Plattan and Bagis, two of the more popular lines of headphones from Sweden-based Urbanears, have gone up rapidly in popularity in just a couple of years. But not being one to sit on its laurels, Urbanears has now come out with the Zinken, its new line of over-the-ear headphones that targets the high end market.
Priced at Php 7,950, the Urbanears Zinken is a departure from their previous models that’s sold at a third the price of the Zinken. At that price point, the Zinken will be going against other high end headphones from the likes of Sennheiser, AKG and Beats. Whenever I purchase headphones that’s priced above the $100 USD mark, having a good enough sound quality is not enough. Style, comfort and durability are also factored in, and it is with these points in mind that I inspected the Urbanears Zinken for this review.
Design and Style
Eschewing bold and loud designs, the Zinken carries on the Urbanears tradition of being mono colored while bearing a simple and no frills design. The whole headphone and the removable cable is endowed with only a single color. There is a slight contrast in color as the metal that attaches the earpiece to the headband has been left with its natural chrome finish. I have to admit, seeing that small piece of silver amongst the mono color of the whole set has a aesthetically nice effect to it.
The overall design of the Zinken is very basic, with nothing overly extravagant, and it doesn’t try to look anything else other than a stereo headphone. There are no patterns or tattoos adorning the Zinken. Heck, even the Urbanears branding is discreetly placed on the underside of the headphone, etched on the plastic frame itself and on a small tag. I guess it was a conscious effort on Urbanears’ part to make the design as contemporary and “normal” as they could. Don’t take it the wrong way though, the minimalist design of the Zinken is not a slight against it. Manufacturers usually take the edgy route with high end products as they tend to make their expensive headphones look like something out of a sci-fi movie. The basic design and mono color theme of the Zinken makes it easy to pair with your clothing and to use it in public without having to look like a trying-hard fashion reject.
One of the reasons why I’m not such a big fan of over-the-ear headphones is that most aren’t really comfortable to use for long periods of time — my collection of earphones are all of the in-ear variety. However, the Zinken has successfully turned me into a believer: this is absolutely the most comfortable over-the-ear headphones I have ever used. The headband is lined with soft cushion which, when combined with the generously padded ear cushions, makes for a setup that’s very easy on the ears (and head). I also love how the adjustment of the length of the Zinken is in small increments, it guarantees that anyone (including me) can stretch it into a length that’s most comfortable. The rotating ear cups ensures that the sound is placed directly over the ear without any discomfort.
The Urbanears Zinken feels hefty and tough. The plastic used in the construction of the Zinken doesn’t feel cheap. I tried bending and twisting the band in a deliberate effort to break it, but the Zinken just wouldn’t give. The band itself is hard but has an elastic nature so that it can be twisted and bent without breaking form, and it always curls back to its original form even after some heavy handling.
Sound Quality and Functionality
So how does the Urbanears Zinken fare in terms of sound quality? I tested the Zinken on a number of mobile devices and a component sound system, and I was quite thrilled and happy with the results. Sounds were clear with a balanced amount of bass and treble. I don’t like gimmicky audio products that artificially increase the amount of bass; I like balanced audio and the Zinken definitely delivers. The only complaint that I have about the Zinken is that it sounded louder when I plugged it into a full stereo component system: the extra electricity from a full component obviously helped. On a mobile device like the iPhone, I was wishing that sounds produced on the Zinken were a bit louder (that might have been just me though as I think I’m half deaf from listening to music at full volume). Still, the volume isn’t a deterrent when using it on a smartphone as the Zinken still sounded awesome.
The collapsible design of the Zinken is also quite a boon. When I’m traveling with the Zinken, I can simply remove the cord and fold the two ear pieces unto the headband, which makes it easy for me to place it inside my bag.
The removable cord itself is also of a very functional design. On one end is a standard 3.5mm earphone plug, and on the other end is a 1/4 inch earphone plug. The Zinken itself can accept both kind of plugs, so if you’re going to use the Zinken on a smartphone, stick the 1/4 inch plug into the Zinken and use 3.5mm plug on your phone. On the other hand, if you find yourself in a recording studio or mixer, simply use the cord in reverse order.
We started the review with a question about the worth of the Zinken: Does it justify its asking price of Php 7,950? A resounding yes! It’s comfortable to use, sounds great and has a very aesthetically pleasing and functional design. I dare say this is the best set of cans that Urbanears has produced.
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