Philips Fidelio L1

philips_fidelio_17

The Fidelio L1 headphone was designed to be Phillip’s entry to the premium headphone market. Both in terms of build quality and sound, the L1 is supposed to be far ahead from the typical consumer-grade Philips headphone.

Build Quality

Holding the Philips Fidelio L1 on my hands, it’s clear that the build quality is going to be a benchmark in this price bracket. The materials and build quality is among the best I’ve seen. The build quality is so good that I’m immediately thinking of comparing the L1 to Audio Technica’s ES10 headphone or Ultrasone’s Edition 8, both many many times the price of the Fidelio L1. Though not adorned with fancy materials like the Audio Technica and Ultrasone (i.e. pure leather pads, titanium housing), the L1 is very well built and its sturdy frame inspires more confidence than the Audio Technica or the Ultrasone.

The pads have memory foam on them which makes comfort very good, and though the pads cover are not real leather, it’s one of the best faux leather I’ve seen on headphones. Clamping force is a bit on the hard side. Good for a mobile headphone as the L1 stays still on your head, but not so ideal for a relaxed at sitting-down-at-home headphone.

Though being an semi open-back design, the L1’s sound is more like a closed headphone than an open one. Noise isolation, even on a busy street, is actually very good — again another testament that the L1 behaves mostly like an open back. The semi-open grille does leak sound a little, though not terribly loud.

Two cables are included, both wrapped with nylon sleeving, very soft and finished with metallic finishes on both 3.5mm jacks. One of the cable comes with a microphone for cell phone users. Very nice, except that being a headphone geek/reviewer I am expecting an extra long 3 meters cable terminated in 1/4″ so I can hook it up nicely to the my desktop amps. An 1/8″ to 1/4″ is included though, so no worries there.

Sound Impressions

Most Philips headphone I’ve listened to have never been treble happy headphones. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or if Philips noticed the market’s shift toward dark sounding headphones, but the Fidelio L1 ranks as among the darkest sounding headphones I’ve listened to. Naturally, to complement the dark sound signature, the L1 also comes with a lot of bass presence. The overall tuning seems to be targeted primarily for mainstream recordings including Pop, Rock, RnB, and Electronica. It’s not going to be my main choice for the typical “audiophile” genres like Classical, Jazz, or Vocals, although the L1 can still play those genres pretty well. It’s a good all-rounder tuning though it may be a little lacking in wow factor, a contrast to how a similarly priced Grado SR325is may be. But where the Grado fails in genre bandwith, the Philips L1 is a far better headphone if you listen to a lot of different music.

The dominant bass presence makes the L1 an almost borderline bass-head headphone.  On some music and depending on the recording, the bass levels can be a bit overwhelming. Bass punch are always powerful and meaty, and though not as fast paced as the V-Moda M-80’s or the HD25-1’s bass, overall the pace and PRaT is quite good. The L1 doesn’t push out the midrange or the treble, but clarity levels are very good, and in a way this saves the L1 from being labeled as a pure bass-head headphone.

The sound is very smooth from top to bottom. The soundscape is very clean without a slight hint of grain, and it’s nice to hear the clean rendition in the instruments amidst the black soundscape without the slightest harshness from the treble. Soundstage performance is quite good, wide and clean for a headphone in this category, though the presentation sounds more like a closed headphone than an open-back. Due to the attenuated treble levels, there is a lack of air in the soundstage, again why the L1 feels more like a closed headphone than an open one.

Amplification Needs

Almost none. The L1 has a low impedance of 26 Ω so you don’t need a lot of voltage gain to drive it. The 105 dB/mW sensitivity also means a very low current requirement and something that even the smallest amps should be able to drive.

There is almost no need for additional amplification with the L1. I’ve always said that in general circumaural-sized headphones would benefit from additional amplification, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the L1. Even straight out of an Ipod’s out, the bass are punchy, the dynamics good.

In this case I find the Fiio E17 to be a perfect budget companion. Just enough amplification power to make things just sweet and right. With the E17’s bass and treble controls, I can also tune in the amount of bass (mostly reduce it) and treble levels (mostly add treble to it) to get a more ideal frequency balance for the music that I happen to be listening to.

Paired with higher up set ups, the L1 scales up beautifully and makes for a beautiful pairing with any of my set ups from the Fiio E17 (entry level), DACport LX + O2 amp (mid level), and Halide DAC HD + RSA Dark Star (high end). The moment you move up from the E17 to something with a better resolution (in this case the DACport LX and O2), more detail pops out of the background, and soundstage gets bigger and wider. Likewise to the RSA Dark Star, though I didn’t use it with the Dark Star too often simply because the supplied 1m cable is too short.
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Philips Fidelio L1
5 (100%) 1 vote

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146 Comments

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Ferdy Setiawan

    how does it sound compared to Denon D2000 & HE300?

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      Good question.

      The last Denon I’ve heard is the D5000 so I’ll reference to that instead (it’s a more refined version of the D2000 but basic sound signature should be the same): The D5000 is more spacious and less dark than the L1, so the part where I was hoping the L1 to be less bassy and has a little more treble and air, that you’d get with the D5000. However I really didn’t see where the music was going with the D5000. The bass is moderately punchy but lacks a proper impact and weight, and seem to get lost in the wide soundstage. The midrange and treble are relatively dry and grainy compared to the Philips. Overall, I think the D5000 is a higher up headphone technically, but the overall sound presentation doesn’t really move me.
      The differences between the L1 and the HE-300 is in a lot of way similar to what I wrote about the D5000. It’s a bigger sounding headphone, more air, less dark tonality. The HE-300 however has a better bass weight and a fuller midrange than the D5000, and overall it’s a more musical headphone. The Philips still win in PRaT factor, as it focuses the energy of the music better, and the bass is also punchier and has more impact on the Philips.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    SnazzyQ

    The sound probably won’t suit my cup of tea which is a shame because these are beutiful headphones.  Excellent writeup, Mike.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Joe Siow

    Hey Mike, thanks for the review.

