The Urbanista Miami could hardly have come at a better time. It’s a set of over-ear headphones with colorful, modern styling, long battery life and active noise cancellation (ANC) — but at a much lower price than certain other headphones to share these qualities.
Colors: Red, black, white, teal
Battery life (rated): 40 hours with ANC, 50 hours without
Size: 8.1 x 6.6 x 3.5 inches
Weight: 10.9 ounces
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Processor: Not stated
Yes, if you were recently burned by the $549 asking price of the AirPods Max, the $149 Miami might look like the perfect consolation prize. In fact, compared to most of the best wireless headphones and best noise-cancelling headphones, it could save you hundreds of dollars. And, as our Urbanista Miami review will explain, that’s not the only good thing about it.
Urbanista Miami review: Price and availability
The Urbanista Miami is currently only available direct from Urbanista, though it can ship to a host of countries including the U.S. and U.K.
It costs $149 and comes in one of four different colors: red, black, white and teal. The white option is unique in leaving its aluminium headband spine unpainted; all the others are one solid color throughout.
Urbanista Miami review: Design
Urbanista apparently intended the Miami as a “level up” on its previous headphones, the Urbanista London. That wouldn’t be difficult in terms of size, as the London was a set of true wireless earbuds, whereas the Miami is a full-sized pair of over-ear headphones.
Build quality exceeds expectations for $149. Instead of flimsy plastics, the Miami is built from plush, matte-finish aluminum, with vegan leather wrapping around the padded earcups and headband. It’s not the most foldable set of over-ear cans in the world, but the earcups do rotate flat for easier storage. And there’s some modest pivot adjustment in addition to the standard adjustable headband.
The styling is great too: sleek and simple, with the controls and ports tucked away on the bottom of the earcup mounts. On the right is a set of three buttons (more on these later) and a 3.5mm jack, so you can keep listening with the included aux cable should the battery run flat. On the left is the lone “Feature” button and a USB-C port for charging.
It’s a very straightforward design overall, though Urbanista has managed to find the elegance in such simplicity.
Urbanista Miami review: Comfort and fit
For all its padding, the Urbanista Miami is a tight fit. And on two counts: the stiff headband makes the whole set clamp around your head with considerable force, while the earcups leave very little room for your ears to breathe.
On the one hand this is good, or at least better than having a loose fit. Maintaining a firm seal is important for ANC to work, and you never want headphones that feel like they’re going to fall off as you walk. But compared to my Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, the Miami’s earcups felt a lot more cramped.
However, I wouldn’t call the Miami outright uncomfortable. I found myself getting used to both the tightness and the small earcups within the space of a few songs, and wore the headphones for three hours straight on an ill-considered long walk — though I did take my glasses off for the final hour, as the temples were pressing into my head.
Urbanista Miami review: Setup and controls
Pairing the Urbanista Miami over Bluetooth is quick and simple. It’s just a matter of holding down the “Control” button and finding the headphones on the device’s Bluetooth menu.
The Control button wears many other hats: it’s the power button, the play button, the pause button and the answer/end/reject button all in one, depending on how long you press it and how many times in succession. It can also summon Siri or Google Assistant with a double press.
All these inputs worked fine for me, and I particularly appreciated having a tactile, physical button instead of finicky touch controls. Likewise for the two volume/skip buttons that flank the Control button, and the Feature button over on the left cup.
This simply switches between ANC mode, ambient sound mode and “default” mode, which doesn’t use either. Unlike the other three buttons there’s a delay between each input, which can slow things down if you want to quickly switch modes, but otherwise there’s nothing to complain about.
Urbanista Miami review: Sound quality
Urbanista CEO Anders Andreen told me in a call that the company wanted the Miami to deliver strong bass without “diluting” the mids and highs. There’s definitely a powerful bass slam, but good news Anders: the rest of the frequency range survives the impact.
If anything the Urbanista Miami is one of the best-sounding cheap noise cancelling headphones I’ve used, especially for more upbeat tunes. The funk-rock of Clutch’s “In Walks Barbarella” positively bounded along, and the harsh electronics of Defqwop’s “Heart Afire” were filled out with a rich warmth.
Likewise for the faster, rap-led “Only One King” by Tommee Profitt, which swelled beautifully on the back of the Miami’s generous low end. It’s not all a bass show, either: little details can still shine through, like the twinkling guitar effects on Pale Waves’ “Kiss.”
