Belgium and Berlin

I never saw it coming. A few weeks ago an email from Philips popped up in my mailbox, and while I expected a press release document for a new headphone product, it instead was an invitation to their Sound Lab facility in Leuven, Belgium, for a sneak preview of the new Philips Fidelio L2 and an M1 Bluetooth headphone, and then to IFA in Berlin. Who wouldn’t be excited? Lieven who happens to live just 20 minutes from Philips’ facility in Belgium may not think this is a big deal, but for someone like me, this is HUGEEE!!!!

philips-soundlab

The trip is next week and despite some obstacles in obtaining a Visa, I’m all set and ready for the trip next week. I don’t like traveling with lots of bulk so I’ll be mostly taking portable gear. I’m definitely bringing in an Altmann Tera for the trip. Maybe a modded Astell & Kern and an IE800 as well (the two pairs extremely well). I’m bringing a JDSLabs C421 for Lieven (Europe post lost his) and I’ll bring ALO’s international just so I have an amp if I need to use one. Other than that, a pocket Fujifilm X100 camera, my Samsung smartphone, and the MacBoook Air laptop. I’m having second thoughts if I should bring my Canon DSLR with a zoom lens (the Fuji comes with a fixed 35mm-equivalent lens) but I really don’t want to be carrying 3KG worth of camera gear not to mention the risk of getting it stolen.

I’ll be flying in Monday evening and arriving in Belgium the next day. It’ll be my first time meeting Lieven in person (yeah we never met!) as well as headphone celebrities like Tyll and Jude.

I feel nervous and anxious. The pressure of being put in the same room with all these Europeans and guys like Tyll and Jude. I probably would’ve been more relaxed in meeting with somebody like President Obama as I would’ve been just an ordinary Asian guy with nothing to be worried about. Not this trip, I imagine it would be a “he’s that guy from Indonesia running that headphone blog and we’ll see if he really knows anything about headphones” kind of a situation. Lol dang I am so dead.

Well, at least I get to meet L.

 

Belgium and Berlin
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92 Comments

  • Reply August 31, 2013

    George Lai

    I know you will do us Asians proud. But with packing so much hardware, please don’t forget to pack any clothes!

    • Reply August 31, 2013

      L.

      I’ll take good care of him 😉

      • Reply August 31, 2013

        Mike

        Borrow your clothes you mean? 😉

        • Reply September 2, 2013

          Fabio_Rocks

          This conversation is turning very gay! ahhahaah

    • Reply August 31, 2013

      Mike

      Haha thanks George.

  • Reply August 31, 2013

    Carl A

    Hope you have a cool time.
    P.s. Any chance of a write-up on the VK-1 before you go?!

    • Reply August 31, 2013

      L.

      I doubt it.

    • Reply August 31, 2013

      Mike

      I have done the write up. Finished the draft, just a little tweaks before publishing.

      • Reply September 1, 2013

        Carl A

        Almost looking forward to your photos of them as much as reading your thoughts!
        Well, perhaps not, but a large part of their appeal is undoubtably their looks.
        I’m getting close to deciding which to buy as a second ‘serious’ ‘phone, and it looks like it’s going to be between the VK-1, the B&O H6 and, based on your recent brief admiration in the comments section, the M100.
        Unfortunately, where I am, I don’t have the chance to personally listen to either the VK-1 or the M100.
        I felt sufficiently confident after reading your joint review of the Denon’s however to order the D600, and I am still loving them(sometimes however I just feel like I don’t want these huge, lop-sided things stuck on my head. And a nicely-different sound signature appeals as well of course) So I won’t be overly concerned about possibly making a decision based to a degree on a Headfonia review.
        Looking forward to the VK piece.

        • Reply September 2, 2013

          Mike

          Yes though they plan to release an improved model which I strongly suspect will improve the fit. At the moment the fit isn’t terrible but it’s not that great either. 7/10 on the fit.

        • Reply September 2, 2013

          dalethorn

          I wonder about that VK-1. The headband looks an awful lot like the Molami Pleat headphone that Apple stocks and was advertised here and there for women. I never found a real review on the Molami’s either.

