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Review: Philips Fidelio L1 [Updated 5/14]

post #1 of 699
Thread Starter 

Dear all,

I want to present to you a great all-rounder - the Philips Fidelio L1: lively, clear and well-balanced with a warm tilt.

Yes, you read correctly. A Philips - the Dutch company that buries you with LED lamp search results when you ask Google. A brand that never was mentioned before in the upper mid-fi region simply because they did not have a single product in that price range. Yet Philips proved to be stylish, flexible and innovative in the past. Now they added musicality and loudly advertise their newest reference headphone targeted at audiophiles.

 

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As always, specifications first (taken from Philips, trimmed and slightly edited):


   Product dimensions
   Weight: 0.2716 kg, equals 0.599 lb
   Sound

   Impedance: 26 Ohm
   Sensitivity: 105 dB
   Connectivity
   Cable Connection: Oxygen free cable (1.1m)
   Accessories
   Apple in-line remote and microphone
   Separate 3.5mm audio cable
   Storage pouch
   Adapter plug: 3.5 - 6.3 mm


The pouch feels surprisingly high quality but I cannot really tell which fabric Philips used.
Personally, I would have wished for the non-headset cable to be twice as long. BTW, you can use either cable as extension or use the mic/remote with other headphones.

 

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I do not want to waste much space and time on looks. Just refer to the pictures if you think you like the style. Personally, I think there are but few headphones that look better than the L1. However, I can’t speak for everybody.
Worth mentioning in this point is that the L1 actually is counted and numerated during production. It’s hard printed on the inside and only visible when you rotate the cups.

 

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Build quality is probably more important.
The materials used here are top notch. All sensitive parts are built with aluminum – the headband is just one large bent piece covered by cushion foam and real leather. The aluminum swivels will most probably last for a very long time.
The cord is covered by some textile. I cannot tell if it’s a design choice, extra protection or used to eliminate cable noises. All I can say right now is that both cables have a great weight, look durable and are relatively flexible without memory. The iPhone control is great, too. Rubber volume controls are worked into the aluminum housing and the buttons have a great pressure point.


Update (5/14): The production is really great. 15 months later, I am still not aware of any production errors or low quality control! Good job, Philips. However, the ear cushions are not removable! I've been using the Philips for a long time and the ear pads still feel soft, yet if I wanted to sell the L1, I would have preferred to buy new pads. This is not possible and a real bummer.

 

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Next up: comfort.
Instead of praising Philips, I rather wonder what other companies do wrong. How hard can it be to build a comfortable headphone? You take a headband and put cushions in the inside. How can it be that AKG, Grado, Ultrasone, Sennheiser, etc. fail in this department? If you like the Beyerdynamic sound, you are lucky - because they are known for high comfort, even though the velour pads are a little itchy.

Even though Philips used a very simplistic design, I do have to give them credit for using extremely soft memory foam and leaving enough space for my big ears in the around-ear design. Easily encapsulated, the Fidelio L1 is the most comfortable headphone I have yet worn.
In summer, expect your ears to heat up though.

 

Do note, the clamping force might be very strong for some. Personally, I have a slim head and I have no issues.

Isolation
I’ve seen many posts from people who seemed worried about the half-open design. If isolation is a big concern, you must pass on these. However, if you don’t blast your ear canals but listen at moderate volume, you shouldn’t be worried about disturbing others. Sound leakage is very little and the L1 captures the noise much better than the Ultrasone PRO 900.
But the L1 also lets sound inside a bit more than a fully closed design. If you want to hear the door bell or don’t want to miss any calls at work, the Philips might have the perfect balance between isolation and awareness. (Further impressions can be found here.)
Moving on…

 

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At last I get to the sound description.
The Philips Fidelio L1 has a very favorable sound presentation.Considering the street price, the L1 has no major flaws.
The Philips L1 is so far the only headphone I have tried which made me forget about any sound signature while shuffling through my collection. It is extremely compatible with what my mind expects music to sound like and, thus, pleases me with a genuine performance.
I cannot speak for you or anybody else, but I think it is worth a shot.

