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Philips Fidelio L2

Posted

Pros: Balance, clarity, detail, form factor, build quality, aesthetics (looks), fit & comfort (for the most part)

Cons: Non removable pads, flimsy carry bag, pressure point with headband

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For larger views of any of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images

PREFACE

I guess everyone who has been around a while knows the Philips brand, but (for me anyway) it’s been a while since I’ve associated the brand with high end audio. My last foray with Philips was buying 2 pairs of Philips SHP2000 at NZD $20 each for my two (at the time) sub-teen children.  The SHP2000s actually sounded passably decent, they were cheap, and the kids pretty much loved them to death.  The kids are now tween and teen – and have a pair of Momentum on –ears, and UE6000s respectively – and to date I hadn’t heard another Philips headphone.

 

INTRODUCTION

When Head-Fi user d marc0 contacted me about having a listen to the L2, I was intrigued – especially after hearing some pretty good press regarding some of their other recent releases. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mark for giving me the chance to spend time with the L2s.  It’s great that we have such a wonderful community here at Head-Fi  - able to share our gear so as enthusiasts we can experience a lot more audio gear than many of us could otherwise afford.

 

I received the courier pack with the L2 almost 3 weeks ago – and it has been a real pleasure spending as much time as I could with the Fidelio L2.  This has included using them at work, walking outside, gaming, and just general listening at home.

 

I’ve listed price at USD $225.00 (approx. current Amazon price at time of writing). I’d estimate I’ve spent somewhere around 60-80 hours with the Fidelio L2 so far.

 

DISCLAIMER

 

The pair I have is part of a mini tour, and will be returned to d marc0 after I’ve completed the review. I’m not affiliated in any way with Philips, and this is my honest opinion of the Fidelio L2.

 

PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.   (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)

 

I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portable (Fiio X5, X3ii and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > coax > NFB-12 > LD MKIV > HP).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5/X3ii > HP, or PC > Beyer A200p > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1 and Sennheiser HD600.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs - and up till now it has mainly been with the Fidue A83, Dunu Titan and Altone200. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).

 

I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.

 

I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).

 

I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.

 

For the purposes of this review - I mainly used the Fidelio L2 straight from the headphone-out socket of my Fiio X3ii, and NFB-12, but also used (at different times) my X5, iPhone 5S, and Beyer A200p when at work.  I have noticed no significant changes in the overall sonic presentation, other than becoming more used to the signature of the L2 as I used them more often (brain burn-in).

 

This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.

 

THE REVIEW

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

 

The Fidelio L2 arrived in a largish retail box and lid.  The lid has a nice phot of the L2 on the front, and on one side has specifications.  On the rear is a little “marketing speak” on the design and drivers – in English and eight other languages.  The box is mainly black with orange accenting (similar to the headphones), and the white text on the box, thought small is pretty legible.

 

Front of retail box Rear of retail box Retail box in profile

 

Opening the box reveals foam cushioning in the lid, and normally would have the headphones in a moulded plastic inner (Mark didn’t send this – but I have seen an unboxing with it included). Under the plastic mould, you get a soft cloth bag, booklet, 3.5  to 6.3 mm adaptor, and two cables – one normal, and one with smart-phone controls. I won’t be reviewing the smartphone cable – as Mark didn’t include it when he sent the L2 to me.

 
Interior of box (normal mould was missing from this sample) Accessories - one cable was missing from sample I received Fidelio L2 inside cloth carry case

 

The carry bag is a soft almost velour like material on the outside, and a faux satin material on the inside.  It closes with an orange draw string.  While it is perfectly functional, a more practical and protective case would have been a nice touch.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

(From Philips)

 

Type

Semi-open circumaural portable headphone

Driver

Dynamic full sized – 40mm

Frequency Range

12 Hz – 25 Khz

Impedance

16 ohm

Sensitivity

105 dB (assuming at 1 kHz & 1 Vrms)

THD

< 0.1% (not stated how it was measured)

Plug

3.5mm gold plated straight jack

Cable

1.2m single sided, removable (3.5mm connector - proprietory)  

Weight

266g (including cable)

 

FREQUENCY GRAPH

 

I’ve included the graph from Innerfidelity (thanks Tyll). What I’m noticing first is a very clear mid-range, and the quality of the vocals are definitely a strong point.  Bass seems quite natural, and seems to extend relatively well.  Treble is clear and clean without being overly fatiguing – it does have a bit of a peak though, and quite a bright, clear overall signature.

 

BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN

 

At first glance, the Fidelio L2 looks both very stylish, and also really well made. Closer inspection confirms the amount of thought and quality that has gone into the overall design decisions. Starting with the headband, it appears to be quite flexible, and I would guess internally it is a spring steel with foam padding for comfort. The headband is designed to mould around your head, to avoid pressure points, and is covered with a soft pleather.  The stitching is in orange thread which complements the overall design.

 
Very robust design with excellent quality parts Headband has very good padding Headband is nicely shaped, but still tended to have top pressure point 

 

The extenders are metal, and slide with a nice firm click.  There is a measurement system on the inside of the band, so once you have your ideal size dialled in you can very quickly adjust before you put the headphones on. The connecting arm looks very robust, and I can see these lasting quite well with extended use. The extenders go down a good 40-50mm each side, so should accommodate most people.

 

The extenders are affixed to a ring mount which allows the earcups to rotate around both axis, and this allows a very good fit.  This is also metal and looks very sturdy. Both cups can be folded inwards (flat) for wearing around the neck, or packing flat for travel.

 
Very nice adjustment on the headphone yokes 3.5mm connector - note the indents for the cable Cable connected

 

The ear cups themselves have a metal main shell, mesh at the rear of the drivers, and are covered with a very soft pleather over memory foam. The drivers are protected by a cloth covering. Unfortunately the earpads are designed to be non-removable (although I’m pretty sure you could remove them – just replacing them might be an issue).

