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the philips shl5500: natural sounding can. - Page 4

post #46 of 145

I tried the SHL-5500 a couple of months ago in a big electronics store here in Holland, and I was also very much impressed by its sound and wearing comfort. It was clearly better than all other headphones in its price range (they had a big selection of AKG, Sennheiser, Sony, Beyer and other brands). The first headphone, price-wise, to sound and feel better was the Bose On-Ear, at 3 times the price! (I am not a Bose fan, but the On-Ear is actually quite nice). I should add that most headphones there were of the 'over ear' type, which don't feel comfortable to me. There were a few of those that had comparable or slightly better sound quality, mainly Sennheiser and AKG, but none below the SHL-5500's price point. The biggest problem with headphones these days seems to be muddy, boomy, over-emphasized bass. I guess most people don't appreciate the difference between quality and quantity! Thankfully the Philips SHL-5500 did not suffer from that at all. Anyway, I have ordered one from Amazon.co.uk for about 40 euro's, shipping and VAT included, and I hope to receive it next week.

In the meantime though, I had also ordered an SHL-9700 based on Dutchflea's message above (dank u!), and because of the stylish looks and one-side cord. It cost me 55 euro, VAT and shipping included. It arrived earlier today and I am very happy with it! It replaces a very old Sennheiser HD-455, which had nice unoffensive sound and great comfort, but which is not good enough to enjoy high quality music recordings. My impressions of the SHL-9700, in short:


SHL-9700 sound quality:
Very nice, and I'm quite picky where audio is concerned! These headphones have a neutral and quite natural sound with good detail, timbre and definition over the whole spectrum. They do not sound agressive or extremely revealing and the basses don't boom. I've been listening to it basically non-stop for 8 hours now, mainly to rock, jazz, electronic and small-ensemble classical music, without fatigue. In all, a well-balanced pleasurable sound with good (not perfect) detail. Vocals sound nicely intimate, but not warmer or more 'present' than they were recorded. I noticed two weak points: 1) it tends to emphasize sibilants a bit (sharp 'S'-sounds in vocals, cymbals, violins and white noise) but except with poor recordings this is not too distracting. 2) Bass, while well defined and deep, seems a little recessed, as if its volume is cut by -4 dB or so. For that reason, I suspect that these headphone are less suitable for fans of rap, metal and dance. For all other types of music, I'd warmly recommend them.


By the way, I listened only through a Sony midi-set and through the on-board sound of my PC. Obviously, neither of those is of very high quality. I thought I'd also give it a try on the hi-end system in my living room, but then realised that it has no headphone socket..! :). The reason why I had wanted to try a better source is because these SHL-9700 headphones did not give me a good sense of big, 3D space and instrument placement. You do hear 'air' and natural reverb in good recordings, but these SHL-9700's are not as finely detailed, revealing and effortless-sounding as e.g. $200+ Sennheisers and AKG's. Of course, that may in part be due to the mediocre sources that I used. Besides, those are not really qualities that one should expect in < $75 headphones.


Other observations: The SHL-9700 are surprisingly light weight and very well-built. I think they'll last a long time. As for wearing comfort, I have a fairly big head and when I first put them on, I found the pressure that they exert slightly uncomfortable (the Sennheiser's that I'm used to 'sit' with hardly any pressure), but I got used to them and had no discomfort after hours of wearing them; and still they have good enough grip so they won't drop off your head when you walk or jump around. With their 'on the ears' shells they feel much better to me than the more popular 'over the ears' type headphones (and those usually press much harder on your head, too). They do not block all of the outside noise, but likewise they do not shield others from the music either so I wouldn't use these in public at very loud levels. The cord is quite short, 1.20m (I'd have preferred it ~30cm longer, so I could more easily move around at my desk) and cannot be replaced. It has a 3.5mm jack. No 6.3mm converter for full-size sockets is supplied.


To sum up, I think these SHL-9700's are pretty good headphones in absolute terms, and they're very good -a great value!- compared to competing headphones in the same price range.

