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Sennheiser Urbanite XL review: A Beats competitor with quality bass and good clarity

Performance

No doubt about it: the over-the ear Urbanite XL sounds substantially bigger, clearer and more spacious than the on-ear Urbanite. More often than not, you get a sound advantage with an over-ear model; indeed, Sennheiser's Momentum also outclassed its little brother, the Momentum On-Ear.

The differences between the Urbanite XL and Urbanite are even more obvious than the two Momentums. The Urbanite XL has what some might call the classic Sennheiser sound: it's smooth yet detailed and plays well with all music genres. Meanwhile, the on-ear Urbanite's bass is thicker and more pronounced, and there's less midrange detail.

Comparing the Urbanite XL with the over-ear Sennheiser Momentum, the more expensive Momentum has a sweeter, richer overall balance than the Urbanite XL, which has more treble "bite." Folks with lots of gritty or hashy sounding MP3 files might find the Urbanite XL's zippy treble irritating over the long run (with well-recorded music we enjoyed the Urbanite XL's sound balance).

That said, the on-ear Urbanite takes some of the edge off MP3s, so if that's what you mostly listen to, there's case to be made for buying the Urbanite instead of the Urbanite XL. We know that's sounds strange, but sometimes a superior headphone isn't always the clear winner in a listening test. Your source material has a major impact on sound quality; digital music fans may want to steer clear of a headphone that's so detailed that it exposes the low-fi side of their music collection.

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The inline remote/microphone. Sarah Tew/CNET

As we said, one of the Urbanite XL's biggest strengths is its bass. When A Tribe Called Quest's "The Low End Theory" album's bass plumbs the depths, the Urbanite XL doesn't hold anything back. There's no mud down there, and the Urbanite XL's bass texture, buoyancy and energy are first-rate.

The Urbanite XL unraveled Aphex Twin's spacious electronica sound fields with ease while the Momentum shrank the size down somewhat. The Urbanite XL's bass oomph, dynamics and soundstage agility were impressive, but the Momentum's more relaxed midrange and treble were easier on the ears. The Urbanite XL wins for buyers seeking a higher-energy sound, but the Momentum is more laid-back (warmer) and well-balanced.

Conclusion

The Sennheiser Urbanite is a well-designed Beats competitor that costs less than the $300 Beats Studio . It doesn't have the warmer, more balanced sound profile of the Sennheiser Momentum , but we liked it nevertheless and it's certainly worth considering if you're looking for an exciting, dynamic sounding headphone with quality bass.

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