Sorry about the previously misleading thread title... Changed it. - Hey, what's that strange thread title all about?
Well, I better come out of the closet right away - when first listening to the B&W P7 I was mind blown about how good they looked, felt and sounded. Also totally depressed - there's no way I could spend that much money on a single pair of headphones. Commence operation: find cheap alternative! With a budget of about $100 I set out to find something similar to the P7's, nothing overlooked: awesome looks, build quality and sound quality - I will not be denied! A man can dream, right?
Philips Citiscape Frames (SHL5705BK)
Snapped a picture of my pair. Background, Swedish winter.
Can you spot any polar bears?
The Frames are one of the newest additions to the Citiscape line-up, residing somewhere between the Downtowns and the Uptowns (at least according to the model number) and sharing the same drivers. According to Philips, the design is heavily inspired by fashion sunglasses, the tortoiseshell plastics (see above) as well as the folding mechanism. Price: about $100
- How do they sound? - How do they feel?
I have no idea, whatsoever! They are on their way this very minute, and should arrive sometime in the afternoon. Guess what, I'm excited!
Given the recent success of other Citiscape headphones, I have high hopes, and Philips' designers seem to have given this a bit extra thought: folding mechanism, detachable, clothed cable, carrying pouch....
Has anyone else seen or tried these? Impressions?
Review (updated on 3/3)
OK, here’s a quick review for you. My first one, and I‘m not a native English speaker, so please bear with me.
The Frames come in a really nice all black gift box, with only “Frames Citiscape” written on top (after removing an outer sleeve). No evident sign on the box that these cans are made by Philips, which I guess is part of the fashion statement. Opening the box reveals the headphones tucked in a pretty nice microfiberish carrying pouch – not really exclusive, but not too shabby either.
Enough about the box and on to the headphones. I actually received the all black model, the seller got the product numbers mixed up. The differences, as far as I can tell from pictures, are that the black model has black plastics for the frame instead of tortoiseshell brown, and the padding on top wrapped in black denim rather than faux(?) leather. I’d say the looks are pretty bland, if not cheap. Certainly doesn’t look expensive, but on the other hand doesn’t look like they’re trying to be something they’re not, if that makes sense. No one would stop you on the street in awe of your cool and trendy cans – in short: they look pretty anonymous.
Details I do like though: denim headband is nice touch, all wires covered in fabric, somewhat discreet Philips branding.
After bashing the looks a bit, you might think that these cans feel cheap – well, they do not. The plastic material seems to be high quality with a reassuring solid and springy feel. The hinges are made of metal and feels sturdy (but as we all know the combination of metal and plastics can cause problems in the long run). They fold nicely
The padding on the earcups is really nice and soft, contrary to the headband where there is actually just a little bit of padding (maybe 6-8 cm) right on top, inside the headband, that is really stiff and doesn’t add much to the comfort at all. This, I would say, is my biggest disappointment with the Frames. The top of my head where the headband was resting was actually hurting (if only just a little bit) after my first few hours of listening. Not something I’ve experienced on any headphones earlier, cheap or expensive. I was really surprised by this since the headphones are pretty light.
Anyway, back to the ear pads. They are completely different. As I said, very soft, doesn’t cause any trouble even during extended listening and isolates really well. Overall I was impressed with the isolation the Frames provide. The fire alarm went off during my first listening session and I didn’t even notice it right away (true story!), good or bad, you decide. The drawback of the isolation is that heat builds up rather quickly – your ears will get warm.
Sound (Source: PC, 320 kbps MP3 -> SMSL Fort DAC/amp)
Speaking of warm, that is how I would describe the sound coming out of the Frames. They’ve got a really nice extended and punchy bass for their size. Probably too much for some who are looking for a neutral signature. Bass is definitely the focus on these headphones (but not in a Beats way) at the cost of mids and highs. There is nothing particularly missing in the rest of the spectrum, but it’s just not very pronounced. Overall, they are definitely tuned to be “consumer friendly”. Not the nearly best I’ve heard in terms of definition, clarity or soundstage, but they do provide a really pleasant and fun listening experience, very forgiving of less than ideal productions and one of the least fatiguing cans I’ve tried. I haven’t heard the Philips Citiscape Uptowns, but after reading a lot about how people describe them I’d guess they have a very similar sound, just a different form factor. They also share the exact same drivers as the Uptowns, rev. 2.
Just a few examples of pop songs played through these, and how I experience them.
AC/DC – Highway to Hell (Live): often play this song to detect harshness in the sound. Well, there is no harshness at all! Just a good, fun, punchy, rock’n’roll listen.
Vangelis - Conquest of Paradise: looking for a bit of bass impact in this song and the Frames do deliver. There are better cans, but for price and size, nothing to complain about.
EST – The Wraith: complex piece of music, with much going on. With headphones I don’t like this song gives me a headache, with headphones I do like, my feet get moving. The latter happened with the Frames. :)
Kenny Rankin – ‘Round midnight: a guy and a bass, great recording and test of vocals. There’s a great warmth over Kenny’s voice and he seems almost eerily present.
For a fun, non-analytical listen on the run, there’s not much to complain about the Philips Citiscape Frames. Looking for neutral or analytical headphones, move along.
One last comment
Not sure if I will keep these. They are nice, but also made me realize I really prefer over ear headphones. I also found a great deal on a pair of Philips Fidelio L1’s which seem to have a somewhat similar sound signature but at the same time a major step up in terms of sound, looks and build quality. The true poor-man’s P7?
Edited by comrade_ix - 3/3/14 at 3:43am