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September 23, 2021
Original: $49 USD
Feb. 2022: $39 USD
6 x 3.8 x 2.5 cm (case)
Do you hate transparency modes on earbuds and wish you could just hear your surroundings while listening to music? The Urbanista Lisbon has an unsealed fit that allows you to hear your surroundings perfectly. The earbuds stay in place and sit comfortably, though with some concessions. Unlike other open-type earbuds, the Lisbon has fairly large wings to steady the buds and keep them in. Let’s check out how the Libson performs.
Editor’s note: this Urbanista Libson review was updated on February 21, 2022, to address how it compares to the Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 and to expand the list of buying options.
Who should buy the Urbanista Lisbon?
- Anyone who prioritizes environmental awareness over sound quality should consider the Lisbon for its unsealed design.
- People who want unsealed earbuds, but not Apple AirPods (3rd generation), will like the price and relatively stable fit from the Libson.
- Folks who work in quiet environments and don’t need noise cancellation will appreciate the comfortable fit, no-fuss controls, and long battery life of Urbanista’s tiny buds.
What is it like to use the Urbanista Lisbon?
Urbanista limits your ability to customize the Lisbon, which may not appeal to some. For the straightforward folks who want a simple set of affordable true wireless earbuds, however, the Lisbon cheerfully offers something a little different in one of five colors. Options include Midnight Black, Vanilla Cream, Mint Green (which looks more like seafoam), Blush Pink, and Coral Peach.
Each GoFit wing is comprised of a silicone sleeve with a soft outer ring, and this improves upon the fit precarity that plagues unsealed earphones. The GoFit wings really make the experience better. At only 4 grams each, you can wear the buds, forget about them, and go about your day with very little need for readjustment. I do not recommend wearing the Lisbon without the wings. The Lisbon promotional photos feature the buds without the wings, but try it and they’ll likely fall out.
In order to comfortably wear the Libson, you need to use the included GoFit wings.
Living in Vancouver, which has had record rainfall recently, I can’t help but point out that the Lisbon is not waterproof. Any time you walk out in the rain with it or take it for a workout, you risk damage that the one-year warranty doesn’t cover. This seems like an oversight, especially because the GoFit wings suggest the possibility you could take the buds for a jog. Anecdotally, the buds survive my workouts and stay put, but it’s at your own risk if you do so too.
What accessories come with the Urbanista Libson?
Urbanista includes one of the shortest USB-C cables ever sold, one pair of GoFit Wings, the earbuds, and the charging case.
How do you control the Urbanista Libson?
Due to the stable fit aided from the GoFit Wings, common issues like misfiring touch commands rarely occur with the Urbanista Lisbon. Its shape also makes it easy to grasp the outer sides of the buds without interacting with the touchpad.
|SINGLE TAP||DOUBLE TAP||TAP AND HOLD|
|SINGLE TAP||DOUBLE TAP||TAP AND HOLD|
|SINGLE TAP||DOUBLE TAP||TAP AND HOLD|
Because Urbanista doesn’t accompany the Lisbon with an app, you can’t alter the controls. A skip to the previous track command might have been nice, for instance. So you either like it or you don’t. This means no updates, but the Lisbon also doesn’t have a lot of extras that require maintenance.
What Bluetooth codecs does the Urbanista Lisbon support?
With Bluetooth 5.2 the Libson stays connected over the AAC or SBC Bluetooth codecs. Apple users reap the benefits of the AAC codec, while Android users can have inconsistent audio quality results over AAC and ought to try SBC instead. With the unsealed design, which codec you’ll use impacts your sound quality much less than any environmental noise that will mask your audio. So, in this case, while a higher resolution codec is nice, it’s a bit of a moot point here. The connection remains stable over at least a distance of nearly 8 meters, and the connection experiences zero blips.
How to pair the Urbanista Lisbon
Initial Bluetooth pairing with the Libson is easy. You simply open the case and wait. If for some reason you have trouble, the underside of the case has a reset button. Subsequent re-pairing occurs automatically and quickly—faster than some other true wireless earbuds that also don’t have Google Fast Pair capabilities. Once paired you can pop the buds out and listen.
Mono playback works for both ears, which accommodates those with hearing impairments. Simply pair as usual and put one earbud in and leave the other in the case. You can also easily switch ears by taking the other out and replacing the initial one.
How long does the battery last on the Urbanista Lisbon?
Because the buds have no power hogs like active noise cancellation (ANC), you get a snazzy 8 hours, 53 minutes according to our standardized testing. The tiny charging case supplies an extra two charges, totaling under 27 hours of battery.
The case, which reminds me of something you might store mints in, has a single LED and the lid has a bit of lateral play. Usefully, the case has a magnetized underside so it won’t fall off a table edge. This addition is much appreciated as the case generally does not inspire confidence. Its featherweight build is both easy to pocket and to lose.
How well does the Urbanista Lisbon block out noise?
The Urbanista Libson doesn’t block out much noise. If your plan was to buy this for your commute, or while you work in a bustling office, you’ll be unhappy. With the buds inserted, you basically hear your surroundings as if it isn’t in but sometimes that’s okay (e.g., for safety reasons).
During testing, I have taken a couple of frustrating bus rides when I heard only high-pitched treble parts of songs, because background noise immediately masks bass notes. On the flip side, I can have a conversation with the buds in while my hands are too full to press pause or remove the buds.
What are the benefits to an unsealed pair of earbuds?
Don’t get it twisted, virtually zero isolation is terrible for sound quality, and you will be tempted to turn up the volume any time you pass a construction zone. Try to resist, because increasing the volume past 75dB can damage your hearing. No isolation is useful, however, for people who experience vertigo from highly isolating earbuds and those with active noise cancelling. The unsealed fit also means that if you go for walks you can listen to your audio, and remain aware of your surroundings.
