Review: Philips Fidelio L1

Our score: 5/5
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Published: June 20, 2012 10:24 AM
By Tristan François
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
Philips is making its comeback in the realm of high-end audiowear with a Fidelio brand that keeps doubling in stature: after a nearly-£650 iOS docking station (one of the most expensive of its kind), the European manufacturer is back with the Fidelio L1, an easy competitor of B&W's P5.

Design: Aluminium, Down To The Bone

Philips visibly put a great deal of attention to the look of this product. It is a combination of old-school—with dark brown top-stitched leather on the headband—and new-school, with black anodised aluminium. And the result looks great, whether you're a fan of the style or not.

Aesthetics aside, the use of aluminium for the majority of parts (even inside the headband and earcups) makes this an overall solid, physically reliable product. You really have to be determined if you want to break this thing.

You get a sense of the in-depth design work once you put the headphones on. Stable, yet discreet, the Fidelio L1 is extremely comfortable to wear. It shouldn't pose any major problems to users, even people with large ears. In fact, it's quite an achievement for the manufacturer to have created an over-ear headphone that's compact (we didn't look like aliens walking down the street), yet large enough to fit everyone.

Philips Fidelio L1 2

One of the strengths of the L1: aluminium where it counts.
The spiral cable always stays
conveniently in place, no
matter how you adjust the headband.

The Fidelio L1 comes with a storage pouch (a hard-shell case would have been preferable), a jack adapter and two cords (one ordinary cord and one with a smartphone remote). As is often the case, the remote in question has limited functionality with non-iOS smartphones.

Audio: Performance Worthy of the Finish

It takes a lot of nerve to sell a pair of headphones (portable ones, at that) for £230. Bowers & Wilkins is one of the only firms to have tried it, with the P5, and the result was quite good—but not exceptional. To put it lightly, Philips has its work cut out for it. But the L1 rises to the challenge ... and then some.

Even with the semi-open design—the grill in the centre of the earcups allows the transducer membranes to beat more freely than in closed headphones—the L1 is fairly well insulated from sound both coming in from and going out to the outside world. However, at high volumes we did observe a certain amount of sound leakage, which the other people on your bus route may not appreciate.

PhilipsFidelioL1 08
The different parts of the semi-open earcups


Sound quality is very high, equal to some of the most reputed hi-fi headphones on the market. The low-end has been boosted only slightly, just enough to inject a little life into it. The spectrum on the whole is very homogeneously reproduced. The only thing that might cause any issues is the peak in the high end, which could potentially cause some hissing.

Sound is very well spatialised, with a precision in the positioning of instruments and a soundstage rarely seen on portable headphones.

It's no easy feat to successfully manufacture an upper-high-end portable headphone, but Philips has nailed it with this first model in the Fidelio series. The engineers clearly spent long hours perfecting it, and it paid off. Well done Philips!

The Numbers


The measurements below are the raw results taken from our analysis tools. They require a good level of understanding to make any sense of. For more information about our testing procedures and equipment, click here.

Reflvl

Frequency response


Without any doubt, this is one of the cleanest frequency responses we've ever gotten from a pair of headphones. To find any better than this, you'd have to look into heavy duty professional equipment, preferably in-ear headphones or speakers. As you can see, there is a slight peak in the high end, but it certainly doesn't ruin the listening experience.

Thdratio
THD+N as a %
Thdlvl Harmonic distortion in Vrms


Nothing dramatic here, either. The curve breaks the "fateful" one-percent line, but only below 80 Hz where the human ear tends not to hear harmonic distortion. If only all the bad headphones out there had the same excesses!

Sqrzav50
Square wave: 50 Hz
Sqrzav500 Square wave: 500 Hz

5/5 Philips Fidelio L1 DigitalVersus 2012-06-20 11:24:00

Pros

  • Listening comfort
  • Excellent sound reproduction
  • Good spatialisation
  • High quality materials

Cons

  • Remote control compatible with iOS products only

Conclusion

Expensive but worth the money! The L1 introduces the Fidelio brand with bravado. The perfect headphones for audiophiles on the move.

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