 

According to Philips, the drivers themselves are “pre-tilted, matching the ear cup's natural angle directs the sound straight into the ear canal. This means much less of the coloration that can occur when sound reflects off the outer ear, together with a more realistic soundstage and enhanced comfort”.

 
Cups are high quality with full movement for adjustment Pads are very soft and accommodate my ears brilliantly Cups swivel inward one way (able to lie flat)

 

The cable is detachable, one-sided entry, 3.5mm at both ends, but has a proprietary connecting mechanism at the ear cup. However, I’d imagine any 3.5mm connector should work – it’s just that the connector Philips uses on the L2 helps it stay in a little better. The connector is also designed in such a way that if there is a major trauma on the cable (gets violently tugged), it will disconnect itself. The cable that Mark included is covered with a fine woven cloth exterior , can be slightly microphonic (not so if tucked inside clothing), and is reasonable flexible.

 

Unfortunately I can’t make any comment regarding the 2nd cable with smartphone controls as it wasn’t included with this tour unit – but you do definitely get one with a purchased L2.

 
Connector to the headphones Cable and jack (single sided) Overall - the L2 "style" is simply stunning IMO

 

The jack is standard straight 3.5mm , gold plated, has good strain relief, and easily fits my iPhone5S, even when the case is on.

 

Overall, the build quality is absolutely excellent – very robust, and I can see why they only felt the need to include a cloth carry bag rather than a harder case (however I still think a better carry case would have been preferable).

 

FIT / COMFORT / STYLE / ISOLATION

 

Style is always going to be a personal thing – and from the first time I saw the Fidelio L2, my immediate thought was that it looked gorgeous (its chic black look with orange highlights), and extremely stylish.  This is a headphone I’d have no issues wearing out and about. On me, the headband does extend slightly away from my head (doesn’t mould completely around), but still looks pretty good for street wear.

 

For comfort, I have almost no issues with the L2 at all – save for the headband.  After about an hour or two, I get a slight pressure spot on the very top of my head – but often a quick readjustment and I’m good to go again. YMMV with this though.

 

The earpads are extremely soft, and my ears fit inside the cups nicely with no pressure points.  In fact these cups are exactly what the recently reviewed Ubranite XL should have been modelled on IMO. The internal measurement of the cups is approx. 60mm long, 40mm at its widest point, and pretty close to 25mm deep. The memory foam is also very high quality, and springs back nicely after being compressed.

 

For a semi open headphone, they actually isolate pretty good. In an open plan office environment, while I could still hear those around me with music off, it didn’t take much volume to isolate myself.  More importantly, as long as the music is not too loud, there is not a lot of leakage. Someone sitting next to you will hear it, but someone 12 feet away, not so much.  Enough isolation to use while walking for example, but not going to be useful in a really noisy environment (or a really quiet one – eg library – leakage).

 

SOUND QUALITY

 

The following is what I hear from the Philips Fidelio L2.  YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).  Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my Fiio X3 gen 2 and NFB-12.

 

Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.

Thoughts on General Signature

 

If I was to describe the signature in a few words – I’d choose the words “clear”, “vivid”, and “clean (dark background)”.

 

From my first listen, I fell in love with the sound signature of the Fidelio L2.  Three weeks later, and I still enjoy every moment with them. They can seem slightly bright at first listen, but once my ears adjust, they settle to be incredibly coherent, quite mid forward (vocals, guitar etc are startlingly clear and “alive”), but they also possess a pretty quick and agile bass than can actually reach pretty low.

 

Overall Detail / Clarity

In a word – stellar, or stunning, or stupendous! The L2 has an absolutely crystal clear presentation, and shows the sort of resolution of overall detail that my T1 normally brings to the table. With both Steely Dan’s “Gaucho”, and Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing”, all the minute details were there and presented stunningly.  Gauchos opening sax contrasted beautifully with the bass guitar, and it was the cymbal hits and slow trail off that was absolutely intoxicating.  Vocals were beautifully blended in – a truly wonderful presentation of a track I know pretty well. “Sultans” was similar – and also a good taste of how well male vocals could be presented.  The only critique I’d have is that at times the upper end bordered on almost becoming peaky – but that’s all it was (getting close but not crossing the line).

 

Sound-stage & Imaging

I started with my usual go-to track -  Amber Rubarth’s binaural recording “Tundra” – to test soundstage and imaging.

 

The first thing I noticed was the clarity and overall imaging.  The L2 was very easy to pinpoint not only direction but also comparative depth. It doesn’t have an overly large stage – extending just outside head with this track, as though the instruments were playing around me – but intimate (6-10 feet away) rather than expansive. The separation is impressive – and I’m still amazed by the overall clarity of this headphone.

 

Switching to Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer”, and once again I’m struck by the imaging and separation of instruments. McKennet is close, the piano slightly further back, and cello off to the side slightly. This is honestly like listening to a cross between the HD600 and T1 – and it really does floor you when you realise how good this driver is. Queue the applause at the end, and I’m transported into the crowd – but not only that I’m hearing sounds that are usually masked on other headphones (the cello being rested against a chair). It’s enough to give me chills, and anything that engages me this much is really something special.

 

The last test was switching to Amanda Marshall’s “Let It Rain” (quite a holographic and 3D presentation in this recording).  The sense of space is still quite intimate – but the imaging continues to impress.

 

Bass Quality and Quantity

So we know the L2 nails imaging and clarity – what about the bass?

 

First test track for me is always Mark Lanegan’s “Bleeding Muddy Water”.  This blues rock track is dark, brooding, and has bass that is normally visceral – and the Fidelio L2 handled it wonderfully. The bass was taught, impactful, and showed controlled power.  Mark’s vocals were clear, with excellent timbre, and the L2 displayed the gravelly roughness that Mark employs with aplomb.

