Disclaimer: I received the Fidelio M1 sample from Philips Asia.
The Fidelio Line Up
The Philips Fidelio M1 complements the bigger L1 and X1 Fidelios as the ultraportable model of the Fidelio line up. The bigger Fidelio L1 and X1 models have been reviewed previously on this site and I generally find my impression of all three Fidelio to be positive. What I didn’t really expect to hear is how different the sound signature of one Fidelio models to the next. Without the common styling and the Fidelio brand name, I wouldn’t even guess that the three headphones belong to the same manufacturer let alone the same brand line.
I do think that the designer has a clear purpose in setting the different sound signatures and that is to fit the use that each headphone was designed for. You have the Fidelio L1 is an excellent medium-sized headphone with good technicalities and musicality to back up its serious high quality look. Then you also have the full size X1 model that comes with a more fitting airy sound and with an overall bigger sound than the L1. Then finally we have the M1, the star of this review, with its design and build clearly made for a more casual use. Naturally enough, the sound presentation should be a more casual one.
The smooth and warm presentation is a successful recipe for portable outdoor listening. This is the kind of a sound that I enjoy to have on a casual walk outdoor. You get full mids, punchy bass and a relaxed treble. All these wrapped in a relatively forward sound signature. A casual headphone like the M1 doesn’t have to be filled with technicalities, instead I find it most important that the headphone has a wide genre bandwith to suit different music genres. And indeed the M1 is that headphone. The treble is soft and relaxed, the midrange always full and smooth, the bass is tight and punchy.
Really there is no better recipe for mainstream music listening than something like what the M1 presents. If you’re looking for technicalities, however, this is not really the headphone to go with. Although articulation is quite decent for something ultraportable like this, I can imagine people wanting a more spacious feel and more midrange and bass detail.
What’s difficult to recommend about the M1 is its $199.99 price tag (the Amazon price I quoted is actually lower than general retail price). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice headphone, but I find it difficult to swallow that the bigger and technically more impressive L1 is only selling for $50 more. Not only to the bigger brother, but also to the competition out there, namely popular headphones like the Sennheiser HD25-1 and the Audio Technica M-50. I can argue that the M1′s 40mm driver is quite modern and sounds smoother than Sennheiser’s HD25-1. But in the overall scheme of sound, I really wouldn’t imagine comparing the M1 on the same line with headphones like the HD25-1 and the M-50.
Perhaps these are not fit for the technically demanding headphone enthusiasts, but I can imagine the M1 being popular with business travelers and casual users. It looks good and the build quality is solid, perhaps one of the most solid portables around. The pads are soft and plush, though being fully enclosed supra-aural pads, they are not as comfortable as the bigger L1. Most importantly I think the common crowd who’s not obsessed with bass will find the M1′s warm and analog sound signature pleasing. It’s one of those headphones that you can just pick up, listen, and enjoy without worrying about amplifier, source, or recording quality.