Los Angeles Planner Review: headphones with ANC and virtually infinite autonomy
23 November 2021 1
Announced last May, the Urban planner Los Angeles are solar-powered over-ear headphones, capable of recharging when exposed to light sources and offering virtually “unlimited” autonomy .
Well, on paper it is certainly an attractive idea that could allow us to tick at least an item from the growing list of devices that we regularly charge every evening. But have we really come to the point of being able to have such a product, which also offers excellent audio quality at the same time? Short answer: yes , and they don’t even cost much.
THE SECRET IS IN THE ‘ARCHETTO
Premise: Urbanista was not the first company to create such a product. Taking a step back in time, in the 2019 it was JBL who announced solar-powered headphones made in collaboration with the Swedish company Exeger who had supplied his innovative panel Powerfoyle . JBL’s Reflect Eternal headphones came to Indiegogo but to cause of the pandemic have not yet arrived on the market.
Urbanista has collaborated with Exeger to integrate into his excellent Miami headphones, from which the Los Angeles derives, this Powerfoyle panel that blends perfectly into the design of the headband . The panel is slightly porous and black in color, regardless of the color of the headphones that Urbanista has made in both Midnight Black and Sand Gold. In the package there is also a handy case as well as a charging cable.
In this panel is positioned a layer of solar cells that continuously absorb energy when exposed to light, whether it be that of the sun or a light bulb in the house, which is converted into power for the internal battery. The panel is always active, regardless of whether the headphones are turned on or not.
For the rest, the Los Angeles are great headphones with wireless connectivity via Bluetooth 5.0 and integrate full-range dynamic drivers from 40 mm . Do not miss the active noise cancellation selectable on three positions: “on” , “off” or “ambient sound” and sensors that pause the music when we remove them from the head or if we move them slightly from the ear. If desired, via the app for iOS and Android, the function of “detection on the ear” can be deactivated.
WITH THE CONSUMPTION APP UNDER CONTROL
The app itself is another strong point. As soon as it is started, a panel immediately shows us the condition in which the headphones are, if they are being discharged or if they are absorbing energy. Not only that, we are also told exactly how much energy they are consuming and, possibly, what they are receiving from the solar cells. All expressed in mA.
In “default” mode, without listening to music, 2.4mA is absorbed which rise at 7.2mA when we activate environmental listening, and at 7.3mA with ANC . During playback we go up to 8.8mA respectively, mA and up to 15but. In closed but well-lit environments, the solar cells are able to absorb between 0.2mA and 2mA maximum . Putting ourselves to listen to music next to a window, hit by indirect light we can get to about 3mA . Outdoors, on a cloudy day, we will be able to see the indicator go up to 5mA. In the conditions described, therefore, you will get a sort of “parachute” that will make the internal battery consume much more slowly.
Obviously, the more the weather conditions allow it, the more the subject changes . In fact, in direct sunlight, our indicator will also splash at 24 mA which, consequently, not only will not let the headphones discharge but will also allow them to be recharged and we will begin to see also gradually increase the percentage of the battery . As a guideline, an hour outdoors in the sun will recharge the battery to offer approximately three hours of playback. In practice, if we only used them outdoors, they would be virtually endless. If we only used them indoors, the battery from 750 mAh would still offer approx. 80 hours listening , with noise canceling off, or 50 hours with the noise canceling activated).
- Driver: 40 mm dynamic, moving coil
- Microphone: electret condenser
- Echo Canceling: Integrated DSP
- Battery capacity: 750 mAh
- Bluetooth version: 5.0
- Bluetooth class: 2
- Profiles: A2DP 1.3, AVRCP 1.5, HFP 1.6
- Codec: SBC and AAC
- Range: ≤ 10 m
- Frequency response: from 20 Hz a 20 kHz
- Sensitivity: 107 ± 3dB @ 1 kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohm ± 15%
Returning to the app, through settings we can, as mentioned, also disable ear recognition and define the function of the physical “control” button located on the left pavilion, where we also find the Type-C door . We can choose between ANC, ambient sound, voice assistant and an alternation between these functions.
COMFORTABLE HEADPHONES AND GREAT AUDIO
On the right pavilion, on the other hand, there are three keys for volume, play, pause, skip tracks and power . Unfortunately these keys, the ones we interact with the most, are small and very close to each other. Consequently, it will not be easy to find them at the first try and it will first be necessary to “recognize” them by touch with a consequent waste of time. We will have to live with it. To put the headphones into pairing mode, press and hold to 5/6 seconds the power button. It is not possible to connect to more than one device at the same time.
Another software “flaw”, in my opinion, is the lack of an equalizer . On the hardware side, however, you feel the lack of a 3.5mm connector which will not allow us to use them via cable. Urbanista would have decided to “sacrifice” it in order to keep the power consumption of the headphones as low as possible. The always valid AAC is used as the codec, so audiophiles may lack a higher quality codecs such as AptX HD or LDAC.
The earphones are made of slightly rubberized plastic , pleasant to the touch but retains fingerprints a little. The pavilions in leatherette, very soft, with a memory padding foam that fits the ear leaving it comfortable even during long sessions of use. The same goes for the lower part of the bow, soft and well padded. The “fit” quite snug to the head, very comfortable on “normal” heads but a little less on larger ones, plays in favor of the noise cancellation which has pleasantly surprised me even if it loses a little of the three-dimensionality of the sound and fails to reach the levels of effectiveness of Bose or Sony WH – 1000 XM4. Ultimately, it’s a more than excellent ANC in relation to the price range of these headphones.
As for the audio quality , these Los Angeles I satisfied with their rich and rounded sound : deep and structured low frequencies which have a slight impact on the midrange which is still detailed. Bass and mids which, however, obscure the slightly more delicate parts of a piece. The “Ambient Sound” mode increases the external sound but does not lower the volume of the music. Ultimately, anyone who loves energetic music genres will also love the sound of these Los Angeles.
In conclusion , making such a pair of headphones was not easy, but Urbanista has succeeded and deserves a round of applause. The promise has been kept, the charging system really works. To date these are the first headphones of the genre and certainly will not be the last. It is easy to assume that other manufacturers will also exploit this possibility sooner or later. Solar panel aside, Los Angeles are excellent wireless headphones , very pleasant to listen to and with a list price of 199 EUR (discounted at 159 euro in these days of Black Friday ) which makes them even more desirable, just like a nice sunny day.
PROS AND CONS