Provides: On-ear headphones with inline microphone
Compatibility: Any device with standard 1/8″ headphone jack
In both appearance and extra features, Urbanears’ Plattan line (pictured at right in the “army” shade) are indeed heavy hitters. The Urbanears website describes them as a “full size headphone allowing for rich, secluded sound,” which the well-padded cups and ample drivers do quite nicely. Available in a dazzling array of colors—ranging from blues with names like “Ocean” to a green “Sallad” to “Chocolate”—they certainly make a visual statement. The review unit came in a funky shade of dark blue called Navy. One thing is certain; these headphones do stand out visually! Fit and finish on these are top notch. The head band is covered in a woven fabric, as is the cord; it is nice to see somebody change it up from the standard vinyl leather and plastic. The fit was tight but not uncomfortable on a medium-sized head; those with larger noggins might need to give these a pass. One gripe is the lack of a carrying case. At this price point, it feels like a cheap cost cutting measure.
The integrated inline microphone is also a nice touch. It is a bit strange at first; the headphones isolate so much external sound that you will not hear yourself speaking. Callers reported no clarity issues, and the sound from phone calls was flawless. Another…interesting…feature included on these headphones is the Zound plug (yes, that is a “z”). It is an extra headphone jack on the right ear cup that allows you to plug in another pair of headphones—essentially daisy chaining the sound. It came in handy for sharing PIxar’s Up from an iPod touch on a long car trip.
Got it where it counts?
Despite excellent visual appeal, the Plattans were decidedly lacking in the audio department. They seem to be an exercise in form over function, and although they nail the form category, they are simply mediocre in audio function.
- Pros: As advertised, they do provide excellent audio seclusion. With the ear cups on, it was impossible to hear anything but a slight background noise from any of the following: traffic noises, television at normal volume, or a dishwasher. In the Plattans’ favor, they consistently produced distortion-free sound, including two of my favorite test tracks: “Jazzy Bach” by Ben Charest on the Triplets of Belleville soundtrack and “He’s a Pirate” by Klaus Badelt on the original Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Both contain big, loud passages that easily cause distortion on many speakers. Here, both were rendered distortion-free. Upper bass performance was also acceptable, though not outstanding, for orchestral and instrumental music, highlighted by a clear reproduction of cellos in Mahler’s Symphony 1, 2nd movement.
- Cons: Bass. Yes, the cello reproduction is listed above as a pro, but in all other regards, the bass is a con. Pop and dance music with electronic bass lines was often muddy and unclear. Songs like “Starstruck” by Lady Gaga and “Teardrop” by Massive Attack (which is also the House, MD theme song) lacked balance due to drab bass performance. Overall performance is just lacking in acoustic clarity. Several live performance recordings (many of which I played in, as part of a concert band) were lacking in the warmth and resonance of the original performance. Mids and high tones were similarly lacking; “Bambaleo” by Gipsy Kings lost its spicy flamenco flair on guitar and Franki Valli’s voice sounded whiny rather than angelic, much like the thready audio on a Skype call.
The Fat Lady Sings:
In the 50-100 dollar price range there are plenty of headphones—both on-ear and earbud style—that provide excellent reproduction with bright, clear sound and precise imaging. The Plattans reproduced sound accurately, but the experience is the visual equivalent of watching a movie with the projector just slightly out of focus: all the elements are there, but the missing crispness detracts from the overall experience. For casual listeners, these are an improvement over Apple’s included earbuds and over most entry-level headphones. If one of the 14 colors is your signature color, and you want to make sure your audio gear is a fashion-perfect accessory, Plattans are a competent choice. The end result seems to be more fashion statement than serious sound gear, so for audiophiles, my advice is to look elsewhere.
Buy the urbanears Plattan