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Solar-Powered Headphones From Sweden’s Urbanista: The Future Is Now!

Urbanista Solar Powered Headphones

Urbanista Solar Powered Headphones


  • Product Name: Los Angeles & Phoenix Solar Powered Headphones
  • Manufacturer: Urbanista
  • Review Date: April 11, 2024 00:00
  • MSRP: $179 - Los Angeles Headphones, $129 - Phoenix wireless earphones
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!

Solar Powered Audio

The Swedish lifestyle audio brand Urbanista has announced the second generation of its solar-powered headphones and earphones, both of which use a new kind of solar cell called Powerfoyle. The second-generation Urbanista Los Angeles self-charging headphones ($179) and Urbanista Phoenix wireless earphones ($129) are intriguing to be sure, but the bigger story — in my opinion anyway — is the fact that light-powered portable audio products can actually work, thanks to the Powerfoyle solar cell material developed by Exeger, another Swedish company. Powerfoyle is a flexible material that reportedly took 12 years of research and development to create. According to Exeger, Powerfoyle can be custom-made into almost any shape, and can look like other materials, including leather, brushed steel, carbon fiber, fabric, and wood. Powerfoyle can integrated into a wide variety of consumer electronics products, and you might not even realize it’s there. The key to its versatility and functionality is a unique conductive electrode material that has replaced the expensive and inefficient ITO (indium-tin oxide) layer found in traditional solar cells. (Fun fact: ITO is also commonly used as the anode material in OLED displays.) Exeger developed a new kind of photovoltaic material that uses “the best of existing solar cell technology and enhance(s) it with improved indoor and outdoor efficiency, greater flexibility, and superior design capability.” Powerfoyle eliminates the need for silver conductors and increases the functional surface area of the material.

This is the core of our DSC (dye-sensitized cell) monolith that sets our material apart from other solar cells. By removing the need for silver lines, we have achieved superior design qualities, and in addition, we offer nearly 100% active area – creating endless opportunities and business advantages for our partners and their products.

— Exeger

The Powerfoyle material is just 1.3 mm thick, and has undergone extensive testing to ensure longevity and resistance to wear and tear — both important attributes if it’s to be successfully integrated into something like a pair of headphones. While Urbanista’s original 2021 Los Angeles headphones were the first to incorporate Powerfoyle, other companies have since begun to adopt Powerfoyle for use in a variety of applications, including other audio products. The Adidas RPT-02 SOL sport headphones use Powerfoyle, as do the Blue Tiger Solare headsets used by professional truck drivers here in the USA. Powerfoyle is also used to power a light built into a smart helmet for cyclists.

Urbanista Los Angeles Solar-Powered Headphones

Urbanista Los Angeles 2nd Gen

The new second-generation Urbanista Los Angeles headphones and Phoenix earphones were redesigned from the ground up for improved comfort, and are made from recycled plastic, according to Urbanista. The company says these new designs are “the pinnacle of sustainable audio technology, harnessing the limitless power of light in all conditions, both indoors and outdoors.” While Urbanista is not yet a household name, the original Los Angeles headphones (launched in 2021) and Phoenix earphones (launched in 2022) were successful enough for the company to iterate and develop these new versions, both of which will become available at some unspecified time later in 2024. Both models boast improved adaptive noise cancellation with new “noise-reducing microphones” that work to mitigate noise both for music listening and for phone calls.

It’s a privilege for us to further continue this path of innovation together with Exeger and use the latest Powerfoyle solar cell technology to bring already a second generation of our popular light-powered audio products to the market. After the success of the first-generation Urbanista Los Angeles and Phoenix, the Urbanista team has been working hard to offer an improved listening experience for consumers through improvements in both products’ design and with the addition of the latest features. These second-generation light-powered audio products not only continue to make strides towards more sustainable audio technology but also deliver an unmatched listening experience that listeners can fully customize based on their individual preferences.

