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Philips Fidelio L1 Review

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 




12hz -25khz
The Fidelio L1 by Philips is without question my new favorite headphone of all time.  I feel safe regarding it as the best portable-ish headphone ever made, however I am on the fence about placing it into the world of portables, it might just be a little too large for me to want to tot it outward into the public eye.  Well, on second thought...I'm a nutcase and would likely wear a real cat on my face if it emitted amazing sound quality. 
Its one of the most well built headphones I've ever held, rivaling the Edition 8 by Ultrasone.  I feel like whoever designed it over yonder at Philips had a fixation with using similar style components in the headband area.  The framework feels very similar and looks very similar to the Eddy8.  Its solid alumninum.  By that, I mean its literally a solid piece of metal, it does not feel hollow in the slightest.  This applies to every part of the L1, not one piece on this thing feels plastic like or of a lower standard. The headband is well formed and fits extremely well, no large gaps on the side of my head, very comfortable and pliable headband.  The earpads are memory foam and have a ton of give to them, which allows for excellent "sinking in".  Extremely soft and comfy, among the best earpads I've ever touched.  They are on the small side, I fear larger people with mutant Xmen ears will not get a nice fit. Then again, if you are a Mutant, you must also have super powers, maybe even telekenesis and are controlling me as I write this review...nah...maybe?  ( Why am I naked all of a sudden? )
The box is beautiful and comes with a velvette like bag and some extra cables: One standard, one with a microphone.  Both are of a portable length and styling laced with fabric.  Ideal and elegant. Not fond of the removable adapter that extends beyond the earcup, should have been on the earcup itself in my opinion but none the less sounds and looks great.  
The L1 is moderately warm on the low end, not neutral via a monitor style, nor is it aggressivly warm as something like my Fischer Audio FA011 is. Its somewhere in the middle with enough warmth to keep me happy yet refined enough to be considered well into the hifi experience.  The bass is smooth, layered, well textured, moderately forgiving, immensely deep and broad with again, moderate slam.  It is not harsh in the slightest, I was unable to produce ugly unsatisfying bass in my travels through my .flac collection of bass heavy tracks.  It presents a solid low end always, and extends deeper yet when high bass instances arrive.  This is an entry level Bass Head Can, yes.  I agree with some others who said this about the L1.  It the right quality and quantity of everything in the low end that I desire personally.  Certainly more than the Sony ZX700 and the Hifiman HE300, which both have much harsher and warped bass in comparison.  The mids are lush and immensely clean and clear, as are the highs which happen to be the LEAST sibilant of all headphones I've come across this year.  Tracks notoriously sibilant like Ms. Dynamites "Fire" off the Magnetic Man album were enjoyable and not sharp in the slightest, unlistenable with the He300 and ZX700.  Bass on tracks like Wiz Khalifas - " On my level" reach insanely low and distorted easily on most every headphone I've used lately, the L1 plows through like a champ with no warped sound or grain.  
Soundstage is unlike most closed backs and sounds more like a budget model Edition 8 to me.  Not quite as dynamic or deep, but significantly more open and spacious than most any closed back ( or semi in its price teir ) that I've heard.  Its not at all congested, but not nearly as open as some other open cans of this price range.  The sound is large and will satisfy sound stage psychopaths like myself who want a large sound on the go.  The headphone is immensely well rounded and sounds bad nowhere.  It has the blackest background I've heard to date in a portable headphone. Voices seem to come out of a void somewhere in space and in direct comparison to other sets I currently have like the HE300, which has significantly more grain to it all over the spectrum, the L1 performed on shocking good levels all around.  This set requires no amp but does improve very nicely with open and spacious sources.  So long as I use my Hisound Studio V as my stand alone amplifier for whatever source I have, the sound is magnificently open and airy.  Without it, it falls short.  Source quality and large spacious sound is infinitely more important than power amping with the L1
The best portable-ish headphone I've ever heard.  I have no gripes beyond the exposed cables above the earcups and the lack of a slightly raised or angled set of earpads that are not removable.  The L1 drivers are angled, so too should the earpads or else you get an effect that is masked just like the Sony Zx700.  Which itself is capable of insane soundstaging qualities with the HE300 earpads, huge difference from stock to Velours.  I fear the L1 is capable of much more sound staging qualities and will never be brought out due to an immensely poor choice in permanently attaching the earpads to the cups.  They cannot be removed. Shame really...despite that the stage is excellent.  No headphone I've ever used came this close to perfection, it met every single one of my criteria that Ive listed here on head fi for years.  By the way, my cat absolutely loves the L1, shes been wearing it around the house for days and keeps it on for extended periods of time...dont believe me?  Behold proof:
Here are a ton of HD images, enjoy.    
Solid build quality - check
Sexy - check
Affordable at $300 - check
Warm low end - check
Large soundstage - check
detachable cable -check
fabric covered cable - check
easily driven - check
requires no burn in to sound great - check
best budget headphone ever? - check