How does the Urbanista Lisbon sound?
How good the Lisbon sounds depends on your environment more than it does for most earphones, again a consequence of the open-type fit. Play audio on a train and you’ll think it boosts treble way too much, because the environmental rumbles will mask mostly bass and midrange notes. Try listening in a quiet bedroom and you’ll notice how midrange notes sound louder than they should.
Interestingly, that dip around 1kHz occurs approximately where a big spike in isolation performance occurs. In other words, Urbanista and its audio engineer Axel Grell likely considered how the mids and lows will suffer from masking and boosted those frequencies to compensate. Meanwhile the Libson under-emphasizes frequencies from 1-4kHz and 10kHz and higher. This works somewhat, but not well enough. Because the buds don’t have any accompanying apps, you can try to EQ using your device.
Lows, mids, and highs
In a quiet room listening to indie pop track, Sleight of Hand by Flying Fish Cove, the Lisbon gives the bass guitar a healthy decibel dose. Lead and rhythm guitars come through clearly which makes sense with the 100-1000Hz boost. Unfortunately, the guitars mask Dena Zilber’s vocal performance and make it very hard to hear her added backing vocals. The same goes for cymbals sounding too quiet due to the disproportionate volume across the highs.
The Libson reproduces the more important frequencies for music a bit louder than expected to combat the effect of its unsealed fit.
Testing the Lisbon on a bus with the soul track, You and I by Black Ivory, the environmental noise masks the bass guitar. The falsetto vocals, already mixed loudly, cut through the din. Cymbals and snare sound too quiet, but audible. Strings, keyboard, and vibraphone sound pretty loud along with the vocals. Again, environmental noise masks reverb and echo effects on vocals. Around the 4-minute mark, the quietly mixed lead vocals go completely unheard on the bus.
How good is the microphone on the Urbanista Lisbon?
The microphone on the Urbanista Lisbon sounds okay in ideal circumstances, though it filters out some high and low frequencies. Its noise rejection is below average. In an office setting it doesn’t block out the noise, but it also doesn’t cut out your voice either. Both typing and voice come through.
Our tests reveal that the Lisbon mic system’s weakness lies in competing with street noise, during which voices are nearly unintelligible. My advice: stick to the office and quiet room use.
Urbanista Lisbon microphone demo (Ideal):
Urbanista Lisbon microphone demo (Office):
Urbanista Lisbon microphone demo (Street):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Urbanista Lisbon?
The price of the Urbanista Lisbon lands about exactly where you want it at just under $50 USD. There’s no crying if you lose it, however, it’s not anyone’s first choice for commuting. In a quiet home or working in a quiet environment (notice a theme?) the Lisbon is lightweight and convenient. Conversely, those interested in hearing their environment at the expense of sound quality can happily pick up the Lisbon too.
For many, the precarious fit of Apple AirPods and its clones has turned them off the idea of unsealed earbuds. In general, we at SoundGuys recommend an isolating fit for the best sound. Still, there are times when an increased awareness and an unsealed has its benefits. The Libson is one of the better unsealed options out there.
One can’t help but feel charmed by the cheerful colorways, long battery life, and super comfy fit. It’s simple and works as advertised. The lack of IP rating means you should look at other options for workouts, just as it probably doesn’t belong on the subway. It’s also nobody’s first choice for its microphone. Basically, the Urbanista Lisbon shouldn’t be anyone’s only set of true wireless earbuds. If, however, you want to supplement your collection with an inexpensive unsealed set, this is the one to pick up.
What are some alternatives to the Urbanista Lisbon?
For another straightforward set of buds without any apps and more appropriate for workouts there’s the Anker Soundcore Life A1. Unlike the Lisbon it seals your ear, improving the sound quality and making noisy environments more tolerable. The frequency response leans towards bassy, but all buttons work and it connects easily. Impressively, the IPX7 rating means you can drop the buds in a pool and probably fish them out unscathed.
Still in the somewhat budget-friendly realm, but granted, double the price is the Nothing Ear 1. Like the Urbanista Lisbon, it feels extremely lightweight and comfortable, though with different ear tips to adjust your fit. It has some active noise cancelling and the included app also has some EQ capabilities.
Looking for premium unsealed buds for workouts? Consider the premium-priced Bose Sport Open Earbuds. The fit feels less comfortable, however, it’s stable and will survive your gym routine.
Frequently asked questions about the Urbanista Libson
Like the Libson, the Sony LinkBuds features an unsealed fit that keeps you aware of your surroundings while music plays. Sony does this differently than anyone before it with the donut-shaped earbuds that leave your ear canal completely unoccluded. The bass response on the LinkBuds is even quieter than the Libson, but this can be good for things like spoken word content, and doesn’t sound as bad as the frequency response chart suggests.
Unlike the Urbanista Libson, the LinkBuds comes with a companion app where you can equalize the sound, access firmware updates, and start using Sony 360 Reality Audio (so long as your music streaming service supports it). Then again, perhaps what draws you to the Libson is its simplicity and lack of app.
Ultimately, both headsets fill their desired niche and your choice will likely boil down to two things: cost and design.
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is a great pair of earbuds but it’s pretty different from the Libson since Google’s buds create a cogent seal to your ear canals. This yields a vastly different listening experience with louder bass and less external noise making its way through the headset.
Like the Sony LinkBuds, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series comes with a companion app (Android only) where you can access firmware updates and make minor tweaks to the listening experience. The Pixel Buds A-Series, however, costs $99 USD which is quite a bit more than the Libson’s asking price.