“Good ANC cannot compensate for subdued sound and poor controls at this price.”
Well designed and comfortable
Very good ANC for the price
Bad sound quality
Mediocre call quality
Average battery life
No Bluetooth multipoint coupling
No skipping tracks
In terms of popularity, Apple’s AirPods are hard to beat when it comes to real wireless earbuds, which is why Amazon is littered with cheap wannabe AirPods. However, when it comes to real wireless earbuds that also have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), the AirPods Pro stole the limelight from Apple for $ 249.
When the Swedish audio brand Urbanista launched their new London True Wireless ANC earbuds with a laundry list of features that connect them from head to toe with the AirPods Pro, but with a price tag that was $ 100 cheaper, they caught our eye .
Can the London True Wireless ANC really deliver AirPods Pro-like performance for just $ 149?
Let’s find out.
Apple AirPods Pro (left) and Urbanista London Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
It may not be fair to compare a set of $ 149 real radio buds to a pair that costs almost twice as much, but Urbanista wants you to think of the London as AirPods Pro alternative.
They are among the most comfortable in-ear buds I’ve ever worn.
That is clear when you look at them. From the elongated stem that falls from the main earphone, to the gently rounded shape of the bud itself, to the placement of the silicone tip and in-ear detection sensors – practically all of Apple’s design features are present in the London. This is especially true if you order them in the mother-of-pearl white color. However, the London are also available in the colors navy, black and rose gold.
As much as I would prefer Urbanista to pick up on the true formula for wireless earbuds, there is no denying that following in Apple’s footsteps will produce good results. Londoners look and feel good too. In fact, they’re among the most comfortable in-ear buds I’ve ever worn. As long as the main part of the earbud fits into the concha of your ear (the part that’s on the outside of the ear canal), you shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable fit by choosing from the four sizes of silicone earbuds that you can choose from Urbanista contains. Speaking of earplugs, they are made of very high quality silicone, which I really appreciate. Too many earphone manufacturers are cheap for this important part.
Londoners have an IPX4 rating for water resistance. This is good enough for a very sweaty workout on a rainy day.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
The charging case differs from Apple’s design, but that’s usually a good thing. It has a noble shell shape with rounded corners and clearly visible LED indicators for the battery life under the front lip. The lid is easy to open and can be closed securely thanks to magnets that are perfectly balanced in their strength. With slightly larger overall dimensions, it’s not quite as portable as the Apple charging case, but it’s very narrow – and it’s practically the same weight.
Plugging and unplugging the earphones into the recessed docks is easy and they stay seated.
The case uses a modern USB-C port for wired charging, but there’s also wireless charging – just place the case on a Qi-compatible mat.
The similarity to the AirPods Pro continues in terms of battery life. In this case, however, Urbanista should have set its own course.
With just five hours of play per full charge, Londoners are comparable to Apple buds, but that doesn’t say much these days. Most new real wireless earbuds – even those that cost far less – exceed this number by two to six hours.
A 10-minute quick charge gives you an hour of play, and the charging case fully charges the London four times, for a total of 25 hours of unplugged action.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
In the ANC spectrum, you’ll find everything from the light touch of the Amazon Echo Buds, which use Bose’s noise reduction technology to gently smooth out unwanted noise, to the AirPods Pro, which deliver an almost annoying cone of silence.
The Urbanista London fall somewhere in the middle, which means that they actually block a whole lot of sound – particularly predictable, constant sounds like fans. To get significantly better ANC performance, you have to spend a lot more than the London price of $ 149.
I think it’s good that you can choose between ANC on and off and that there is an ambient mode that lets in some outside noise – handy when talking on the phone and when walking or walking through an urban landscape. However, I wish there was a way to adjust the ANC level through an app, which has become a standard option for ANC earphones and headphones.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
I wish I could praise London more, but unfortunately I bumped into a wall here. Saying they sound average would mean setting a very low bar for the average set of real wireless earbuds, which is pretty good. No, the Londoners sound much worse. Imagine taking a really good set of earphones like the Sony WF-1000XM3 (hard to imagine if you haven’t really heard it, but join in), but before you put it in your ears, plug it in Bundle of cotton balls first in front of the eardrum.
Saying that they sound average would mean setting a very low bar for the average set of real wireless earphones.
This risky-sounding combination is more or less what Londoners sound like. You can see that a full, rich sound can be heard somewhere deep in its components. Bass, mids, and possibly some decent high frequencies are there, but it’s as if they’re all trapped behind an invisible, wafer-thin layer of material that flattens everything into a dull, lifeless signal.
I literally pulled one of the earplugs off to see if there was a physical obstacle.
Unfortunately, Urbanista does not have an app for Londoners, so there is no way to optimize the EQ to compensate for this. Not that I think it would make a big difference.
The Urbanista London can certainly be used for phone calls, but if the call quality is very important you may want to look elsewhere.
They tend to pick up background noise more than some other wireless earbuds I’ve tried, and the quality of your voice when speaking to callers is mediocre. The person who normally makes my earphone test calls said it sounded like I was very far from the microphone.
Control and ease of use
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Pairing the London is very easy – just open the case with the buds inside and find the device in your Bluetooth accessories list on your phone. Unfortunately, they are not equipped with Bluetooth multipoint, so you can only pair them with one device at a time.
There’s also no way to use just a single earbud, as the wear sensor automatically pauses the music when you remove an earbud – a feature that can’t be disabled.
Surprisingly, there is no way to skip tracks, which I think is more important than volume control.
The only exception is making or receiving calls that can only be made with one of the earphones alone.
Londoners use a touch-sensitive control area on each earphone, which is identified by the Urbanista logo on the top of the stems. As with many touch controls, you have to be reasonably accurate when typing. Tap the stem too deep and it won’t respond.
The Londoners are fussy with touch than I would like. Double knocking was often interpreted as single knocking, which became annoying after a while.
You get the standard set of controls, including play / pause, volume up / down, answer / end call, but surprisingly, there’s no way to skip tracks, which I think is more important than volume control when you do hit A choice between these two functions.
You can turn ANC on and off and activate the environmental mode. For voice assistants, however, only Siri is fully supported.
Due to the lack of an app, it is not possible to reconfigure what the different tap sequences do or to which earphones they are assigned.
Feature by feature, the Urbanista London should be a blast given its relatively affordable price and the available ANC. You will surely do many things right, especially in terms of design, fit and comfort. Unfortunately, Londoners miss the mark in key areas such as sound quality, call quality, and non-customizable controls.
Is there a better alternative?
If active noise cancellation isn’t a must, there are almost too many great real wireless earbuds to list. Most of them cost less than $ 100, and I think they all sound better than London.
If ANC is the key and you want to stay below the $ 200 mark, check out the Edifier TWS NB and Panasonic RZ-S500W. Both offer excellent sound quality, ANC and much more features than the Urbanista London for $ 200 or less.
How long will they last?
With a one-year guarantee, the Urbanista London seems to be well built and made of high quality materials.
Their IPX4 rating protects them from water. As long as you don’t abuse them, they should last as long as most real wireless earbuds you can currently buy.
Should you buy them
No. As tempting as it is to buy a set of active noise canceling wireless earbuds for just $ 149, I doubt you will be happy with their sound.