“The Athen is a pair of affordable and remarkably good sports-oriented earphones.”
Comfortable space requirement
Eight hours of battery life
IP 67 weatherproof
Bass bullies other frequencies
The Urbanista Athens are a humble little pair of true wireless earbuds. Between its generic appearance and its price far from the premium price, there aren’t many outward-looking features that would catch the gaze of the average weekend warrior.
Since we all have to study over and over again, looks can be deceptive. Pop Urbanista’s new $ 130 earbuds have arrived and they’re starting to shine. Not just an accidental surprise, these buds are a tremendous force against some of the best workout-oriented true wireless earbuds out there today.
Out of the box
It’s a bit of a quirk, but I always prefer the bookbinding style packaging that buds like those from Athens arrive in, as opposed to the sleeve-like design of other earphone boxes. In general, there’s less to disassemble, and it’s a little nicer to have all of the packaging in your hands. Urbanista even shows your message buds in a plastic case for optimized look.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
Under the compartment that houses the buds and wireless charging case, you’ll find additional earplugs and fins, as well as the quick start guide and a USB-C charging cable. It’s nothing that most of the other true wireless earbuds you haven’t seen before, and probably nothing that you won’t see again. Even so, I will continue to take note of this standard content as each component is an important part of the ensemble. This charging cable, ridiculously short as it is, wouldn’t be laughing at if it wasn’t included with your purchase.
The setup process, which is similar to the Athenian accessories, is exactly what you would expect from modern wireless earbuds. Pull the buds out of the case and they will go into automatic pairing mode. You can find it in your mobile device’s bluetooth settings and terminate the connection. Other reviews of the Athens noted that the buds don’t always automatically pair, but I haven’t experienced this phenomenon in my time testing.
Bluetooth 5 tech is built into these earbuds as it should be at this point. As with most of my Bluetooth 5 experiences, the connection to Athens was solid, offering plenty of range to move around the house and get chores done while still jamming on the cover of the Vitamin String Quartet. Yeah, that’s absolutely a thing that I do.
Admittedly, I am enthusiastic about the design of the Athen, thanks to its compact construction and its openly different footprint than other sports-loving Buds. Newer sports buds I’ve tested, including the JBL / Under Armor True Wireless Flash X and the Edifier TWS6, have significantly more pointed ear fins. Both did a good job protecting the buds but gave them a noticeably greater presence in your ear.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
Not so with Athens, whose ear fins are delicate loops that extend from the ends of the buds. As unspoken as they are, they still have real traction in your ears and have excelled with them over several runs and brisk walks during my reporting period. I found them to be more comfortable than the larger-finned competitors, albeit not quite as comfortable as the Jabra Elite 75t or Elite Active 75t.
The wireless charging case is also pleasantly small and reminds me to a certain extent of a slightly smaller, dark copy of the Samsung Galaxy Buds + charging case. Speaking of which, the Athens are currently only available in black. If you’re looking to take creative leaps with your aesthetic, the Athens aren’t the buds to catch your ears. That said, they are perfectly passable in terms of attractiveness as far as black true wireless earbuds go.
Urbanista opted for a multi-press control system with the Athens, with the logo on each side serving as the button of your choice. The manual contains all the controls very factually, including the volume control (thankful), the ability to pause and change tracks, answer and end calls, and the integration of voice assistants. If you think this is a lot for two buttons, you’re right, especially since none of these controls are used on more than two presses. It is learnable, but not the easiest system considering that some commands are situational. For example, double-tapping the left logo pauses and plays the tracks, but also answers and ends calls.
Somewhat surprising is that the Athenians have left their price range in terms of features. They’re not knockout-strong uppercuts, mind you, but they’re significant knocks against competitors who cost more and offer less.
The Athens offers a battery life of eight hours and three additional charges for a total playback of 32 hours.
