Urbanista Phoenix Review: Clever Charging, Decent Sound


How exciting it must be to confidently declare your company’s latest product to be a “world’s first.” How enticing for your prospective customers, the promise of “endless playtime.” Let’s face it: If you can’t pique a bit of interest this way, well, consumers must be even more jaded than everyone suspected. But though you may think you’ve seen it all before, be assured that you haven’t … or, at least, you haven’t seen this particular variation on a theme. 

When I reviewed the Urbanista Los Angeles wireless over-ear headphones just over a year ago, they (like pretty much every product that ends up on these pages) had their pros and cons. High on the list of “pros” was their remarkable Powerfoyle-assisted charging system. This solar cell material, the product of a company called Exeger, covers the outside of the headband and can draw power from both solar and ambient light. Which means the Los Angeles headphones rarely, if ever, need charging via mains power.

So, by way of an encore, Urbanista has managed to incorporate the technology into a pair of true wireless in-ear headphones. They’re called Phoenix (because every Urbanista product is named after a locale of lesser or greater resonance), WIRED got to try them before anyone else, and they’re unarguably a world’s first. They might even be able to provide you with endless playtime.

Of course, there’s a lot about the Urbanista Phoenix that is emphatically not a world’s first. They’re absolutely standard in many ways, in fact. The earbuds themselves are a slightly chunky 30 x 26 mm version of the “dangly stem” design popularized by Apple and shamelessly appropriated by numerous brands ever since. The faintly bulbous business end has space for a 10-mm dynamic driver, while the stem itself carries some branding and features a capacitive surface that allows some touch control.

An IPX4 rating against moisture is par for the course. Bluetooth 5.2 multipoint connectivity is superior, but compatibility with just SBC and AAC codecs most certainly is not. Active noise cancellation is always welcome (as long as it’s effective), and eight hours’ worth of power stored in the earbuds is half-decent, too. Add in a control app with numerous EQ presets and noise-cancellation adjustment, and a couple of choices of finish (Midnight Black or Desert Rose), and so far the Urbanista Phoenix are competitive with most price-comparable rivals. But they’re hardly a “world’s first”–style revelation.

All About the Case

Photograph: Urbanista

The charging case, though, is where the significant action is. At 90 x 68 x 20 mm (the lattermost tapering to 15 mm) and 72 grams (80 grams with the earbuds inside), it’s considerably bigger and a little heavier than the prevailing norm, even though with 24 hours of power on board it doesn’t demonstrate significantly better stamina than any number of price-comparable rivals. What its dimensions mean, though, is that there’s a fair bit of space on one of its faces for an area of that Exeger Powerfoyle.

Although there’s obviously not as much of the solar cell material on the charging case for a pair of true wireless in-ear headphones as there is on the outside of the headband of the preceding over-ear model, the effect is no less impressive. Yes, the Phoenix headphones take longer in the sun (or under a source of ambient light) to fully charge than their siblings, but fully charge they will. If you find you ever need to use the USB-C socket on the case to charge them, well, it must be because you’ve moved into one of those coal mines that are suddenly all the rage again. 

There’s just no arguing with the efficacy of the Powerfoyle material. It’s as worthwhile here as it is as part of the Urbanista Los Angeles experience. 

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