Well, I hope this is of some use to fellow Head-fi readers. When I receive the SHL-5500, I'll let you know what I think of those as well. For now, I'm going to spend some more time with Natalie Merchant.. dt880smile.png

post #47 of 145
Thread Starter 

^hi sir, can you say if this is better than the shl5500?

if yes, then i should get one NOW!

post #48 of 145
Originally Posted by pinoyman View Post

^hi sir, can you say if this is better than the shl5500?
if yes, then i should get one NOW!
Well, it was a few months ago that I heard the SHL-5500, and with a different source in a different setting, so I really can't tell. When I receive my own SHL-5500, I'll compare them and let you know!
post #49 of 145
Thread Starter 

^thanks in advance.

post #50 of 145

My opinion: not better, but different beasts. If you like the 5500 this does not necessarily mean you will like the 9700. I am happy with both!


The SHL-5500 has a upper midrange that is super smooth, I love that. It's the highlight of these cans. I also think that they are not entirely "flat", but impose a light bias on the lower mids / higher bass region (I am guessing here, but I think around 100-500Hz), but that is actually very likable because it gives a nice warm presence to the music. This goes especially well with acoustic / voices stuff, which often drown with the headphones tuned with the popular V-shaped frequency response. Also, this tuning gives a bass-drum extra "kick" compared to the SHL-9700. I like that.


The SHL-9700 has less presence in higher bass and the lower midrange, which is probably a shame for me. However, I think the bass is just a little bit more extended and tight, and it adds some sparkle and spaciousness in the upper midrange and higher, which can actually be good depending on way the music is recorded. It can also be bad when the music is recorded on the bright side and is more prone to sibilance.


For me, it seems that for most material I prefer the SHL-5500. Probably because of the super smooth midrange. It's hard to describe but for me they somehow sound more "organic". That's the word that comes to my mind. But really, the best would be the goodies of the 5500 and 9700 combined. If the 5500 would get a tiny bit of the sparkle that the SHL-9700 provides (not overdoing it!) they would be even better for me. 


Other differences:

- The 9700 has lower sensitivity, depending on the music playing for me it is just loud enough when listening using an iPhone. So for portable devices I like the extra sensitivity the 5500 offers.

- For my ears, the 5500 is more sensitive to how it is placed on the ears: small adjustments can alter the sound quite dramatically. Less so with the 9700.

- The 9700 is slightly more comfortable for me than the 5500 because of the thicker padded top of the headband Also the 9700 pads feel ever so slightly softer. The "leather" (is it, really? I still suspect it is artificial leather) on both is very similar or the same. The 9700 pads are slightly smaller than the 5500 pads.

- The 9700 will fit slightly bigger heads compared to the 5500.

- The 9700 has a one-sided cable, the 5500 is double sided. The one on the 9700 is round and stiffer, the 5500 is flat and more rubbery. Both work well and do not easily tangle. Let's call this a tie.

- The 9700 folding mechanism is more sophisticated and clicks nicely into place using little spring-powered pins. This feels a bit more reassuring than the 5500 loosely pivoting mechanism. The 9700 keeps the shells nicely in place when picking the headphone up. All in all I prefer the 9700's build quality. But this quality has to be proven with time, things could well turn the other way in practice.


All in all I think both are really great and comfortable cans for the price!


I you are planning on getting one of these, why not get them both if you find a great offer? I am curious if your findings are similar to mine.


PS I just read Danielvr's review above after posting my reply. Nice to see his impressions on the acoustics point in the same direction as mine. :)

PS 2 reviewed using this headphone amp: JDS Labs cMoy v2.03 - 18V double battery model, customized for my Beyer DT880's.

Edited by dutchflea - 1/12/12 at 6:14pm
post #51 of 145



  Thanks for that comprehensive comparison.  I must bow to your SHL-5500 description of having a "light bias on the lower mids / higher bass region" as being both more accurate and apt than my quip about the mids being ever so slightly recessed.   Your "organic" is what I took pinoyman to imply with his "neutral" description as well.  Regardless I agree with both of you that the SHL-5500s are sleepers which do a very credible job in providing an extremely pleasing listening experience.  The fact that they are inexpensive simply sweetens the deal :)  Personally I dislike both boom-boom and shrill treble headphones regardless of price.  Sounds like the 9700s have a bit more high frequency shimmer than I might like.  Rather a moot point for me as the SHL-9700/10 isn't marketed by Philips USA.  Again thanks for your post.

post #52 of 145

Cheers. :)


I think the SHL-9700's character still isn't shrill in the treble, although more prone to in comparison with the SHL-5500 with overly-trebly recording.

