Sennheiser Urbanite XL review

The latest over-ear headphones from Sennheiser promise 'massive bass and clear treble' – do they deliver? Tested at £200

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The XLs look like big, uncompromising brutes, but they sound relaxed and unfussy. A good option


  • +

    Robust build

  • +

    Decent noise isolation

  • +

    Powerful bass


  • -

    Relaxed delivery doesn’t get the best out of music

  • -

    Not the final word in timing

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Although dubbed the Urbanite XLs, Sennheiser isn’t about to start sizing its headphones as if they were T-shirts. It just highlights that these are the larger of two models in the Urbanite range.

The standard Urbanite is a smaller, on-ear model, while the XLs boast bigger drive units and bigger earpads, better suited to enveloping your ears and relegating the outside world to background noise.

MORE: Sennheiser Urbanite review

Build and design

Despite looking bulky and seeming – on paper, at least – relatively heavy, the XLs don’t feel it. Build is solid, the chunky hinges and slick slider mechanisms giving the impression of quality and suggesting an ability to withstand bumps and bruises.

The ‘denim’ finish on our review pair won’t appeal to all tastes, but other colours are available. A flat cable helps to fight tangles while the angled jack at the smartphone end keeps things discreet. The same can’t be said for the three-button remote, which seems unnecessarily large and cumbersome.

Thanks to the smart sliding mechanism on the headband, it’s easy enough to get the headphones in the right place, and the bigger pads are a good fit both in terms of comfort and noise isolation. Glasses wearers in the office often complain that some designs can crush ears against arms, but the Urbanites give stability without this side-effect.

We do find our ears start to heat up more quickly than with some other models, though – great for cold winter commutes, but not so much for hot summer days.

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The blurb on the back of the box promises ‘massive bass and clear treble’. And we can’t really argue with that. Play James Bay’s Hold Back The River and there’s plenty of grunt in evidence. There’s an impressive sense of solidity and power behind each drum hit.

The Urbanite XLs favour a more neutral approach than the rich balance of the Philips M1MKIIs. This means they’re very clear and open-sounding in comparison, and do a fine job of extracting information and detail from the music. What they don’t quite manage to do is capture the natural rhythm of a track.

There isn’t as much differentiation between the slower and quicker parts – they’re happy to sit back and relax for the duration of Hold Back The River instead of springing into life when the track shifts tempo. Class leaders show greater dexterity.


All of which doesn’t stop these headphones from being a good option. The Sennheiser Urbanite XLs are nicely built, and they are certainly talented enough to warrant a place on your shortlist.

MORE: Best headphones to buy 2015

See all our Sennheiser reviews

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