 

Time to see how low the bass would go – so switched to Lorde’s “Royals” (my sub-bass test) – and this presentation is stunning. There is just enough bass to give impact without overpowering, and when the bass guitar kicks in, the sub-bass rumble is definitely there.  Again I’m impressed by the overall quality of the bass though – no hollowness or mush – just clean, and quick (and low). Also, Ella’s vocals are crystal clear, and euphonic – just magic.

 

Female Vocals

My early litmus test is usually queuing Agnes Obel – as some of her recordings can become quite strident or shouty if the mids aren’t quite right.  The L2 is not just good – it is perfect with this track. It is so vivid and uplifting, and then the cello kicks in with a marvellous low tonality.  Honestly – this is as good as I’ve heard this track.

 

Now it’s time to run through my usual medley of other tracks from artists including London Grammar, Angus & Julia Stone, Christina Perri, Gabriella Cilmi, Feist, Florence and the Machine, Lianne La Havas and Norah Jones. No matter what I played, track after track the L2 just kept reaching new heights in presentation, and I had to continually pull myself back to the review. It would be just too easy to get lost in what I was hearing.  Vocals were euphonic, crystal clear, and mesmerising. Time and again I was awestruck by how much emotion was conveyed on each track I played.  Vivid and involving would be an understatement! And then when the bass slam hit with FATM and Feist I was instantly reminded of how much fun this presentation could be as well. Cilmi gave me chills once again with “Safer” (this girl has wonderful “pipes”), and Norah was simply sublime.

 

Male Vocals

Dragging myself away from my female vocalists was difficult, but I needed to go to the other end of the spectrum. Kicking off with 3 Doors Down “Away from the Sun”, and the first thing that hits is how nice the combo of guitar and drum sounds, and then Brad’s voice kicks in and once again that clarity of the vocal presentation is apparent. The acoustic presentation and cohesion is really good – and this is repeated as I skim through tracks by Alter Bridge, Breaking Benjamin, the Eagles (Hotel California’s intro is amazing), Green Day, Nils Lofgren and Seether. The L2 has everything really good rock needs – wonderful speed, clarity and timbre, good bass impact, and ability to contrast really well. Acoustic rock especially is a real standout (Nils Lofgrens’ “Keith Don’t Go” was phenomenal).

 

Time again for my usual litmus test – Pearl Jam. Vedder’s voice is brilliant with the Fidelio L2 – the timbre and ability to convey emotion is captivating. What really stuns though is the level of detail and separation in the track – cymbal splash, guitar, snare hits ….. it’s just a truly wonderful rendition of one of my favourite tracks.

 

Genre Specific Notes

I’m not going to run through this in detail this time as I’d rather look at the L2 in contrast to my other full sized headphones.  But I did run through my usual test tracks (http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks), and the L2 handled everything I threw at them with ease.

 

It would be hard to list standout tracks as well – because everything I played just sounded brilliant on the Fidelio L2. But if I had to choose 4 tracks to give you a short taste, they would be:

  • Porcupine Tree’s “Trains” – the cohesion between Wilson’s vocals and the other instruments was seamless, and the bass was dynamic, clean and the whole track has tremendous clarity.
  • Alison Krauss & Union Station’s “Dust Bowl Children” - the L2 is just incredible with stringed instruments, and the banjo in the track was simply magical. It just got better when the double bass and other instruments kicked in.
  • Netrebko & Garanca with Lakme’s “Flower Duet” – the ability to convey the depth of emotion and clarity of vocals as an instrument is one of the strong points of the L2.  This track was breath taking, and it did manage to convey some of the sense of space that I know is present in this performance.
  • Zoe Keating’s “Escape Artist” – for the L2’s portrayal of the timbre and tonality of a magical Cello performance.  If you want to see a true artist at work – I’d suggest trying his link to see Zoe at work (it is inspiring) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYrcXX4nWOA

 

AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

 

The Fidelio L2 is easily powered straight out of the portable devices I have, and although I tested it with both the X3ii – both unamped and amped with the E11K, I haven’t noticed any difference in actual dynamics. On my iPhone 5S most tracks were perfect at around 50% volume. The one thing I did like about using the L2 with the E11K though was just the addition of the hardware bass boost.  It is subtle, but just added a tiny bit of bottom end warmth that I personally found enjoyable. Bottom line though, the L2 is designed to run perfectly out of a portable device – so amping isn’t a requirement, but a choice.

 

RESPONSE TO EQ?

 

This was an interesting one because there isn’t too much I’d change with the L2’s signature. But I do know the L2 may be a little peaky with brighter tracks for some people, so I endeavoured (with my trusty X3ii equaliser) to take some of the brightness in the mid-range out (a shallow “smiley” cut between 1K and 4K), while at the same time boosting the sub bass. The L3 responded well and became a little less mid focussed and a little warmer. So from my brief trial I’d suggest that the L2 can be moulded quite well to personal individual tastes via EQ. Whether you want to play with this will be very much individual preference.

 

QUICK COMPARISON – OTHER HEADPHONES

 

This is simply going to be a very rough comparison (on sonics) with the other full sized open headphones I have on hand – the HD600, and Beyer T1.

  • L2 vs HD600
    • The first thing I noticed was that the Fidelio L2 is actually clearer and cleaner than the HD600 – quite a feat.
    • Soundstage is very similar with the HD600 slightly better on width and depth
    • Both have a very similar bass impact relative to the mid-range, with the L2 maybe hitting just a fraction harder.
    • Overall I’d still say the HD600 portrays timbre better, and sounds more natural.  The Fidelio has more detail, but sounds a little more etched.
    • Both are outstanding headphones. The HD600 is definitely more comfortable for long term listening.
  • L2 vs T1
    • This time the boot is on the other foot – the T1 is cleaner and more refined.  The clarity on both is very good though.
    • Compared to the L2, the T1 sounds slightly thin – the L2 has more lower end, and a little more thickness to the mid-range
    • Soundstage and imaging definitely goes to the T1 – a lot more spacious, and really good portrayal within the space available.  L2 is a lot more intimate.
    • L2 definitely has more bass impact – and it is even more noticeable because of the more intimate stage.
    • Timbre is very good on both, and both are tilted more toward the brighter end of the frequency range.
    • Overall I’d call the T1 more balanced, but slightly bright – where the L2 in direct comparison has more of a V shape – but is fuller and richer.
       

