The limitations of battery technology continue to be the bane of every gadget’s existence, but, like the solar calculators of yesteryear, Urbanista’s new noise-canceling Los Angeles headphones feature a solar panel that helps recharge the battery any time you’re exposed to even dim lighting indoors.
As wireless headphones go, the new Urbanista Los Angeles headset seems to offer features on par with other headphones costing north of $200 (according to Wired they’ll sell for £169, or around $230, once available) including active noise-canceling and an ambient sound mode so users can better hear what’s going on around them, a 750 mAh battery pack promising 50 hours of playback on a USB-C charge, on-ear detection, and the option to switch between Siri and Google Assistant when you feel like barking commands.
Where the Los Angeles headphones set themselves apart from the competition is the use of Exeger’s Powerfoyle solar cell material across the top of the headband. Unlike traditional solar cells, Powerfoyle can be screen-printed onto flexible materials like a headband and laminated for strength and durability, it also makes up for poorer light energy harvesting in direct sunlight by being much better at harvesting light energy from indoor light sources which are far less intense.
So will you ever need to actually use the Los Angeles’s USB-C port to charge the headphones? That depends on where you use them. If you’re wearing them outside on a sunny day, the Powerfoyle solar cell strip will continually charge the battery with about three times as much power as is being drained, but outside on a cloudy day, that rate drops to about twice as much power as is being consumed. As for a long-haul flight with minimal cabin lighting? Exeger’s CEO, Giovanni Fili, told Wired that in extreme low-light indoor conditions eight hours of exposure would regain about an hour’s worth of playback time, so unlike a solar-powered calculator, the headphones will occasionally still need access to a tethered external power source.