          • Reply September 2, 2013

            Mike

            Looking at the images of the Molami Pleat, the VK-1 is very different. However it’s not the most comfortable headband. I hope they improved it on the next revision.

  • Reply August 31, 2013

    dalethorn

    I thought Philips sold their headphone and consumer electronics to another company who is licensing the Philips name. So what gives here?.

    • Reply August 31, 2013

      Mike

      I really am not aware of that deal.

      • Reply August 31, 2013

        dalethorn

        Here’s a link – there are a thousand on Google – Philips sold the items to Funai including headphones, and Funai will continue to use the Philips label. That’s why I’m curious about Philips hosting an event.

        http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2013/01/29/philips-sells-consumer-business-to-japans-funai/

        • Reply September 2, 2013

          Mike

          Thanks.

          According to CNN Money:

          “Funai will also pay a license fee for the brand.

          Part of the deal will close later this year but the video business won’t transfer until the end of 2017, due to existing intellectual property licenses.”
          So I would imagine that a lot of the business activities would continue as normal.

          • Reply September 2, 2013

            dalethorn

            Thanks Mike – that’s good to hear. Maybe when you meet you can clear up some confusion about the L1/00 versus L1/28 models and what some users are reporting as widely varying sounds of the same model (L1 or X1).

            • Reply September 2, 2013

              Mike

              Alright will ask them about that.

          • Reply September 2, 2013

            L.

            Yes they said the consumers wouldn’t notice anything and they would keep investing in headphones

  • Reply September 1, 2013

    Mark Ferrosa

    I’m disappointed with Fidelio X1: Grainy and annoying treble roll off. I want full sound, bass, mids and treble. Please Mike and Lieven, tell them about this.

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      L.

      hahaha, We’ll give them your name 😉

      • Reply September 2, 2013

        Mark Ferrosa

        No problem, thanks!
        😀

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      Mike

      Alright Mark. The X1 and the L1 shouldn’t have any treble roll off. The X1 is a bit grainy though not more than the HD650 and the L1 is extremely clean and free of any grain.
      But these days, I’m even witnessing production variations from Sennheiser so who knows.

      • Reply September 2, 2013

        Mark Ferrosa

        Maybe it’s because Funai is producing the fidelios now. I would like to know why fidelios were X1 00 and now they are X1 28. Anyway, have a nice trip Mike.

        • Reply September 2, 2013

          Mike

          Will definitely ask Mark.

          • Reply September 3, 2013

            Mark Ferrosa

            Ok, thanks!
            🙂

      • Reply September 2, 2013

        L.

        A friend of mine who came over and listened to my HD650 said his sounded very different and a lot darker, and that’s sennheiser…

        • Reply September 2, 2013

          Mike

          His amp sucks that’s why the HD650 is dark. 😉

      • Reply September 2, 2013

        dalethorn

        Someone told me the MOE has thin bass, so I compared the deep bass to the M100 and it’s comparable. So, between the fit and any variances, there you are.

  • Reply September 1, 2013

    Angga Pratama

    Woow IFA!? so envy man. Waiting for some picture and report mike. Just wondering is there any major launch for headphones beside philips?

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      L.

      Hifiman has a launch

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      Mike

      The Momentum On Ear, I suppose. Maybe there are others too.

      • Reply September 2, 2013

        dalethorn

        I am really liking the MOE, much more than the first week. The bass is very extended and has good detail, and although the highs are recessed, it’s smooth enough to fix up easily.

  • Reply September 2, 2013

    dalethorn

    Just pick up a couple boxes of donuts for Tyll and Jude. That should make them happy.

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      Mike

      I brought some food and coffee from Indonesia but not for Tyll and Jude.

  • Reply September 2, 2013

    Audi Ar

    Hmm Day 3 , Evening Outing party with Armin Van buuren
    On My Mind = PARTY HARDDDD

    • Reply September 2, 2013

      Mike

      LOL I was wondering about that too.

      • Reply September 2, 2013

        Audi Ar

        Mike can you selfie with lieven when meet up ?
        Lol

        • Reply September 3, 2013

          Mike

          Oh not with Lieven

          • Reply September 3, 2013

            L.

