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.

  • Cata Mihai

    Hello,
    I readed some of your reviews and them are super.
    But i have a dilema, i have a budget of 130 euro.
    And i like how the Fidelio M1 looks, but i understand that this M1 is not so good.
    Can you recomand some portable headphone unde 130euro similar with this, but with a better sound ?
    Thank you.

    • dalethorn

      If you can find a v-moda V80 at a discount, or a discontinued M80, that’s good compared to the M1. But, there may be good M1′s out there in the European sector, unlike the U.S. version. The Sennheiser Amperior has been heavily discounted recently. The Beyerdynamic DTX501p is lower in cost and a lightweight plastic, but excellent sound. The AIAIAI TMA-1x is decent and cheap. All of these are on-ear, if you are considering over-ear there are other possibilities.

      • Cata Mihai

        Thank you for your response.
        I want something portable, i want to listen music at work, in my hotel room and on buss. If you know someting over – ear that is portable please tell me.
        Thank you.

        • dalethorn

          Sennheiser Momentum.

          • Cata Mihai

            I know that momentun are super, but they are to expensive, i don’t think that i will ever use at their full potential.

            • dalethorn

              Looks like the M1 is the winner.

              Edit: For over-ear the Bose AE2 (or the new SoundTrue Around-Ear) is sonically neutral, very, very comfortable.

  • Enrico Agnelli

    Hello, I am seriously thinking to buy this at 90$. Do you think that they are better than the AKG K451 / AKG Q460?

    Do you have any other suggestion with this budget?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Dale maybe has some?

    • dalethorn

      For $90, if the M1 is working properly, it should be a bargain. I thought the U.S. version was tuned differently than the European version, but that was never confirmed. If $90 is the budget limit, there is little to choose from if you demand audiophile quality. The AKGs may sound similar, but will not be audiophile quality. Also make sure the M1 is genuine, because bargain prices for brand new headphones often means it’s a fake item.

      • Enrico Agnelli

        Thanks for the quick answer! How can I confirm that they are genuine? I found them also at 65$…from a very big seller…

        • dalethorn

          If you don’t have a lot of experience with the major brands like Philips or Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic, you might not be able to tell for sure, unless you see or hear something that’s obviously not right. I’m sure I could tell if the package is complete. One thing is certain, that the M1 has been dumped by a lot of dealers at a fraction of the original price.

    • Cole Anetsberger

      I myself just went through the same exact dilemma.

      I purchased the M1 a few weeks ago for about $70. I got them and found them to be rather lifeless. Bass and mids were alright, but the treble was, as others have said, “rolled off.” Veiled is a good description. I thought I could find something better, and wouldn’t you know, I ran into the Q460 for $70. I had also seen many recommending the Noontek Zoro HD. Found that for $60 and figured I’d try them both against the M1, and keep the winner of the three.

      Initially I found the Q460s to be pretty boomy in the bass and a bit muddy. I’ve been burning in the Q460 and probably have around 40 hours on them so far. They’re sounding better than when I first got them. Treble has opened up considerably, but the bass is still, to my ears, a bit excessive. More of an excess in the upper-bass that kind of bleeds into the mids in my opinion. Overall I like their sound more than the M1. I can see them being OK for commuting since that’s when you usually lose some bass to outside sound. Might enjoy them more outside than inside. I will continue burning them in this week to see if there’s any more improvement.

      The Zoro HD is easily the best sounding of the three. Very balanced and energetic sound compared to the Q460 and M1. It is also the cheapest but probably has the worst build quality and is not that comfortable (I have a big head, stiff ears, and glasses- however my girlfriend finds them extremely comfortable, so YMMV). When I say worst, I don’t really mean bad though. It just seems slightly below the Q460 which is not bad (just quite plasticky) but the hinges seem like a potential weak point. The M1 is easily the nicest in terms of build. Very sturdy, nice materials, a quality product. They just don’t sound that good to me.

