Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › Over-Ear › Philips SHL5905BK/28 CitiScape Uptown

Philips SHL5905BK/28 CitiScape Uptown

83% Positive Reviews
Rated #115 in Over-Ear

Posted

Pros: Great sound, comfort and noise isolation

Cons: Poorly designed cable and not very portable

*Before reading, please know that I'm very new to Head-Fi and I've never written a serious review before. Thanks!

 

Overview

I bought these headphones after months of on and off research and consideration. I wanted a really high quality headphone that my iPhone and desktop computer could drive without the bass-heaviness of Beats by Dre (I listen to mostly rock of all types) and I didn't want to spend more than $175. After having these for 3 months I think I can now give a good input on these. To keep things concise, here are my pros and cons with these headphones:

 

Pros

- The sound is amazing! Since I've owned these, I've probably gone through most of my rock-dominated library. These headphones give very clear highs, mids and lows. Acoustic songs are incredibly crisp and clean, bass-heavy songs are powerful and booming, and the instrument separation is clear and precise. In comparison to my friend's Beats Solo HDs, these are much more accurate and dynamic overall.

- I can't stress enough how comfortable these cans are! The ear cups are a very form-fitting and light foam covered by a soft and flexible leather-like material. The headband is covered in the same material and is also very comfortable. I can wear these for several hours without my ears getting hot or any other discomfort.

- The sound isolation is another huge plus. These have truly better isolation than the headphones that I use for drumming, which are Howard Leight Sync headphones.

- I really like the design of these headphones, which is what attracted me to them in the first place. I love the high quality materials and just the overall look of these. 

 

Cons

- One of my only peeves is the cable. I do like the flat cable style, but unlike the rest of the headphone, it feels really cheap and has caused a few problems. My main problem with the cable is the volume slider. I haven't seen this in any other reviews so it may just be my pair, but the volume slider will create a static sound or short out one side. I have to be really careful about it, because it usually takes me a minute to put it back to the original position. I also would have preferred a detachable cable and I wonder how long the cable will last me. I have to be really careful with it

- Just a minor thing, these are not very portable. They don't fold, and these are pretty big headphones. I would have at least expected a carrying pouch or something, but whatever.

 

The bottom line

I'm not an audiophile by any means, but I am really picky when it comes to headphones. These are awesome headphones and I use them almost every day at home or whenever I'm on an airplane. I'd recommend these to anyone who wants a well-balanced, well made, comfortable and stylish pair of headphones for less than $200 (I think one color is $100 on Amazon now). I wouldn't recommend them for everyday travel or commute or if you can't handle a not-so-durable cable. For me these are pretty close to perfect. Out of all the headphones that I own (Urbanears Plattan, Sony MDR-NC40, Howard Leight Sync, Skullcandy Hesh, and some Altec earphones), these are by far the best and my favorites. Definitely check em out!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Posted

Pros: Very comfortible with a fantastic build quality and good looks.

Cons: May be too quiet for some. Perm. Imbalance

My Preference
The primary styles of music I enjoy are New Age, Classical, and Celtic. Essentially I would not be welcome in a conversation about Metal or Rock. I have few prejudices when it comes to music genres, and can listen to and enjoy many different kinds. The only kinds of music I am not fond of are ones with screamed vocals. that being said, on to the headphones:

Design
At first glance, these are absolutely beautiful looking headphones. They are defiantly something you would feel comfortable using in public, and the looks, thankfully, do not come with the price of build quality and comfort.
The shells over each ear seem to be made of metal, if not a very strong plastic. Ear adjustment is done by the cups swiveling on the circles in the center. A piece of metal mounts each cup to the headband that allows for head adjustment. The headband is made of leather on the outside and an extremely soft almost silk-like material on the inside. The cup cushions are also made of the same material.
These headphones live up to their expectation when it comes to build quality, as well as being very comfortable. I have not yet experienced ear sweat even in the heat wave we are currently having. The cable did not bother me as much as other reviewers may have mentioned.


Isolation
The isolation on these is absolutely magnificent. You can have the volume on full blast, even amped, and not one sound wave will escape. In some instances, you can hear outside of the headphone if you are on a loud bus and such.
I am currently attending a jazz band as a pianist, and in a loud band room where everyone is practicing, it is obvious that sound passes through any headphones in this enviornment. But the Uptown did help very much in practicing, giving me the ability to hear the piano much more clearly over others.


