The Phenomenal: Philips Fidelio L2 (feat. Fidelio M1BT review)

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Disclaimer: This is a double review by Mike and Lieven. We both got free samples of the Philips Fidelio L2 and the M1BT and Philips also sent us on a sponsored trip to their iLab facility in Belgium in September 2013. The first part will be on the L2 while we discuss the M1BT later. FYI: Lieven’s text is in Italic. Mike’s normal font.

 

A lot of companies try to show how serious they are in developing their headphones, but all those efforts really mean nothing if they don’t have a successful product to show. Even though Philips have been involved in the audio industry for a while (making vacuum tube radios and inventing the CD among others) and also make plenty of consumer headphones, they’re quite new in the high end headphone business. Still their effort doesn’t embarrass, and when I reviewed their first Fidelio headphone, the Fidelio L1, last year, it definitely was a headphone that set a standard for the new generation $300 price bracket portable headphones.

What the L1 did to other $300 headphones (i.e making them look bad), the L2 is now doing to the L1. It’s true that there is a slight change in styling direction as the new L2 with the gunmetal and orange color combination somehow pulls off a more modern look while still being very classy, making the L1 look very old and outdated next to it. Comfort factor is also leaps better as the L2 easily matches and on my head is even more comfortable than the class-leading Sony MDR-1R. But on top of all of these, what I consider the biggest achievement, is the improvement in the sound department. Meet the second best headphone driver within the $1K bracket. And I would easily say the best if not for the Sennheiser HD700 being priced at $999.95. Yes, the L2’s driver is so ahead of the competitor that I highly rate it ahead of the Sennheiser Momentum, Sony MDR-1R, B&O H6, ATH’s ESW-11, ES-10, or even the famed Sennheiser HD650/600 line.

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While I wouldn’t go as far as Mike in saying the L2 driver is the 2nd best driver within the $1K bracket I have to admit it is really good. We received these samples when we were visiting Philips in September and I’ve been using the semi-open L2 daily from that point on, and that means a lot. I even took it with me to the non-official European Canjam in Essen where I was the only one with the L2 as even Philips didn’t have it with them. To this day I don’t think the L2 is for sale yet in most parts of the world, price in the US will be $299 while we in Europe can already buy it for €280 right now.

Everyone, and I’m not just saying that, who I gave the L2 to for a while loved it. Not one single person didn’t like the sound signature and the looks. So not only did Philips achieve making a great sounding driver but they managed to incorporate it in a gorgeous design with an eye for comfort (347gr) . To be honest I do have two comfort/look issues with these headphones. First of all, Philips still hasn’t learned to use changeable ear pads which is a shame really, but they took note of that point of critic in our meeting and so I hope that will change in the future.  Second is that when you have been using it as much as I have and for longer periods, the headband starts to hurt on the top of your head. Do note that we’re talking at least 4 to 5 hours of straight listening without even taking it of. I like my music, what can I say. People with big ears however will find the cups on the small side, it didn’t bother me too much, but they’re no Sennheiser comfort wise.

In short, not only did Philips develop one hell of a driver, it looks great and like Mike said it can easily compete with headphones like our beloved Sennheiser HD6X0 and Hifiman HE-400. I wouldn’t go that far in saying it’s a HE-500 or HD700 competitor but it’s getting close, especially for that price. One remarkable thing though is that while Philips with the Fidelio line has been targeting the better quality headphone and sound, they are still displaying their headphones under the accessories category on my local Philips website. Something I don’t find logic at all, but hey, details, right?

The L2 is a semi open design, houses 40mm drivers and has a removable cable and while it surely has a bunch of other features, we care especially about its sound. Back to you Mike.