    How does the L1 compare against Sony Z1000, since both are closed cans and semi-portable. I suspect the Z1000 might be more refined sounding.

    Cheers
    Joe

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Joe,
      Yes the Z1000 is more refined, and like my previous comments comparing the L1 to the Denon D5K and Hifiman HE-300, the Z1000 also has a more typical audiophile tonality: less dark, more air, less bass. Although in the case of the Z1000 I think one of its weaknesses is the bass punch which I find to be lacking. So it’s a more refined headphone, but the L1 is a more fun, toe-tapping headphone.

      • Reply March 7, 2012

        Joe Siow

        Had highly suspected that the Z1000 could be the more refined headphone, thanks for confirming it. Was actually waiting for the L1, but decided to snag the Z1000 to replace my ageing ESW9 as my new portable can as one came along for the right price.

        Thanks Mike for the comments. Guess L1 is out for me then, as I prefer a more balanced tonality as compared to a darker sounding one.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Chris Allen

    Great review, Mike!  I love the visual aesthetic of this headphone.  It’s interesting and it seems to be a worthy adversary when compared to other headphones.  One question though.  On a few of the HD650 articles you wrote, I recall you saying how it is an interesting headphone and a delightful/surprising one as it seems to scale differently with a variety of DAC and Amp setups.  Can you say the same for the Fidelio L1?

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      Good question Chris.

      The L1 scales up very well, but the HD650 is still better in that aspect.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Aaargh! Philips is tempting with its looks and all but my heart still belongs to the HD650. Just a week or so… My precioussss.

    Speaking of amplification it may be useful to clarify what kind of amplification this can needs. Sure, it is a feather to drive but dedicated amplification can also be used to get through more of the original signal. In other words- amplification for quality. What about using an IEM amp for these?

    All in all, good write-up. 

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Rudolfs,
      I haven’t tried it with an IEM amp (haven’t got one around), but when I moved from the Fiio E17 to the Dacport LX + O2 set up, one thing I notice is that the sound becomes a lot more transparent and cleaner. So I think the L1 benefits very well from high quality source and amplification.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Minh Le

    Hey Mike, 

    Thank you for the review! Never knew Philips was making head-fi quality headphones.

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      You’re welcome, Minh!

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    kingice10

    Hey Mike,

    Nice Impressions here…Good to know that Philips slowly extends their headphones lines to audiophiles…And well your amazing shots helps! They look magnificent than any other Philips Headphone Product!

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    reandru36

    Hi Mike.  Have you had a chance to test this out with the JDS Labs C421?

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      Yes, I’ll give you my impressions later.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    reandru36

    Hi Mike.  Have you had a chance to pair this with the JDS Labs C421 amp and if so, how does it compare with O2 and E17?  Thanks!

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      I really need to sticky the O2-C421-E17 comparison I wrote.. 😉

      Let me find it and I’ll get back to you.

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      Okay, between the O2-C421-E17 and L1 pairing: 

      I like the O2 + L1 pairing as it gives me the biggest soundstage, blackest background, cleanest sound. If you want to boost up the technicalities aspect of the L1, this is the amp to go for. However musicality was just okay, and I find the midrange aspect not sounding as full as I want to. 

      The E17 and L1 pairing is just fun and lively. The treble is more lively with the E17, the presentation more forward, overall a more fun presentation, but not so much of a gret technical pairing like with the O2. 

      The C421 and L1 pairing gives me an overly warm sound (warm amp + warm headphone). Even though I got the midrange that I didn’t get with the O2, I didn’t like the overall sound. Too warm, not lively enough.

      So for budget pairings I think I’ll either go with the E17 or the O2, depending on your preference.

      • Reply March 8, 2012

        reandru36

        Thanks Mike!  Very helpful.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    kingice10

    Hey Mike,

    Great Impression! Nice to know that Philips is reaching to audiophile quality sound…also your Pictures makes this Product Magnificent! They looked comfortable with leather-like material around the headband.

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      Yes, I probably forgot to mention that the headband is real leather. 

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    Austin Morrow

    As always, awesome review Mike. It looks like the Philips Fidelio L1 will be a good contender to the likes of headphone offerings in the $200-300 price range. Of which whom are (but not limited to and just like you compared to) the HD 25-1-II and the DT1350. Then again, you did say that the L1 scales up quite well even with higher end solid state amps like the RSA Darkstar, so I’d be interested to hear how it compares with something like the Sennhesier HD650 or the AKG Q701 & DT990. Oh, and I’ll have to say, this is one of the most gorgeous headphones that I have ever lain eyes on (besides the HD800). I don’t know if it’s because of the headband or the ear cups, but I’ll have to say it;s one of the nicer looking, more affordable cans available on the market.

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      Yes I’m digging the look of the L1. It’s very stylish but not over futuristic like the HD800-HD700. It has that modern-vintage look to it, with the brown headband color and the open grille at the back. 