Sound
First, allow me to get one problem out of the way. I am not sure if it is just me, but the volume on these headphones was much too quiet for my standards, especially when hooking it up to my electric piano.
Hooking it up to the FiiO e6 fixed this however.

The Phillips Uptown are my introduction to the quality audio world. So I have little experience and can not compare to other headphones. I am only able to offer my personal opinion.

While these are great sounding headphones, they do not fit my preference. Getting these headphones made me realize that I am very much a person who enjoys pronounced mids, as if my equalizer settings did not prove that fact enough for me. But it made me realize I loved pronounced mids because it does not have pronounced mids. I felt something lacking in them. Vocals felt melded into the instruments, sounding dry. Solo piano did not feel precise and quick.

Once again, this is just my personal opinion. The headphones just did not match my music preference. The just uptowns felt more laid back than what I am used to.

Posted

Pros: Sound (esp. bass and soundstage), extremely comfortable, looks nice

Cons: Cable could be better, inline remote is a problem, causes static and channel imbalance unless in a "sweet spot"

 

**Last Update: Sept 18, 2012**
 
About:
 
The Uptown is the highest model in Philips' new CitiScape line of headphones. They come in black/brown or silver/brown, and are priced at $150 USD (street is/can be much lower). A few specs:
 
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Sensitivity: 103 dB
Max Power Input: 30mW
Drivers: 40mm
Cable Length: 1.2m (~4ft)
Connector: 3.5mm
 
As you can see from the specs these should be pretty easy to drive, so an amp isn't required. In fact, I found that apparently the Uptown's are unable to be used with a 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter (messes up the sound). My guess would be that this is due to the iPod/smartphone compatibility built into the cable? In any case, it would would seem that these headphones can only be used with portable players or amps with 3.5mm jacks. I've had these for a little over 3 weeks now, and have been using them as my primary headphones. I did all my listening via:
 
FLAC → Cowon X7 → Uptown, ATH-AD2000, HM5
 
Uptown, AD2000, & HM5
 
Where I'm Coming From:
 
In order to hopefully help others better understand this review, I'm going to try and briefly explain my sound preferences, experiences, and outlook.
 
My favorite headphone is the Audio Technica ATH-AD2000. No, I haven't heard any other headphones of similar or higher regard, but I'm also pretty sure I don't really care to outside of curiosity. I have no feelings of upgraditis, because the AD2000 are perfect and satisfy me in every way. However, I know that most people haven't heard them, so I'll be more general. I've been unsatisfied with the quantity of bass in headphones that other people have generally described as being “neutral” (e.g. SRH440, A700 to a lesser extent), but I'm certainly no basshead either. Overall I'm after extension and tightness rather than huge quantity or getting punched in the side of the head. I hate recessed mids and big treble spikes. Both the SRH440 and A700 were too bright for me. I don't necessarily mind color, and I prefer a more forward or engaging sound. I find a headphone that is too laid back to be very boring.
 
I'm less fervently “audiophile” than some people around here seem to be. I don't really take stock in cable upgrades, “tweaks,” or things of that nature. I sold my desktop DAC/amp and started listening to my AD2000s (a headphone which some people pair with the Zana Deux) out of a Cowon DAP and I don't feel like I'm really missing out on anything. I don't claim to have golden ears or anything, and I don't have tons of experience. I just give my honest thoughts and impressions. I'd like to contribute if and where I can, and I know there were at least a few people who were interested in these headphones. Unfortunately I haven't heard most other headphones in this price range, so the helpfulness of my impressions are limited in scope. For that reason, just remember to take things in context and with an appropriately-sized grain of salt. Now then, without further ado...
 
Packaging:
 
Personally, I could give a crap about packaging. Unless the packaging doubles as a carrying case or something, I'm just going to throw it in the closet and never look at it again. I've always been puzzled by “unboxing” videos and reviews that talk about this a lot with tons of pictures. However, in case anyone was curious here's a picture (not mine):
 
Uptown Box
 
Build:
 
I think Philips did a fantastic job here. They look and feel great. Everything feels very well put together, and for once I'm not afraid of putting a pair of headphones inside my shoulder bag. The metal bars that connect the cups to the headband slide up and down in steps and lock into place very solidly, unlike other headphones I've had which felt loose and wobbly. The cups are also able to swivel (to a limited degree) at any angle. The pleather earpads and headband cushioning are good quality—very soft and smooth. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that these actually have angled drivers.
 

