Swedish manufacturer Urbanista is back with its latest pair of city-denominated headphones, the Urbanista Miami. While Miami may be thousands of miles away from London – the subject of Urbanista’s London true wireless earbuds – the headphones offer a very similar suite of features wrapped up, this time, in an over-ear package.
Active noise-cancellation, ambient sound mode and audio tuned by former Sennheiser engineer, Axel Grell, have all made the trip across the Atlantic, as has the £129 list price. It’s a price that positions the Miami outside budget buy territory and with Lindy, Anker and Tronsmart all offering cheaper alternatives, Urbanista has a battle on its hands to convince consumers to spend that little bit more.
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Urbanista Miami review: What do you get for the money?
The £129 asking price will net you a pair of wireless over-ear headphones that operate over Bluetooth 5.0 and support both the AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs. Also included are a hard-shell carrying case, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, an aeroplane adapter plug and a USB-C to USB-A charging cable.
The Miami are available in four colours: pearl white, midnight black, ruby red and teal green. I was sent the ruby red version and was immediately struck by how great they look. In an industry dominated by black and grey plastic offerings, it’s always welcome to see something with a bit more visual flair. The two more vibrant colours were selected for their ties to Miami, with the green inspired by the home jersey of the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise and the red loosely associated with the city’s NBA outfit, the Miami Heat.
Build quality is top-notch. The headband is flexible but not in any way flimsy and it has padding running around the entirety of its inner surface. There’s enough of this to ensure the band sits snug on your head and the memory foam lining of the oval earcups is equally comfortable. I found the clamping force exerted by the headphones to be just right to create a secure seal and keep the Miami in place without applying any undue pressure on my ears.
Urbanista has chosen to omit touch controls on the Miami, which comes as a welcome relief. Touch controls can work very well on wireless earbuds but for over-ear headphones, where space is at less of a premium, I find physical controls preferable.
There are three buttons on the outer edge of the right earcup, all of which are located in close proximity to one another. The central button of the trio is used to power the headphones on and off, play/pause audio, accept and reject calls and hail your voice assistant. The buttons on either side of it look after volume adjustment – executed via a single press – and track skipping, which requires you to press and hold for two seconds.
Because of how close together the buttons are it can be a little tricky to locate the right one. Small ridges on the top and bottom buttons do help you differentiate between the trio but I’d have liked to have seen them spaced out a little more for ease of use. Below the controls is a 3.5mm port for analogue connection, which is good news – some cheaper wireless headphones, such as Tronsmart’s Apollo Q10, choose to omit it.
Things are far simpler over on the left earcup, with the single feature button used to cycle between the default, active noise-cancellation and ambient sound modes. The left ear cup also houses the USB-C charging port and just ten minutes hooked up to the mains will give you a couple of hours’ listening time.
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Total battery life when the headphones are fully charged is stated at 50 hours with ANC off, with that falling to 40 hours when noise-cancellation is engaged. Based on my usage over a couple of weeks, I’d say that figure is accurate and it positions the Miami as some of the longest-lasting over-ear ANC headphones on the market. For comparison, the Lindy BNX-100XT offer 15 hours with Bluetooth and ANC enabled, and our favourite mid-range ANC over-ear headphones, the Philips PH805, offer 25 hours.
The Miami have a wear detection sensor inside the right earcup that automatically pauses audio when the headphones are taken off and resumes it when they’re put back on within 30 seconds. Auto-pausing functioned consistently well, although I did find that I’d often have to fiddle with the right earcup’s positioning to get audio playing again.
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Urbanista Miami review: How do they sound?
As with the Urbanista London, the Miami’s sound signature was tuned by Axel Grell, a former audio engineer and portfolio manager at Sennheiser who counts the outstanding Sennheiser HD800S among the headphones he’s helped bring to market.
I was a fan of what Urbanista and Grell achieved with the sound of the Urbanista London and have similar feelings about the Miami. The bass-forward sound signature lends itself best to the genres I enjoy listening to most, which include dance and hip-hop, but tracks demanding greater mid-range body and sparkling trebles don’t shine quite as brightly.