            We’re too different in length, it wouldn’t work 😉

        • Reply September 5, 2013

          L.

          You will get to see pics of us, and with the other guys too

  • Reply September 2, 2013

    Steven

    Jude is pretty cool to meet, he looks just like in the photos and YouTube videos 😀

    • Reply September 3, 2013

      L.

      He has to like us too 😉

    • Reply September 5, 2013

      Mike

      Yeah we just had a really nice dinner with Jude and Tyll, Lieven, and the Philips team. Very nice and friendly crowd.

  • Reply September 3, 2013

    Burju

    Oh the fun Mike and Lieven will have, Belgium…..I think Mike should go North first, Amsterdam, then go east to Berlin. Mike’s trip should be BelgiumBelandaBerlin………..Enjoy the trip Mike, cheers with my Stella Artois raised up……

    • Reply September 5, 2013

      Mike

      Thank you, Burju. Had a few different beer here. Lieven gave me a really good one and at the Brussel airport me and Tyll had this Hoegarden in a humongous glass it was crazy. Never had beer with that size glass before.

      • Reply September 5, 2013

        L.

        The airport Hoegaerden is crazy right? love it!

        • Reply September 5, 2013

          Mike

          Yeah, what was the thing you gave me though? I liked that better.

          • Reply September 5, 2013

            L.

            Duvel!! “Duvel, seriously Belgian beer” Remember?

  • Reply September 4, 2013

    John123John

    Dude this is so awesome.Getting that Headfonia name of the map! Although not that it wasn’t already, speaking of the Sennheiser, Fiio, ALO and Burson loving you haha.

    Still, to be selected with Jude and Tyll; so awesome. Sticking with this review site was a good idea on my part 🙂
    Congrats!

    • Reply September 4, 2013

      Mike

      Yeah I think we feel honored to be included in this crowd of headphone celebrities.

      Thanks will try to upload some photos but schedule has been tight!

      • Reply September 8, 2013

        Steven

        You are talked about on the online forums too Mike! :p

  • Reply September 4, 2013

    Mike

    So we had a nice dinner last night with the Philips team, me, Lieven, Jude and Tyll.

    Tyll was being the typical laid-back american with his worn out Can Jam t-shirt even while we were eating at this fancy restaurant in Belgium. 😉 Being the headphone enthusiasts that we are, we talked a lot about well, headphones and driver design last night at dinner. Some part of the discussion had to be continued for this morning when Philips will show them how they develop their headphones and drivers. The question popped by Tyll last night to the Philips driver designer was “do you believe in burn-in?”. Interesting discussion from there.

    Afterwards we had a walk to the hotel while checking out the local scene. Leuven is a college town and there was a big college student crowd hanging out at the local restaurants and bars. Jude brought a big Nikon DSLR and took pictures of the nice town. I brought a small Fujifilm X100 camera for this trip.

    Weather is very nice yesterday and today. Sunny and cool ~25 degrees. Going to Philips’ facility in about 1 minute! GAH GOTTA RUN!

    • Reply September 4, 2013

      George Lai

      Lieven in Leuven! What are the odds?

      • Reply September 4, 2013

        L.

        I suppose that sounds funny to a non dutch guy 😉

        • Reply September 4, 2013

          George Lai

          Yup. Chinese humor.

      • Reply September 5, 2013

        Mike

        I always wanted to say that.

    • Reply September 4, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Awesome! I hope you guys are having a great time!

      • Reply September 4, 2013

        L.

        We are. today is finished, had a great time at the Philips site.

    • Reply September 4, 2013

      dalethorn

      You got the better photos with that X100. BTW, stay independent. Collaborations with other similar businesses can look really beneficial sometimes, but the downsides are many.

      • Reply September 5, 2013

        Lieven_V

        Wth are you talking about? 😀

        • Reply September 5, 2013

          dalethorn

          Influence can be free, especially when you seek information anonymously on the Internet. Direct influence from manufacturers is not much different than accepting ads or product samples, so no change there. Collaboration with other larger headphone sites is where influence can be a problem in my view, because your unique style and resources sets you apart and makes you valuable. I think most users come here for the unique reviews you offer that are much different from those other sites. Those other sites are hugely influential in terms of their number of users or members, but far less influential in terms of their content. I’d hate to see this site compromised by any collaboration with those sites, since they have a huge incentive to do just that. It’s really no different from Microsoft or Pepsi buying up competitors, or finding other ways to lessen their influence in the marketplace. It’s all very natural marketplace action – no mysteries how these things work.