Well, L is trying to stay away from controversy hence his statement “I wouldn’t go as far as Mike in saying the L2 driver is the 2nd best driver within the $1K bracket bla bla bla” but I’m here to tell the results of my evaluation, so I’m going to keep going. Just kidding, L, but not the part about how high I rank the L2 driver. It’s cleaner than the HD650/K701/DT880/RS1 generation of drivers. The sound is extremely clean, zero grain, one of the blackest background I’ve heard (think Fostex TH900 level black background — ahead of all the other dynamic drivers). In a way it’s very clear and clean sounding like say the Hifiman HE-6/HE-500 but the L2 is smoother than them and is MUCH easier to drive. I can drive the L2 direct from an Altmann Tera which usually only has enough power to drive a Koss Portapro, Sennheiser PX100 and IEMs. While the sound stage is not overly wide (narrower than the Beyer DT880, for instance) it has an extremely deep depth (and sound stage depth is always much harder to achieve than width) even with simple rigs like out of an Astell & Kern AK100 or again, the Altmann. So you get the sense of space, three dimensionality, the black background, all those good things, without having to spend $2K on an amp the way you need for say a Senn HD650. Also, while the Hifimans are extremely spacious and airy, the soundstage depth has always been weak even on the best rig I’ve listened them on, not to add that the Hifimans can only dream about the sort of black background and center image the L2 pulls so effortlessly. This is a world class driver and had they developed a flagship-class housing around it, a lot of $1K headphones better be prepared to get their ass kicked.

Of course Mike and myself talked about this difference in opinion and I see what he means. The L2 right out of the box is great, no amp needed. The HE-500 can of course, on several points, be better than the L2 but you will need a top DAC and a good matching amp for the HE-500 to sound its best. And that’s where Philips got it right: the L2 achieves (almost) the same level and you don’t even need a big and expensive setup to get there. But then again, the L2 was made as a portable headphone, and the HE-500 was developed to be used in a full sized desktop system. But anyhow, that’s how I translate Mike when he says the L2 takes on the HE-500.

On the tonality side, I love the mid range on the L2. It has an extremely smooth, organic, full mid range that reminds me of the limited edition Audio Technica W2002 flagship headphone. It’s as if you’ve permanently attached a 300B or 45 vacuum tube to the drivers. Extremely clear mid range that’s full bodied, analog, and smooth. One of the best in the industry. The bass also follows the same smooth yet clear tonality as the mid range, full bodied, though doesn’t hit as hard as I would’ve liked (say Vmoda M100, Aedle VK-1, or Senn HD650 level) but still more potent than Sony’s MDR-1R. The treble is where my love and hate relationship happens on the L2. The L2 may not have a hot-recording proof tonality the way the Vmoda M100 is, but it’s definitely far from a bright headphone with proper recordings. I would’ve enjoyed less quantity on the treble, but that’s just my dark loving ears. Since Philips is targeting the L2 for the mainstream crowd, I think they’ve set the treble just the right amount. Though I do think that the mainstream crowd would appreciate a harder hitting bass.

I think Mike described the sound part correctly. The mid section is absolutely stunning, smooth and slightly warm and I do agree on the bass part. It could hit a little harder but as I’m mostly using my headphones with an amp, even on the go, it’s making it less audible. Personally I can appreciate  the extended treble of the L2 (I acquired that preference over the years), and as a result I can’t see any direct flaws in how it sounds.

Now, I need to make a note of distinction that a great driver doesn’t necessarily translate to a great headphone. Take the Sennheiser HD800 for instance, still the most resolving driver in the world, and yet not a very musical experience. The L2 is very warm, full bodied, and musical, far from the HD800. However, the fact that I’m praising the drivers as 2nd best below $1K after the HD700 doesn’t mean that I’m discounting the other headphones as being inferior. Ultimately, a lot of factors come to mind. Bass impact is pretty important and that’s one area that I think the L2 can be better. Tonality is also another thing, depending on your music preference, some headphone works better than the other. Also while I rank the Fidelio L2 as having a better driver than say a Hifiman HE-500, there is no discounting the impressive wow factor of the wide open sound of the Hifiman. Another example is the Shure SRH1540 that I recently auditioned in the Tokyo Headphone Festival. While it’s an impressive headphone and overall also a great headphone, again the driver quality of the L2 is simply a class ahead. Yet, I’m not saying that overall as a headphone, the L2 is better than the 1540. So, please keep that differentiation in mind. Still, the L2 is not a driver first, musicality second. It’s a very musical headphone, and I’ve gotten a lot of VERY positive impressions from the local enthusiasts who’s had the chance to audition it. It’s just that when I talk about the drivers, the ranking is a bit different than the headphone as a whole.

