Balanced audio with solid bass response and crisp, bright highs. Striking design, Comfortable fit.
Includes cable jack but not a cable. High price for the performance.
- Bottom Line
The wireless Urbanears Plattan 2 BT headphones are attractive and deliver solid performance, but not enough to justify doubling the price over the wired version.
When Urbanears released the wired Plattan 2 headphones, we were impressed by the combination of cool design, solid audio performance, and reasonable price of $50. The new Urbanears Plattan 2 BT, Bluetooth take on that model, looks very similar to its wired sibling, but the price has been doubled to $100. Sure, we've seen price jumps for the wireless version of wired headphones before, but they're typically not more than $20 to $30 (take the Skullcandy Grind Wireless, for example). Urbanears claims there are audio improvements, as well as a newly designed hinge on the earcups. But while the audio does indeed sound different, some listeners might actually prefer the wired Plattan 2's sound. That makes the $100 price harder to swallow.
You would be forgiven for thinking at a glance, that the Plattan 2 BT is identical to its sibling. Offered in vibrant monochrome colors like blue and red, both have the stylish matte plastic build and cloth coverings, both are on-ear designs with plush earcups, both are comfortable, and both have jacks for removable audio cables. The Plattan 2 BT differs in that it has on-ear controls, and a newly designed hinge that allows the earcups more flexibility to adjust to your head. Internally, the same-sized drivers are being used.
Oddly, there is also no included cable. We say oddly because of the jack included for a cable. That might be a first for Bluetooth headphones we've tested—cables aren't always a given, but when a jack is there, you pretty much expect one. And at $100, there are plenty of Bluetooth headphone pairs that offer a removable cable.
The audio cable jack is located on the left earcup, while the micro USB port for the included USB charging cable is located on the right earcup. This is also where the power/pairing switch can be found; it can be pushed up or down to control volume, or side to side to rewind or skip tracks, while pressing once quickly plays/pauses music or answers a call, double tapping summons your phone's voice assistant, and holding it in powers the headphones down or up. It's a graceful solution in the often less-than-graceful realm of on-ear controls.
The mic offers mediocre intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word recorded, but it sounded like the microphone was covered in gauze and far away. This is fairly common on built-in mics for Bluetooth headphones, so it's not a big knock on the Plattan 2 BT.
Urbanears rates battery life at more than 30 hours per charge, but your results will vary with your volume levels.
Because we find the price discrepancy between the wired version of the Plattan 2 and this Bluetooth version puzzling, we tested them against each other to see if we could hear a difference in the audio performance, as Urbanears claimed we would. There is a difference, for certain, however, it's not one that will thrill everyone.
The wired Plattan 2 has notably more bass response and depth than the Bluetooth version. In fact, their frequency responses are almost like night and day, with the Bluetooth version pumping out less bass depth and also a much brighter, crisper sound signature. Neither sounds markedly better than the other—they're both acceptable sound signatures. But the fact that they share the same name is strange. The Plattan 2 BT is a far more mids- and highs-focused pair. It's not bereft of bass depth, but compared with its cheaper wired sibling, it has far less. It can also be argued that the wired, cheaper version is less clear overall, but it's harder to argue that there's a $50 upgrade in overall audio performance.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the Plattan 2 BT delivers solid bass depth, but nothing comparable with its cheaper sibling. Booming bass isn't everything, though—what the Plattan 2 BT lacks in low frequency intensity it makes up for in overall balance and a crisp, bright response.
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Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with less deep in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Plattan 2 BT's overall sound signature. The drums on this track have a pleasant roundness to them in the lows, without sounding overly thunderous, while Callahan's baritone vocals have some added richness in the low-mids, and a prominent, crisp edge to them in the high-mids. The guitar strums also benefit from a boosted presence in the high-mids. Generally speaking, it's a sound signature that focuses on mids and highs without ignoring the bass, but the bass isn't the main event.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop gets a solid presence in the high-mids, allowing its attack to slice through the layers of the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with restraint—we sense their power, but we don't hear it nearly as profoundly as we would on a heavily bass-boosted headphone pair. The vocals on this track are clear, but they also can sound overly sibilant at times.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, have a vibrant presence through the Plattan 2 BT. The lower register instrumentation gets a soild boost in the low-mids, while the higher register brass, strings, and vocals are reproduced with clarity and a bright overall presence.
The Urbanears Plattan 2 BT headphones sound pretty good, but the price seems like a reach when there are more affordable options that offer similar performance, like the Plantronics BackBeat 500 and Skullcandy Grind Wireless, and similarly priced options that sound a little better, like the JBL E45BT and Sony MDR-XB650BT. The lack of a cable also throws us off—why include the jack and not the cable? There's nothing to really dislike here, however. The headphones certainly look cool and offer clear, well-balanced audio—but a lower price and an included cable would have resulted in a higher rating and stronger recommendation.
Other Urbanears Headphones
By Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear. More »
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