The Casual: Philips Fidelio M1

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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.

 

Sound Impressions

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.

 

Pricing

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.

 

End Words

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.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1250923044 George Lai

    I’m glad I went for the X1 :-)

    • MassiveTurboLag

      Tell us how changing the pads goes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Mohammaduf Mohammad Ashraf

    I own the Fidleio M1 and I also own the L1. I enjoy the M1 however as you rightly said it sound is not the same as L1 and rightly so it shouldn’t be due to the different style. I think the 40 mm had much better potential. If they reduce the selling price this to something like 149 it will be selling like hot cakes, but at the current asking price I always told my friends and relative to think of purchasing the L1 than this.

    I think the 40 mm had more potential than what I heard from the M1.

  • dalethorn

    I wouldn’t call the treble relaxed. I’d call it missing. It sounds just like the test graphs show it – shelved. I tried asking Kevin at Philips’ Facebook page about this, and he refused to answer, no doubt because he couldn’t explain how Philips could sell such a low-fidelity headphone for $250 USD (which is how much I paid). I pity anyone who orders this and has a big hassle and expense returning it. I sent mine to Marcus in Manila, and as I remember he dumped it pretty quickly.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks Dale.

      • dalethorn

        That reminds me to get in touch with Marcus and see if he found the magic with the M1. You never know.

        • headfonics

          Mixed much like Mike and yes price is a factor

      • dalethorn

        Could be I made a mistake on the source of the test graph. Innerfidelity’s curve on the M1 looks OK, even though it takes a dive above 9 khz. It must have been the Goldenears test that looked like my M1 sounded – very dull. Not the worst I’ve gotten – when the price on the ‘new’ Pioneer SE-MJ591 dropped to $200 at B&H, I got one of those. It sounded like a Beyer DT48 1960 version, but without the mids. No bass, no treble, no mids. Actually it did work, it just was devoid of any tone. Very strange. I wish Kevin at Philips Facebook would have answered my questions, then I wouldn’t have panned his M1. The M1 had a one-star review at the Apple store for several months, which had to hurt sales. All of that could have been prevented.

    • headfonics

      haha nope I have not, still with me and well overdue for a view :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/pjal84 Paul Laguna

    Sooooo…between the B&W P3 and the Fidelio L1…who comes out on top? I’m looking for something to replace my Senn HD238i’s (frail for lack of a better word, very disappointed). The big thing that puts the P3 out in front for me is that it is foldable which I’d really like considering in my car storage space is at a premium and I’ve actually had a chance to listen to the P3 and for a portable was quite impressed.

    • dalethorn

      I had 2 of the P3′s – black and white. I liked them, but they do have a more uneven midrange and more rolled-off highs than other headphones in that $200 USD price range, such as the ATH ESW9a or v-moda M80.

  • Gibran

    Hi Mike, how does M1 compare to portapro? From what I read, both have similar sound signature, correct me if I am wrong. And portapro is waay cheaper. How is M1 a much better headphone?

    • Nicolas Chupick

      I just tried the M1, and the M1 blows the PortaPro out of the water. The only thing the M1 and the PortaPro share in common is the recessed vocals and narrow sound-stage, unfortunately. Anyway, the M1 has much cleaner, tighter bass. The treble on the M1 is smooth and relaxed, which gives the impression of a veil. The treble on the PortaPro is fun and sparkly yet uneven and sibilant at times. Instrument separation is also better on the M1. In other words, the M1 is more precise than the PortaPro yet darker and less fun. I would say that if the PortaPro is 40$, then the M1 is definitely worth 100$. I would not spend more for the M1, I think that this price is very reasonable considering the performance & build quality.

      On another note, I feel that the PortaPro is becoming outclassed by other headphones in their price range such as the JVC S400 and the Noontec Zoro. These headphones best the PortaPro in every imaginable way.

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        I agree with your comment. The PORTAPRO will always be a classic though!

        • Nicolas Chupick

          Personally, I think that the PortaPro is the most beautiful headphone ever made. I love the shiny outer metal rings and headband, how the drivers are exposed and painted blue, the way it folds, how it’s so lightweight, compact and comfy. And it sits snug on your head, as opposed to the other headphones that form a halo around your head and look goofy (the m1 is no exception to that, sadly).

          • dalethorn

            It’s too bad the v-moda M80 in pearl white is discontinued, since it was the most amazing looking headphone, and the earpads were a beautiful grey that offset the pearl white like it was designed by a fashion genius. I got one of the last ones (used – like new) from v-moda last week.

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              Really Dale? I find the Vmoda headphones to look awful. Sure they sound fun but I wouldn’t want to be seen wearing one. Difference in taste huh

              • dalethorn

                When v-moda headphones were displayed at the Apple store a few years ago, my impression of those was negative like yours. But the M80 and M100 look so good by comparison it’s amazing, and not only that, I get very favorable comments wherever I wear them. I’m very much into fashion (my favorite film is The September Issue) and aesthetics, and v-moda hit a homerun with these recent headphones. The M100 especially is the king of headphones I think, based on its enormous popularity. Just check Amazon for example.

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

            Just watch out for those hairs getting caught in the headband huh ;-)

      • Nicolas Chupick

        I would also like to add that the isolation on the M1 is fantastic, especially in contrast to the PortaPro (obviously).

        Overall I think that the Headfonia reviewer did a fantastic job, because I agree with him entirely.

