Beauty is, they say, in the eye of the beholder, something worth bearing in mind when appraising the Barcelona headphones from Urbanista. These bright green plastic on-ear headphones are certainly striking - in the weeks we have been using them literally no-one has failed to remark on their odd-ball looks. See also: Group test: what's the best headphones?
I have to say that in my experience reaction to the Urbanista Barcelona is mostly negative, but I'm a 35-year-old technology journalist and I rather suspect I'm outside the target demographic. Urbanista describes the colour of the Barcelona headphones as 'Crispy Apple', and that language, the design and build, and above all the audio quality, points squarely toward a teenage audience.
The Urbanista Barcelona headphones use the now standard 3.5mm jack, and have an inline microphone for calls. You can use the Barcelona with a smartphone, as well as MP3 player, or tablet. They come with a carrying bag, as is now standard.
Urbanista Barcelona: build quality and design
On-ear headphones are typically easy on the head, and the Urbanista Barcelona headphones are no exception. The composite plastic material is lightweight but strong with sufficient flex. Underneath the outer shell the metal arms are plenty long enough to encompass even the biggest of heads - or to sit on top of big hair or a hat, depending on your sartorial intent.
Dense white foam sits both underneath the headband and on the inside of the sizeable earpads. The Urbanista Barcelona's earpads pivot to the degree that a comfortable angle finds itself naturally, cited inside a larger disc that sits on the end of the head band.
The Urbanista Barcelona headphones are comfortable to wear for even long periods.
One interesting design point is that the earpads protrude backward from the headband, rather than the traditional headphone design in which the headband dissects the earpads. This makes the Urbanista Barcelona headphones look as though they are on backward. Perhaps this is cool? (This may be my 'Who is Gazza?' moment.)
The Barcelona headphones' cord is a flat and thick green rubber number, that feels much less susceptible to damage than the thin circular wires with which most headphones are saddled.
Leaving design aside the critical point about the Urbanista Barcelona is that they are extremely solid for lightweight headphones. For sweaty weeks now we've been fishing them out of the bottom of our gym bag where they swim loose amongst discarded trainers and other exercise detritus. You wouldn't know this to look at them. And that's a really good thing.
Urbanista Barcelona: audio quality
Less good... audio quality. The sound produced by the Urbanista Barcelona headphones is far from the worst we've experienced, even at this relatively inexpensive price point. It's warm and bassy, producing a big old sound. As such the Barcelona is well suited for male voices singing over distorted or effects heavy guitars (Billy Bragg and The Rolling Stones sound pretty good through these headphones). But all the grunt is in the bass: treble and mid-tones are quite indinstinct, and more detailed, ethereal music can be a bit of a mess. Indeed, even with more bass-heavy music the vocals can disappear into the mix.
One other issue: listening to podcasts and radio is difficult at all but the highest volumes, particularly if the content is mostly male speaking voices...
Urbanista Barcelona: noise isolation
...which is a problem if, like me, you mostly listen to spoken-word podcasts while working out. Noise isolation is poor both ways. When using the Urbanista Barcelona headphones what you are listening to will be shared faithfully with your fellow commuters or excercisers, and you can hear them complaining about it.