OUR EARLY VERDICT
- We’re impressed by the results of UrbanEars taking its flagship on-ear headphones wireless. They sound great for a pair at this price, and the combination of their decent controls, long battery life, and lightweight feel, means that it’s exceptionally easy to use them for long periods of time.
- Well-designed controls
- Exceptional battery life
- Good sound
- Wireless performance could be better
- Slight lack of sound detail
- Ocassionally cramped soundstage
‘Scandinavian design’ can divide opinion. Those that love it praise its clean lines and minimalistic stylings, its wooden finishes and open aesthetic.
But taken to extremes the design language can, its detractors argue, lead to items that are nicer to look at than to actually use, like a hotel room desk that’s all clean exposed wood that couldn’t bear to include something as messy as a plug socket.
UrbanEars is a brand that’s always been keen to take the positives of Scandinavian design without taking it to the extremes of form over function, and nowhere is this more clear than with its new Plattan 2 Bluetooth headphones.
We were already impressed with the wired version of the Plattan 2’s when we reviewed them last year. Although we had some slight reservations about their sound quality and lack of volume controls, we thought they offered a great deal at their price point.
First impressions suggest that UrbanEars have taken these criticisms to heart as the wireless model makes big strides towards improving upon the original’s drawbacks.
Make no mistake, this is still a budget pair of headphones (with no high-end technologies like noise-cancellation or Bluetooth AptX support), but at this price it seems the balance they’ve struck between functionality, price, and performance might be about right.
Design and features
Looks-wise, very little has changed between these headphones and the wired Plattan 2s. They’re still available in multiple colors ranging from a stark white through to brighter red and blue (pictured) variants.
These solid color schemes are only broken slightly by a single line of silver trim that flows around each earcup, and frankly we’re big fans of the understated look. Hinges at each end of the headband allow the earcups to fold away, and the headband itself is flexible without feeling flimsy.
The biggest change from the wired version (aside, naturally, from the fact that this thing doesn’t have any wires) is the addition of the same control stick found on Marshall’s recent headphones like the Marshall Mid. Press it to play or pause the music, slide it up and down for volume control, and slide it left and right to skip forwards and backwards through tracks.
This stick, found on the right earcup, is simple, neat, and appears to work quite nicely.
On the left earcup, next to the Micro USB charging port, you’ll find a single 3.5mm jack which, interestingly, has a dual purpose. Either you can use it to connect to a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth, such as the Nintendo Switch, or you can actually plug a second pair of headphones into this pair to share music with a friend.
Since there’s only one jack you can only make use of one of these bits of functionality at a time, but it’s pretty neat all the same.
UrbanEars claims that these headphones should deliver over 30 hours of battery life which, if true, is seriously impressive. Better still, when we spoke to the product development team they claimed that 30 hours of playback was achieved when playing the headphones at maximum volume, and so in everyday use you should get even more.
We’ll be sure to test these claims out in full for our final review.
Much of these same complements could be paid to UrbanEars’ sister brand Marshall Headphones, but where the Plattan 2 Bluetooth headphones stand apart is with their sound quality, which is much more refined, more balanced, and frankly more listenable.
While the Marshall headphones kick you in the crotch with their bass before throwing up devil horns and running from the room, the Plattan 2 Bluetooth just want you to have a good time.
Give the headphones a track with a little bit of rythm to sink their teeth into like Aom by Mouse on the Keys, and its two piano lines are distinct and clear, even with its driving drumline in the background.
Yes, the soundstage is a touch constricted, but we’re inclined to give it a pass at this price point.
Step into more Marshall territory and the headphones still hold up well, although detail can occasionally suffer. I Found a Way by Alkaline Trio is expressive and dynamic through the headphones, even if you won’t be blown away by how clearly you can hear the bass buried in the mix.
First impressions suggest that these are a very sonically capable pair of headphones, but we’ll need to throw much more music at it before we reach our final verdict.
Disappointingly, the audio did ocassionally cut out while we were listening wirelessly. We conducted this preview in a hotel room where you’d expect there to be less wireless interference than on the street, so although these drops were less than a fraction of a second, they still weren’t ideal.
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to spend more money and get more performance out of a pair of headphones. You can get more features like Bluetooth AptX and active noise cancellation.
But at $99 / £85, we’re inclined to believe UrbanEars has made entirely the right compromises. The Plattan 2 Bluetooth might not be feature-packed, but they nevertheless feel very usable, they might not offer the pinnacle of audio performance, but they offer a level that’s great at this price.
Stay tuned for our full review as we really put these things through their paces, but for now it seems as though UrbanEars has not just cut the cord with few compromises, but has even taken the opportunity to make some decent improvements in the process.