You know that thing where you've stopped listening to music but you just keep your headphones on anyway? I'm doing that now and realising that, probably for the first time ever, I'm actually unable to hear myself type. There's one thing different: I'm using Sennheiser Urbanite headphones. I might just take the jack out and wander around for a moment and enjoy this manmade ballpark-silence. … Lovely. And after taking them off even the rustling of paper sounds like someone swimming through hay.

As you can see from the photos above these are some attractive headphones. They are Urbanites after all, for urbanites: people that want other people to see that they've got nice headphones – kinda like the modern, solitary version of a Gatsby-era socialite. For this life-on-the-move feel they've also added a "Smart Remote", compatible with iProducts, for voice control, music and call functions; you can fast-forward a song, pause it, command your phone to call your mum and then put her on hold whilst you call the bank to get a new debit card sent to you, all without having to scramble to extract your iPhone from your skinny jeans (watch out for compartment syndrome). It's multi-functional.

So anyway, because Sennheiser is 70 years old I thought it'd be a fun idea to look (actually listen) back through ~70 years' worth of music, starting sort of logically with much-of-modern-music's progenitor: blues.


1948

John Lee Hooker – 'Boogie Chillen''

Back in 1948 an illiterate John Lee Hooker combined Delta blues tradition with boogie woogie rhythms and ended up with his first single, 'Boogie Chillen'', which is about being 17 and wanting to go out dancing: "One night I was laying' down, I heard momma and papa talking. I heard poppa tell momma to let that boy boogie-woogie, 'cause it's in him… and it's got to come out." These Urbanite headphones pick out cracklings I've never heard in this before and accentuate the popping bounce of the guitar strings.


1953

Les Paul & Mary Ford – 'The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise'

It's the Les Paul & Mary Ford Show! Each show was five minutes long and sponsored by Listerine (as you can see) – soak up the kitsch and listen to the glistening sounds of 'The World Is Waiting For The Sunshine'. It's almost a religious experience hearing this song through these headphones, the dopamine-firing guitar of Les Paul and Mary Ford's lusciously layered vocals treated with warmth and sparkle. I wonder if Les Paul remembered what it was he forgot.


1964

The Animals – 'The House of the Rising Sun'

Rock 'n' roll gradually relegated the virtuoso of acts like Les Paul to the realm of twee. Part of the British Invasion of the early '60s which was to shape pop music for the next decade and onwards, The Animals won hearts and minds with the epic lament of youth misspent (or well spent) that is 'The House of the Rising Sun'. But the headphones bring forward a little too much bass here for my liking.


1978

Yellow Magic Orchestra – 'Computer Game / Firecracker'

Two things happened later in the '70s: disco and electronic music (a Mediterranean cocktail of which appears a couple of songs down this list). It was difficult to decide whom to include but I figured almost everybody must've heard Donna Summers and Giorgio Moroder collabs, so I opted for this pioneering work of electronica (two songs spliced together as a single) from Japanese outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra. The kick thuds nicely through Sennheiser's Urbanites, something that's often lost in the jaunty bassline – none of the soaring synth bleeps feel overpowering or piercing either.


1986

Solo – 'Harem'

Here's prime example of italo disco, a phenomenon of music from Italy mashing together electronica and disco, pioneered by Giorgio Moroder. (Please forgive the weird YouTube video, it's the best quality sound I could find). Originally but not always an Italian phenomenon, hence the name, one of the record labels catering for the genre was Memory Records, which released 'Harem' from a now-undiscoverable artist called Solo. The Urbanites love the hi-hats here, the slapped bass pops with metallic clarity, but where the kicks should be deep and thumping they aren't.


1991

Mariah Carey – Emotions

I wish I could've got further into the '90s without getting distracted by this song but that's Mariah Carey for you. Here's a soundbite for you: This song has never sounded so good for me. The Sennheiser headphones approve of the bass levels. They also provide a more textured listening experience, as I mentioned: details, panning reverbs, synth sounds I'd previously not actually heard.


2011

Tyler, The Creator – 'Yonkers'

So I skipped out an entire decade. There's literally so much music to choose from I didn't know what to do. Then I thought a bit and wondered about that sub-bass again. I ended up on 'Yonkers' by Tyler, The Creator. The precise vitriol of his bars is clear and fresh against the earthmoving sub-bass, one of the most well treated songs I've listened to whilst on this odyssey of modern music. On prior listens the bass here has been either not very legible or too loud, afflicting the higher end of the spectrum with tracts of unwanted distortion. The Urbanites just deal with it and dole it out to your ears in doomful portions.


Verdict? Despite its own 70-year-old legacy, Sennheiser have not necessarily been very kind to the past with these headphones. But that in itself is not kind to say. The speciality of the Sennheiser Urbanites is in the name, sort of: they like bass. And not just bass, but levelled-up, final-boss bass – or preferably, sub-bass. Metallic high frequency sounds like hi-hats get treated similarly, so the capacity for beats, and particularly modern, overdriven beats, is very good. And if you're up for an all-round more-detailed-than-average listening experience, and you like hearing little, usually undetectable noises, then these are for you.

Add in the person-who-walks-around-a-lot appeal of easy adjustment, foldable earphones, the Smart Remote, the very clean, slick design and there's definitely a lot to like about these headphones.