Review: Philips Fidelio L2, The Master Returns

The best just got better

Our score: 5/5
Reviewed: November 29, 2013 9:02 AM
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Published: November 29, 2013 9:02 AM
By Tristan François
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
The original and excellent Fidelio L1 headphones propelled Philips to the forefront of the high-fidelity audio scene. The updated L2 cans have now landed, promising audio quality that's just as impressive but with a few minor changes here and there. The design has also been slightly reworked. Has the best just got better?

Design: Redesigned Headband5/5



The Fidelio L1 headphones rocked a discreetly retro yet still contemporary feeling design, blending dark brown leather with visible top-stitching and dark anodised aluminium. The L2 share plenty of design features with the second-generation M1, giving them a fresher, more modern feel, with a sleek new look built around quality materials like aluminium and leather. We've got no complaints there!

Philips Fidelio L2 headband and earcup

The flat headband used in the L1 has been replaced with a tube-like structure that's lighter and sturdier. The headband therefore has an oval shape that's similar to that of the M1, although it's obviously bigger. The upper part of the headband is foam-padded and finished in black leather with orange top-stitching. The padding makes the headband thicker but trims down its width, making the L2 headphones more discreet to wear.

The earphones themselves haven't changed much, using the same memory foam padding and comfortable leather finish. And that's no bad thing—there's no point fixing something that's clearly not broken. The grilles on the back of the earphones have been made larger—which in turn modifies the audio output—and the swivel joints that attach them to the headband have been replaced with new, more robust swivel systems.

The Fidelio L2 are comfortable headphones to wear. They're a bit on the large side for portable circum-aural headphones, so they should definitely be comfy for users with larger heads. They keep excellent contact with the ears while also remaining discreet. The only slight bugbear is that you definitely start to feel the headband's presence when you've been wearing the L2 for a few hours. Then again, that's a problem that only a handful of massive, non-portable models manage to avoid.

Philips Fidelio L2 remotes

The Fidelio L2 headphones are supplied with a soft pouch (a hard case would have been nicer), a jack adapter, and two cables—one standard cable and one with a built-in remote for use with a smartphone. The new remote is simpler than the previous model and no longer features volume controls. The cable-to-headphones connection has been simplified too, as the small length of cable previously attached to one earphone has been replaced with a more classic connector placed directly on the earphone's casing (see above).

Sound Quality: More Accessible Output5/5



Philips Fidelio L2 frequency response
Frequency response for the Fidelio L2 (left to right = low to high frequencies)

The audio output was already excellent and particularly neutral with the L1. The L2 headphones take quality forward with a more expressive output. And there's no doubt that they are—like their predecessor—some of the best affordable portable headphones out there. Bass frequencies have been ever so slightly reinforced in the L2 for a more vibrant overall sound.

Middle frequencies are neutral, precise and very well balanced, with no excessive strength or weakness. In fact, the frequency response level remains more or less consistent over the spectrum, with slight peaks at the bass end and in higher frequencies. The L2 therefore give a very slightly V-shaped frequency response, making the output a little less neutral than the L1, but giving a livelier, more playful and more immediately attractive sound. The sound still feels a little sombre, but there's an impressive level of depth that's almost on par with huge non-portable hi-fi headphones made by AKG, Sennheiser or Hifiman. Impressive stuff!

Fidelio L2 thdFidelio L2 thd









Left: % THD+N / Right: harmonic distortion only

Spatialisation is excellent. Individual instruments are very easy to locate and the stereo image is very wide. The partially open-backed build can really be felt here compared with regular portable headphones. Plus, distortion is very low, as you'd expect from headphones of this calibre.

One thing that has noticeably improved in the L2 is square wave rendition, which keeps the sound cleaner and clearer. This is no doubt an effect of the reduced impedance, now at 16 Ohms compared with 26 Ohms for the L1.
5/5 Philips Fidelio L2 DigitalVersus 2013-11-29 10:02:00

Pros

  • Excellent build quality, sturdy design
  • Very neutral sound output
  • Surprising precision
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • Headphones of this calibre deserve a top-quality case rather than a basic soft pouch!

Conclusion

Philips is back with another excellent pair of Fidelio headphones, building on the L1 and taking them even further towards the dizzy heights of high-end audio quality. The Fidelio L2 have a livelier, more playful sounding output and a more modern look. These are definitely some of the best portable headphones on the market!

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