    • Reply March 12, 2012

      dalethorn

      Other headphones I have from $300 to $700 are the Shure 940 and 1840, Grado PS-500, Beyer DT-1350 and DT-48A, B&W P5. With bass reduction, the L1 equals the best of this bunch. With default bass, not worth keeping around. I’m more impressed with this headphone every day.

      • Reply March 12, 2012

        Mike

        Thanks Dale.
        The problem is that I can’t seem to enjoy Ipod’s built in EQ.

        • Reply March 12, 2012

          dalethorn

          I don’t either with most headphones. But with the L1 it makes the difference between boomy and muddy bass, and bass that’s quite good. That would apply only to iPod Touch – Classics and other iPods have problems with low-impedance headphones. Still, whether played on the O2 amp, desktop computer, or PMP, the L1 is beating out my Grado 500 and Shures, which I never would have expected for a Philips.

        • Reply March 12, 2012

          David Ulrich

           I remember trying to listen to Garbage on the Senn HD518’s.  In order to get Shirley Manson’s voice up front where it belongs, I had to EQ the music into oblivion.  The songs came off sounding really unnatural, wicked bright, and not in a good way.  I’m sure it was a combination between the overly recessed vocals of the 518 and the mediocre EQ of the ipod/itunes.

          • Reply March 12, 2012

            Mike

            Not too familiar with that Garbage (band) recording, but the recessed vocal may also be due to the recording.

          • Reply March 12, 2012

            David Ulrich

             HEY!  Where do you get off calling my music garbage…. oh wait, never mind.  The record sounded great out of the HD202.  Garbage was worse do to the amount of bass in their music, but other bands suffered the same fate

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    Eugen

    I knew this would be good, Tyll’s measurements are exceptional. Could you elaborate a little bit on the soundstage …  and can you remove any foam from inside ala hd650?

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      There is a cloth dust cover like on the HD650 and the Hifiman headphones. It’s quite thin, closer to the cloth cover on the Hifiman, and not foam-like as on the HD650. I haven’t figured out how to open the pads, unfortunately. 

      The soundstage are good, but nothing worth bragging about. It’s wider and more spacious than say a Beyer DT1350 or HD25-1. The background is very black for a portable, blacker and a lot cleaner than the HD650. Three dimensionality is just okay, good enough that it doesn’t sound like a flat soundstage. 

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    dalethorn

    Using Bass Reducer on iPod Touch or the equivalent on the desktop, the L1 transforms into one of the best sounding audiophile headphones I’ve ever heard, excellent with all genres. With Bass Reducer on, the bass is still full-up solid all the way down.

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    Rui Pedro

    Hi, Mike. Great review and pictures, as usual! 😉

    You didn’t mention the B&W P5 anywhere in your review, and I think that maybe they’re a close rival to the Philips L1! What’s your opinion on the L1 vs P5?

    Thanks.

    • Reply March 8, 2012

      Mike

      Good question, and yes I missed that one.

      Both are relatively dark aka the non-trebly kind. The character is a bit different. The P5 is fuller on the mids, where the L1 is more on the bass. The P5 is slower-paced, and although the bass body is good, it’s not as punchy as the L1. The L1 has a better PRaT and the soundstage is more spacious. For vocals, I’d probably go with the P5, but the L1 wins if you need punchy bass and PRaT.

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    Rui Pedro

    Sorry, double post…

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    albertharris

    Awesome review as usual, you know how to make me drolling..

    Btw Mike, any comparisson with ath es10? i know they aren’t at the same price level, but both i think have a fabulous looks and built quality.. 

    Thanks in advance..

    • Reply March 9, 2012

      Mike

      The ES10 is not as dark as the L1, but the soundstage feels less spacious than the L1’s. Other than that I think the mids are fuller on the ES10.

      • Reply March 9, 2012

        Chi-Hwa Michael Ting

        I just spent and hour few days ago auditioning the ES10, M50, and DT1350.  Was close to getting the M50 but the ES10’s bass caught me and ES10’s high and mids are just as good as the M50’s.  Looks like the ES10 is still the way to go for me!

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    albertharris

    Awesome review as usual, you know how to make me drolling..
    Btw Mike, any comparisson with ath es10? i know they aren’t at the same price level, but both i think have a fabulous looks and built quality..

    Thanks in advance..

  • Reply March 8, 2012

    2 Twinster

    Fantastic review Mike. Many thanks! It mirrors my 10 minutes I got with my L1 just before leaving for a trip. I left them on repeat for the week and will reassess them when I’m back. I too can say that I prefer their presentation to the D5000. I was surprise because I’m someone that favor bright signature (SRH-940, T1, SR-325) but the short session with the L1 got my toe tapping. Looking forward for more time with them.

    • Reply March 9, 2012

      Mike

      Update us with your impression after you get back!

  • Reply March 9, 2012

    Syakir Zainol

    How much does the sound leaks? Suitable for office use?

    • Reply March 9, 2012

      Mike

      It depends on how loud the music you’re playing. If relatively low, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.

  • Reply March 10, 2012

    Biergourmet

    “Naturally, to complement the dark sound signature, the L1 also comes with a lot of bass presence. The overall tuning seems to be targeted primarily for mainstream recordings including Pop, Rock, RnB, and Electronica.”

    IMHO rock sounds awful on dark sounding phones.