 

I find the bass to be strong, but also well-controlled. It surely does not have as much weight as a Denon and I never find the bass to be overwhelming. Of course, if you think the K701 has just the right amount, you might perceive bass quantity differently. It does steer toward boomy but adds a very detailed treble on top. It's a lot of fun as it's strongly pronounced, but yet quantity might be lacking for true bassheads.
There is no way I can describe the bass without using the term punchy. The angled drivers move fast and the half-open design prevents too much boom. The air movement gives a lot of life to the sound.
Daft Punk hits hard, Hip-Hop beats from Tyler the Creator go low, while bass-guitars adapt nicely to the rest of the instruments. My previous main can, the PRO 900, did not prove to be as versatile as the Fidelio. The L1 does not have an artificial feel to it.
If you don’t shuffle through different genres often, you might prefer a different approach to bass presentation. But looking at the L1 as a whole, it does extremely well.


Voices are definitely in front of the instruments. Soundstage wise, they are up front and personal. The other instruments spread out nicely in a half-circle around the head. Depth is great. Thanks to the angled drivers, the music plays closely but outside the head.

The Philips achieves this by making use of the presence peak, an elevation in the 2-3 kHz area that makes voices pop out some more - similar to the SE535. This peak will vary depending on the pressure of the ear pads! The tighter the headphone sits on your head, the more obvious the peak will be.

 

The highs extend nicely and continue the warm tilt without rolling off. If you want airiness and space in your Classical music, the Philips can give you that. Violins are not drowned by bass and mids, but they also do not draw as much attention as they should. The treble is smooth and not as revealing as, say, the X1 or DT-880.

 

There is really not much to dislike about the tuning as a whole. It’s engaging, lively, quick and energetic. Aggressive and Fatigue will depend on your head size - slim heads will not have an issue. It’s not as flat as my W4, but considering the size I wouldn’t want it to be. Timbre is fine – I have never thought that any instrument or voice sounded too far off, rather that it fits nicely to the warm tilt and is part of the overall cohesive presentation. Due to the surrounding and immersive soundstage, the music just sucks me in. With a good live recording.

 


Conclusion:
The strongest suit of the Philips Fidelio L1 is that it does not do much wrong. Almost everything seems to make sense and seems to be well sought out. Starting by the multi-purpose design with iPhone remote and mic, to the half-open design for home use and train rides, all the way to a sleek and unpretentious design, the Fidelio L1 is an incredible all-rounder that is highly welcomed.
Finally, the sound signature should please regular consumers. Philips clearly addresses the masses. But unlike with Bose, Monster or B&W, you are not paying for brand name or comfort. You get that for free.

 

I just wished the ear pads were replaceable.

 

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Updated impressions:

There is absolutely no reason to question the materials or build quality.

As for the sound, my perception hasn't changed much. The Fidelio is not a tool, and as you can see with Tyll's measurements, this is a fun headphone. I wouldn't go as far as call this a bass-heavy headphone. A warm tilt with incredible sub-bass fits it better. The Philips is well balanced and thanks to the 2kHz raise the voices stay up front.

 

Update 2:

I have edited some parts of the text and I have pointed out that your head shape plays an important role about the presence peak. Also that the ear pads are not replaceable.

15 months later, I can look back and say it was a strong and successful entry for Philips, but the overall mainstream presentation is keeping it from becoming a modern Classic. The follow up, Fidelio X1, is not quite as warm and thus does not need a presence peak to be well-balanced.

 

 

 

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Comparison to Fidelio M1:

The tonality is just as warm, without any elevation in the 2-3kHz area, but treble is even softer and rolls off noticeably. Due to the on-ear design, soundstage is a lot more intimate and much smaller in size. Separation is also not as good.

The punchy bass goes very deep with both, but the L1 reveals a lot more texture.

M1 isolates better.

 

Further Impressions:

- by Stealthy Ninja

- by Marximus

- by Geared4me

- by MuppetFace (comparison with Z1000)

- by swbf2cheater (new thread)

 

More pictures can be found here.


