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Urbanears Alby review: AirPods lookalike but poor sound

The Urbanears Alby earbuds make a style nod towards the AirPods, but performance doesn't get close

Urbanears Alby earbuds in white on a concrete surface
(Image: © Future/Ansari)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Urbanears Alby look a lot like a pair of AirPods and offer decent battery life, but sound quality and connectivity issues on calls are a letdown

Pros

  • +

    Sleek design

  • +

    Wide range of colors

  • +

    Secure in-ear fit

  • +

    Effective passive noise isolation

Cons

  • -

    Sound quality is below expectations

  • -

    In-ear detection poor

  • -

    Connectivity issues on calls

Urbanears Alby specs

Price: $69.99

Colors: black, white, teal green, maroon, liberty green, blue, and ultra violet

Battery life: 15 hours of playtime

Bluetooth Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

Wireless Charging: USB-C

Size: 9 inches x 1.7 inches

Weight: 1 ounce

As someone who spends a lot of time on walks, commuting by bus, and walking to the grocery store or gym, a trusty pair of Bluetooth earbuds is a must. Although I’m in the market for a functional product that’s good for cancelling noise and has reliable battery life, I won’t say no to an aesthetic product. That’s why I was so excited when I opened the Urbanears Alby earbuds. 

Named after a vibrant suburban part of Stockholm known for its melting point of influences, the Alby earbuds promise a modern design with the functionality you know and love. The earbuds were sleek, easy to connect with my phone, and available in 7 matte colorways that appealed to the millennial in me. Would they be replacing my tried-and-true Bluetooth earbuds, or is there something else out there that’s a better bang for my buck? Read this Urbanears Alby review to find out.

Urbanears Alby review: Price and availability

The Urbanears Alby are priced at $69.99, and you can purchase them in seven colorways directly through the company's own  website, or in black, white, green and violet colorways through Amazon, where they're currently on sale discounted to just $38.

Urbanears Alby in white lying on a concrete wall

(Image credit: Future/Ansari)

Urbanears Alby review: Design and comfort

  • Very comfortable and stayed in the ear
  • Multiple in-ear tips so you can adjust the size
  • In-ear detection was hit or miss

The shape mirrors Apple's AirPods, but these have an even longer stem. I didn’t have any issues with the earbuds staying in long-term, and I appreciated the IPX4 water-splash resistant design, which make these a good fit for a workout. They never fell out my ear when walking or cycling, so these get a thumbs up if you want to use them on-the-go,

The earbuds come with three sizes of in-ear tips, so you can swap them out for your comfort level. The earbuds were comfortable to wear for longer sessions, and I even wore them when listening to music while falling asleep.

One thing that frustrated me is that when I was listening to something on my phone using my earbuds, and then took them out my ears to talk to someone, the video continues to play. I prefer earbuds that have in-ear detection and stop playback automatically, and means I wouldn’t choose the Alby earbuds over my AirPods.

Urbanears Alby in white in their charging case

(Image credit: Future/Alby)

Urbanears Alby review: Controls and digital assistant 

When you connect the Alby earbuds to your phone, you’ll hear an audio tone that confirms your connection. You can use the touch controls on these earbuds to play/pause, move to the next or previous song, or activate the voice assistant. It took me a second to memorize all the tapping patterns, but that comes with the territory of using new earbuds. 

I would have appreciated the ability to control the volume from my earbuds, but on the whole, the controls were reliable. The only one that was spotty was triple tapping the left earbud to go back to the last song.

You can also hold down either earbud to activate the voice assistant, which was really reliable. It’s a great hands-free feature if you want to quickly use your phone to Google something or call someone. However, I sometimes unintentionally activated this feature if I took out an earbud and pinched it too tightly. 

A female reviewer wearing Urbanears Alby earbuds

(Image credit: Future/Ansari)

Urbanears Alby review: Sound quality

Although there's no active noise cancellation, the Alby earbuds were very good at passively isolating me from external sounds. When I wore both earbuds without music playing, it was enough to drown out the rainstorm occurring outside my apartment, for example. 

Audio quality was exactly what I expected at the price and good enough for quick listens to music and podcasts. I didn’t notice any distortion at high volumes, however, on songs with a lot of bass like “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, the earbuds didn’t capture the depth of the full bass. 

Vocals came through clearly enough for music, podcasts, and videos listening. But, if you’re hoping to hear more nuanced elements of a recording, these earbuds may not be right for you. 

Comparing back-to-back to my Apple AirPods, the sound from the Alby earbuds is a little more shrill in the way they presented highs. This may be a personal preference thing and may not bother everyone as the Alby earbuds get the job done, but if you're at all fussy about sound quality, you may want to look elsewhere.

Urbanears Alby empty charging case showing USB-C port

(Image credit: Future/Ansari)

Urbanears Alby review: Features

In terms of special features, the Urbanears Alby are a pretty bare bones offering. They don’t have active noise cancellation, although the earbud shape and secure seal itself does reduce some noise passively. 

There's no companion app to tinker with the settings either, and makes these earbuds ideal for a fuss-free user who’s really not bothered about extra tech and features.

Urbanears Alby review: Battery life

  • 15-hour battery life and fast charge

These earbuds promise a battery life of 15 hours, and the charging case offers a further four full charges. Urbanears also says that the Alby earbuds can be charged for an hour, and the case required two hours to get a full charge. This checked out for me in my review period, and I usually needed to recharge them after 3 days of 4 to 5 hours usage per day. Without an app or any info on the charge case there was no way to check the battery life status of the earbuds, which was a bit annoying and I was left guessing until the buds completely ran out of life. So its good idea to keep these topped up with regular charges so the earbuds don't fail when you're out and about.   

Our reviewer using the Urbanears Alby earbuds to make a call.

(Image credit: Future/Alby)

Urbanears Alby review: Call quality and connectivity

  • Connectivity dropouts
  • Clear audio on calls

Sound quality during calls was pretty clear when I tried out the Urbanears during a Microsoft Teams meeting, but I found that any word with “s” had a tendency sounded harsh and sibilant. This was a bit of an issue as I take most of my meetings remotely, and I don’t think I’ll be reaching for these earbuds in future. They even disconnected once while I was in the middle of talking, although they did reconnect quickly and I was able to continue with the meeting without too much embarrassment. 

Urbanears Alby review: Verdict

The Urbanears Alby didn't exactly charm me with there sound quality or feature set. At the reduced price, they make an decent backup pair should your main earbuds fail for whatever reason. They offer reliable battery life and come in a fun selection of colors, but there's plenty of competition in the fake AirPods market and better options can easily be found.

Aleenah Ansari (she/her) is equal parts storyteller, creative problem solver, and journalist at heart who's rooted in the stories of people behind products, companies, and initiatives. Her writing has also been featured by GLAAD, Kulfi, CNBC, Microsoft, The Seattle Times, and more. Outside of her day job as a product marketing manager at Microsoft, you can find her helping early-in-career professionals and entrepreneurs feel more confident telling stories about their identity and work, hosting webinars on storytelling and personal branding, and planning her next trip to NYC.