    • Reply March 10, 2012

      Mike

      yes some Rock recordings, especially classic Rock I think works with Grado type headphones. But for some other recordings, it’s nice to have dark sounding headphones. The LCD-2 is quite popular for rock.

  • Reply March 10, 2012

    Ignas Eringis

    Superb read. Thank you! 

    I was wondering how L1 bass and build quality compares to ATH pro700 MK2. 
    Thank you in advance.

    • Reply March 12, 2012

      Mike

      Ignas,
      The build quality, definitely the L1 is better. As for bass, the Pro700 Mk2 is still a far bassier headphone.

  • Reply March 12, 2012

    Los

    Hi Mike,

    Very nice review!  I’ve been waiting to hear some reviews about the L1.  How do you think it compares to the M50s?  I have those as my main phones but am very interested in the L1s, mainly listen to acoustic, indie and electronica.  Thanks

    Los

    • Reply March 12, 2012

      Mike

      Los,
      Good question. Some differences:
      – L1 is darker
      – L1’s bass is tighter
      – L1’s mids are fuller
      – L1’s bass are better
      – M50 more spacious
      – L1’s sound is more focused, more forward

      I think the biggest difference is that overall the L1 is a more toe-tapping music headphone, where the M-50 is a more laid-back monitoring sound (except for the loose bass section).

      • Reply March 12, 2012

        Los

        Good deal, thanks for the detailed response.  I like using my M50s for reading and it appears that the L1s would be maybe more lively and different musically than the M5os.  Thanks!

  • Reply March 13, 2012

    Mike

    Nice. Thanks, dale.

  • Reply March 14, 2012

    the gent

    Sorry to back track here, but what does the term dark sound refer too? is this a low frequency reference? is it directly related to what people would consider a “basshead” headphone??? Perhaps not the appropriate forum for the question, but i just got my m50’s two weeks ago and I’m just now getting into the whole audiophile thing…. or really just the headphone thing, but thanks in advance for any answers.

    • Reply March 14, 2012

      Mike

      Dark means there is not a lot of treble presence.
      Basshead means it has a lot of bass, since “bassheads” like their headphones come with lots of bass.

  • Reply March 17, 2012

    kuldog

    Has anyone tried the L1 with Hisound Studio V? Hope someone has a good impression on it.

  • Reply March 21, 2012

    Bambang Hartono

    How does it compares to the z1000?

  • Reply April 1, 2012

    Swbf2cheater

    The link you provided to bambang is a like to this page, no mention of the z1000 anywhere unless I am not seeing it?

    • Reply April 2, 2012

      Mike

      I think a comparison to the Z1000 can be found on the earlier comments.

    • Reply April 12, 2012

      Mike

      I will try to edit the article to include the comparison, please give me a few days. Thanks. 

  • Reply April 12, 2012

    FutileDevices

    How does it compare to the HD600? I’ve been looking for a good all around headphone.

    • Reply April 12, 2012

      Mike

      I will try to edit the article to include that comparison, please give me a few days. Thanks. 

  • Reply April 22, 2012

    Michael Julius

    So the Big question is ” L1 Vs K550? ”  😛 

    • Reply April 23, 2012

      Mike

      Later when I get the K550 🙂

      • Reply August 8, 2012

        Tyler DeLisle

        How bout now? 😉

        • Reply August 8, 2012

          Mike

          I think the primary difference is on the bass and PRaT. The L1 is more forward, stronger bass, more PRaT. The K550 is more spacious, laid back, not so punchy on bass. Both are very clean sounding, and have a nice black background.

          • Reply August 9, 2012

            Tyler DeLisle

            Thanks! I had kind of guessed this from reading both reviews, but was curious your overall opinion. Tyll mentioned in his video that he considers the K550 a better headphone for discerning listening, but that the L1 is great multi-use, all-around headphone. Wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that. I believe that I favor PRaT over Soundstage, but may be just because I haven’t experienced open cans before. I think I might go ahead and try the L1, they sound closer to the sound I’m looking for over my D2000’s which I haven’t been too happy with. I’m also really curious about the HE-400 which is a bit over my budget, but sounds tempting.

    • Reply May 1, 2012

      Danilas Cercovas

      Yesterday I listened Akg K550 from iPod Touch 4G and even on bassy songs I haven’t heard bass at all.

  • Reply April 28, 2012

    .

    Thanks for the opinions. Its disappointing that there are no measurements. Remember “Audio” magazine?  They didnt use empirical data in their reviews. I wonder what happened to them? I have seen you post excellent graphs, on occasion.

  • Reply May 3, 2012

    Edward Lau

    Also, could you give your take on the L1 vs. TMA-1?

    • Reply May 3, 2012

      dalethorn

      Innerfidelity did their big review of the L1 yesterday or today. They’re trying hard to sell it as mid-fi. I disagree, based on tests they don’t want to do.

      • Reply May 3, 2012

        Edward Lau

        @dalethorn:disqus , what would you consider it and how would you compare against the TMA-1?