          • Reply September 5, 2013

            L.

            I still have no idea what you’re talking about. We just happened to be invited together with those guys

            • Reply September 5, 2013

              dalethorn

              I also have had interactions and collaboration with those guys, so I’m just offering some insight from personal experience.

              • Reply September 6, 2013

                John123John

                1 BILLIONS DOLLARS!
                bwahaha.

                • Reply September 6, 2013

                  dalethorn

                  They never offer that much. They study you, learn your finances, then they consult their bean counters to get just the right amount to make their target suffer anxiety and sleep loss. Then after softening up their victim, er I mean the company they’re buying, they close the deal. A guy named Rudolph Wanderone (a.k.a. Minnesota Fats) cleaned out the world billiards champ in Atlantic City circa 1959-1960 using that same technique. World’s greatest pool player – Minnesota Fats.

              • Reply September 7, 2013

                Ken Stuart

                But you’ll never be happy from business anyway. You can be happy while you are doing business, but not from the doing of business.

    • Reply September 5, 2013

      Ken Stuart

      At some point, you have to tell us what the Phillips driver designer had to say about burn-in !

      • Reply September 5, 2013

        Mike

        Well there were two engineers and none of them can see what would cause the phenomenon of the burn in from the driver’s perspective.

        Tyll mentioned he had done tests that span the period of 300 hours and that there were differences recorded.

        My response to the whole situation was that (and I’ve always believed that it’s more about the pads), Tyll didn’t have any method of compensating for pad compression (after 300 hours those pads would’ve deformed somehow) hence it’s probably just the pads bringing the drivers closer to the ears that’s making the difference. We all know headphones with worn out pads (say a few years old) sound very different.

        • Reply September 5, 2013

          Ken Stuart

          Thanks!
          PS When I was in Berlin, they had the best beer ever ! (And giant glasses). Looking forward to hear about the mysterious HiFiMan announcement. (Did Jude mention the Alpha Dog ?)

          • Reply September 5, 2013

            Mike

            Yeah I’m sure I won’t have any trouble finding beer in Berlin.

          • Reply September 5, 2013

            Lieven_V

            I think they were just talking about their contest. No new product

        • Reply September 5, 2013

          George Lai

          The pads effect seems more logical. Also just like our feet swell during the day, maybe our heads too? I don’t know.

        • Reply September 6, 2013

          John123John

          1 point for Headfonia!
          woohoo!

          • Reply September 7, 2013

            Mike

            Huh? Nah it’s not like that.

        • Reply September 7, 2013

          stacksonstacks

          How about some glass pads or no pads at all? Screw the headphones, you just wanna test if the drivers themselves change.

          • Reply September 7, 2013

            Mike

            Well glass pads or no pads would change the sound but if only for measuring the effect of burn in then that would work.

  • Reply September 4, 2013

    L.

    I just got back from a day at the Philips iLab. Mike, Jude and Tyll are now on the way to IFA in Berlin, I’m not going there myself.

    Today was incredibly interesting but of course you will read all about it later in a post about this trip. How are headphones made at Philips, what is being measured, how do they deal with comfort, etc etc etc. VERY interesting. And last but not least we got to see and try the new L2 headphone and the new Bluetooth model that will be revealed at IFA in Berlin tomorrow. Very nice!!

    Pics will follow when Mike is back he took all the shots. It was very nice to meet Jude and Tyll, and of course especially Mike.

    • Reply September 4, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Glad you had fun!

    • Reply September 5, 2013

      Mike

      I can’t wait to pour everything I learned at the Philips iLab today into an article. In fact my mind just wanted to start writing right now but I think I have to sort of organize my thoughts first for this one because it was a HUGE session. And we’re talking HUGE informative session not just a typical manufacturer trying to sell their headphones to journalists kind of a session.