  • Nicolas Chupick

    So the M1 is selling for around 100$ on amazon, is it worth it?

    • dalethorn

      It might depend on what market it was originally shipped to and designed for. My M1 had a shelved treble – down at least 12 db from a Senn HD800 curve – 6 db would have been OK but the M1 was beyond help. Before I bought it there was a 4 month delay for the U.S. market, and after some successful conversations with Kevin of Philips on Facebook, when I asked about possible re-tuning for the U.S. market during that 4 month delay, he clammed up and wouldn’t answer any questions after that. I sent my M1 on to Marcus of headfonics, so you could check his review in addition to what you see here.

      • Nicolas Chupick

        Thanks for the quick reply. I have been searching every single review online. There seems to be a gap between the reviews (especially the French reviews) and the forums regarding this headphone. This confuses me. That being said, it seems clear that you loathe the M1. Well, perhaps if the headphones were excellent then we would have more reviews/topics about them. It is clearly not the case. I will check headphonics.

        • dalethorn

          Make sure to spell it headfonics so they don’t direct you to the wrong site.

        • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

          The M1 is ok, that price is correct. however if it would be priced at $300 it wouldn’t be worth it

          • dalethorn

            The M1 I purchased was not OK in any universe – the treble was shelved. Since Philips refused to answer my simple and respectful questions, I feel they are hiding something.

            • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

              Or you just had a bad unit?

              • dalethorn

                There was nothing in the driver sound (both drivers were performing identically) to indicate a defect. There are no electronics EQ’ing or anything else in the M1. Just the signal going to the drivers. That fact, plus Philips (Kevin’s) sudden refusal to communicate on the issue left that door open. So if Philips were willing to clarify that issue, or send me a M1 that has treble at least within a few db of the L1 I also purchased, I could do a retest and possible new review.

                • Nicolas Chupick

                  Well, the relaxed treble could be a plus for some genres of music with piercing highs like Dance Music or Experimental Indie Noise Rock (Animal Collective). I can see it being very annoying for Classical or Vocal music as well. Or is it just that these headphones sound very dull?

                  • dalethorn

                    I’m well aware of what relaxed treble is, but my M1 didn’t have treble, it was just rolled off early and steep. And I don’t know of any genre of music that benefits from muffled sound.

                    • Nicolas Chupick

                      Well I could nitpick all day with obscure and badly recorded albums, but that seems pointless. The conclusion for you remains the same: the treble is rolled off.

                    • dalethorn

                      I have quite a few headphones – some of them having a little bit of EQ applied to suppress a resonance here and there. And I use any one of those for a wide variety of genres. Irritating treble 98 percent of the time is from a peaky response in the headphone, not so much from the music. If you have those experiences with shrill highs, try running a series of discrete tones at 1 khz intervals from 1 khz to 12 khz and see if any tones are much stronger or weaker than the adjacent tone on either side. My Beyer T51p for example has at least a 15 db sharp peak at 5 khz. Several of my headphones are the opposite with significant recesses at 5 khz. It would surprise a lot of people how ragged the response is with many pricy headphones.

                    • Nicolas Chupick

                      YES, YES and YES. I think I experienced this while comparing my Grado Sr60i (smooth treble) with my Koss PortaPro (sibilant treble) on violin tracks. Some albums like “Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished” or “Psychocandy” are intentionally recorded with sibilant noises, they belong to the 2% obviously. And yes, the Ultrasone HFI-680 which costs over 200$ (for whatever reason) definitely has that unpleasant peak in the treble frequencies.

                    • dalethorn

                      A limiting factor for me with headphone choice is my playback habits – I often walk to the local park about a mile away, get a sandwich and coffee and schmooze with the locals, then walk back. It isn’t practical to carry more than one headphone, and I may be listening for up to 2 hours to music I haven’t selected in advance. So whichever headphone goes with me has to be OK for at least 95 percent of my music tracks. I remember that some of the Ultrasones are peaky, yet some users really treasure their Ultrasones. If I had one I’d find a way to trim the worst peak or peaks and try to leave everything else alone, so I could enjoy as much of the tone of that headphone as possible, on as much music as possible.

                    • Nicolas Chupick

                      Thanks for the suggestions. I just borrowed the Ultrasones from a friend for a few hours. I really enjoyed listening to electronic/ambient music with them, but I didn’t like them so much with rock music.

                    • dalethorn

                      Here’s something that should surprise you (if you believe it…), but a long time ago I remember viewing some reviews of small headphones – the v-moda M80 was one example – and the reviewer noted the ‘constricted’ sound that he felt was due to the small cups etc. I’ve lived with that with a few small portables for nearly 2-1/2 years since watching those reviews. But recently I got a ‘Audioforge’ parametric equalizer app for the apple i-devices, and after some experimentation and setting up a few EQ curves, I’ve discovered that the ‘constricted’ sound just goes away with the proper settings. My wife has been using the ATH ESW9a for at least a year, and she is very fussy about her sound, so I took out 10 minutes to set up a curve for her, and she came in a few minutes later with eyes wide and said “Wow – this made my sound come alive….”

                    • dalethorn

                      BTW, if you can find it (at Blue Coast records), you can buy single hi-res tracks there, and try to get a copy of Emily Palen’s “The Inevitability of Water”. That improvised violin track has harmonics that will amaze most people.