        • Reply May 3, 2012

          dalethorn

          I don’t have the TMA-1 but I read at least 100 reviews on it, and while none of those gave me a real definitive answer as to the sound, I get the overall impression that they’re an excellent value for $200. I would guess (but am not absolutely sure) that if you found a deficiency with the TMA’s sound, you could probably make it better and quite satisfying with a bit of EQ. Several of the reviews mentioned that which is helpful, because most reviewers avoid mentioning it even if they use it. I used to be a purist myself, but I’ve discovered some truly amazing headphones that aren’t recognized as such because the outstanding sound is hiding behind excess bass or treble etc. Which brings me to the Philips L1. The sound played flat is bass heavy, just enough to make the overall sound mid-fi. But when I play my iPhone4 or iPod Touch into my O2 amp using a FiiO LOD (line out dock) cable, with bass reduction enabled, the sound of the L1 transforms into something I would expect for $600, not $300. I’ve owned the Senn HD800 and the EQ’d L1 isn’t that good, but they are every bit as good as the Grado PS500 which I did own, and also as good as the Shure SRH1840 which I own now. Now get this, and I’m not exaggerating here: With bass reduction enabled, the bass is strong, solid, and flat down to the deepest frequencies, better(!) than the Grado or Shure when they are played flat. You would not expect the bass of the L1 to be that good with bass reduction on, so there you are. I can only hope that more people try that out and hear for themselves.

          • Reply May 3, 2012

            Edward Lau

            I’ve heard about the EQing for both the TMA-1 and the L1; however I’d hesitate more w/ the TMA-1 because you would have to EQ for each type of genre, and I listen to a very wide variety of genres (shuffle mode would be not be the best for this headphone it seems).

            As for the L1, yes that option I’ve heard sounds really good with the iPhone4, but it seems like if you plug it into any other (esp. higher end source), it wouldn’t sound as good again because only iOS/Mac would have such presets. Even on my Mac with iTunes, I use the bitperfect plugin that bypasses all of that for bitperfect output (which really does make a difference).

            I’m curious because in both camps people seem to really love it; L1’s for their versatility and pure audio enjoyment, TMA-1’s just reading reviews it looks like people are immediately blown away by it (plus it’s $100 less), so I’m kind of torn.

          • Reply May 3, 2012

            dalethorn

            For portable use the iPhone preset EQ’s may work well depending on the headphone. For use with an amp such as the O2 by JDS Labs the EQ also works well because the volume control is bypassed out of the iPhone4 so the sound is fairly clean. Any desktop player such as Foobar on the PC or iTunes on the Mac can duplicate the exact settings of the bass reducer EQ – quite simple. The only option I haven’t explored is the iPhone going into a compatible DAC and then to a headamp. I don’t know what the options would be in that case.

            • Reply June 28, 2012

              Edward Lau

              Just received my L1’s a few hours ago. They’re incredibly dark–have you tried using ‘treble booster’ preset? I find it better sounding to my ears than the ‘bass reducer’ preset. maybe it’s just me /shrugs

              another note: they leak a lot of sound for my listening levels :/ I’m debating replacing w/ ultrasone pro 900’s for about $10 more (on sale now) or ATH-M50’s at half the price. what do you guys think?

              • Reply June 28, 2012

                Mike

                Yes the L1 is very dark. As I’ve written: “Most Philips headphone I’ve listened to have never been treble happy headphones. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence or if Philips noticed the market’s shift toward dark sounding headphones, but the Fidelio L1 ranks as among the darkest sounding headphones I’ve listened to. ”
                The Pro900 and the M50 are both less dark. The Pro900 is technically the better headphone but the mids are a bit recessed. The M50 is technically less capable than the Pro900 but it’s very popular, more than the Pro900 (probably due the lower price too).
                Yes you can use the treble booster preset, that should help with the darkness. The bass reducer reduces bass but doesn’t add treble.

                • Reply June 28, 2012

                  Edward Lau

                  mike, thanks for your input! how would you highlight the 3 in comparison? I think you also mentioned s-logic/plus sounds strange?

              • Reply June 28, 2012

                dalethorn

                M50 is a great alternative. Which EQ to use might vary according to what you play, but your choice could work well for a lot of material.

          • Reply June 12, 2012

            Jan Sindberg

            Seeing your score at http://dalethorn.com/Headphone_Nine_Compare.txt
            SHR1840 scores a bit better in heights. Is it equally easy to EQ the L1’s heights, as it is for bass?
            Is that score for L1 with bass-reduction on?

            • Reply June 12, 2012

              dalethorn

              I think, based on experience with the Shure 940 and 1440, that the only effective way to dampen the most peaky part of the highs in the L1 without just rolling them off, is to tuck some extra foam into the cups the way I did on the 1440 video. I experimented with other materials and didn’t like the results, but the Shure foams attached to their earpads really did the trick. It costs money, but I recommend it. Trying other brands of foams is something I don’t want to do since it just costs more money and I got great results with the Shure foams. But you could try with other materials and if you do, please post your results. The score on the spreadsheet for the L1 and 9 headphones is with bass reduction ON for the L1. I gave it a 8.5 because it happened to be so good. The higher number was for quality, not quantity.
              I’ve done a lot of attempts with EQ with a lot of headphones, and with a desktop setting on Foobar (esp. with the 30-band equalizer) you can do a nice job. The EQ I’ve talked about so much with the L1 is based on the simple ‘bass reducer’ setting in an ipod or iphone. Everybody already knows what can be done on a desktop EQ-wise with the right equalizer, so I wasn’t trying to reiterate any of that. I was mainly pointing out that a simple EQ that’s available with any ipod does a near-perfect job of fixing the L1’s bass and leaving it still very strong and nicely detailed. And to me, a simple EQ means less opportunity for distortion as well as avoiding sharp peaks and dips in adjacent frequencies. So to validate the simple EQ I selected on the iphone, I duplicated it in Foobar2000 and listened for a long time. I’m convinced that whatever negative the EQ might impart to the sound, overall it makes the L1 much better and more enjoyable for near-neutral hifi listening. There’s a real hifi headphone hiding under all that bass.