FIDELIO L2- SUMMARY

The Philips Fidelio L2 is simply a wonderful headphone, and in the first week of having it with me, it simply blew me away with its tonality, clarity, and ability to sound excellent across most genres. In fact, at the end of the first week, I was even seriously contemplating selling my HD600s as I was enjoying this headphone so much.

 

Over the next two weeks, my opinion of the L2 hasn’t changed – I still regard it extremely highly, but I won’t be selling the HD600s.

 

What the L2 brings to the table is a portable semi-open headphone that is pretty comfortable, very stylish, and has excellent build. It sounds phenomenal – very clean and detailed, and an extremely black background allowing for excellent separation of instruments, and wonderful imaging ability.

 

The fact that the L2 is made by Philips (really!) and possesses a driver that is nothing short of stunning, has really made me sit up and take notice – and I will look forward to seeing what else the release in the coming years.

I would thoroughly and unreservedly recommend this headphone to friends and family, and at a price of around USD 225.00 (Amazon) it represents very good value for money.

 

I will really regret having to post these back to Australia next week – but just wanted to acknowledge Mark once again for the loaner.  Thankyou for giving me the opportunity with these, my friend. I can see that I will probably have to go out and buy a pair at some stage.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS TO PHILIPS

 

My recommendations are pretty simple – and hopefully they may be addressed in future models:

  1. Don’t change the SQ.
  2. If you can – work on the headband.  A little softer padding around the crown is all that is needed.
  3. A harder carry case would be a great addition.
  4. Replaceable earpads these days are a must.  It wouldn’t take much to implement.

 

And finally – thanks for creating such a wonderful headphone.

 

Posted

Pros: Sturdy, quite good looking, balanced sound, good all-rounder, excellent layering, impactfull bass, clear mids, airy highs, seems to scale well

Cons: non-removable earpads, some comfort issues, (obviously) little sound isolation, not the retro-cool looks of the L1

Update: replaced cable, see bottom

 

 

 

 

As a precautionary remark: this is the first headphone review I have ever written - although I have read a lot of them; moreover these are the first pair of headphones I own in this price class, so I might be overly enthusiastic. I did listen to quite a lot of competitors in stores before deciding to buy the L2 and did some A-B'ing afterwards though. Right, enough gibberish; onwards to the review!

 

 

How I got there - previous headphones and buying the L2's

 

I think it is important to know what I was used to so that one can place this review in perspective. I have had quite a lot of headphones since I used to break the cable pretty soon. My first proper headphones were very bass heavy (I think they even had XB for extra bass on them) Sonys of about 40 euros. They broke after less than half a year and were replaced for the much better Phillips SHP8500 at around the same price. Those held out for little more than a year and were then replaced by AKG k530's - again, good value for money although very ugly and not very exciting. When those broke I had some cheaper headphones to accommodate my student budget and apparent habit of breaking headphones. I really wanted good headphones again though so when I was in New York where the price tags had the same numbers as in my home country of the Netherlands only with the euro-sign replaced with a dollar one, I seized my chance and bought Shure SRH-440's. Their replaceable cables should eliminate most of the durability issues.

Well, they did. However, after a year of very heavy use I started to find them a bit boring. They were just too good at being analytical. Also, there was a sort of bright veil over many songs. I do not know how to better describe it; all the highs seem to blend in and form a layer of highs, especially in rock songs. First I bought a USB DAC to use on my laptop, the asynchronous HiFiMeDIY sabre 2. This did improve the sound, but did not really make them more fun to listen to. My search for a new headphone had begun.

 

I tried a lot of models, and was most taken by the Sennheiser momentum. I did not much like the on-ear model, but the over-ear model is very good indeed, although a bit over my budget. The Beyerdynamic Custom One were also high on my watch-list, especially since I could have a bass heavy sound if I would feel like it. However when trying them in the store I felt that the gap with the momentums in terms of sound quality was too big. Sadly, this difference is also reflected in the price. I couldn't really go over 150 euros, which also ruled out the excellent sounding AKG Q701.

Enter the Philips outlet store. Some two months ago they had a L2 in an opened package for exactly that price. I could not find a store to audition them, but after a lot of reading (check the thread on this forum, this was also helpful) decided it was too good an opportunity to let pass by. And I'm glad I didn't.

 

 

The musical chameleon that is me - music I listen to and gear I use

 

My musical taste is quite broad. It tends to change a lot depending on the mood I am in. I listen a lot of post-rock, indie rock and "regular" rock, but also quite a bit of minimalistic piano music, classical music, pop, various sorts of metal, Drum 'n Bass, techno, grunge, folk, sometimes rap, ambient, and, and... Let's just say that putting my entire music library on shuffle is a contrast rich and very... interesting experience.

Most of my music is 320kb/s mp3, but there is also a considerable amount of WAV (my old CD's) and Flac (one of my friends preferred ripping formats). Lower quality songs are also possible, but I think it suffices to say that with the Philips fidelio L2's one can quite accurately judge the quality of the recording. It is not a forgiving headphone.

I listen to music for hours on end. On the road I use my Sony xperia SP smartphone with a 64 GB sd-card. When I am using my laptop I use that, often with the before mentioned sabre 2 DAC.