The Athens offers eight hours of battery life and three additional charges for 32 hours of total playback. You can spend more and get better juice with competitors like the Sony WF-SP800N, but you can also spend more and unfortunately get less. The Jabra Elite Active 75t offers 7.5 hours of battery life – often closer to seven in our reviewers’ tests – for nearly $ 70 more than the Urbanistas. That may tell more about the cost of the otherwise excellent Elite Active 75t, but it does lead the Athens to have a slight advantage in this category.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
Equally fascinating is the fact that Athens has an IP67 weather resistance rating that offers complete protection against dust and contact, as well as protection against 30 minutes of water up to 1 meter in immersion. I suppose that’s overkill for what most people will be using these for, but it does allow Urbanista to market these buds as swim and shower friendly. It’s also a better rating than the Active 75t and JLab Epic Air Sport, which previously held the title of our best real radio buds for training. Note. Note.
The Athens has an IP67 weather resistance rating that provides complete protection against dust and contact, as well as protection against 30 minutes of water up to 1 meter immersion.
To be transparent, I didn’t get a chance to take these buds for a swim, but I ventured into the shower to test this waterproof rating and the Athens came out sparkling clean on the other side.
Another small feature of the Athens is stereo phone calls which seem like a bit of a perk until you’ve dealt with a pair of buds that only offer mono sound for calls. It may just be my personal preference, but I would much rather have that sweet stereo sound for my conversations.
If there has been one area where Athens hasn’t delivered too much, it’s audio. To be clear, I don’t want to say that this is a disadvantageous aspect of these earbuds. They are $ 130 buds, and they should sound like $ 130 buds: Objectively decent, and in many cases good. I think almost everything else about the buds made me expect them to go back above their price point and instead sound the way they should. In all fairness, that speaks volumes more about the Athens’ other characteristics than about its sound quality.
Nick Woodard / Digital Trends
The Athens are clear sounding buds if they will, with tracks like Jake Shimabukuro’s rendition of Hallelujah not missing a single train of the ukulele. Urbanista says it worked with audio engineer Axel Gretl on these buds, and it shows this on most pieces of music. They feel like they’re trying too hard at the low end, especially on songs where those bass notes are more prominent throughout the track. Readers of my previous reviews know that Lizzo’s music is a common starting point for my bass testing, and the low end in Truth Hurts seemed to take the rest of the song hostage. I love low frequencies as much as the closest listener, and I understand that powerful bass can be important to athletes on the move. But it’s important to stick to that (bass) line and not detract from the rest of the track, and I thought Athens struggled with that in certain cases.
These buds don’t have active noise cancellation, and at $ 130 it’s not currently expected to have this functionality. With budget buds like the Edifier TWS NB breaking the mold, this is likely to change soon. But for now the Athens gets by with above-average passive noise cancellation thanks to a good fit in your ears. They also get loud, which of course helps to block out the unwanted noises around you.
Urbanista doesn’t have much information available on the Athens microphones but I can vouch for them to provide quality phone calls. As I mentioned above, I enjoyed having stereo sound for calls, but perhaps more importantly, my voice could be heard clearly on the other end, even in a louder environment. My brother could barely hear the dogs wrestling in the background while we talked about our weekend plans.
Urbanista Athens true wireless earbuds are not only affordable, they also outperform major active earbud categories. They may not be the gold standard, but they are certainly worth their weight as notable sports-oriented wearables.
Are there any better alternatives?
The $ 200 Sony WF-SP800N offers active noise cancellation, 13 hours of non-ANC playback, and great sound for an additional $ 70. The $ 120 edifier TWS6 costs $ 10 less and has similar battery life and possibly better sound.
How long will they last?
The Athenians have a one-year guarantee and an IP rating that protects them from almost anything that nature can throw on them. These buds will hang around.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The Urbanista Athens excel in many areas that they shouldn’t have, at least in terms of their affordable price. With their above-average battery life, comfortable design and weatherproof properties, the Athens are the buds for the aspiring athlete.