Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
A superb headphone for lovers of great sound, comfort, quality materials and excellent construction
on 11 June 2014
I have recently spent a great deal of time trying to get the best pair of headphones I can for under £200. After extensive research I went through the following headphones before settling on the Philips Fidelio L1 headphones. You may find some of my comments useful regarding how the other headphones fared:
Philips Fidelio X1 - Absolutely superb sounding headphones! Build quality is incredible for the price. They made my music sound great and I have very eclectic taste. It was with huge regret that I sent them back due to the non-replaceable velour pads being too itchy for me. I tried over a number of days to get used to them but to no avail. I'd buy them again in a heartbeat if they had softer material for the earpads, such as that used by Beyerdynamic. To anyone who may not have sensitive skin like me, these should DEFINITELY be on your check list! Note: these are considered to be a dark headphone (one that has less treble presence than a strictly flat headphone). This is an evaluation I would agree with.
Audio Technica AT-M50X - A very good sounding headphone with tremendous detail and superb bass reproduction. Their presentation was very different to that offered by the Fidelio X1 and is a much more forward, brighter sound. Bass goes surprisingly low on these things given their 40mm driver. I played some dubstep and was truly wowed by the quality of bass produced. Their closed-back design clearly aided this bass performance and the sound they produced was also more immediate due to the closed back design. However, it became clear to me after extensive listening that I prefer the more open sound offered by open-back or semi open-back designs. I thought they were very well designed and made and had a nice studio headphone look to them. However, a slightly sibilant treble and smallish opening to the earpads that squashed the edges of my ears causing pain ended the deal. A pity, as generally they were very good.
Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium (250 Ohm version) - Got these brand new for well below the £300 mark you see elsewhere. Generally well made but well short of the quality of the Fidelio X1 headphones. Despite being very comfortable to wear the sound was totally disappointing to me and despite giving them a few days to burn in the sound was just too thin and lifeless. I also found the bass reproduction to be too insufficient for my taste. These headphones are loved by others but they were the worst sounding of the headphones I tried.
Philips Fidelio L2 - Stylish looking headphones which were extremely comfortable. The quality of the construction was very high and similar to that offered by the Fidelio X1. I'd have been happy to keep these but unfortunately the treble had a quality to it I just didn't like, despite the rest of the sound being very satisfying to my ears. As with all the headphones I tried they were given plenty of time to burn in.
Now that I have presented my impressions of the aforementioned headphones I'll explain why I like the Fidelio L1 headphones so much. First and foremost, the sound quality is just perfect for me (well almost!). The moment I put them on and played some music they sounded great. The sound was natural and unforced. Nothing was overemphasised and the high end had a lovely smooth sound to it, similar in many ways to that offered by the Fidelio X1. I guess the L1 could also be considered a dark headphone on account of this. I spent hours listening carefully for anything that may have dispelled these initial impressions and I'm still waiting after two weeks of ownership and countless hours of listening. With regards to why the sound isn't truly perfect, well, I was somewhat spoilt by the Fidelio X1, which for me is the best of the bunch. The X1 has a touch more sub-bass (approximately 60Hz and below) than the L1 which is hardly surprising given its larger driver. But as I mentioned earlier, the X1 earpads were just too itchy for me.
With regard to build quality, the Fidelio L1 is exceptionally well made and ranks alongside the X1 in this respect. There are many elements made from aluminium including the outer earcups, the gimbals surrounding the earcups and parts of the headband. The inner part of the headband is made out of brushed steel and features what appears to be laser etched details such as precise markings to aid headphone adjustment and the edition number of your headphone. A nice thick strip of brown real leather adorns the top of the headband and the underside features soft padded pleather (a plastic leather substitute). The earpads are incredibly comfortable and feature memory foam inside an outer skin of pleather that is of different quality to that on the underside of the headband and is beautifully smooth and soft. I can wear these headphones for hours with no discomfort whatsoever. The one drawback of the earpads is that like those on the X1 and L2 headphones, they are non-replaceable, which to me is one hell of an oversight. A pity. Having said that, from the looks of things these should last for years as the pleather is a cut above the stuff usually present on earpads.
A quick note about the audio equipment I use at home when listening through headphones. Aside from a variety of analogue and digital sources, my CD player (which I used for the majority of testing) is a Marantz CD63 MkII KI Signature which I run through either a Yamaha AX-596 stereo amplifier or a Beresford TC-7510 DAC/headphone amplifier. The Fidelio L1 headphones at 26 Ohm impedance are very easy to drive and sound great when rigged up to my hi-fi, my Sony MP3 player or my Moto G mobile phone.
To summarize: these are a truly great headphones and I would have been quite happy to pay £200 for them in the knowledge that there probably isn't anything out there to equal them for the sound quality they offer and their incredibly high build quality, apart from the Fidelio X1 of course! The current price of around £100 is bordering on the ridiculous and anyone looking for a seriously good sounding headphone with great build quality to match should certainly check these beauties out.
Philips, I salute you!
UPDATE (21/12/14): I recently had the chance to spend a considerable amount of time comparing the Fidelio L1s with a pair of Sennheiser HD650s. I preferred the Fidelio L1s. My review of the Sennheiser HD650s is also on Amazon and includes my comparison with the Fidelio L1s. I'm still loving the headphones by the way. I've got some Miles Davis on at the moment as it sounds sumptuous!