 

 

Wearing and looking: a mixed pleasure - Design, comfort and built

 

I really liked the design of the first fidelio line of headphones. The L1 in my opinion was a better looking headphone than the L2, mainly because of the colour of the metal. Philips has changed the aluminium for a gun-metal like finish which just does not provide the same contrast. The orange stitching on the headband tries to make up for this, but does not quite cut it. Philips managed to remove the rather flimsy looking cables going to the ear cups in the L2 though, and, although less beautiful, the new frame should be sturdier. Indeed, build quality seems very good. The 3.5 mm removable cable of course being a big plus. There have been some complaints that the supplied cables would have a negative impact on the sound quality, but they are rather pleasant in use and so far I haven’t broken them so I have not replaced them. The remote is a bit silly looking and only has one button –no volume controls– but works well, and both supplied nylon cables remain quite tangle free.

There are few negative points in terms of build quality, one of them being the orange screws used in the hinges. Not because they are orange, but because they are plastic. I have never heard anyone break this, but it seems like an odd thing to do to me; how expensive can it be to just use quality metal screws? The earpads form another point of concern, since they are not replaceable.

 

The earpads are comfortable though. I have changed the pads on my SRH-440 for 840 pads at some point, and they are very comparable. If anything the fidelio's pads are a bit softer still. Moreover, the openness of these headphones ensures that my ears will not easily overheat. The headphones are not very heavy either and the headband moves in different positions with a reassuring click.

So what is keeping this headphone from getting a very good score in comfort? Well, the headband mainly. The L2 creates a pressure point on top of my head which gets annoying after prolonged use. It is not as bad as with my Shure 440's, especially when wearing the cups a bit lower on my head than I was used to; it is not painful, just somewhat unpleasant. The swivelling mechanism in the cups does put slightly more pressure on the front of the pads than on the back, but this is not in any way bothersome to me.

 

In terms of portability it is a bit of an odd duck. The cups do tilt fully downward, but the headphones are not collapsible. Personally, I think this makes for better around-the-neck-wearing, but these being full-sized headphones does make it harder to pack them into ones bag. The supplied soft case of a pleasant soft velvet-like fabric does not really help either, but does signal that these headphones are designed to do just that.

When walking around outdoors I am certainly not afraid to be wearing these headphones, for one part because I think they are quite beautiful, for another because I can still hear the traffic around me reasonably well - better at least than with my closed-back cans. For commuting these headphones are far from ideal for the exact same reason. I tend to switch to my in-ears in those instances. When you, like me and a lot of other Dutch people commute by bike, the open backs make for a safer option, but the wind makes too much noise over the ear cups to really enjoy the music.

 

All in all the design of these headphones is quite good. They are not very radical looking, but still quite beautiful. The plastic screws and non-removable pads seem to be the only possible issues with these otherwise very well built headphones. The headband can become uncomfortable after some hours, but otherwise comfort is superb. Transportability is not great, and outdoor use limited, so these are desk and relax headphones to me: great when sitting in a (semi-) quiet room, either playing background music, or playing music for the sake of music.

 

 

A very good balance all around - General sound description

 

I will take some songs to highlight specific aspects later on, but first let me make some more general remarks on the sound.

 

As the subtitle already indicates, the fidelio l2 keeps a balance at all fronts, at least to my taste. The sound is quite analytical and can be unforgiving, but it is never dull. Certainly, it is not a boomy, club-like sounding pair of headphones. Bass is controlled, tight, but clearly present. I've heard say that the L1 lacked highs, but this is certainly not the case with the L2. The highs are remarkably well layered, more so than when I compared it to the Sennheiser momentum. Violins, high-hats, cymbals, everything up high is clearly separable and present, but hardly ever sharp. Mids too are good, and especially with acoustic guitars and similar instruments pleasantly warm. Sometimes though I would like it if there would be a bit more warmth coming from the lower-mids to give especially male vocals, piano chords and electric guitar chords a deeper sound.

This should only be a very tiny bit though, because it would most probably also make the sound less clear and snappy. Combined with the open backs their current clarity makes for a very airy yet textured listening experience. Instead of a wall of sound hitting you, now you feel every individual brick without any stone being much more prominent than another. The sound is a bit less aggressive than the momentums, but more refined and detailed, and mostly very enjoyable. The soundstage is sort of comparable to my AKG k530's in terms of wideness, but mostly a bit wider, especially with violins and the likes. For the rest I only have closed backs to compare it to, and the fidelio beats every single one of them although the Shure SRH-440 gives them a good run for their money.

The last remark I would like to make in terms of sound is that the fit of these headphones depends also on it's exact position on my head. The difference is subtle but definitely audible. I am not sure if the drivers are angled, but if they are that might explain this characteristic. It is not particularly bothersome, but I had to get used to wearing my headphones a bit more to the back of my head, with the cushioning almost at the base of my ear for the optimal sound.

 

The sound engineers at Philips are said -by Philips, I should mention- to have worked for a great many hours on tweaking the sound of their headphones to what the general public wants. Well, apparently I have a normal taste, because these headphones just work with most any song I throw at it. It does not specialise in any particular genre -although it does perform better in some, but is just a great all-rounder. For the money I paid for it, I think one would be hard-pressed to find a better pair of headphones.

 

 

Tracklist

 

Mono- :Pure as Snow Some of the best Japanese post-rock out there. Also a very good track to test headphones with, because the sheer chaos of high-pitched sounds towards the end can obscure the intricate details of the orchestra. When I first listened to this track with the L2, I was surprised to the wideness of the violins especially. The sound of the guitars at the beginning is more.. fluid than at the end, where the notes seem to scream and squeal with high, dry notes. Apart from the cymbals and the soundstage, which are a lot better on the l2, the immediate difference with my 440's is not very large. The 440's sound lighter, less impactfull than the L2's. This makes it easier to sort of see the whole musical piece, rather than focusing on one of the layers of instruments. The difference becomes larger when playing through my DAC. I have to make more of an effort to listen

 

Of Monsters and Men - King and Lionheart From the same album as the hit "little talks", this isn't a very demanding song. It is very fun to listen to though. Especially the vibrating tones of the guitar gain a lot of depth. The overall sound is rather soft and smooth.

