Last Christmas, I received a pair of Urban Ears headphones for a present. Now, almost a year on, I thought they were long overdue a review because they are great!
There are loads of features that I like about these headphones. First, as seen in the picture, they pack down nice and small for easy transport. Unlike my JVC noise-cancelling travel headphones, the folding mechanism is really robust. The headphones stay packed down really well and also feel stable when folded out and on my head. (They do not have a centre hinge like my JVC ones, the ear individually fold inside instead.)
Another thing that I really like is the durable, tangle-free cable, which is wrapped in braided fabric. Genius! Wrapping the cable around the headphones when packed down also stops tangles but the worst entropy-induced knotting I have got with these headphones has been a couple of gentle tugs away from tangle-free audio pleasure. The braided fabric also gives the cable a more robust feel and despite being in my bag most days over the past few months there is no sign as yet of the cable damage that has afflicted my Apple inner-ear earphones.
Which brings me nicely to the next feature... I stuck with the Apple earphones that came with my iPhone for a long time because of the "remote control" on the cable, complete with mic and volume control. The urban ears model I have does not have the volume control (although I believe that others do) but it does feature a handsfree mic and remote control button that will start/stop/skip tracks and answer/end calls. It works so well that these headphones are now my Skype headphones of choice. (I tend to Skype on my iPad.)
There's obviously one key trait of headphones that I am yet to mention: the sound quality. Like the build quality, the sound quality is excellent. I am not an audio snob - I am happy with MP3 versus vinyl, for example - but I do like listening to music and I like to hear the full range of sound that my mortal ears can distinguish. The Urban Ears deliver across the board and certainly match the audio quality of my iTunes recordings. Being headphones rather than earphones, they do a good job of cutting out external noise too. This helps a lot, especially when it's a bit windy outside, although it obviously has a slight downside of reducing peripheral awareness when out and about. (I only use them in safe places.) The snugness of fit also means that they can be a bit uncomfortable after a couple of hours. That's about the only bad thing I can really think to say about them, though, and it's probably not that good to be listening to music for that long without a break anyway. (They are also adjustable, so they're comfortable for regular use.)
It's probably a bit late for Christmas presents but if you are looking for something to spend Christmas money on and you need new headphones, I highly recommend them. (The "Plattan" ones I've linked to are slightly different to mine, whose name I forget, and have an additional "ZoundPlug" for a friend to plug in and share the music. Otherwise, they look essentially identical.)