It just sounds a bit less "veiled" compared to the SHL-5500. Which can be a good thing or a bad thing.

No worries for boom-boom either (it's even less boomy than the 5500's).


Again, for me 5500's plus a touch of the (perceptive) unveiling sparkle of the 9700's would suit me great! :)


post #53 of 145
Thread Starter 

thank you very much guys.

this has been really helpful...

post #54 of 145

Received my shl5500s yesterday, got to listen to them at work pretty much all day today happy_face1.gif


I noticed when running a few sweeps on Audacity that theres a very noticeable dip in the upper mids, between ~2.5k and ~4.5k, something similar to the Triplefi 10 which I thought sounded kinda weird in some ways but overall pretty enjoyable. Pretty much no sibilance because of the upper mids and how the highs roll off gently, very forgiving of even the worst of my tracks =). I noticed the stage is pretty decent too, not as wide and deep as the Koss DJ100's, but those are circumaurals. These are good for a supra-aural; good space between instruments. They take kindly to EQ too; I tried to EQ the upper mids, highs up a little bit, and it added some clarity up top as well as some bite to drums and percussive instruments. These are some pretty capable cans for the price

post #55 of 145

How do these compare to AKG K518le? they alsmost have the same price.. and the superlux hd661?

post #56 of 145
Thread Starter 

^heard the akgs.

their too bassy for my liking. i think those where kinda muddy in comparison and without also the goodness of timbre.

sorry, havent heard any superluxs can.

post #57 of 145
I got my SHL-5500's too! My experiences echo those of Dutchflea above, and I agree that the 5500 and the 9700 both have their strengths and the ideal headphone might be a blend of both. The 5500 doesn't have the slight sibilance problem that the 9700 has and it has a fuller, bassier sound. Like Dutchflea said the 5500 will also play noticeably louder because it's more sensitive. To my ears it also seems to isolate outside noise a bit better, but that may be because of its louder volume when I was doing my A-B comparison smily_headphones1.gif

However, contrary to Dutchflea I prefer the 9700s for these reasons:

- The SHL-5500 has more bass/lower midrange, lending music a fulling and warmer foundation. However, this bass is also muddier than on the SHL-9700. It's not boomy, just more pronounced and less well-defined. It works well for pop music and male vocals, but to my 43-year old ears it also contrbutes a bit to listening fatigue and I prefer the cleaner bass of the 9700.
- With my big head (I'm a 6.1' male), the 9700 feels more comfortable. Its thicker earpads seem slightly softer and they exert a bit less pressure. I prefer this for long listening sessions.

As for midrange, I think both models are on par there, and they're both very good with a solid, smooth and natural presence. It's just that with the 5500 it gets a fuller foundation and with the 9700 a bit more air and room accoustics - the latter works well with female vocals.

In all, I think both of these provide excellent comfort and sound quality for the money. Of the two, I think the SHL-5500 would be the best choice for younger, smaller, mobile and/or female listeners, but for me, I prefer the 9700 for the above mentioned reasons.

BTW, I am beginning to suspect that the ideal headphone which has the strengths of both and the weaknesses of neither may well be called 'Fidelio L1'.. tongue.gif
post #58 of 145

Thank you for the impressions Daniel; from what I am getting from yours and dutchflea's comments, it looks like I am EQing my 5500 to sound similar to the 9700 (abit less mid-bass, abit more treble). You guys have got me interested in the 9700 now as I dont want to go through the trouble of EQing when using these on the go, dont think Philips released them over here in the states yet though, so its abit hard to find redface.gif

post #59 of 145
If you can wait until its US release in March, maybe you should have a look at the Philips Downtown SHL5605. It's brand new and haven't heard it yet or even seen a review, but I'd expect it to sound quite similar to the 5500 and 9700. From its sophisticated looks, they're targetting it at male adults, which suggests good, non-exaggerated bass and non-aggressive highs. They should also be better suited for using on-the-go because of their Musicseal feature (the 9700 is quite 'leaky'!)

Here's their announcement by Übergizmo: Philips Downtown SHL5605 Headset
post #60 of 145

Thanks for the heads up; they look pretty classy, will have to keep an eye out for them in the coming months =). I noticed they, as well as 5905 and 5200 all use 40mm drivers; I wonder if it's the same as the 5500 or 9700s driver, possibly tuned differently

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