 

Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City This track is great at showing of the L2’s ability for layering. The two guitars can be easily distinguished. When the song comes to an end it gets a bit more messy especially in the high-mids; the wicked bass lines can be heard through it all though. The biggest surprise however is in the introduction. The high-hats seemed a bit tad too sharp, but then the vocals kick in, and I could clearly hear bass vocals that I had never noticed before. Now that I know they are there, I notice them too with my Shures, but their level of detail is just not on par with the L2’s.

 

Seether – Sold Me The open airy sound is something that can make rock songs especially lose some of their direct impact, which is exactly what shows with this song. As the song progresses through towards the chorus the guitars lose their heaviness and fail to really impress. In the much rawer and arguably simpler song love her from the same album this issue is avoided much better; the same goes for the majority of the other songs on this album. In general, the L2 is good at rock music, but the hard-hitting directness is exchanged at least to some extent for a wider soundstage. In some songs this is just a bit more bothersome than others.

 

Infected Mushroom – Becoming Insane Time for some electronics. This track absolutely blows me away, especially with my DAC hooked up. Bass has impact, the sound is very aggressive, the soundstage is enormous, the details are maddening – no doubt as intended.

 

Enter Shikari – Gandhi Mate, Gandhi The intro just begs to turn op the volume, which leads to an ear shattering explosion of synths mixed with metal guitars later on. The vocals here somehow seem to be more recessed when compared to other headphones, which is a bit of a shame. After the second break, the slow pumping seemingly monotonous but very detailed ending makes up for this though. When the shuffle on my computer switches to the song system, the intro on the same album the vocals come across crystal clear, and the violins really add an extra dimension of floating spacious wonder. The L2’s do this nearly every time violins come in. The metal song Mothership shows could do with a bit more attack from the L2’s; I was hoping for more especially from the guitar chords that sometimes seem to miss a bit of weight. The next song I hear is constellations, and with my volume still turned up too far, I get lost for a while. I forget to think about judging the headphones and just feel the music. Absolutely wonderful.

 

Kyteman – Sorry (live) I would prefer it if the headphones could give a bit more warmth to the trumpet, but I think that just is not in the recording. Never the less, this is an amazing song that never fails to have it’s almost nostalgic influence on me, carrying me away in two and a half minute.

 

Valravn – Koder Pa Snor There seems to be so much crawling around under the skin of this song. The supremely dark atmosphere is minorly (not a proper word, I know) affected by the lightness of the L2, making it a bit less immersive than it could have been, but the layering and details again are excellent, which pays off in the second half of the song mainly.

 

Arvo Pärt – Spiegel im Spiegel (version with cello) Although originally composed for piano and violin, I have always preferred the version with cello. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of minimal music that I have ever come across. The fidelo does everything right. Remember me saying that I would sometimes prefer a bit more warmth from the piano chords? Not here. The chords have an excellent timbre, and sound very intimate while the high notes appear fragile, their ostinato falling into the soundscape of my mind like raindrops. The cello adds a layer of rawness and vibrates somewhere between the piano notes. An excellent song to end with I’d say.

 

Update on cables: Although the stock cables still show no sign of breaking, I ordered a procab classic series since they were on sale and I was ordering other cables anyway. I am not sure if the effects are just placebo, but I think it does improve sound quality. Bass seems to get a tad more impact and especially the updder mids and highs are more textured and dynamic - I did not even know that only highs can sound more dynamic, but that is how it sounds to me. This sound makes it more suitable for rock especially, which is great since that was the only area it was not above par with the competition. I still do not believe in buying very expensive cables since I think that money is better invested in buying a better headphone or DAC or source material, but replacing the cables to something of a decent quality is worthwhile here. 
Take note though that the end that connects to the headphone should be rather slim. The procabs I bought make a dent in the softish black covered foam that extends from the housing. See the picture head-fi has of the L2 if you don't know what I mean by that.

 

Posted

Pros: Detail & clarity, beautifully designed, sturdy materials, balanced & natural sound signature, removable cable.

Cons: Non-removable pads.

Firstly, I'd like to thank @d marc0 for including me on this tour. It's always a great experience and privilege to be a part of such a great community which organises these tours for members like myself to try out new gear that we may not have a chance to audition. I do feel very lucky to be a part of it.

Disclaimer: I did not purchase the Philips Fidelio L2 and do not own it. I've had 1 week with it and the thinksound rain2. So please take what I have to say with a grain of salt, or two.

 

 

Philips is one of those brands that I would always dismiss in the headphone game. In the early years I’ve tried one or two headphone from Philips which weren’t exactly decent sounding. They weren't the most expensive either, but back then I never thought of Philips to be in the “audiophile” category. This of course wasn’t until I tried the Fidelio X1. The X1 is a masterpiece to say the least. They completely changed the way I saw Philips in their ability to make a good headphone. I was more than impressed. So when @d marc0 asked me to be a part of this tour I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face when I gladly obliged. 

 

A little about the Philips Fidelio L2

 

Frequency response:

 

12 - 25 000  Hz

Impedance:

 

16 Ohm

Sensitivity:

 

105  dB

Maximum power input:

 

200  mW

Distortion:

 

< 0.1% THD

Speaker diameter:

 

40 mm

 

 

FR Graph

Thanks to Mr. Tyll Hertsens for measuring these wonderful headphones!

 

 

You can see that there is a dip in the 5k region and it peaks back up to the 7k and drops back down to and past 10k. To me this is quite surprising because I find the L2 to be quite a bright headphone. The dip in the 5k region means that there is little sibilance. The elevated bass region plays well with what I expect for an open back headphone to keep the bass adequate. And the mids are flatter that what I perceived in my listening.

 

Packaging

The Fidelios come in a pretty big black box with quite a lot going on on it. A bunch of contrasting colours come together to give out a huge presentation which is elegant and inviting, simple and technical. All the relevant information is there on the box. The technology which is put into the headphone is written in 8 different languages. Even on the inside of the box there is some kind of safety information I've not seen before on any headphone packaging. 

