It's no mean feat making a pair of wireless headphones. All of the same challenges of making a normal pair of headphones remain, but they're joined by a need to offer decent battery life, good wireless connectivity, and to do it all without compromising on the sound quality that people came to love in the first place.
In taking their flagship headphones wireless with the Plattan 2 Bluetooth ($99 / £85), UrbanEars have scored a decisive two out of three against the above points. They have that same decent sound that came to define the Plattan II, and battery life is an exceptional.
But unfortunately their wireless connectivity isn't astounding. Through regular use in central London we experienced frequent dropouts - far more than with competing headphones.
Granted, these problems will occur far less if you intend to use these in less densely populated areas, but if you want a pair of headphones to use anywhere then this is a not-insignificant issue that makes the Plattan 2 Bluetooth hard to unreservedly recommend.
These are a budget pair of headphones (with no high-end technologies like noise-cancellation or Bluetooth AptX support), but shop around and you can find better wireless headphones for the same price.
Design and features
Things initially got off to a good start with the headphones - their design (both in terms of aesthetic and functionality) is very good indeed.
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 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 works very nicely indeed. Given the option we'd love such a control scheme to become the default on every pair of headphones.
A weight off your...head?
Because of their need to contain a battery, many wireless headphones end up feeling a little weighty. The Plattan 2 Bluetooth have no such problem, but this can give them a slightly cheap feel. Frankly, they still feel well constructed so we wouldn’t get too hung up about it.
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 in a second pair of headphones to share music with a friend.
Since there’s only one jack you can't make use of both these pieces 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. In fact, when we spoke to the product development team they claimed that 30 hours of playback was achieved when playing the headphones at maximum volume.
In everyday testing we found that the headphones easily lasted a full week of use one one charge, so battery life shouldn't be an issue for you.
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.
Finally, the headphones give Cecilia Ann by the Pixies all the rhythm and dynamism the song deserves without compromising on its detail and layering.
But as good as they sound, this barely matters with the amount of dropouts we experienced with these headphones. When we did our initial listen in a hotel room these were less apparent, but step into an area with more interference and the drop-outs are regular.
Crossing one particularly busy street we found that the headphones seemed to be cutting out more than they were actually playing the music.
No pair of wireless headphones is perfect, but the Plattan 2 Bluetooth were simply not as good as the competition, leading to moments of real frustration when trying to enjoy a song.
The Plattan 2 Bluetooth end up being a frustrating pair of headphones to review.
So much of them is so great. Their design is genuinely sleek and stylish, the controls are well thought out and intuitive, and their sound is great at this price point.
Listen to them somewhere where there isn't too much wireless interference and you'll have an absolutely great time.
But step into busy city streets, and the way they struggle to maintain a consistent connection makes them hard to recommend, even at their wallet-friendly $99 / £85 price point.