comfy enough for a CAT to wear indefinitely and not want to maul you to death - check






















Edited by swbf2cheater - 6/20/12 at 1:22am
post #2 of 22

Philips should hire you for their marketing department instead, because now I really want to hear these headphones! Very well written and entertaining review, and that video of your cat just made my whole week. biggrin.gif

post #3 of 22

I love this review! And those pictures are gorgeous! I have a question, how are the vocals through these headphones? Are they more upfront or distant?

post #4 of 22
I hate you so much, more headphones to buy...
Where'd you pick up your pair at?
Absolutely stunning kitty you got there :] Didn't know you collected nihonto?
Excellent review btw
post #5 of 22

Great review thanks, and very disappointing with the marketing lady there.  Tyll should have a word with the hot one in the video he posted about that.

post #6 of 22

Great review! Your cat is the perfect model for those L1s :)

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by manveru View Post

Philips should hire you for their marketing department instead, because now I really want to hear these headphones! Very well written and entertaining review, and that video of your cat just made my whole week. biggrin.gif

I'm available and job hunting.


Originally Posted by Sil3nce View Post

I hate you so much, more headphones to buy...
Where'd you pick up your pair at?
Absolutely stunning kitty you got there :] Didn't know you collected nihonto?
Excellent review btw

Only hate me for my rugged and dashing good looks.  Ordered off the Apple Store online.  Her name is Katie, shes fat and knows it.  I had a very large collection of swords, sold all of them when I found this one.  Now, its the only one I have due to its outstanding price and value.  Its a Musashi blade :)




Thanks for all the nice comments, everyone.

Edited by swbf2cheater - 4/12/12 at 7:01am
post #8 of 22

LOL, love how your cat is enjoying wearing them too. :P


My only concern about these headphones would be the midrange, what's your call on this, it seems to have about a 5dB peak around 2kHz which to some other people at least made the vocals a bit shouty and colored sounding. To me it's fine if the whole midrange is brought forward but if it only peaks around 1~2kHz area it usually leads to especially female vocals getting this excessive nasal sound to it, what's your verdict here regarding the L1?

post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 

Gods honest RPGWiz, I've not a clue what the hell any of that meant haha.  If you can actually hear peaks between such a small frequency range, you are Jesus incarnate and I want to meet you in person.  


In all seriousness, the Midrange is excellent but not as excellent in terms of presentation as the Sony ZX700, which sounds bulging in the center mid range with vocals, very tall and large sounding vocals on the sony compared to the L1, which by contrast is maybe a 1/3 smaller as a whole.  Which is significant.  So no, the mids are not epic in terms of presentation, I missed the question asked earlier about them, the mids are moderately forward.  I say this because the ZX700 mids sound like Yo Yo Ma is playing his Cello on my head, where as the L1 sounds more distant and less enveloping.  Still, the mids are immensely clear and again that black background makes them pop nicely.  Clarity is stellar.  Its just not a particularly enveloping midrange, just like all of the qualities of the L1, its just a very good performer, not great or special.  Just very good all around.  I don't think it gets nasal at all, but thats my opinion. Michael Buble and Seth MacFarlane sound fantastic.  I admit defeat in that same track I mentioned earlier, Ms Dynamites - Fire as her vocals were recorded in a broad and upfront way, the L1 sounds so good with it I am just not sure what else to say.  If there were peaks in the FR, I didn't hear anything, if anything is wrong with the frequency response, its not audible to me in the slightest.