      I’m sending the M1 back. I really wanted to like them, but they have to sound good. I’m Going to give the Q460s some more time before making a final decision on whether to keep them. I’m going to keep the Zoro HD for sure. They sound really good and I can’t really imagine finding a better sound in a $60 portable headphone. Good enough that I’m willing to put up with the discomfort of wearing them :)

      Another suggestion – perhaps the Sennheiser PX 200 II. I’m giving those a shot later this week since they can be found for around $70 as well. I’ve head good things.

      • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

        I think the Senn PX-95 is way, way better than the PX-200II.

        • Cole Anetsberger

          Never really heard of them until now. They look cool. What sort of sound signature do they have?

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            The PX-95 has a slightly recessed treble, perhaps 6 db at 7 khz (as do most of the newer headphones), but an ideal bass through mids that sounds like a much larger more expensive headphone.

            • Cole Anetsberger

              Sounds nice for such a light and portable headphone, but I think I’m more of a treble guy. On that note, any recommendations on a portable headphone with a nice, forward treble signature? Or is that something you’d have to spend a bit more to get from a portable?

              • Cole Anetsberger

                Also important is that it is a closed design- something I can commute to work with and use throughout the day without bothering my coworkers.

                • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                  The Soho is closed, but is not a high-isolating design like the B&W P5.

              • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                Harman Kardon Soho sounds perfect, and very well made. Nothing like the B&W P3 that looks similar – the Soho has a good treble and excellent build quality.

  • http://Twitter.com/mlmabie light&shadow

    On US Amazon these sell for $70

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      The reviews were very negative. It didn’t have to be that way, but for some reason Philips didn’t want to discuss the design intent, so I went with the sound of mine (that I paid $250 for), which could have been an off-spec sample. But as I said, Philips didn’t want to discuss it, so that’s probably why it failed. I wish I had more samples to try though.

      • http://Twitter.com/mlmabie light&shadow

        Actually, I noticed a good 40% that were glowing. A stark contrast, really. Must have come from either using cheaper suppliers or a botched manufacturing error…

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          There was no indication of anything amiss in the M1 introduction, except that Philips would not answer questions about why the M1 was delayed 4 months from the European intro until it was available in the U.S. I asked whether the M1 was being re-tuned for the U.S. market, and with that question, the Philips Facebook rep would no longer respond to any questions. If they had leveled with me, I could have saved $250 and they would not have gotten a negative review.

          BTW, my M1 went to Marcus of Headfonics, and he reviewed it!!

      • http://Twitter.com/mlmabie light&shadow

        I bought mine based off of european reviews and didn’t get into this mess until it already shipped. It’ll be interesting to see if I was lucky or not.

      • http://Twitter.com/mlmabie light&shadow

        BTW- if I were to return these, are the AiAiAi Tracks better? I want portable headphones for under $100. I dislike the look and flimsiness of the Sony MDR-7506, and the Grado 80e is too impractical. I am a mobile musician who likes to listen to a variety of genres, from classical to post trap. (Slight majority to Indie Rock though)

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          I haven’t heard the Tracks, but I have the new Soundmagic P21, cost $50, and it’s a real headphone (not like Senn PX series and other such toy headphones). The P21 is excellent quality physically with great sound. I haven’t seen or heard anything as good under $100. Also very comfortable, flat cable, nice zip-up carry bag.

          • http://Twitter.com/mlmabie light&shadow

            Wow that is super helpful. Thanks!

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              The P21 and DTX501p (made by Soundmagic, P30) are similar, despite the price differences. I think the P21 is equal in quality, both physically and for sound. Look at these curves I calculated to flatten the sound of each one. The emphases are in different places, but they net out about the same. The DTX501p has a single-side cable while the P21 is dual-side, but neither is detachable.

              http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Beyer_Dtx501p.jpg

              http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Soundmagic_P21.jpg

              • http://Twitter.com/mlmabie light&shadow

                So I suppose I would be paying double for less noise leakage and nicer colors?

                • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                  The original P30 might not be that expensive, and also offers colors. But for some users, the single-side cable is a great convenience worth paying more for.