Admittedly not every single song will benefit from such a forceful sound signature. Some of the quieter moments on Julien Baker’s cover of “The Modern Leper” would have benefitted from a more delicate touch. But then there’s nothing really wrong with how the mids and treble are presented, and if you wanted a much more perfectly-balanced set of ANC headphones, you’d need to spend a lot more on the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose 700.
Urbanista Miami review: Noise cancellation
When compared to more expensive, top-of-the-line headphones, one thing you shouldn’t expect from the more affordable Miami is Bose-level noise-cancelling effectiveness. The Urbanista Miami does quieten sounds, but mainly achieves this by making background objects sound further away, and often with a kind of audibly processed tinge. One reason it remains worth investing in the Bose 700, or even the AirPods Max, is to cut out nearby disturbances cleanly and ruthlessly.
And yet, in most situations the Miami’s ANC is more than good enough. The differences between this and a premium pair of noise-cancellers is mostly noticeable when you’re not playing music, so by merely using the headphones as intended, it’s easy to just enjoy the sound.
Another big win is the inclusion of an ambient sound mode. This repurposes the ANC microphones to amplify sounds, so you can have conversations (or just raise your situational awareness) without taking the headphones off. This, like the ANC itself, isn’t a match for the similar transparency modes on the Bose, Sony and Apple headphones, but will work well enough when out shopping. Some of our favourite pairs of low-cost ANC headphones, like the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC, don’t even include an ambient mode at all.
Unfortunately, both ANC and ambient modes can suffer from wind noise. This occurs when the wind blows across the tiny recessed holes at the top of each earcup, where the mics reside. It’s not like it causes a deafening arctic howl, but I found the only way to stop it completely was to cover over both of these holes, which isn’t a practical solution. It’s better to just turn up the volume and drown it out.
Urbanista Miami review: Features
Wind weakness aside, ANC and ambient modes alone are impressive features to find on a pair of $149 headphones. But there are a few more worth mentioning, the first of which is the set of included accessories.
The Urbanista Miami comes with a hard carrying case, a 3.5mm aux cable (handy if your smartphone has yet to abandon headphone jacks), a USB-C charging cable and an airline adaptor, so you can use the Miami with in-flight entertainment systems. All the basics are covered, though I’d have liked a longer charging cable — this one is only about 6 inches long.
There’s also on-ear detection, whereby the Miami senses when you’ve taken it off your head and automatically pauses your music so you don’t miss anything. This proved reliable, and it works the other way so that the music auto-resumes once the headphones are back over your ears.
Admittedly, there’s not a lot else in the feature department. The ANC only has one level of effectiveness, the EQ can’t be customised, there’s no IP-rated waterproofing (though my pair endured some light rain), and for the time being there’s not even a mobile app. Urbanista says this is in the works for iOS and Android, and a beta version will launch later this year, but for now your controls are limited to the onboard buttons.
Urbanista Miami review: Battery life
If you’re looking for a party piece, though, how’s this: the Urbanista Miami lasted for 46 hours and 36 minutes of music playback in my testing, with all but 6 of those hours using ANC. That’s a fantastic result. The AirPods Max can only manage around 20 hours, and it’s the same story with the Bose 700. The Sony WH-1000XM4 does better, having lasted for 29 hours of ANC playback when we reviewed it, but the Miami leaves its high-priced competitors in the dust.
It actually surpasses Urbanista’s own figures, which claim 40 hours of ANC playback or 50 hours in Default mode. I don’t doubt that second number for a moment, and recharging for an hour gave me 80% of the charge back, enough for several days of regular listening.
Urbanista Miami review: Call quality
The Urbanista Miami also does fine work as a phone calling headset. I was told my voice came through loud and clear, audibly more so than when I was speaking directly into my Pixel 4a.
There was apparently no troublesome interference from outdoor noises either, like traffic and trains. And despite my earlier trouble with wind noise during music playback, this wasn’t an issue during calls.
Urbanista Miami review: Verdict
While Apple’s accountants won’t lose any sleep over the Urbanista Miami, it genuinely does look and perform like a dependable low-cost alternative to the AirPods Max. It’s nowhere near as advanced when it comes to features, but ANC and ambient modes mean you could hardly call it oversimplified. The battery life is about as good as it gets, too.
Then there’s the price. $149 for noise cancellation, a rich sound profile and solid build quality is a bargain, especially when Urbanista’s fashionable styling won’t give away that you’ve spent less. And, with the promise of an upcoming companion app, there’s a chance this pair of great-value ANC headphones could get even better.