Urbanista Phoenix Review
Urbanista Phoenix Review
Mobile devices have attempted solar power charging solutions before. You don’t see many on the market after the first salvo. Years ago, I received a backpack with a large solar array. After leaving it in the sun for hours, the attached battery wasn’t fully charged—a solar-powered battery pack stopped charging altogether. Both lie somewhere in a pile of electronics recycling.
But Urbanista offers both more and less than previous solar solutions. The Urbanista Phoenix earbud solar panels charge only the earbuds, and they seem to do so without too much overt effort to top them off.
Urbanista Phoenix Specifications
- Drivers type: 10mm dynamic, moving coil
- Driver impedance: 16 Ohm ±15%
- Sensitivity: 97 ±3 dB SPL/mW @ 1kHz
- Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
- Microphone type: MEMS
- Bluetooth® version: 5.2
- Bluetooth® profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
What we like
- Solar Power
- Solid sound, powerful bass
- Multi-point connection
- Bluetooth® 5.2
- In-ear detection
I have not plugged in my $149 Urbanista Phoenix earbuds for weeks. I never worry that when I pick them up, they will play out into a staticky discord of silence. They are just ready. It helps that the primary charge takes playtime to about 8 hours—but the real star is the Powerfoyle solar cell technology that crushes photon gathering into a relatively small space. Once charged, the case increases battery reserve to about 34 hours, but that’s if the case gets shoved into a bag. In the light of day, the case trickle charges, keeping the 34-hour case at peak charge.
The multipoint wireless Bluetooth 5.2 connects two devices with seamless switching, for instance, between a video conference and a playlist aimed at concentration.
Hybrid Active Noise Canceling (ANC) keeps outside noise at bay, while white noise-reducing microphones put a check on noise during phone calls or dictation. Like many ANC earbuds, a transparency mode lets the outside world in for safety or necessity. By default, a long tap on the right bud invokes transparency mode.
The earbuds also include in-ear detection and IPX4 sweat and water resistance. The earbuds ship in Desert Rose or Midnight Black colors. Earbud fit is managed through 3 sizes of color-coordinated eartips.
The Urbanista Phoenix sports 10mm dynamic audio drivers that offer outstanding sound. While I’ve listened to my usual headphone testing list, perhaps the most telling listening experience arrived with Lana Del Rey’s intimate Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd. Fingers sliding over guitar strings come across clearly in the ethereal “Taco Truck x VB.” The orchestral Paris, Texas (feat. SYML) arches its back and smoothy flow under her well-crafted short lyrical passages.
My ears tell me the Urbanista Phoenix earbuds perform better than other headphones in their price range. They can’t compete, for instance, with the Sennheiser Momentum 4 over-the-ear headphones that combine a more expansive soundstage with more subtle and responsive drivers, but that isn’t really a fair comparison. Even the $249 Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 earbuds
But if I want to get lost, I put on It’s Quiet Uptown from Hamilton, and I find the Urbanista Phoenix takes me away to the same level of cognitive auditory distance as do more expensive headphones. They will be enough.
The microphones picked up my voice crisply and clearly. I had no issues communicating with others through the Urbanista Phoenix earbuds.
The Urbanista App
Urbanista’s App includes an overview of charge levels, ANC control, charging case status, firmware updates, light charging history, EQ pre-sets and minor customizations for touch controls.
The app also offers obligatory access to support, manuals and shopping options.
Like much of the Phoenix experience, it’s the power overviews that intrigue in the app rather than its auditory controls.
What could be improved
- Fixed EQ options
- Big case (but with a good reason)
- ANC could be better
- No aptX support
I’m not going to complain about the case or use some superlative to disparage the case. It is bigger than most cases, but most cases don’t charge a battery with efficient solar power. Those who opt for solar over case size know what they are buying.
Urbanista does not support custom EQ, but it does include optimizations for speech, bass, treble, energize, and balanced. And unlike some earbuds, changing the EQ creates noticeable differences in the listening experience, as it should. That responsiveness makes customized EQ. Those with aptX-compatible devices will notice support for this high-quality profile and may want to look at other buds that support it if sound quality is a key driver for purchase.
ANC is another area where more expensive headphones will perform better, but the Phoenix did a fine job in most normal work situations and smothered the sounds from other shoppers while strolling around Costco.
This review is based on my second pair of Urbanista Phoenix earbuds because the first pair arrived without power or the ability to charge via USB-C or solar. It happens. I returned them to Urbanista for a post-mortem, and I hope, a second life as a “renewed” product. The second pair has performed flawlessly.
Charging, however, isn’t fast. Don’t pull up the app’s home screen and expect to watch the power meter rise while pointing a flashlight at the Phoenix case. It isn’t going to happen. You may even experience a toggling down rather than up. Solar power is a long trickle game, not an immediate jolt.
I would also suggest dropping the lanyard. I don’t know anybody who wears a lanyard unless they are roaming the hallways of their favorite conference.
Urbanista Phoenix: The bottom line
The future of wearable devices lies in innovative ways to charge. The Urbanista Phoenix offers a glimpse into that future that may prove good enough to keep them on the market. While the sound profile of these earbuds isn’t world-class, it also isn’t second-class. At their price range, they deliver great sound, and when combined with the charging feature, these earbuds will make buyers feel like they will receive an adequate return on their investment.
Urbanista provided the Urbanista Phoenix for review. Images courtesy of Urbanista unless otherwise noted.
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