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Hands-on with the Urbanista Los Angeles
Hands-on with the Urbanista Los Angeles IBTimes / Jeff Li

The Swedish headphone maker Urbanista has always had a fresh take on earphones and headphones, differentiating itself from the competition by having simple, bold, and easy to use designs that are made for those living in the city - thus the model names that are named after major world cities.

This time however, Urbanista took their innovation to the next level by claiming to have created: the world's first solar-powered headphones - and they seem to be right.

The Urbanista Los Angeles claims the summit despite the first short-lived attempt made by JBL on indiegogo back in 2019, labeled the REFLECT Eternal: Self-Charging Headphones. The project was unfortunately shut down due to COVID in December 2020.

Less than a year later, Exeger, the company that brought the solar-power technology to JBL is making a comeback with Urbanista: and this time it's not a crowdfunding campaign but a finished product stocked on store shelves. Can solar power truly be used to energize a pair of wireless headphones for infinite playtime? Let's dive in to find out.


Urbanista Los Angeles = Solar Powered Miami

Miami (Hands-on review can be read here) was Urbanista's flagship over-ear headphone, while Los Angeles is - as far as I can see, a solar-powered version of it. The earcups of the two headphones are essentially the same, same cushions, same controls and the same solid telescopic arms.


However that's where the differences in hardware end, as the Los Angeles replaces the cushy headband of the Miami with a wider headband, which features the patented Powerfoyle solar cell material on top.

The material from the fellow Swedish sustainable energy tech company looks nothing like the conventional solar cells - there's no grids, no shiny panels, but a low-sheen black surface that can visually pass for ordinary plastic.


Towards the Future with Highly Efficient Solar Cells

Despite the ordinary appearance of the top surface of the Los Angeles headband, it is literally the point of difference that sets it apart from all other headphones in the market. This 'Lux Capacitor' (Excuse the Back to the Future reference) being exposed to the right amount of light has the ability to match and even exceed the power consumption of heavy headphone usage.

For the 'doubting Thomas' out there - which is to be expected for any sort of envelope-pushing technology like this - Urbanista has made the solar power feature more convincing through its own app. The Urbanista app shows both the consumption and power generation in a 'digital volt meter' that displays in real-time the amount of gain in power vs. the drain in power in milliamps.


To give you an idea, on standby, the drain is around 2.5 mA, with music playing the drain increases to around 7.5 mA and with ANC on the drain is 11 mA. Under direct sunlight, I was able to get 11.6 mA - which just exceeds the headphone's maximum drain, and run it fully on solar power. Even on a cloudy day, I'm getting 1.6 mA which will slow down the battery drain significantly at standby.

The next question I had was: is it possible to recharge the Urbanista Los Angeles exclusively on the power of the sun? After draining the headphone's battery and recharging it with only direct sunlight, in 2 hours the battery level reached 40% - a better result than I expected.

Compared with solar powered calculators, Logitech solar powered keyboards or even solar powered garden path way lights - a Bluetooth ANC enabled headphone is an amazing leap in efficiency and usability of solar energy.


Sound Performance that Matches the Urbanista Miami

The Urbanista Los Angeles has already demonstrated itself as an impressive feat of solar power technology, but how does it perform as a headphone? Simply put, it's the twin of the Miami in terms of sound just as it is in hardware.

For a more detailed review, please refer to my review of the Miami. To put it simply, this is a headphone that is designed for bass lovers. The bass-centric headphone trend started by Beats Audio all those years ago is alive and well, and is continued in the Los Angeles. Just like the Miami, these headphones bump hard, and are capable of producing absurd amounts of visceral low ends.

For its sound characteristics, these headphones will shine especially for rock, pop, hip-pop, rap, and electronic music.


Portability Topped off with Unique Carrying Case

What do you get when you combine theoretically unlimited battery life that doesn't need to be plugged in, excellent bass response, and good ANC performance? An almost perfect travel headphones. All it needs to get a full score is a good carrying case - and Urbanista Los Angeles includes its very own.

Since all it needs is some sunlight to recharge, the carrying case exposes the top of the headband so that it can continue to recharge, while the rest of the headphone is protected by the faux leather case.


Final Verdict

For those who know the frustration caused by a travel headphone with a flat battery, and seeks for the top battery performer: the top boy is here. Due to its highly practical and effective solar power cells, there's no competition on the current market that comes even close to the playtime of the Urbanista Los Angeles is able to reach.


By building on an existing headphone design, Urbanista was able to utilize cutting edge technology while producing a polished product that hit the shelves. We believe the Urbanista Los Angeles deserves the IBTimes accolade - the Best Product Badge for its effective use of a revolutionary use of solar power, and the excellent travel headphone that came into fruition.

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.