You’ve all seen enough pictures of radio performers to know that we all wear earphones. We have to, in order to mix our voices with other programming via a live mic. If we didn’t, we’d get feedback. Yes, we use earphones for recreational use as well – as do you – as there is nothing better than listening to your favourite music with a good set of ‘cans’ in a darkened, or otherwise ambient room. There’s nothing better.
That said, I’ve been in broadcasting for a few years now – 44 to be exact – and for all of my 44 years, headphones have been the bane of my existence. I’ve found a pair that works well for voiceover for me – an old pair of Scintrix that are big and bulky and make my ears bleed, but even at 50 years old they give me the focused sound I prefer and need when tracking a raw “VO” read. I have another pair of headphones that I use for mixing – reference earphones.
But for all of my 44 years on air, finding a pair of earphones that work for me from an on-air perspective have been elusive. I need room isolation. I need a focused sound, not too boomy and not too much high frequency. Call me weird, but when it comes to on-air work I’m anal, to put it quite bluntly. I have a specific set of criteria that so far, not one manufacturer has managed to put into one product.
The Sennheiser ‘Urbanite’ headphones I was invited to try left me skeptical. And why not? I’ve been skeptical for years. The closest to my ideal has been the big, heavy, bulky and retro KOSS headphones that used to be the broadcast standard a generation ago (maybe two, now…) and God bless them for still making the things.
“So try these Urbanites, Gord.”
Yeah, right. I have not found the perfect pair of headphones in 44 years, and I’m not going to find the perfect pair of headphones now.
I have found the perfect pair of headphones.
First, the build quality is excellent. They feel solid, without feeling heavy. Even though they sit ‘on’ the ear instead of ‘around’ the ear, the room isolation is remarkable. I did not think a set of cans with this design could make the room disappear like they do – but they do.
So how do they sound?
Focused. That’s the magic word for me – especially for on-air work. A focused sound. Not flat – there is some bass there, and in fact it’s one of the marketing points – that the Urbanite has some grunt on the bottom end that may not quite be of the same bigness as Beats, but impressive nonetheless. You will hear the bass from your favourite songs resonate quite nicely.
But here again – it’s a focused bottom. In fact, the entire frequency spectrum is a brilliant combination of focus and balance. They may not be everybody’s cup of tea – and that’s fair. Earphones are a very personal thing. I’ve learned that. What works for one, doesn’t work for everybody. The Urbanites may not work for you. But you’ll never know unless you give them a try.
I would suggest you give them a try.
Since acquiring mine, I use the Urbanites as my earphones of choice while on-air at FRESH. I also take them home with me, as I’m also a netcaster. In other words, these earphones are never far from my side.
To be honest, I’m surprised by that. Because I never, ever thought that I would ever be that enamoured with a pair of ‘phones that would qualify for ‘take-them-everywhere’ status.
But these do.
I’m not giving up my other ones – my KOSS cans, the reference earphones I have or even the 50-year-old Scintrix pair that make my ears bleed. I’ll keep them all, for the applications that make sense. But the ‘Urbanites’ by Sennheiser completes the collection in a very, very – very important fashion for me.
I have always been a fan of Sennheiser microphones. I own an MKH 416 condenser shotgun microphone, as well as an MD-441-U and I have fond memories of working with the absolute bulletproof MD-421 dynamic. Those descriptors won’t mean anything to you, but let me assure you they’re quality products and revered in the broadcast industry.
Headphones? Sennheiser was always off the radar for me, until now.
Thank you, Sennheiser for putting an end to my decades-long search. These cans are the real deal, and if they can make me smile – just imagine how your favourite tunes will sound through them…
They’re light, they’re comfy, they fold up. The 1/8 inch stereo plug is designed for the smart device but is adaptable to a quarter-inch professional input jack.
I’m just jacked overall.
Ya did good.