bluetooth menu and selecting the buds.
Urbanista London controls
The London’s stems are thicker than the AirPods Pro’s, giving listeners a bit more surface area. That’s a good thing because this is where all your touch controls are performed. For example, I raised the volume by swiping up or down on the right stem. To lower the volume, swipe up or down on the left stem.
A long press on the top of the right stem enables and disables active noise cancelling while performing the same action on the left activates and deactivates Ambient mode. A double-tap on the left will play/pause a track and summon your digital assistant on the right. You can answer or reject a call by tapping on either earbud twice. Unfortunately, to skip tracks, you’ll have to interact with your connected device, which is a bummer if your phone is buried at the bottom of a purse. I also wish Urbanista had a companion app so you could swap out gesture commands.
To get the best response, you need to interact with the top of the earbuds. It can be hit or miss for someone with long hair like mine, but once I got the hang of it, the controls were pretty responsive. The in-ear sensors were pretty accurate for the most part, but there were times where I took a bud out of my ear and the music kept playing, which was annoying.
Urbanista London noise cancellation
The London’s integrated mics do a great job of blocking out noise. They were so good that the buds blocked out the whir of a central air unit directly above me as well as my LG television when the volume was set to 10 without any music playing. Keep in mind, the AirPods delivered the sweet sound of silence when the TV was at 14.
When I took my daily walk around the neighborhood, the London didn’t completely block out the person walking in front of me who was talking on the phone. But the earbuds severely dampened the conversation. And once I started playing some music, the loud talker was effectively silenced. Noises like the J train running overhead seeped through, but not so much that it distracted me from my music.
In case you actually want to hear the outside world, the earbuds have Ambient mode. As soon as it was enabled, I could hear the episode of Hey Arnold! just underneath Janelle Monae’s “It’s Code.”
Urbanista London audio quality
Urbanista worked with Sennheiser’s former chief headphone engineer, Axel Grell, and it shows. Listening to Estelle’s “Better,” I was immediately taken by the depth of the low end and the contrasting sharpness of the snaps, bongos and cymbals. The synthesized keyboard floated coyly in the soundstage as the singer’s sultry alto drew me into the reggae beat. The bass wasn’t as pronounced on the AirPods Pro, but I did notice the triangle and the airhorn more.
When I listened to Living Colour’s “Glamour Boys,” I appreciated the London’s warm soundscape that once again delivered on the rich low end without sacrificing the rest of the track. I clearly heard the electric guitar riffs and the keyboard while the lead singer throatily declared that he’s not a glamour boy. The bass guitar wasn’t as full as on the AirPods Pro, but the energetic electric guitar drew my ear to the docile tones of the background singers and the percussion. The lead singer’s voice was clean and dynamic.
I thought the London had their match when I switched over to Megan Thee Stallion’s “Captain Hook.” The dank 808s definitely pushed the earbuds to their limit and I fully expected the track to become distorted at some point. That never happened. Instead, I was treated to crisp sword sound effects and Megan’s aggressive flow. But I preferred the AirPods Pro reserved performance as it delivered a more balanced soundstage. I never felt like they were at their limit.
Urbanista London battery life and Bluetooth
Urbanista says the London has an estimated battery life of 5 hours (with ANC enable), which is 30 minutes more than the AirPods Pro. The company says the buds will last over 6 hours with ANC disabled. The charging case can deliver four additional charges, bringing the total estimated time to 25 hours of battery life compared to the AirPods Pro’s 24 hours.
I made it through a little more than half of my workday (approximately 4.75 hours) listening to music, watching a few videos, and taking a couple of calls here and there before I got the low battery notification. When it’s time for a recharge, the case can deliver 30 minutes of playing after a 5-minute charge. After 30 minutes of charging, you can expect 3 hours of playtime.
Thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, the London never dropped a connection no matter where I was in my house. I even spent hours outside barbecuing and the earbuds continued cranking out the jams even though my phone was in the house, buried between couch cushions.
Urbanista London call quality
I made several calls using the London and every call delivered audio that was loud and clear. It was so clear, in fact, that I heard my Mom laughing in the background while I was chatting with my brother. And when I mentioned I was passing by a construction site, he said he couldn’t tell. However, everyone I called said I sounded great and couldn’t tell I was using a pair of earbuds.
Urbanista made a serious contender for the truly wireless ANC earbud crown. The $149 London buds are stylish and comfortable and deliver really good audio and strong active noise cancelling. And they have a fairly long battery life, which is always a plus.
Still, the touch controls were a bit spotty and I wish Urbanista found a way to incorporate the ability to skip tracks into the touch controls. It’s something that could have been handled with a companion app. If you want all the bells and whistles and gold-standard ANC, you’ll want to check out the AirPods Pro, which costs $90 more. But, if you want an inexpensive option to the AirPods Pro that doesn’t make too many sacrifices, the Urbanista London is the way to go.