Review: Philips O'Neill The Stretch

Our score: 2/5
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April 13, 2012 3:23 PM
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Published: April 13, 2012 3:22 PM
Updated: December 23, 2013 5:58 PM
By Tristan François / Guillaume Letoupin
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
Philips rocked the nomadic audiophile world in recent months with the Fidelio L1, a headphone as ambitious as its price, and rightly so. Yet all the products in the Philips catalogue aren't the same and they don't necessarily share the same purpose. That's the case here with The Stretch, a headphone made in partnership with the surfwear and snowboarding brand O'Neill.

Design and Build: Stylish and Sturdy

These Philips O'Neill The Stretch headphones are aimed at expert boarders of all varieties (surf, snow, skate) whether all-action riders or urban pavement pounders. For this kind of user, the two key criteria are comfort and, above all, a high-resistance build. After all, it's hard to concentrate on complex moves if your headphones keep slipping off and annoying you, or if you're worried they might smash into smithereens next time you take a fall.

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But there are no problems on that front. These headphones feel comfortable on your head, particularly thanks to the soft-foam earpads and their high-quality leatherette covering. Similarly, the twin-band headband means your head is in immediate contact with a super-soft neoprene cushion—and we have no complaints there. The main headband is made from entirely flexible plastic that can be bent and twisted as much as you like. These headphones are therefore particularly resistant to bumps and scratches—within reason, of course—and all the more so thanks to the surprising finish Philips has treated the earcups to (see inset).

We particularly like the cable, which, as well as being reinforced by a braided design, also detaches itself from the headphones themselves when it's being pulled on too hard. That means you won't end up accidentally and definitively ripping out your headphone cable while practising those half-pipes!

Jeremyjones

Audio Quality: Dude, They Killed My Highs!

Our first listen to these headphones made us suspect some seriously shady levelling. And now we'll show you what you get when you cross what your ears hear and what electro-acoustic testing will tell you. Better strap on your helmet, bro!


Philips the stretch relvl
Frequency response on the Philips O'Neill The Stretch

I hope you like roller coasters... Just as we thought, the frequency response confirmed our initial fears. Philips has given us an avalanche of bass—dull, flabby bass, at that. It's fun for a second, but you come down pretty quickly.

That high bass extends all the way into the mids, then takes a nose dive right around the 600/700 Hz-point and doesn't get back up until it's too late, past 6 kHz. This enormous (-10 dB) drop in such a broad section of the frequency range hinders your ability to enjoy the music, let alone pick out what you're hearing.

Philips the stretch thdPhilips the stretch thd












Left: THD+N as a %. Right: THD in dB.


Same thing with the harmonic distortion: it takes an over 10% jump! In dB, and minus the noise (graph on the right), it isn't reassuring either... We were looking for figures closer to -30 dB or more, hoping that might smooth over the glitches.

The impact on the sound is instantaneous. On top of the deformations from the frequency response, the sound on the whole is muddled and the soundstage confined. The performances are little better than average.

Of course, when you're flying off a ramp you tend not to notice these things... And the sluggish bass should at least keep you moving. But even the most hardcore boarders need to take a break at some point, at which time they'll stop to enjoy the music. So does that mean they should also buy a Fidelio L1, just for good measure?
2/5 Philips O'Neill The Stretch DigitalVersus 2012-04-13 16:22:00

Pros

  • Design
  • Detachable cable
  • Sturdy build
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Frequency response
  • Too much distortion

Conclusion

This is an unbalanced headphone, in every sense of the word—whether it's the design, the audio quality or the frequencies it obtains. Too bad, it was a good idea.

OUR SCORE 2/5
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