Tags: Fidelio L1, Philips L1/00, review, appreciation, pictures, discussion


Edited by Ultrazino - 5/14/13 at 9:47am
post #2 of 699

Thanks for this. I didn't want the review to stop and it sure makes decisions that much easier. Great job.

post #3 of 699

Interesting review, I enjoyed reading it with that perspective. I'd think this headphone would suit me perfectly from the soundstage especially, by the quite clear description you gave regarding soundstage it sounds it has a similar approach as the also semi-open cheap Panasonic HTF600 which I enjoy particularly for the soundstage. It also feature angled drivers it also has a very "close/intimate" soundstage yet doesn't sound like coming from in the head and like you said this results in a very engaging listening experience and this is a make or brake question for me, I WANT to get engaged by listening to music, the feeling that I need to tap my foot to some smooth jazz, maybe nod my head to some rock or in the best case start to dance to some catchy techno music. I don't like headphones with a "disengaging" soundstage which for me the K70x or HD800 would be a good example of, it makes me feel left out so to speak even if it fits quite nicely with classical music especially.

 

I've also started to appriciate a WELL balanced headphone in the mids and highs, with the amount of time I've spent EQing my headphones to even out the dips or peaks I can very quickly tell when vocals' tonality for example is off/unaccurate because there might be a peak in the upper-mids and be a dip in the lower mids or vice versa. 

 

However I'm still a basshead that prefers a significantly boosted bass response while keeping the mids & highs as neutral and even sounding as possible so guess that's the only thing that wouldn't fit me with this one. I do have a ZO2 which can boost the bass significantly so might be able to achieve the bass I'm looking for with help of that though. But yea I'm totally in love with the design, the perfect size of the cups for portable headphone, the very cushy memory foam pads and stretching headband and low weight. Sounds/looks like every piece of the headphone is right for me except the bass response could be just a little stronger for my taste. :s


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 1/22/12 at 1:45pm
post #4 of 699
Thread Starter 

RPGWiZaRD, you should definitely check them out. I think we two want the same experience from music. :)

The L1 should be easily available in the near future. I am pretty sure Philips is not joking and will heavily question the price tag of rival products!

 

The other 'phones in your list do have more bass quantity, but maybe you can exchange a little for some better quality?

post #5 of 699

Great review, well done. 

 

One question....where can you buy them? No retailers seem to be popping up via search.


Edited by Beagle - 1/22/12 at 2:03pm
post #6 of 699
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultrazino View Post

RPGWiZaRD, you should definitely check them out. I think we two want the same experience from music. :)

The L1 should be easily available in the near future. I am pretty sure Philips is not joking and will heavily question the price tag of rival products!

 

The other 'phones in your list do have more bass quantity, but maybe you can exchange a little for some better quality?


Well as I know Philips they are a really large well established brand here in europe the prices will probably stay very low indeed, weren't they already sold for 200 EUR somewhere?, the MSRP was like 249 EUR but yea wouldn't suprise me if street price in europe stays at like 180 ~ 200 EUR on the cheaper/bigger etailers. For this price I'd without having heard it for myself probably put like at least 50~100 EUR below the "expected" price you'd pay for the brand alone if we would be talking about Sennheiser, Audio Technica etc. I think since it's Philips first a little more serious hifi headphone they probably didn't quite know where to price it or they just simply will try to produce large quantities and try to sell large quantities as well to keep prices lower as it's such a huge brand it makes sense with that approach and it's a good thing for us customers.


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 1/22/12 at 2:14pm
post #7 of 699
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beagle View Post
Great review, well done. 


Thank you.

I wanted to depart a little from the fragmented bass/mids/highs reviews as the strength of the Philips is the cohesion of all of the three. This is mandatory for an all-rounder, while bass fetishists may prefer Ultrasone in the price range, or Soft Rockers might want to stick to the warm mids from Sennheiser. The Philips performs equally well on all levels, which is a huge plus for me.

post #8 of 699
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultrazino View Post

I wanted to depart a little from the fragmented bass/mids/highs reviews as the strength of the Philips is the cohesion of all of the three.