That’s not to say the Miami aren’t an enjoyable listen – they deliver decent sound quality for the price – but the level of clarity in the mid and upper registers leaves a little bit to be desired. This was evident across what I listened to during testing: a multi-genre assortment playlist that included a variety of songs paying tribute to Miami.
When I think of the city my mind immediately moves to two things: Hurricane Andrew, which struck during my only visit to the city in 1991, and Will Smith’s 1998 pop hit. The bassline that kickstarts the latter and continues through the track had a real punch to it and kept my head bopping as Smith laid down slick rhymes laden with a sizable helping of cheese. His lyrics were intelligible on the whole but not quite as cleanly articulated as I would have liked.
On a master recording of Bette Midler’s “Only in Miami”, the various instrumental components were conveyed with commendable energy but vocals lacked the detail to get me fully invested in the singer’s story. It’s worth mentioning that because trebles feel slightly dialled back relative to the bass reproduction, I didn’t experience the harshness often exhibited by brighter-sounding headphones.
The Urbanista Miami are most comfortable communicating tracks like Swedish House Mafia and Tinie Tempah’s “Miami 2 Ibiza” where they can deliver a beefy bassline with confidence and richness. The drop hits with the weight a track designed to be listened to loudly in a club deserves, but remains crisp and well defined.
Ultimately, the Miami aren’t headphones designed for audio purists, that’s not Urbanista’s target market. It’s trying to win over style-conscious listeners likely to favour impact and energy over detail and the Miami cater well to that demographic.
There’s currently no way to tweak audio settings but Urbanista is working on a companion app with a beta version slated for release before the end of Q1. The app is set to include EQ customisation options, which should help improve what are already solid sonic foundations, and will also facilitate software updates.
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Urbanista Miami review: How effective is the ANC?
It would be unreasonable to expect a pair of £129 headphones to compete with premium headphones like the Apple AirPods Max or Sony WH-1000XM4 when it comes to active noise cancellation and, to put it bluntly, the Miami don’t get close.
For a fairer comparison, I compared them with a range of similarly-priced alternatives: the Lindy BNX-100XT (£100), Anker Soundcore Life Q30 (£90) and Tronsmart Apollo Q10 (£70). Although there wasn’t a huge amount to choose between the four, the Lindy proved most effective at reducing low-end rumbles, closely followed by the Anker headphones. The Urbanista weren’t too far behind them in third with the Apollo Q10 bringing up the rear.
Further tests involving the high-pitched whistle of a boiling kettle and my partner speaking in a nearby room with the TV on produced similar results, with the Miami once again placing in a disappointing third.
So, the Miami aren’t the best choice if you’re on a strict budget and want the most effective noise-cancellation for your money but their ANC is by no means ineffective. They’ll put a reasonable dent in the most egregious low-end disruption and reduce other mild environmental noises slightly as well. They deliver ANC with minimal hiss and sound quality is barely affected, too.
The Miami’s other sound mode – ambient sound – heightens your awareness of what’s going on around you by allowing in external sound. It works well when you’re out and about and want to hear cars or public transport announcements but is less useful if you’re listening at high volume and want to have a conversation because the mode doesn’t automatically bump your volume down. In this situation, you’re better off making use of the auto-pause function and taking the headphones off.
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Urbanista Miami review: Should you buy them?
If you’re after truly budget headphones offering ANC, the Urbanista Miami don’t quite make the grade. Both the Lindy BNX-100XT and Anker Soundcore Life Q30 cost less and do a slightly better job at reducing external sound.
If you’re willing to pay a little bit more, however, you’ll get stylish looks and fantastic build quality as part of the package. The Urbanista Miami’s striking colour options and clean Scandi design make them stand out from the crowd and they’re extremely well made. They’re comfortable to wear for long periods, too, and a 40-hour battery life with ANC enabled is hard to beat.