Review : Urbanears Hellas Bluetooth Headphones

Ultra-stylish headphones feature washable earcups and headband, but at a steep price

MacNN Rating:

ratingratingratingratingrating

Product Manufacturer: Urbanears

Price: $120

The Good

  • Lightweight
  • Looks attractive
  • Washable

The Bad

  • Pricey
  • Bass is decent, but not great
Working out without music isn't fun, but working out with earbuds or headphones that are plugged into your phone can be a complete nightmare. That's where the Urbanears' Hellas come in: they're Bluetooth headphones, so there's no wires to get tangled up in, and they rest gently on your ears, so those of you who don't like earbuds can enjoy them as well. We checked out a pair of Hellas to see just how well they stand up to other Bluetooth headphones we've tried out.

Sounding off

The Hellas feature pretty decent sound for their size and weight. The volume is great, the sound is clear and crisp, and the bass is sufficient enough for listening needs. Is it going to be the same as a pair of $300 headphones designed to put you into a musical joy-coma within the first five seconds of loading up your favorite playlist? No. Is it going to sound good while you're jogging in the busy streets of your city? Yes, yes it is. For general listening, we think that these are more than enough for most people, though if you're looking to find a pair of headphones geared toward true music aficionado listening, these might not be quite what you're looking for.



Comfort and style

We've tried out Urbanears headphones before, and on that occasion we took issue with their size: they were too tight for regular, comfortable listening. Fortunately, the Urbanear Hellas don't suffer from the same problem. They fit tight to our heads, but don't pinch or squeeze us uncomfortably. The top headband is even squishier than before, and the earcups are the right amount of secure without being restricting. We were pleasantly surprised with how well they fit, right out of the box.

Style-wise, we also like the choices they made. They've got a cool, meshy fabric that covers the headband and the earcups, and they feature a minimalist-meets-industrial sort of design as well. Ours were white and blue, which we happen to think looked very sporty and would fit well with most people's wardrobes, but they do come in a few other colors as well.



Worry-free workouts

We sweat when we work out, and we're willing to bet you do as well. Anyone who has a well-loved pair of headphones or foam-tipped earbuds can tell you that after a while of working out, these develop a certain funk, which for most people, cuts the life of these accessories tragically short. We really can't blame anyone, though, as we don't like the idea of working out with sweaty, gross headphones. Fortunately, Urbanears has the solution -- they've allowed to you to take off the earphone covers, as well as the headband, which can then be pitched in the washing machine to get any post-workout funk off of them. They even include a mesh bag to keep them from getting too beat up in the washer, which we thought was a nice addition.



Put down your phone

So, when you're working out, how many times do you find that you have to dig your phone out of your arm band or pick it up off the treadmill and fuss with it, just to change a song? Or maybe you're in a groove at work and you'll want to skip a song on Pandora, or answer a call, without having to actually mess with your extremely distracting phone? For us, that's pretty much every time we use headphones. Fortunately, the Hellas feature a super-nifty swipe interface on the earcup of the left headphone. Swipe up and down to control volume, swipe left and right to skip through your playlist, and tap the center to play, pause, answer, and hang up calls. This is one of our favorite features for headphones, and once you get used to it, it becomes strange to think that all other on-ear headphones don't do this already.



Price to value ratio

Now here's where we grit our teeth a little: the price. The Hellas are $120, which we're not quite sure if they hit the mark for a "worth dropping over $100" pair of headphones. Are they good? Yes. Are they great? That's a bit more hazy. The sound is good, the touch interface is good, the overall feel is nice, but there's still a few things missing that would, in our view, warrant the extra $20-$30 that it feels like they're charging. These headphones offer no noise cancellation, for example -- and while we wouldn't expect active noise cancellation from them, we feel like there's just not enough padding to keep noise leaking in from the outside world. And yes, before you say it, we know that when running or working out, it's a good idea to have headphones that let a bit of ambient noise in for safety, but the fact of the matter is that these headphones aren't priced as entry-level on-ear headphones, and as such, they should probably offer a more holistic listening experience.

Where we stand

We like the Hellas -- they're a good pair of headphones, and we do think that anyone who buys them will ultimately be satisfied with their purchase. We do, however, think that they're overpriced a bit for what they are. The ability to wash the padding, and the fact that they're Bluetooth, doesn't change the fact that we think they could stand to be about $20 less than what they are. However, if you've got the money and you're willing to take a chance, you can snag your own pair of Hellas from the Urbanears' webstore for $120

-- Amber Neely (@SurferAmber)

Readers: do you have an app or product that you'd like to see us review? Developers and designers: do you want us to take a look at your app or product? Send your suggestions to our Tips email.