Uptown Angle

 

Uptown Front

 

Uptown Side

 

Uptown Cups

 
There is one exception to all of this...the cable. Well, the cable itself is actually fine. While it doesn't exactly inspire confidence because of how thin it is, the flat, springy, non-tangle aspect of it doesn't really bother me so long as it ends up proving to be durable enough. It's the in-line remote and 3.5mm connector at the end that are disappointing. They are cheap looking and/or cheaply constructed, and quite frankly are not on par with the quality of the headphones. Even the colors are mismatched. The connector looks to me like an off-brand Lego piece, though I can't fault it in the sense that it's functional and seems solid enough. As for the remote, I really wish it wasn't there at all. I never plan on using it. The saddest thing though is that even if I did want to use it, I still wouldn't because it works horribly. It goes from from normal volume to very quiet very quickly, and the slightest touch produces all kinds of static and very noticeable channel imbalance. Honestly, I look at it more as a liability. It's a shame, especially since I like everything else about these a lot. I just keep it up at full volume, don't touch it, and adjust the volume from my Cowon and that works fine. Other than that, the cable is rather short at 1.2m/~4ft. Perfect for reaching down to a DAP in your pocket, but a little difficult for home use without some sort of extension.
 

Uptown Cable

 

Uptown Cable Close Up

 
Comfort/Isolation:
 
Extremely comfortable. Like I mentioned, the earpads and cushioning are very soft and smooth. The cups are circumaural for me, but on the smallish side. I measured the space for the ears to be about 1.75” W x 2.25” H. I'd imagine them to be similarly sized to the Shure SRH440/840. A big problem I've had with certain headphones is pain caused by headband pressure on the top of my head. I'm happy to report that I've had no such experience with the Uptowns. They can get a little warm after a while (~1.5-2 hours in an 80 degree F room), but not hot. Clamping force is sufficient to keep them from falling off the head or sliding around, but is not particularly strong either. Personally, I actually like headphones with a nice firm grip, and wish these clamped a little stronger. It would definitely help out with isolation. Speaking of isolation, it's not amazing, but good. About what you can expect from most other full-size headphones. I've used these in a car and at a train station, and while I can certainly hear all the sounds from the environment, I'm also able to continue enjoying my music without having to turn the volume up too far above normal listening level. I listen at relatively low levels though, so others would probably fare a little better. Leakage is no problem. All in all, I can comfortably wear these for hours.
 

Uptown Airial

 

Uptown & X7

 
Basic Sound Signature:
 
Seems to me the Uptowns have a very mild “u-shape.” Overall I find them to be well balanced though, with the exception of the treble being a little emphasized (though based on other peoples' impressions on other headphones I've owned I imagine I might be a minority in thinking so). The bass is not at all overpowering, nor do I find the mid range to sound recessed.
 
Bass:
 
Yes! Bass extension! The Uptowns fit my criteria of having adequate extension down to at least 30Hz. Even a 25Hz test tone isn't quite as rolled off as I was expecting. (Note that it is more on the side of “hear” rather than “feel” down in this area.) Without at least this kind of extension, I find upright bass in jazz to be unlistenable and a lot of notes in other songs can just get lost. The bass is nice and tight. I don't hear it straying into any places it shouldn't be. No boominess or one note bass here, though I suspect there is a little distortion. The HM5, in contrast, sounds muddled, indistinct, and is lacking texture. While the Uptown's bass quantity seems to be easily above a general “neutral” territory, it's not exceptionally strong or over-emphasized. It can pick up when it needs to, but is generally well integrated with the rest of the sound.
 
Mids:
 
I guess I would say that I find the mids on the Uptown to be smooth and clean. They are neither extra forward nor recessed, but somewhere in the middle. Overall they have more clarity than the HM5. For example, the HM5 can render vocalists a little boomy/muddy. This never happens with the Uptowns as far as I can tell. At the same time though, certain female vocalists can sound slightly nasal when compared with the HM5, but it's something I only notice when doing direct comparisons. I'm not sure if there's possibly a little bump somwhere in the upper mids, or if I just get this impression due to a treble peak somewhere. Anyway, even though the mids on the HM5 are probably a little higher quality in the end, I prefer the mids on the Uptowns for being clearer and more consistent.
 