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Now, with a driver quality that high, hows the requirement on the source and recording? The good news is that the L2 is not as demanding as the HD800 or HD700, though still more demanding than the HD650, LCD-2, or Hifiman HE500/6. In a practical terms, those words mean that it runs good from a portable source, but please use something better than an IPod or a smartphone. The Fiio X3 and Ibasso DX50 would be good, though the AK100 would be more ideal. Those of you fortunate enough to get the Altmann Tera before the $2000 price update, try using it with the L2. I find the combination extremely sweet.

You can of course fall back to the ipod + Cypherlabs or any other iDevice but then we’re talking big budget for a sub $300 headphone. That however is how I prefer using it, owning the setup already. Just don’t get this kind of setup for the L2 and take Mike’s advice.

Recordings, the L2 is not pop-music friendly. Though it doesn’t demand Chesky/Stockfish level recordings. The average Jazz recordings would do. Please avoid recordings with hot trebles like Jpop for instance. Overall, the okay bass impact makes the L2 more limited to the slower and more relaxed music types that don’t require strong beat reproduction. Its a more mature headphone, if I can make a rough generalization. And the bass is why the L2 is not going to take over the Vmoda M100 as the king of portable headphone, despite having a genius driver inside it. In many ways it works good for the music that Grados, Staxes and Hifimans work well with. Its not a HD25-1 replacement and definitely not a Vmoda M100 replacement. But talking driver quality, I don’t think any of the other high end portable headphones can compete with it. Momentum, Sony 1R, ESW-11, B&O H6, etc. And I actually sell the Momentum, Sony, and the Audio Technica on my store! Of course given the positive impressions the local enthusiasts had over the L2, I am considering selling it as well, but I still don’t know if we’ll be able to get those headphones from the distributor.

My musical preferences are somewhat different from Mike’s and I never listen to Jpop, Kpop or hardly any popular TOP 40 music  for that matter that’s been released after Y2K. To me rock, metal, classic, dance, jazz and even old school hip hop all sound extremely nice on this headphone. It’s price/quality ratio is very good. So where do I put Philips’s latest release? Personally I find it better than the Sennheiser Momentum, the H6, the P7, Aedle VK-1 and the Vmodas. To me it competes directly with the also very easy to drive HE-400 and it probably even has that one beat too. I follow Mike in his HD650 and HE-500 reasoning (needing quality amps ) so we can only conclude that Philips has created a competitor killer with the L2.

We’re fans!

All the R&D work done by the Philips team certainly have paid off. I couldn’t be more impressed, and I hope that the fact that Philips sent me on a sponsored trip to their iLab facility doesn’t discount the fact that this is such a phenomenal headphone and even more a phenomenal driver that the Philips team have created.

 

Besides the L2, Philips also released a Bluetooth version of their M1 headphone, a unit we reviewed already in January. Review on the next page!

 

The Phenomenal: Philips Fidelio L2 (feat. Fidelio M1BT review) 4.08/5 (81.67%) 12 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

  • kameenadesi

    you guys really gotta hear the JVC SZ2000 Live Beat headphones. They have incredible synergy with the FiiO E12 Mont Blanc. I bet the drivers in the SZ2000 can be comparable to the Philips L2. Wanna try the L2 one day…

    • dalethorn

      The headfi review says the bass is “Like a club in your brain”, so if you’re after some *really* serious bass, check it out.

  • Sam Lim

    L2 Does not have the second Best Driver under $1000 =_=

    http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/PhilipsL2.pdf

    How can you tell that is the second best driver under$1000??? THD is higher than other well made headphone in this price range….like NAD HP50, Focal Sprite Pro, HD25 Aluminum, ETC

    impedance response shows L2 driver has electronic resonance at bass and low high. That is saying L2 has problem with damping….I have No clue how you can even say that l2 has the second best driver under $1000 =_=.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Yes, you might need to read between the lines there. Don’t take it too literally I would say. On the other hand it is a great sounding headphone. On the other hand, who cares how it measures. I don’t.

