One of the very best live blues recordings I’ve ever heard is Long John Hunter’s “Let’s Set the Time” from Untapped Blues Festival: 2004 Live! [Bluestopia]—a track that, for the most part, plays right in the strengths of the Urbanears Plattans. Part of what makes the track “click” with Plattans is the unmistakable energy and “bounce” of a live performance where a well-rehearsed band has latched on to a tight groove and is working it for all its worth. The dynamic liveliness of the Plattans really helps, here, letting the material breathe in a natural way, by allowing the bass guitar, drums, and initially choppy guitar riffs to propel the song forward with tremendous force and vitality.
The Plattan’s midrange and bass prowess plays its part, too, doing a nice job of capturing the saturated and slightly overdriven sound of the guitar amp, the deep and very well controlled growl of the bass, and the incisive “pop” of the snare drum keeping time. Long John Hunter’s voice is handled well by the Plattans, too, so that you can hear and feel not just the general shape of his notes and phrases, but also the attitude with which they’re delivered.
The only drawback is that some of the high harmonics of the various instruments (especially the cymbals, which are extremely well-recorded on this track) and of Hunter’s voice sound overly subdued—not so much unclear, but simply too recessed in the mix. This is, of course, due to the Plattan’s characteristic upper midrange and treble rolloff. Still, I think this flaw is far preferable to that of headphones that exhibit the opposite problem: namely, hard, biting and overly prominent mids and highs. Generally speaking, sins of omission are much easier to overlook than sins of commission, which tend to intrude on the music in more overt ways.
As noted above, the Plattan are supplied with two small accessory extension cords, one providing a special four-conductor plug as required by some Nokia cell-phones, and the other providing a three-conductor “playback only” plug as needed for use with some earlier-generation playback only devices.
On the whole, I found the Urbanears Plattans very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The faux-leather earcup pads are very comfortable, and the clamping pressures provide a just-right blend of low pressure with adequate grip.
The only caveat I must point out is that is that the Plattan headband design allows earcups to swivel in the vertical axis, but not the horizontal access. To achieve a good fit, then, some listeners need to rock the Plattan headband strap either far forward or far to the rear in order to get the earpads to seal firmly on their ears, which can be a bit of a pain.
For this reason, I would suggest that Urbanears look into adding a horizontal swivel feature to improve this already very good design.
Perhaps one the Plattan’s nearest competitors will be the popular and critically acclaimed Grado SR-60i, which, at $79.99, sells for about a third again more than the Plattans do. Here’s how that comparison plays out:
The Urbanears Plattan would make a great first headphone for an iPod/iPhone/cell-phone user who wants vastly better sound quality than stock earbuds can provide, yet who doesn’t have a huge amount of money to spend. The Plattans are solid performers, cleverly conceived and executed (with real-world features that actually work), and both styling and apparent build quality that make them seem more expensive than they really are.