    • Reply May 3, 2012

      Mike

      The TMA-1 is tuned very dark for house, trance, club music. The Philips is more closer to a standard Hi-Fi sound.

  • Reply May 3, 2012

    Edward Lau

    edit: double post

  • Reply May 14, 2012

    D.r. Hilerio

    Hmm. A bassy portable with good PRaT and overall sound quality. Sounds like you described the AKG K181s or the V-Moda M80s. Is the L1 a more refined version of those two?

    • Reply May 14, 2012

      Mike

      More refined than the K181 and just about the same as the M80s. It’s not quite as fast in pace compared to the K181 and the M80s.

      • Reply May 20, 2012

        D.r. Hilerio

        Thanks for the comparisons. I recently received my L1’s. They’re very smooth sounding, especially in the mid tones. The bass is a bit loose but punches nicely with rock music. The K181 is definitely faster and has more bass quantity, but less refined mids. (The K181 is still a keeper for dance and hard rock.) The L1’s mids are a bit recessed; the K550 and the M80 sound more forward. So it may not be the absolute best for vocal music. The L1’s sound signature reminds of the Denon AH-D5000 (recessed mids, big bass) only smoother, less bright. It took me while to find the perfect music for it. I suppose most types of rock music. Classic rock if you want more umph in the bass section. The Beatles sounds very nice through them, with McCartney vocals sounding extra smooth. Harder rock if you want good punch with less sibilant highs. Nine Inch Nails and Sleater Kinney have nice punch with the peaky highs being chopped off by L1’s smoothness. Built and fit-wise, they’re kinda big for portable use. I have a big head already, so these headphones only accentuate that. 🙂

        • Reply May 20, 2012

          dalethorn

          With the equivalent of iPod bass reduction, the L1 changes from what you described to a near perfectly flat headphone. It’s a wonderful feature, and free.

          • Reply May 20, 2012

            D.r. Hilerio

            whoops! double post

          • Reply May 20, 2012

            D.r. Hilerio

            Yeah, I tried the L1 with the bass reducer on. It’s definitely flat. Not the first pair of headphones I would go to for a flat response though. There are a host of midrange headphones (AKG K550, HD598+, AH-D5000+, Beyers DT+, Audio Tech AD+) that are better for that and have better resolution and bigger soundstage. I think where the L1 excels at is …. well, being darn average at everything. Even portability, as they’re kinda big and not exactly low-profile for public use with that exposed spiral cable on the sides.

            BTW, I’m listening to Portishead through them as I type. I think we found a music match for L1!

        • Reply May 22, 2012

          Mike

          I think you just wrote a very nice and accurate comparison there. Personally I like the L1 better than the Denon.

    • Reply May 14, 2012

      dalethorn

      The bass of the L1 is nothing like the M80. In fact, playing the L1 with i-device bass reducer ON (or the equivalent EQ setting in Foobar2000) makes the L1 bass about the same as the M80 from about 70 hz down, but even with the bass reduction the L1 is significantly warmer than the M80.

  • Reply May 16, 2012

    Mark Ma

    how is the e10 from these vs straight from computer??

    • Reply May 16, 2012

      Mike

      The E10 most probably would be better than the onboard sound card.

      • Reply May 16, 2012

        Mark Ma

        what about vs hrt headstreamer on JUST these cans?

        • Reply May 16, 2012

          Mike

          Likewise yes. The Headstreamer most probably would be better than the onboard sound card.

          • Reply May 16, 2012

            Mark Ma

            are you going to do a comparison?

            • Reply May 16, 2012

              Mike

              Yes I will.

              • Reply May 18, 2012

                Mark Ma

                Any idea of when you will receive the HRT Headstreamer. I am also interested vs e17 since they are the same price.

                • Reply May 18, 2012

                  Mike

                  Mark,
                  I’ve gotten the Headstreamer last week. I will try to write an impression soon.

  • Reply May 22, 2012

    Mark Ma

    can you do a quick comparison vs the ath m50s

  • Reply May 28, 2012

    Aric Ross

    how soft is the faux leather on the earpads? I have ATH M-50, which are wonderful all round headphones, but I don’t like how hard the ear pads are. whether its the faux leather that is to hard, the foam is too firm, or a combination of the two, I’m not totally sure, but i lean towards the softness of the leather covering the foam.

    • Reply May 29, 2012

      Mike

      Aric,
      The faux leather seems to be thinner than the M-50’s, but the foam is softer on the M-50. The M-50 is more comfortable to me, but that may be due to the L1’s stronger clamping force from the headband.

  • Reply June 2, 2012

    Danilas Cercovas

    Finally I got my Fidelio l1 and I’m very impressed. Which Amps would you recommend for them?

  • Reply June 2, 2012

    antonius wijaya

    Between L1 and Hd25 which is better for rock music?

  • Reply June 2, 2012

    antonius wijaya

    Between L1 and Hd25 which is better for rock music?

    • Reply June 4, 2012

      Mike

      Depends on which particular track, recording, but both should be good.

  • Reply June 12, 2012

    Danilas Cercovas

    I find good price for LITTLE DOT MK-III. Is this amp would fit for Fidelio L1? How it would be compared to Objective 2, E17 and Shiit Asgard?