Edited by swbf2cheater - 4/5/12 at 11:36pm
post #10 of 22
Originally Posted by swbf2cheater View Post

Gods honest RPGWiz, I've not a clue what the hell any of that meant haha.  If you can actually hear peaks between such a small frequency range, you are Jesus incarnate and I want to meet you in person.  

5dB is a huge variance! :P Nothing hard to spot for trained ears, I've kept EQing on almost a daily matter for matter of years, listening to even 0.5 - 1dB difference changes, so if there's a 5dB peak in 1 - 2kHz range I'll most likely notice it at least, for me for it to become an "issue" I think it has to be maybe 4~5dB bump minimum before I think it starts sounding very noticably shouty/nasal sounding compared to if it was neutral though. I do like forward midrange personally along with boosted bass but it's hard to get both very bassy (minimum L1 standards, probably very slightly more wouldn't hurt to me) and very in-your-face mids (ZX700 probably).


M-Audio Q40 has the perfect bass response for me, the mids are neutral and there I'd gladly take slightly more forward mids, probably like ZX700 (might have to try those at some point).

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 4/5/12 at 11:39pm
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 

If you can spot something in that range with your naked ear, thats pretty insane ( in a bad way ), but then again its important to know some early models of the L1 had lots of problems.  Users did report as you said, some bass distortion and upper mid "peaks".  I near nothing they reported, then again mine is brand new and some of those reports could have definitely been from months in the past, some type of pre batch or first batch with some problems that were fixed.


If there were 5db differences in that small of a range, I would definitely pick that up and report it, however I hear nothing but smooth sound all around.  Tell Tyll to send me all of his testing gear for free and I'll get to testing my L1 right away and report back after I resell the gear for a profit.

Edited by swbf2cheater - 4/5/12 at 11:42pm
post #12 of 22
Originally Posted by swbf2cheater View Post

I didn't mention Db levels, I was speaking of the 1-2khz range, if you can spot something in that range with your naked ear, thats pretty insane

I know what 1-2kHz sounds like while listening to music if that's what you mean. Like I said, years of EQ experience has learnt me this. That's how it works these days, I listen to a headphone and then tell yea it needs a bump or decrease roughly in this area before even starting to move the sliders. xD


EDIT: of course it could be a unit variance or maybe it has been even modified later on, maybe you got a really nice sample! :)

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 4/5/12 at 11:44pm
post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 

Yoda said it best 


" You must unlearn what you have learned."  Get back to the music bro, stop worrying about the FR or Dbz, CBs, STDs and GEDs.  Life is too short to care about that stuff :)

post #14 of 22


 dont think its a peak but rather its recessed on the 500hz to about 1khz, but either way if they sound good its awesome because its not everyday we get a handsome can as this that also sounds good ;). I ve been interested in these cans for sometime but not enough impressions for me to confirm on the purchase. Thanks swbf2cheater, also bro would you mind comparing them to other cans that you have demo'd or listened to besides the zx700 and HE-300 

post #15 of 22

Zulkr9, I wouldn't see it as such, you are forgetting frequency response balance is all about balance, you can't compare the frequency response of a headphone versus a "straight" line on a graph. What you have to take into account is the headphone's "average frequency amplitude", which looks a bit more like the limegreen line drawn here:


(click to zoom)

l1 graph.png


That this line for this headphone is sloping downwards is also showing the slight warmth this headphone is described as. It's against this drawn line which should be compared what's concidered a bump or decrease. It shows roughly 6dB boost in bass or so around 50~100Hz area at least (now we're talking roughly Denon D2000/D5000 quantities) and I personally concider ~5dB boost roughly what could be concidered "entry-level" basshead cans and it has 5dB peak in the upper mids. Tyll's measurements were analyzed by a person very thoroughly and it's been confirmed the 3.5kHz area and above is quite inaccurate as the positioning of the headphone and the seal has a lot of impact on this area, while the 10 - 3.5kHz area barely moves at all despite not quite optimal seal/positioning on the dummy head. So the valley at 3.5kHz - 7kHz in this case for example is most likely quite neutral and not as recessed as this graph would show (about 50% of his graphs shows similar dip there) as well as above 10kHz, this area is most often also a bit below the "truth" in his measurements while the peaks around 8~10kHz are usually quite accurate.

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 4/6/12 at 12:42am
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