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Philips Downtown review
on 22 May 2012
I can't remember the last time I owned a decent Philips product, or even read a good review of one, which is a shame as they used to make decent kit. The brand itself is not synonymous with quality headphones and I have always used Sennheiser myself, my main pair being HD 595s which cost twice as much as this pair from Philips.
The grey is the easiest on the eye of the 3 colours, I couldn't see myself in the very striking pink but the design is nice. Although not immediately obvious from initially looking at the pictures, the metal headband is covered in a soft, also grey fabric which follows under but is not attached to the headband. This provides a decent level of cushioning to the top of the head so that the metal is not harshly pressing against your hair or head - always a plus. The earpads are designed to sit on your ear, rather than around them and are nice and soft. I am slightly worried however that with use these will start to look grubby due to the colour, time will tell. Because the pads sit nicely on your ears, they also manage to block out most of background noise and allow you to concentrate solely on the music. Whilst this is always tricky and possibly dangerous in busy traffic situations for example, it is always a blessing to block out the noisy roadworks or even that annoying family member (we all have them right?)
The flat anti tangle cord is why I love these headphones so much, and it is just the right length to reach from my pocket to my head with the in-cord microphone hanging just below my chin. The cord is 1.2m long, so these are not intended for use with TV unless you have an extension handy. Judging by the advertising material by Philips and the name 'Downtown' these are ideal for use outdoors therefore a long cord isn't necessary - for me the length is perfect. They also include a short 5 or so cm extension cable which converts the 'L' shaped jack to a straight 3.5mm connector, similar to those on Apple headphones. Interestingly Philips claim this is to use with Nokia, Samsung etc. I'm not sure why, as the L shaped jack should work fine with those devices including the microphone as they both have the 3 rings necessary. If however you have an iPod or iPad with a recessed headphone socket, the adapter may come in handy to ensure a better fit, as featured on Apple headphones. I'd go with whatever you feel comfortable with, functionality remains the same whichever method of connection you use.
The microphone has only one button which serves as an Play/Pause toggle and call answer/end on my iPhone. Although the microphone is big enough to accomodate them, Philips have decided not to include a volume rocker, which is a shame. Some users report that the single button can also control volume. I was unable to do this on my iPhone and it seemed too much effort (how can one button control both up and down functions?) Perhaps you could be more successful than I was on a different device, I was only able to test with my iPhone. On the subject of the microphone, it works well and is a nice addition to these headphones. Again, it is apparent that Philips have thought about their intended use with mobile phones and it can be a real pain when someone calls mid-listen and you have to take the headphones off to raise the phone to your ear.
On to the sound quality, and the Philips' certainly don't disappoint. Considering the price and ideal target market the sound is very good - a definite improvement on any in ear buds and much better than cheaper and flimsier over ear designs. The bass is there but it isn't overly boomy - this is bound to disappoint bass heads undoubtedly but I was a fan of the overall 'natural' sound these Philips provide as the mid range and highs were clear, and vocals really stood out in the music. The key here is that these headphones are not suited to or biased towards a particular genre of music - they simply deliver clear, loud and precise sound quality to pretty much anything without you becoming fatigued or underwhelmed with the sound. They feature an impressive frequency response of 18k-22000k, which is nice to see such a cheap pair of phones venture out of the usual 20-20 band you see on many in ear designs.
When I first placed these headphones on my large head, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and soft they felt. The headband is adjustable and takes a little playing to get it right, but once done the headphones sit wonderfully on the head....for about an hour. As far as long term comfort goes this is where the headphones fell down for me and essentially why I had to make this a 4 star review. After a relatively short period of time, my ears started to feel sweaty when wearing this headphones. I think this may be down to the material of the earpads. Whilst not massively uncomfortable,I did find I needed to keep lifting them off my ears at regular intervals in order to allow my ears to 'breathe' Besides this small niggle. the headphones are generally comfortable to wear and caused me no major problems.
I hope this review has been somewhat helpful, I've certainly enjoyed listening to these headphones as a companion for my iPhone. For serious and long period listening I shall always revert to my main HD 595s but for use with my iPhone they are well suited as they are really easy to drive and give plenty of volume output. Besides the small comfort issue which may or may not affect you I can highly recommend these headphones on the merit of their cool design, excellent sound quality and well thought out cable design and in-cord microphone. The comfort issue makes this a 4 star rating. Happy listening.