    • Reply June 12, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Danilas,
      Sorry I have never tried the Little Dot with the L1.

  • Reply June 29, 2012

    Aric Ross

    Any idea when these will be available from retailers other than apple?? Apple seems to be the only retailer selling them in the US and unfortunately I have a very serious hatred for apple and I refuse to support them in any way shape or form, even if it means holding off on the best looking/sounding cans I can afford…

  • Reply July 4, 2012

    Gustavo Sakuno

    For the “majority of mainstream Pop, Jpop, Kpop, RnB, Electronic – House, Dance, and Trance stuff.” is the Fidelio L1 better than Amperior, HD598 or K550? I’m going to buy a headphone in this price range, being the Fun factor the most important point, and the Fidelio caught my attention. Since I don’t listen to audiophile recordings, is the Fidelio the best option for me?

    • Reply July 7, 2012

      Mike

      The Fidelio is great for those. The Amperior I suspect is going to be pretty good as well (it’s based on the HD25-1 which I’m very familiar with). The HD598 and the K550, not so much.

  • Reply August 9, 2012

    William Lim

    I bought an uptown headphone recently and was upset to find sound comes out slightly softer on one side (unbalanced headphone). This happens frequently and you have to meddle with the volume control and sometimes pressed it a little harder to gain control of the sound on both side of the headphone.

    Now, I thought this is a spoilt headphone and so requested for a change. A new headphone was given to me and after a while, I found the same thing happening.

    I’m no engineer but My own logical deduction would be the volume control is the design component that is flawed. It is a filmsy little box having a slider that affects the current passing thru the wires inside. So sometimes you might have to press it a little harder as the contact between the slider and wire is not evenly spread.

    Anyway, it is similar to the effect of a loose wire inside the headphone jack due to wear and tear and you get an unbalanced sound from the headphones. So usually to rectify, we replace the whole cable (but not the jack).

    The unbalanced sound is very apparent when you do a simple A/B test with a different headphone.

    Anyone have similar problems with the Philips Uptown?

    • Reply August 10, 2012

      Mike

      Sorry, William, not me.

    • Reply August 23, 2012

      sygyzy

      William, the issue isn’t a true imbalance but rather a result of the inline volume control. Turn it all the way up and use your source to adjust the volume.

  • Reply October 31, 2012

    Shure SRH1840

    […] Søk på Headfonia etter Philips Fidelio X1 gir intet, mens søk etter Philips bl.a. gir "Philips Fidelio L1". Løsøreoversikt. Jeg lytter med høyst moderate lydstyrkenivåer. Subjektiv […]

  • Reply November 15, 2012

    Ryan Yang

    Hey Mike. Do you think they worth almost 300 bucks? Should I get AKG Q701 instead?

    • Reply November 16, 2012

      Mike

      Well different sound signatures aside, I actually prefer the L1 to the 701.

      L1 is darker, more bass, blacker background, cleaner sound
      Q701 brighter, more analytical, more grainy

  • Reply December 16, 2012

    Alexandre Cunha

    Hello Mike!
    I know they aren’t the same price range, but how would you compare them to the ATH M50 ?
    Thank you
    Great Review by the way

    • Reply December 16, 2012

      Guest

      Sorry, i just saw you already compared them both in another question. But overall, wich one you think is better for most of the mainstream genres (rock, pop, eletronica…) ?

  • […] […]

  • Reply April 8, 2013

    abmannetje

    I was given the chance to test the new Philips Fidelio L1 For “The Insiders”. The L1 looks great, it really does and has really handy features, like the connector-plug close to the headphone, and a cable with a volume and pause-button. A second cable with a removable big-plug, twistable ear shells for transportation and (also important) a sublime sound. It looks really nice with the black and aluminium parts and the fine Italian leather. The head mount fits really good without a pressing feeling, and is easily to adjust to the correct size without sliding back to the former position.
    After having used the headphones for several full days now, I must say I didn’t feel any discomfort. I did not receive any comment from my colleagues about my taste of music and I wasn’t disturbed by background noises. I must admit hearing things in the music of which I didn’t now they were there, it is like experiencing the music again, and that is something I really like, like the music is being surrounded inside my head.
    I am originated in the primal years of portable music devices, and I am used to headphones being as small as possible, so for me this is an unusual large format for a set of headphones. However, compared with the headphones available on the market at present day, the Philips Fidelio L1 fits quite perfect.
    The L1 is said being perfect for on-the-go as well as good to use at the office or at home. Being on a bike, I think it blocks too much of the traffic noise to navigate safely, but while using transport transportation, I think it is good to use for blocking neighbour noise, where as your neighbour don’t need to get bothered by your music.
    My conclusion: a very nice device, with a lot of good properties. For users who, like myself, don’t have an absolute hearing this is a very good headphone.
    I was not able to cross-test this device against the K550, as asked somewhere below, here. But I hope my comment helps you choose the right headphone for your situation

    • Reply April 8, 2013

      Mike

      Thank you for sharing that, abmannetje!

    • Reply April 8, 2013

      dalethorn

      When I bought the L1 it was just “Philips Fidelio L1”, and $300 USD. Now I see the current model is L1/28, and the price below $200. Any ideas on the possible difference?

  • Reply April 11, 2013

    Lies Janssen

    For years I’ve
    listened to my music at work with those little in-ear headphones. And I was
    perfectly happy with them. Until I got my hands on the Philips Fidelio L1 a few
    weeks ago. A world of difference! The clear sounds blew me away. Big pro is
    that even with the volume down, you can still enjoy all aspects of your music.