      We got to see a lot of the things that went behind the development and some of the points I got was:
      1. I nodded my head many times when hearing the way Philips is doing their product development (including doing the consumer research etc). I would’ve done it the same way and I think their development method are spot on.
      2. The amount of tests that go into designing a good performance driver is CRAZY. I mean we all know it’s not going to be simple, but I didn’t imagine it was going to be that COMPLEX. WHOA!
      3. For a company that usually makes sub $100 headphones, I would say that the Fidelio models were extremely good for a first-time entry model to the $300 bracket. The new L2 is even an improvement, although maybe not personally my favorite headphone, but it’s really a big improvement from the L1 and judging from the how the Philips iLab guys are doing their development, I would imagine even stronger products from Philips in the future.

      Lastly it’s great to finally be able to meet guys like Tyll and Jude and to discover how friendly they are in person.

  • Reply September 6, 2013

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Philips may not build my favorite headphones (Fostex and Luis does that), but they certainly are my favorite headphone company! They have married good looks, great sound at a pricepoint that should make other companies very afraid.

    Too bad I can’t make it to CJ as I’d very much like to meet the heads behind Headfonia! Also the QRV-08 amp I just built is something you totally need to hear. It is just the thing to dispel Mike’s reservations about smd parts, haha!

    Have a good one!

    • Reply September 6, 2013

      dalethorn

      I paid $250 for a Philips M1 that had such a severe treble recess I tossed it. Before making that mistake, I contacted Kevin on Philips’ Facebook page and asked him in advance about the M1 tuning, and why it was deayed 4 months in the U.S. compared to Europe. While he answered prior questions and other questions, he refused to address any M1 questions. I was left with a very bad impression of Philips, and receiving the M1, confirmation of why.

      • Reply September 6, 2013

        L.

        I only listened to the BT version for like 2 minutes, I still need to get the sample

    • Reply September 7, 2013

      Mike

      Too bad you can’t make it to Can Jam Europe but I won’t be there either. Only Lieven.

    • Reply September 9, 2013

      Mike

      Hahah! What is this amp you’re talking about?

      • Reply September 9, 2013

        Rūdolfs Putniņš

        http://sjostromaudio.com/pages/index.php/hifi-projects/129-qrv08-headphone-amp

        There’s very scarce info on the design as the guy who designed it is pretty protective about his creations.

        The amp consists of four shunt regulated power supplies that drive the amplification stage. The amp stage is unusual as it employs current based negative feedback, other than that the topology is quite similar to a diamond buffer (one for input and one for output per channel). DC is regulated by a servo circuit.

        It is quite a feat that Per-Anders has managed to squeeze it all on a 124x204mm board which houses over 300 parts. The amp is insanely fast for a discrete design with theoretical bandwidth over 25MHz. This should provide excellent square wave geometry.

        As for the sound – there isn’t much to say. The first thing that comes to mind is extreme transparency. That said the bass isn’t lean and mids maintain musicality which are the usual sins of overly analytical designs. Treble is extremely extended and detailed but without any tendency to produce sibilance. Unless there is some in the record…

        The board can be populated for 250 – 350$ but there’s a catch – it’s around 800 pads to solder and not mess up. I had one short and two unsoldered pads in the PSU section (which takes up 2/3rds of the PCB) which didn’t do any permanent damage and were easy to troubleshoot if you know how the LEDs should shine and how fast they should go dark after powering down. The amp stage was a breeze to solder and total soldering time was about 7 hours.

        So yeah – If anyone is looking for a challenge – be sure to check this one out. The sound is very worth it.

        I will try to do small review of the amp because the design is noteworthy and in my opinion very underrated.

  • Reply September 7, 2013

    Mike

    Someone asked about the Philips L1/00 and L1/28. It’s purely a product code for different regions.

    One of the reason is packaging reasons like having UPC instead of EAN code, language on the spec sheets, etc.

    The second reason is manufacturer’s are putting more effort to track their products so if say someone sells an L1 for $100 they would know which dealer or distributor that’s coming from.

    • Reply September 7, 2013

      L.

      And if I remember correctly, /28 was USA 😀

  • Reply September 14, 2013

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