Treble:
 
I find the Uptowns to have some emphasis on the treble, but not by too much. While a little peaky, I don't find them to be harsh or particularly fatiguing. They're only a few dB away from being as well integrated as the bass is to me. In terms of quality, I don't have any complaints. I also don't have anything in particular to praise. One thing that I've still got to give the HM5 credit for is producing cymbals with very realistic timbre (I'm a drummer). Although I do think that the HM5 are just slightly dark, their treble is more refined. The Uptowns are just a little too bright and uneven to match that naturalness, but not necessarily in a way that can't be enjoyable. Brass instruments have more satisfying bite, and rock is much more exciting to listen to on the Uptowns.
 
Attack/Decay:
 
I find attack to be slightly on the soft side, but certainly not to the point of being boring like the HM5 are. Bass drums have a good thump to them, while things like snare drums and cymbals are just a little lacking. (My reference for this is the AD2000s though so you can take that or leave it.) Decay is satisfactory. Sounds fade out nice and linearly.
 
Soundstage/Imaging:
 
Odd as it may sound, this is actually the standout feature of the Uptowns to me. People have said that the HM5/FA-003/etc. is very good in this department for a closed headphone. Quite frankly, the Philips blow them out of the water. With the HM5, the soundstage has a strange shape to it. Anything that is panned in the center sounds farther away, while things that are panned to the left or right sound closer. Basically it's like a “v” shape, as if the “v” is around your head and you are looking down into the point. When I first got the HM5, I mistook this phenomenon for depth. In contrast, the Uptown's soundstage is spread evenly from left to right, and it has the ability to communicate real depth/ambiance/layering, unlike the HM5 which simply has a hollowed out center image. It is also at least as wide as the HM5, possibly ever so slightly wider. It's not huge in the grand scheme of things when you take open headphones into consideration, but it's far from small. Instruments have a nice sense of space around them and don't sound cramped at all.
 
One thing I love about the AD2000 is the fact that they are quite good at “disappearing.” What I mean by that is, instruments sound less like they are coming from two transducers on the side of my head, and more like they are coming from the “air.” (Get it? "Air"?) Well, the Uptowns share this same quality, believe it or not. In fact, the soundstaging/imaging of the Uptowns in general very much reminds me of the AD2000s. In the end, the AD2000s still do what they do better, but the margin isn't nearly as big as you might think.
 
Additional Thoughts:
 
There is something strange about the HM5s. Aside from the oddly shaped soundstage with its hollowed out center image, the cups (at least I'm guessing its due to the cups) create a kind of reverb effect on the music. It's a little less noticeable on certain recordings, but other times it is very obvious and weird sounding. I've heard it described by someone else as sounding like “listening to music from inside a well.” I myself said it sounded kind of like listening to music inside of a concrete tunnel or a cave. In any case, with the Uptowns, while you can still tell that the cups are there and it sounds sort of “plasticy” compared to an open headphone like the AD2000 (though this is true of all closed headphones I've owned), it's not at all as invasive as it is with the HM5. Relative to the HM5, the Uptowns sound more natural in this regard.
 
Summary:
 
At the end of the day, my overall experience with the Philips Uptown has been very good. The cable/remote is pretty annoying, but everything else is great, so I guess it's a matter of whether one is willing to compromise on that. They are extremely comfortable and very enjoyable to listen to as a whole. They don't make me miss my AD2000s at all when not at home. I think they make good all-rounders, as I didn't come across any genre that I found particularly lacking with them. If you can live with the cable, I think these would make a fantastic circumaural portable headphone.
 
 
 
 
Update (Sept 13, 2012):
 
Here is a post of mine from another thread concerning my thoughts on the issue of achieving a seal with these headphones and the possible effects it has on sound. Add an additional grain of salt to my original review as this could possibly be a factor which makes me hear these differently than some others might.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by manveru View Post

I also have the feeling there might be some variability between users regarding the seal on the Uptowns. For example, they didn't really sound particularly warm or bassy to me at all like others have described. They had good clarity and the bass was quite tight and very controlled, and the mids even sounded like they had an upward tilt by just a touch with certain recordings, compared to my ideal AD2000s that is. When I pushed the cups against my head a little though, they did actually become noticeably warmer and bassier. The bass also wasn't as tight when I did this. Additionally the soundstage lost all its magic, not that it totally disappeared or anything though. Ironically, with my possibly imperfect seal, they sounded much much better to me. I even could have lived with slightly less bass.