Bravo. I find the common practice of separating the frequency ranges is like a food reviewer commenting individually on the different ingredients in a dish. I'd like to know what they taste like as a whole because that is the way one would consume it.

post #9 of 699

Anyone know how the L1s compare to the fischer audio fa-003/brainwavz hm5s?

post #10 of 699

Thank you, just brewing my tea, will be reading it soon :)

post #11 of 699

Can you compare it to the hd598? :)

post #12 of 699

Tyll was extremely positive about the Philips booth at CES 2012 http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/ces-2012-best-show-philips-lifestyle-products

 

Looks like Philips is gonna step up bigtime this year in the headphone market.


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 1/23/12 at 2:15am
post #13 of 699
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by calluna View Post
Can you compare it to the hd598? :)


Just briefly. I did compare them for like 15 minutes, but I don't own the Sennheiser. Please don't value my impressions too highly.

 

The HD598 is warmer and much more relaxed. It's also smooth sounding, but it lacks a lot of power compared to L1.

I think the HD598 is a really good headphone and a great choice for many. Somehow the presentation is also lively, but in a really different way. It's as if it wants to sing you to sleep. The music does sound nice with it, but I honestly think it's fake. There is a big fat Sennheiser stamp on the sound that I simply can't ignore. Voices are not supposed to be so warm (while they have a great body and closeness) and the bass is too soft (not in quantity, but just presentation). The Philips brings a whole other level of power. It makes you move.

 

If you are used to the HD598 and you dig it's presentation, chances are high you will find the L1 to be too energetic and fatiguing. Personally, I think it's the other way around.

post #14 of 699
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultrazino View Post


Just briefly. I did compare them for like 15 minutes, but I don't own the Sennheiser. Please don't value my impressions too highly.

 

The HD598 is warmer and much more relaxed. It's also smooth sounding, but it lacks a lot of power compared to L1.

I think the HD598 is a really good headphone and a great choice for many. Somehow the presentation is also lively, but in a really different way. It's as if it wants to sing you to sleep. The music does sound nice with it, but I honestly think it's fake. There is a big fat Sennheiser stamp on the sound that I simply can't ignore. Voices are not supposed to be so warm (while they have a great body and closeness) and the bass is too soft (not in quantity, but just presentation). The Philips brings a whole other level of power. It makes you move.

 

If you are used to the HD598 and you dig it's presentation, chances are high you will find the L1 to be too energetic and fatiguing. Personally, I think it's the other way around.

 

Well said, I know exactly what you're talking about, I'm not a big fan on the several Sennheiser's "laid-back" presentation in multiple headphones of theirs, AKG also has quite a few and Beyer somewhat too and some Denons to some lesser extent. We're not talking about how aggressive the treble is but on one headphone it could be relaxed sounding despite being bright or dark, doesn't matter but the Philips seems to the the opposite aggressive, engaging (again not as in treble forward as it seems neutral in that respect) but it really makes you feel the music, it engages you and you get the feeling you need to dance. This is all about taste though, for some people this "engaging" sound is actually relaxing (compare some find it to calm them down to listen to some deathmetal for example) cuz it's the sound they want to hear, for me it's like this, Grados are similar sounding too as well as the cheap HTF600, doesn't have to be bright, it's mostly about how the soundstage is projected and it doesn't automaticly mean small soundstage = more engaging sound, it can still be reasonably big and out of the head and airy but it depends how it's projected. It's difficult to explain but I understand perfectly what Ultrazino is explaining and for me this is among the most important factors if I will enjoy the headphones or not.


Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 1/23/12 at 6:23am
post #15 of 699

hmmm what I'm going to say might not be helpful at all but I'll try anyways... I tried it at a shop, hooked up to a HDP, a bit noisy in there but I could hear fine. The L1 didn't blow me away like the DT1350 did but it has the fundamentals of a good headphone, there's some spatial imaging, not super colored etc...

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