      • Geoffrey Defosse

        No need to look at graphics to tell the l2 is not AT ALL on the same league as the big boys such as the He-500, LCD 2 ans so on, there is a workd of difference. When i go back to the L2 from my He 500 i feel the l2 so lacking in everything. It’s like going from a Oled big screen feed with blu ray to a mere 55cm old television with DVD. This review is just a big joke.

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

          You guys are missing the point of the review. don’t take it so literally

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          It’s been a while since I read the review, but I read it again now, and there’s enough detail in the text to explain clearly what you get for $300. I had the L1, but not the L2 as yet, and compared to a lot of the junk that sells for $300, the L2 should be a pretty good deal for the price. (and I have a few $300 headphones that I wish I hadn’t bought)

  • Raskoln

    On pure sound, would you (any you will do) prefer the Fidelio X1 or L2? And would these be a distinct step-up from Senn 598s?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      X1 sound is warmer and has different bass (bigger?) than the L2. But the L2 overall has the best driver and sound. (but not the biggest bass). I would call the L2 a step up from the 598

      • Raskoln

        Thanks L, & where would you put the Beyer DT770s or LE version in relation to the L2? The Senns seem to my uneducated ears at their best in relation to the luxurious, laid back side of the spectrum but maybe are lacking in terms of drive & energy. My tastes are very broad so I’m not looking to specifically cover that side of things but it is part of the equation. Though to add, your mention of what you consider the L2 to go well with in the review would seem to satisfy me on that front.

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

          The Beyer is closed and the L2 is open, I would go for the L2 in that case, it’s a higher quality sound for sure

          • Raskoln

            Thanks Lieven, & with that I think I’ll quit reading reviews of this, that & the other & instead just go and order the L2!

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

              Amazon france and Italy often have great deals

              • Raskoln

                Thanks for the tip, and from looking weird the discrepancies on the different Amazons around Europe with the L2 – UK & Italian 100 or so euros less than elsewhere.

                • Raskoln

                  Ordered this morning – 200 euros after delivery.

                  • Raskoln

                    Arrived today. Won’t make a fool of myself trying to make observations other than I like them and some of Underworld’s mid 90s peak years are sounding very fine but, novice that I am, I’ve a question re cable. I’d certainly appreciate having a quite-a-bit longer cable for home use than supplied 1.2m. Do I need to be looking at something specific for these phones or should I be ok with virtually any generic 3.5mm/3.5mm?

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

                      Should be ok if you stick to a thin 3.5mm.

                    • Raskoln

                      Thanks

  • Munteanu David

    Where are the Philips Fidelio L2 made ?

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Let me check the box later

      • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

        couldn’t see it on the box but the box did have some asian language on it

  • Moshyo

    Thanks for the review guys. How would you compare the L2 with Soundmagic HP100 which is slightly cheaper but has been reviewed to punch much above its weight? How does the soundstage compare to the HP100 and ZMF? Also, L2 is marketed as a portable but it is semi-open – how bad is the sound leakage?

    • dalethorn

      I haven’t had the L2 but it should be similar to the L1 – warm and somewhat bassy. The HP100 is lean in the upper bass (quite different from Philips) but has a strong low bass.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      Hi. THe HP100 is closed and the L2 is an open headphone. Sound signature is completely different because the HP100 is a very neutral headphone with very tight bass. L2 soundstage is bigger, I haven’t heard the ZMF yet but the L2 is better than the HP100 IF you need an open headphone

  • Tibor

    Hi there. Can you help me to choose? I want to buy headphones to use on the go, I have a Meridian Explorer dac and was considering to buy Beyer T51p, but maybe those L2´s can be also a good option. Can you compare those two please? You will help me a lot. Thank You

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      I keep being surprised how people want to compare different types of headphones. The T51P is portable. The L2 is a full size. the Beyer is on ear, the L2 is over ear. L2 is open, T51P is closed. Sound wise both are very good but the T51P is smaller for portable. I personally enjoy the sound sig of the Beyer more but it is clear the L2 has the “better” sound

      • Tibor

        Thank you, yes I can see those differences, but I can´t hear them. What I would like to know, which of those has better detail and depth across frequencies and which of them are more musical.