 

Accessories

 

In the box you'll find:

  • The headphones (obviously)
  • A cable (I suspect it comes with 2 cables one with and one without remote).
  • A very nice felt (suede like material) lined with a polyester inner for which I can only guess is for weather proofing.
  • A 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter.

 

 

Design & Comfort

If I was to describe the Fidelio L2 with only one word, that word would be “Stunning”! The L2 is probably one of the best looking headphones I’ve ever had the pleasure to get my hands on.

First thing that grabs your eyes is that beautiful red stitching on the headband. The headphone is a wonderful combination of brown, red, charcoal and black. As you look on, you realise what an absolutely brilliant idea was it to give those subtle yet eye-catching red accents. Superb!

The headphone is made from a variety of materials which all look and feel premium in every sense. The red stitching holds together the supple headband covering which is made from brown leather (or faux leather). From what I can gather, the headband is made from aluminium and the cups are plastic. Every piece that goes into it looks like it was made precisely and with purpose. Back of the cups has a mesh grille which I can just guess is made from stainless steel.

The earpads are a bit of a bummer. Don’t get me wrong. They’re soft and comfortable, but they’re not removable. I just wish this wasn’t the case. For me, I feel like a bigger size of earpads would do wonders for this headphone, but this is a personal preference.

Clamping force is also quite loose on this headphone for my small head which also plays into why I dislike the earpads. If it had a little tighter hold the pads wouldn’t be such a downer for me.

Cable is removable and seems to have a proprietary style of retaining the connector. I thank Philips for not going with another crazy plug system. It’s a standard TRS 3.5mm (1/8in) connector. The female jack is a little close to the flange so if you wanted to use a custom cable it would need to be a small diameter jacket/cover. I was unable to use none of my custom cables on it for this reason.

The cable provided is a paracord sheathed 3.5mm TRS to 3.5mm TRS jack. It’s soft and flexible and seems to be very tangle resistant. It’s quite thick and looks like it will last a long time. The cable has little to no mechanical noise or microphonics. I’ve read that it should also come with an in-line mic cable, but was not provided with the tour unit.

 

 

Isolation

I found that these have a weird open design. I have 3 kids which are not very quiet at all, and they give me a very good indicator on how good isolation is on any particular headphone. I have found that whilst the L2s leak quite a bit of sound out they don't let a lot of noise in. Making them quite a good headphone for home use while private listening, watching movies and gaming when there are no other people you can annoy, but have quite a bit of ambient noise from, say, construction sites and other noise pollutants.

 

Sound

It's pretty hard to describe how brilliant this headphone sounds. It is a very balanced sound with a lot of layering going on. It extends quite well into both treble and bass and seems to be very coherent throughout the whole spectrum. It has a very natural timber for acoustic and electronic music. And to put the icing on the cake, it scales extremely well with gear; give it more juice and it'll sound better and better every time. I was thoroughly impressed with this headphone, and it doesn't cease to put a smile on my face ever time I plop it on my noggin.

 

Soundstage & Imaging

The soundstage of this headphone is actually quite intimate and is slightly above average. But where this intimate soundstage shines is coupled with the excellent imaging. The imaging has really excellent depth and height. It layers very well, giving you a very realistic listening experience, as if the band is playing a few feet in front of you. There is good air and separation between instruments. It's very satisfying indeed!

 

Treble

The treble is probably the best aspect of this headphone. It's crisp and clear, it extends well and feels quite linear. Maybe sometimes sound a tiny bit dry and blunted. But very smooth, natural and enjoyable. The treble is very coherent, so much so that I found that this is probably the best headphone for listening to trance music where there is a lot of synths and female vocals trying to fight for the front of the stage, almost always sounding congested, but not on these headphone. The layering is done so well that everything has it's own place.

 

Mids

Mids are perfect on this headphone. Never sounding dry, forward or recessed. I found that the L2 did extremely well with both female and male vocals giving them the timber they both deserve. Acoustic guitars sound very natural. Everything meshes very well together with great synergy and harmony.

 

Bass

The bass is amazingly balanced with good kick and rubble when called upon. It's not elevated but it's warm, tight and fast. Super natural. Bass guitars roll through the notes flawlessly and the bass kick is punchy and fast on decay. 

 

A quick comparison to the Takstar Pro 80

 

The Takstar Pro 80 is my baseline comparison headphone I compare ALL headphone and IEMs I audition. Only for the fact that it punches WAY above it's price range. Only costing ~$70 + $15 for the HM5 pads, I've seen them put $200+ headphones to shame.

 

The L2 definitely sounds like the more smoother and more neutral listen. It has an overall fuller and warmer presentation. It also seems a little more mid forward with more layering going on. Bass seems more mid bass oriented. 

 

The Takstar Pro 80 seems to be a flatter slightly brighter more metallic sounding headphone. The Pro 80 surprisingly sounds airier with a wider soundstage. Pro 80 sounds a little dryer in the mids. It has noticeable more kick in the bass being more sub-base orientated.

 

 


 


 


 


 

 

 


 


 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

This is probably the best sounding headphone that I've had the experience of trying on a review tour. With it's absolutely brilliant natural and balanced sound signature and pin point accuracy and layering, and the fact that it has amazing synergy with all my gear which only got better with more power, it is definitely a headphone that I would want to own. I think it would be the perfect open back companion for my Takstar Pro 80. I want to applaud Philips for coming out with such amazingly sounding headphone with the L and X series. They're definitely doing something right over there. 

 

Cheers! :beerchug:

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: BASS, build quality, overall clear and strong sound signature

Cons: Headband pressure

Foreword:

 

I'm a production manager, but focus mostly on sound engineering. I install and tune a lot of P.A equipment, and also mix live acts in :

- live venues,
- concert halls,
- bars, and
- nightclubs.

