Finally, listen to the surprisingly deep, reedy voice of the baritone sax as it fills the church sanctuary; if you pay close attention, you’ll hear very faint traces of soft fingering noises and of saxophonist drawing breaths between phrases. My point is that the Tantos offer an unexpectedly rich, vivid, and pleasingly detailed rendition of well-recorded material. Inexpensive headphones aren’t thought to be able to sound this good, but apparently Urbanears didn’t get the memo—and thank goodness for that!
If there is any noteworthy drawback to the Tanto’s sound, it might be that bass—though clear and quite well defined—lacks a certain quality of low-frequency weight and gravitas that some (admittedly more costly) headphones are able to provide. To hear an illustration of what I mean by this comment, put on the track “No Sanctuary Here” from the late Chris Jones’ Roadhouses and Automobiles [Stockfisch, SACD]. The track is—or at least should—sound as if it is firmly anchored by a deep, powerful electric bass guitar line that moves forward inexorably with near locomotive-like force. Through the Tantos that bass line manages to sound articulate and energetic, yet it is missing the elusive quality of granite-like solidity and weight. While the Tanto’s bass performance is certainly creditable and appealing, bass is one area where more expensive ‘phones can and sometimes do offer superior clout, depth and punch. One saving grace, though, is that the little Tanto delivers remarkably good bass clarity and pitch definition, which counts for a lot in our book (this headphone never, ever sounds loose, boomy, or “out of control” when playing down low).
Consider this headphone if: you’ve longed for a light, comfortable, accurate headphone that offers a significant taste of high-end sound at a far less than high-end price. Frankly, I’ve not heard anything at this price point that can top the Tantos. Note, though, that the positive sonic qualities of the Tanto are quite fit-dependent, so do take some time to find a wearing position that works well for you.
Look further if: The only reasons to look further would be that A) you listen in noisy environments (where the Tanto’s noise isolation is OK but not great), B) you like your music LOUD, or C) you just can’t find a wearing position that allows the sound to bloom as it should.
Tonal Balance: 10
Comfort/Fit: 7-10 (depends on the wearer in our experience)
Noise Isolation: 6
Value: 10, and then some!
Assuming you can get a good fit with the Urbanears Tanto, you’re in for a treat where you’ll enjoy surprisingly accurate and sophisticated sound at a low, low price. The Tantos make a fine on-the-go headphone for budget conscious music lovers of all ages. Indeed, the Tantos are a screaming good deal.
Hint: If you’re an audiophile parent and want to give your kids a taste of the sonic good stuff without dropping a bundle of cash, consider buying them the Tanto (or perhaps Urbanears’ also excellent though slightly more costly Plattan ‘phones). Your offspring will appreciate both the sound quality and the way-cool Nordic style these ‘phones have to offer (plus the freedom to pick and choose from among twenty-one colors…).