Editors' note, January 25, 2010: We initially miscalculated the ratings for this product. The correct overall rating is 6.0; Design is 7, Features is 7, and Performance is 4.
It's nothing new, but the propensity of headphone manufacturers to crop up with the latest "fashion-forward" model has enjoyed a sharp uptick as of late. Newcomer Urbanears provides several examples, with three lines of portable headphones designed to catch eyes and turn heads. One is the Plattan, an on-ear model that comes in a choice of 14 colors. Unfortunately, these earphones don't offer the clearest audio quality, but they do pump out plenty of bass and cost a relatively affordable $60 a pop.
In case you were wondering if that 14 before was a typo, it's not--the Urbanears Plattan headphones come in hues to suit every taste, including a charmingly green "salad" tinge, two shades of gray, and three shades of blue. The color extends from the padded, fabric-coated headband down to the circular earcups and even the stiff padding. This could definitely stand to be cushier, as the headphones tend to put uncomfortable pressure on the ear after about an hour of wear. But the Plattan headphones definitely look good, with their matte finish and metal adjustment loops.
Although Urbanears doesn't include a carrying case of any kind--not really a surprise at this price range--the Plattan headphones are quite portable. The earcups measure just 2.5 inches in diameter and fold in for easier transport. A single cloth cable measuring 45 inches long descends from the left earpiece and terminates in a nickel-plated straight plug. The cord is impressively thick, isn't very tangle-prone, and is reinforced at both ends, which speaks volumes about its potential durability. It also includes a module containing a mic and call answer button for use with the iPhone and other music phones, a nice feature in this price range. (Urbanears also packages a dual-banded adapter with the headphones for audio sources that might take issue with triple-banded plugs.)
The Plattan headphones are unimpressive on the audio quality front--not a terribly surprising discovery given the price point. Clarity is the real loser here. Music in general sounds as if it's coming through water or a wall--it's quite muffled. If you're looking for a crisp, detailed high-end, look elsewhere. Similarly, the midrange tends to get lost in the muddiness. On the plus side, there's plenty of bass, though it's fairly mushy for most tracks (Scissor Sisters sounded horrible during testing). Also, the headphones run loud; our test Walkman had no problem driving them at our desired volume with the levels at less than half. If you listen to mainly hip-hop and are concerned with bass, loudness, style, and price, these could be a suitable option. If not, the Plattan headphones are not for you.