— Tuomas Lonka, Urbanista’s Brand and Marketing Director

In 2021, Urbanista launched the world’s first Powerfoyle-powered product. Now, three years later they offer a full audio lineup and push to improve the products to make them more user-friendly and more sustainable. Together, Exeger and Urbanista have set a new standard for convenience and sustainability in the audio industry. I am extremely proud to see us continue to lead the market together by launching the second generation of headphones and earphones!

— Giovanni Fili, founder and CEO of Exeger

Powerfoyle material

Exeger Dye-Sensitized Cell solar technology

Solar Power Charging

The new Urbanista Los Angeles headphones continuously recharge when exposed to all forms of light, both indoors and outdoors. Depending on your listening environment and habits, they can deliver virtually infinite playtime. The redesigned headband features an integrated Powerfoyle solar cell that can charge the headphones even while you’re listening. Urbanista promises 60 hours of play time at a minimum, but the Powerfoyle is constantly charging the built-in battery. According to Exeger, if the Powerfoyle-equipped headband spends one hour outside on a sunny day, it will deliver enough energy to the battery to add 3 hours worth of playback. On a cloudy day, it will still deliver two hours of playtime for every one hour outdoors. Even indoor artificial lighting, as you’d find in a “well-lit room or office” will be able to add juice to the battery, albeit at a slower rate. If you’re inside and not using the headphones, leave them by a window.

After an hour, you’ll have added another full hour of playtime to the battery. (According to the company, these playtime calculations are “estimations based on certain lighting, charging and usage conditions and an initially fully-charged battery. Estimations for outdoor conditions are based on lux values of at least 30,000 lux, and for indoor conditions on lux values of at least 1,000 lux. Actual conditions and playtime may vary while using the product.”) The headphones save battery by using ear-detection technology to intelligently pause audio playback when the headphones are removed from your ears. The audio then resumes when you put the headphones back on. Multipoint bluetooth connectivity is a new feature in the second-gen Los Angeles headphones, allowing them to connect to multiple source devices and switch between them seamlessly. The new version of the headphones also features larger ear cups, and will cost $20 less than the $199 originals when they launch later this year.

Urbanista Phoenix True Wireless Earphones

Urbanista Phoenix 2nd Gen

The new Urbanista Phoenix true wireless earphones feature a new-and-improved earphone design and a smaller pebble-shaped case that continuously recharges whenever exposed to all forms of light. The earphones deliver eight hours of uninterrupted playtime on a single charge, and the case provides at least 32 hours more. The earphones are also IP54 rated for sweat and water resistance. Like the Los Angeles headphones, the new Phoenix earphones feature advanced ear-detection technology and multipoint bluetooth connectivity. The Urbanista mobile companion app works with both models and includes fully customizable EQ settings. The app also allows you to keep track of the units’ solar charging in real time, and keeps a record of historical charging performance.

This is the start of a revolution in consumer electronics. I strongly believe that once users experience the freedom of endless energy, there’s no way we’re going back to plugging a USB charger into the wall.

— Giovanni Fili

New Urbanista Headphones Conclusion

While the new headphones and earphones from Urbanista are certainly worth a closer look, the implications and possible applications of Exeger’s Powerfoyle solar technology are potentially game-changing. As battery technology and device efficiency continue to improve, we expect more and more usable time with our various gadgets between charges. Display-based devices like smartphones and laptops burn through energy more quickly than audio-only devices like bluetooth headphones, but it’s not hard to imagine a near future in which charging bricks and drawers full of cables seem as obsolete as floppy discs and pay-phones. What’s so cool about Powerfoyle is that, in 2024, we’re not just imagining a future with virtually limitless playtime — we’ve actually arrived in that future. I have no idea how good or bad the Urbanista headphones sound, and it might be some time until a technology like Powerfoyle finds its way into an audiophile-approved device from a more established audio brand like Focal, Bowers & Wilkins, or Sennheiser. Maybe we’ll first see solar tech on a headphone from a bigger consumer brand, like Sony or Bose. But Urbanista has proved that Powerfoyle works, and that it can add meaningful playback time to an audio product’s battery during the course of a normal day’s activities, without a charging cable or a second thought. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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