The Urbanista Athens were launched alongside the brand's Paris true wireless earbuds, and favor a more traditional true wireless earbuds design compared to their long-stemmed siblings, which have taken their style cue from the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro.
At a first glance, the Urbanista Athens look more robust than Apple's earbuds, while still looking reasonably stylish and avoiding the risk of an overly plasticky exterior – all in all, they appear rather promising for their price.
We set about putting the Urbanista Athens through their paces to see how well they perform through every situation and how they compare to the best true wireless earbuds of 2020.
Price and availability
The Urbanista Athens have a recommended retail price of $129 / £119, which works out at around AU$215, making them more expensive than the Urbanista Paris.
Unlike the Paris true wireless earbuds, you won't have too many tricky decisions when it comes to picking a color – the Urbanista Athens are only available in black. It's a stylish black at least, but that does mean you can't expect any discounts on less popular color options in the future.
Sticking to a more sporty look, the Urbanista Athens earbuds look like they can withstand you dropping them if worst comes to worst – something that not all truly wireless earbuds achieve. There's the standard selection of silicone earbuds to choose from to get the right size for you, but the key here is to twist them as you pop them into your ears – that way you should achieve a secure fit.
The Urbanista Athens are nice enough to look at but they're fairly standard fare for sports based earbuds; you won't have to worry about them looking a bit too noticeable as you move. The only 'moving' part to them are the buttons for the controls. Unusually, they are pressure sensitive buttons rather than touch sensitive so you actually have to click them down to initiate an action (more on how this works out later on).
The charging case is pretty much like every other wireless earbud charging case in recent times. Unremarkable yet lightweight and easy enough to store in your pocket or bag. There's a magnetic clasp so you won't have to worry about the earbuds rolling around, even if you manage to throw the case across the room. On the back is a micro-USB charging port – it's not protected by a cover so watch out for the risk of dust particles in the long term.
Pairing the Urbanista Athens with our smartphone was easy enough, although we did run into a few snags. In theory, you simply take them out of the case first time and they go straight into pairing mode.
We found that the earbuds didn't respond immediately but after a few times of taking them out of the charging case and putting them back in, they caught up.
On the plus side, once paired, they were consistently ready to use when we took them out of their resting place.
Unlike many other wireless earbuds, you can get full stereo sound through one bud, if you'd prefer to keep one ear open to your surroundings – it's a small bonus, but a useful one.
If you've tried a few different truly wireless earbuds in recent times, you may find yourself briefly surprised by the Urbanista Athens' control method. Unlike most other earbuds on the market right now, they have regular old-fashioned buttons for their controls rather than touch-sensitive ones that you can use gestures on. This is both good and bad news.
Touch-sensitive controls can often be overly sensitive, which means they sometimes don't register the difference between a single tap to play or pause and a double tap for skipping. However, by having to click down on a button, the Urbanista Athens aren't at their best when you're also trying to jog or move in any way. As they're aimed at the more sporting end of the market, it's a bit of an irritant having to feel like you're squishing something into your ear to skip a track or adjust the volume.
After all, who wants to poke themselves in the ear as they jog?
The charging case promises a battery life of up to three full charges, which equates to about 24 hours of playback. On top of the initial eight hours provided by the earbuds, this should mean you won't need to be near a power source very often. In practice, we found this to be accurate when listening at a medium volume.
The Urbanista Athens are almost an enigma when playing music. For the most part, they sound fine, with a reasonable level of audio fidelity. Whack on the latest by Ed Sheehan and they sound just right. It's when you get a little more ambitious with your choices that issues shine through.
For instance, something bass-heavy like Muse's Hysteria soon sounds overly punchy and bass gets a bit too boomy, muddying the other frequencies. While less bassy tracks give room for smooth mids, it's feels as if any song with prominent lower frequencies loses its way.
There are issues too with occasional crackling. Stick on a quieter track like the Stereophonics' Maybe Tomorrow and you can hear a distant crackle. You won't notice it in louder tracks but it's hard to ignore for these slower songs.
On the plus side, a classic like Queen and David Bowie's Under Pressure sounds pretty good. The Urbanista Athens avoid sounding too screechy here – a common issue with cheaper earbuds – and there's no hint of crackle in sight.
It's all oddly jarring. One track might sound perfectly respectable while another more challenging composition could sound quite disappointing. Having said that, when running or working out, you'll rarely notice an issue – it's only when you're sitting down and purely taking in the sounds that you'll notice the problems.
For those times when you need to take a call, the Urbanista Athens are pretty solid at least. The sound quality is decent if unremarkable, and you'll sound fine to whoever's on the end of the line.
We can't deny that we love the snug fit of the Urbanista Athens. It really makes a difference to have well-fitting earbuds for runs and workouts and the decent battery life is a welcome feature too. However, we're not a fan of the controls. They're a little awkward to interact with when running without feeling like you're poking yourself in the ear.
More notably, there are sound quality issues when it comes to bass and crackling. These won't come to light so readily when you're pounding the pavement but it does rule out the Urbanista Athens as earbuds for when you're at home or somewhere much quieter than the streets or the gym.
At this price point, it's not a massive deal breaker but it's something to consider when there are options like the Creative Outlier Golds for roughly the same price and with better sound quality.
The style of the Urbanista Athens is great and we won't blame you if you choose practicality over sound quality, but it certainly means these buds won't be for everyone.
- The best running headphones of 2020