 

 

Update (Sept 18, 2012):
 
Another Head-fier had a problem with the sliding mechanism in the headband. Read about it here:
 
 
Be sure to note the responses after his original post as well.

Posted

Pros: Bass, wide soundstage, warm sound, comfy padding, neutral sound signature

Cons: Short lead

Build quality.

 

The earcup padding is exquisite with it's soft, smooth faux leather, as well as the beautifully padded headband.  The model I bought for £49 off Amazon was the all black one without the volume control as I had demoed the silver one with the volume control and it had a channel imbalance, so I thought that the all black version would be a safe bet.  I like the understated look, the satin finish of the earcups is very nice as well as the excellent stitching of the faux leather.

 

Sound.

 

The bass is dynamic and when called for, goes deep.  Generally the bass is above neutral but does not overshadow any of the rest of the sound signature.  Mids are quite detailed with a warm sound, highs are clear and just right in amount, sparkly enough and not veiled.  I am now selling my open-back Philips HP890 due to warmer sound and more bass of the uptowns, despite the fact that the instrument separation is slightly less defined on the uptowns due to slightly narrower soundstage.  Having said that, the soundstage on the uptowns is wide enough to be like an open backed set, possibly due to the angled drivers, definitely impressive for closed-back headphones.    I have tried many headphones and none have surpassed the sound quality of the HP890s, so these uptowns have earned the right to surpass them!  My other set of headphones is the Yamaha HPH-200 and the sound of those are more detailed and sharper but more fatiguing with allot of treble and less bass extension.  Compared to my Philips SHP5401 the uptowns have more bass and less upper midrange.  I have read that the uptowns are better than the m50s and Brainwavz HM5 and in my opinion they are underrated, like many other Philips headphones.

Posted

Pros: Audio quality, looks, and great for outdoors. Don't need an amplifier

Cons: Sliding volume control on the cable. Easy to over adjust and blast your ears. Prefer pinch type of control.

Great sound isolation and exclusion of noise. One must thus be extra watchful for traffic or any approaching menace when one is enjoying the great sound out doors. I took a 6 km lunch walk today and enjoyed the beautiful music of The Walflowers, John Mayer, Jackson Brown, Pretenders and a duet between Neil Diamond and Babara Steisand with this uptown Philips. I am convinced these headphones are great with the pop and rock genre in great outdoors. However when it comes to classical music, it was ok. I have other headphones for that indoors and requiring an amp.

Posted

Pros: Clear sound, very big soundstage.

Cons: Bass boost.

A friend of mine needed a new headphone, which was cheap, closed and good sounding. I said to him, dream on friend it will be very tough to find a headphone with those criteria.

But then after some browsing in the city, I stumbled upon the philips uptown. The first thing that struck me was the comfort. They feel much better than what you would expect for the price. I thought they felt better than the sennheiser momentum with those small ears. After I turned on some music I noticed the soundstage, it is very big for a closed headphone. I think it even rivals the Beyerdynamic DT770 pro, on that matter.

 

Other than that, the sound is very clear, and apart from the boosted bass it sounds very even and pretty neutral. All the frequencies are very clear sounding and the treble is nice and sparkly without any sibilance. The bass is boosted though, and bleeds a little in the mids. But it is very tolerable, and when using this headphone in noisy environments the bass sounds far less boosted.

 

All in all: Very clear sound, with big bass for extremely little money. This headphone can easily rival closed headphones in the €150 range, especially if the used DAP has a -1 bass function!

Philips SHL5905BK/28 CitiScape Uptown
Description:

Acoustic system: Closed Magnet type: Neodymium Voice coil: CCAW Diaphragm: Mylar dome Frequency response: 12 - 23 500 Hz Impedance: 32 Ohm Maximum power input: 30 mW Sensitivity: 103 dB Speaker diameter: 40 mm Type: Dynamic Cable length: 1.2 m Connector: 3.5 mm stereo Finishing of connector: 24k Gold plated Type of cable: OFC Compatible with:: iPhone®, BlackBerry®, HTC, LG, MOTOROLA Gross weight: 0.505 kg Nett weight: 0.248 kg Tare weight: 0.257 kg Gross weight: 1.113 lb Height: 8.5 inch Nett weight: 0.547 lb Tare weight: 0.567 lb UPC: 6 09585 22224 3

Details:
DetailValue
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
Head-Fi.org › Head Gear › Headphones › Over-Ear › Philips SHL5905BK/28 CitiScape Uptown