I've taken a huge liking to headphones, and IEM's in particular. I like the idea of having my own personal PA system, that I can take with me anywhere. Especially with Rockbox being in such advanced stages, and such great low-impedance portable amps coming out, you can really seem to get any sound signature you wish out of a portable rig.

 


Phillips Fidelio L2 review.

 

 

Build quality:

Absolutely superb. I've always enjoyed the build quality of Phillips headphones, and this is no exception. The cans have a very “premium” feel, and the aesthetic details are superb.

 

There are intricate details, such as the “rings” around the exterior of the cup, and the woven pattern of the mesh grills.

 

The L2 pivot/suspension system features a single pivot point for up/down movement. Combined with swiveling cups, it's easy to get a good fit (more on that later).

 

The stitching is a nice touch.

 

And for those of you who are OCD about headband length: you can now know for sure that you're even on both sides.

 

The cable is removable, and you will be able to hear taps and rubs through the headpiece when adjusting it.

 

Accessories:

A neat little cloth pouch, with the Phillips branding on it, as well as a full-size headphone jack converter. This is more than sufficient for what full-size headphones come with, in my opinion. It would have been nice to have optional change-out pads, but I'm just being fussy.

 

I'm glad Phillips chose to save money in the accessory department, instead of sacrificing build or sound quality.

 

Feel/comfort:

A comfortable wear. A lot of full-size cans don't fit around my ears, but these do nicely. It's relatively easy to “tweak” the fit, by use of the swiveling and pivoting cups, matched with the measurable headband. My ears still touch the insides a little, but it's no big deal. There is sufficient clamping force. My one complaint is that the headband is stiff, and thin. It looks great, but it means that a lot of the weight of the L2 is pressed into a thin line across the head, and I needed to “shift” it around a little after long sessions.

 

Keep in mind, I don't have the smallest head around!

 

Specs:

From the Phillips website:

Frequency response

6 - 40 000 Hz

Impedance

16 Ohm

Sensitivity

105 dB

Maximum power input

200 MW

Distortion

< 0.1% THD

Speaker diameter

40 mm

Acoustic system

Semi-open


Sound:

It's worth noting here that the impedance is 16ohms. This will make the L2 a little fussy with sources, and damping factor should be considered when choosing a suitable source.

 

They are also incredibly efficient and easy to drive. Sources such as mobile phones, DAPs, laptops and other portable devices will power these with no issues at all.

 

Isolation is interesting - “semi-open” is a perfect description. They isolate better than most open-backed cans, and leak more than closed-back.

 

I would, to be safe, treat these as “open-backed” when thinking about using these outside of the home. They don't leak as much as open-backed cans do, but definitely more than closed-back.

 

Bass:

Strong, authoritative, unrelenting.

 

Very strong mid-bass presence, with hard impact. The bass is very impressive, especially considering this headphone is using open-backed 40mm drivers.

 

Bass-heads, pay attention!

 

Mids:

Not quite as open as an open-backed headphone, but sound-stage is sufficient none-the-less. These are not neutral headphones, and the mid-bass definitely powers through the mids a little. Sometimes male vocals can feel a little recessed, but that might just be due to the strong bass and pokey highs.

 

Highs:

These aren't “dark” headphones, despite having such overwhelmingly strong bass. I don't find them to be too peaky or sibilant, but they are definitely “forward”.

 

Good amount of details and excellent clarity. They can be listened to at decent volume without any significant piercing. 

 

Value:

Pricing varies depending on region, but for a few hundred bucks, no matter where you are, these are a good deal.

 

It's a very premium feeling offering at that price – considering the excellent build quality, and accompanying audio performance.


Overall conclusion:

Sound quantities in a nutshell:

Bass: ++

Mids: -

Highs: +

 

These headphones are a bass-heads dream - if you're looking for a semi-open backed product with a very premium finish.

 

 

 

 

Philips Fidelio L2
Description:

Berlin, Germany – Two years ago, Philips launched the Philips Fidelio L1 headphones, which have gone on to be recognized as one of the leading headphones in their class. Today, Philips is introducing a new generation: the Philips Fidelio L2. The new model features lighter materials, a new headband design and key sound improvements that will impress even the most discerning audiophile. The Philips Fidelio L2 have been tuned by the sharpest ears from Philips’ ‘Golden Ears’ panel of audio experts, delivering exceptional sound detail for every song. “The Philips Fidelio L2 headphones deliver a pristine audio experience,” said Alexander van der Heijden, consumer marketing for headphones at Philips Lifestyle Entertainment. “We’re proud of the recognition we’ve received for the Philips Fidelio L1s, but we also wanted to keep striving to deliver the perfect headphone in its class. So we asked users of the L1 to tell us what they liked, and what more they wanted, and the result is the Philips Fidelio L2 headphones. We’ve made some small but important changes, such as increasing the sensitivity in the sound technology to make for a more robust and clean sound experience.” To enjoy high definition sound the Philips Fidelio L2 headphones are built with 40mm optimally vented neodymium speaker drivers that provide a wide dynamic range, so you can hear those very subtle details of your favorite tracks. They feature a semi-open back architecture for pure and natural sound, ensuring you can hear every beat and every instrument with all the clarity the artist intended. The headphones have specially engineered aluminum ear shells for acoustic precision and the speakers are tilted to the ear’s natural angle for added clarity. The Philips Fidelio L2 headphones feature an improved headband design of fine leather that is smaller and lighter, ensuring long-lasting comfort and meaning you can enjoy your music for hours on end. These headphones offer excellent noise and a spacious listening experience to enjoy all genres of music. The Fidelio L2 headphones not only sound incredible, but also are a style statement. Crafted with premium materials including aluminum, fine leather, detailed stitching and a larger grill they are certain to command attention. The ear shells have been redeveloped to allow the 3.5mm cable to be plugged directly into the headphone for added convenience. For those on the go, the L2 fold flat and include a soft cloth travel pouch to protect them. The Philips Fidelio L2 are available in September with a recommended retail price of EUR 279.

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