    Sound:

    The quality of the sound is
    excellent and crystal clear, thanks to the High Definition neodymium- drivers.
    Each music variety displays well and with subtle music such as jazz all minute details
    are audible. When listening to Dance music, the bass drums ‘vibrated’ less than
    they did with my old in-ears, but only with a windows application. When
    combined with an Apple product, bass intensity is easier to adapt.

    Design and use

    The design is elegant and
    minimalistic, very sophisticated. The headphones features can be adapted in
    every little detail to perfectly fit your head. The over-ear ear shells are
    very comfortable, even after a long while, with minimal sweating. The materials
    are durable, but the headphone is still light in weight. There are 3 cords,
    which can be couples, so the length of the cord is adaptable. One of the cords
    comes with a remote for an I Phone. It works like a charm, but only combined
    with Apple.

    According to Philips, the Fidelio
    L1 is the ideal headphone for on the road, but for me, it is too big for that.
    The chocks of for example stepping disturb the music. The carrier bag is very
    pretty, but seems a little poor as protection.

    Interaction with your
    surroundings

    Despite the semi-open back
    architecture of the ear shells, a passer-by will not notice any music escaping
    the Fidelio L1. Even with big bass drums, the isolation is perfect. For the
    listener, the isolation to the environment is perfectly balanced. Little to no
    noise enters, except for loud noises such as a phone ringing or your boss
    yelling.

    Pros: Stable and
    comfortable ear shells, great sound quality, no noise outside the ear shells

    Cons: Quite pricy (+-250 euro), quite large, bass drums tend to get a
    bit lost

  • […] effettivamente qualità. Basta leggere, ad esempio, la positiva recensione del sito specializzato Headfonia che elogia la risposta generalmente buona su tutte le tipologia di musica, il design e […]

  • Reply August 18, 2013

    BeTauM

    Good review Mike!
    Which of these amp do you think that better match with the L1?
    FiiO E12, Magni Schiit, O2 or FiiO E07K? I’m using Xonar DG as DAC.

    • Reply August 18, 2013

      dalethorn

      My L1 was very bassy, so I would not have chosen tubes if I had a choice. I think the O2 would have the best match to the L1’s bass, but I like the E12 so much more for portablility and form factor – much more. The E07k is very different than the E12 – the E12 is darker and will probably control the bass better, have better dynamics, but the E07k has many features and a DAC and is much more flexible. Tough choices. Maybe buy two amps – they’re not expensive.

      • Reply August 18, 2013

        BeTauM

        Thanks for your feedback Dale!
        Actually, I think the L1 have a lot of bass, more than I would wish and is so dark. So I needed an amp that valued the treble and soundstage. I think I bought the wrong headphone for my musical preferences. 🙁

        • Reply August 19, 2013

          dalethorn

          Maybe before you give up, try what I did with the equalizer in the music player. Reduce 100 hz about 4 db and the slider on either side of 100 hz to -2 db. That works for me.

    • Reply August 19, 2013

      Mike

      I would go with the E07K with the bass & treble controls.

  • Reply October 30, 2013

    João Lourenço

    I don’t really understand much about sound reproduction. However, after spending an entire day reading reviews to help me decide which headphone to buy, I should say – as a PhD student in philosophy, if it’s worth anything – this review is extremely well written and a very pleasant reading. God knows the horrors from poor writing skills I’ve gone through today….

  • Reply December 15, 2013

    tand

    How is the sound leakage. I don’t sharing what i am listening to would be appreciated by the crowd.

    • Reply December 16, 2013

      Mike

      Small, but if you’re in a library people can hear.

      • Reply December 18, 2013

        tand

        Couldn’t resist and bought it. Open box.
        I can hear the outside sound
        real well when no music is playing, but when there is music playing Isolation is good. Can’t hear
        outside sound. Quite interesting like this. Also the leakage is really minimal. Your comparison of a library is correct. A very quiet one.

        What I find strange
        is that its quite hard to drive. Very low volume. Expected more from a
        26ohm headset. Ue6000 is better this way. I have to turn my gd03 all the way to
        50% for normal volume.But unlike ue6000 there is no distortion.

        Btw talked with Philips
        customer service. We know the cushions is non replaceable. But did you
        know they don’t have any replacement parts! Unless it’s a warranty
        replacement you can’t get any parts like cable or a bag.
        Can’t believe this. Quite shocking implications.

  • Reply March 6, 2014

    rickshaw

    Mike, what is the biggest improvement of L2 over L1? Amazon is currently selling L1 at USD120. Good buy at this price point for my E07K/E09K setup?

    • Reply March 6, 2014

      L.

      Hi, this has been covered several times already on Headfonia. Please check the L2 review

  • Reply October 24, 2014

    Daniel Chirvasuta

    Hi Mike, Thanks for the review. I recently got the UE 6000 and so far I like them, but not particularly impressed with them for non bass heavy music. I was thinking would the Philips Fidelio L1 be better for EDM, Rap, Rock, and Metal (in no specific order)? I love the looks of the L1 and would actually benefit from the semi-open design (I’d like to hear when people try to talk to me). You mentioned the technicalities of the L1 are better but as far as a listening experience which did you find are better? Also as a broke 15 year old my price range is under $100 (I got the UE 6k for $60 and can get the L1 for $85) and I can’t afford an amp. Thanks

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