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

          Musical: Beyer. Detail and depth, the L2

          • Tibor

            Thank You :)

            • Patrick Michael Graf Murray

              Are you not an IEM kind of person? Because I was not but my situation called for it, and I ended up with the ER4PT IEM and I will say they are a fantastic portable ear phone, with my Rockbox Ipod and the C5 amp the music really does immerse you.

  • Nat PML

    If I tell you that I love the L2, but its trebles make me uncomfortable, which headphones would you advise (I mostly listen to baroque music, and I’m especially fond of bass voices) ? (I own HD650/700, K701, L2/X1, COP, Porta Pro) Thanks for the hint !

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      doesn’t the 650/700 suffice?

      • Nat PML

        They do, but I’m looking for a lower impedance full-size headphone to use with Sony’s NWZ-ZX1 (forgot to mention this).

        2014-07-10 14:27 GMT+02:00 Disqus :

        • Dave Ulrich

          Mad Dog maybe?

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

          Have you tried EQ’ing or doesn’t the ZX1 offer that? 😉

          • Nat PML

            I totally forgot EQ, I confess : I used the head-fi tip to increase the output power (which disables EQ, and all “sound enhancements”). You’re right, thanks.

            I’ll look for the Mad Dog though, Dave, I was curious about them.

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

              Money saved! :)

              • Nat PML

                That’s the very first time you do this, L ;-P

                (about to buy the a20 for the HD650, which is totally your fault, admit it ! … still trying to find an already soldered BottleHead Crack, or wait for more Oppo ha-1 reviews though)

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

                  Yeah, you have to get a crack too.

  • Nat PML

    Oopps.

  • Rogier Schreurs

    My brother got this last week and I’ve been able to listen to it a little bit. Haven’t really come to terms with the totality of it’s sound, but one thing really stood out for me: It manages to replicate the sounds of fender guitars, Fender Rhodes piano’s and Hammond organ quite well! John Mayer and D’angelo really shine with these puppies!

  • Joël Bühler

    He there
    I just bought the Fidelio L1 for (120 Swissfrancs). They sound amazing!!! I can’t imagine that the L2 sounds better…
    Would you also buy the L2? Or a Beyerdynamics T51p?
    I own: Shure SE315, Fidelio L1, Bose AE2, 2x Phonak PFE 022 and Jays…

    Thanks guys

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      If I had the L1, my next step might be the X1 or X2, or possibly the Beyerdynamic DT770-32 ohm. The T51p sound is way different from all of these, and I would recommend it for portable use, but not to switch back and forth between the T51p and L1 – the tonality is too different.

      • Joël Bühler

        Yeah the X1 sounds amazing!!!
        Why is the X2 so much cheaper than the X2?

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          Once these models are discontinued the price tends to drop drastically.

          • Joël Bühler

            Haha I meant X2 cheaper than the X1 😉

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

              X2 is not even out yet and it’s more expensive

              • Patrick Michael Graf Murray

                The X1 had went from 180-210 to now being 300 -260 Which is a bit of a bummer, not to say that it is not worth the 260 and what not but I know I can find a slightly used headphone that is potentially even more to my liking for less in the forums and ebay. I remember people sellig their x1 for 170 now they are sellling them for 250. I really hope the x2 delivers something special because they have a decent amount to live up too. I currently am trying out two closed models and have been comparing my own HD600. The T70p and the modded T50rp the ZMF X Vibros. To be honest the they all sound amazing, and I am kind of in the air if I want to sell one so I can try out the X2 when it is out.

                • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                  I would have a hard time giving up the T70p (Tesla), the ZMF vibro (planar), or the HD600. The HD600 is a reference headphone, and the other 2 are Tesla and a planar about to become a legend. The X2 could sound better than any or all of these for the first few weeks, but eventually you’d miss these 3.

              • Ege Özcan

                btw I tested the fidelio x2s at canjam today and they were awesome. after a side-by-side comparison with L2’s, it’s amazing that they had found so much room to improve.

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

      Why not the T51P? Something different

    • Rafael Capelo

      Hi Joel, see you bought the L1 and was worried about the isolation as I’am. What did you think about it?. Do you think It would bother someone sitting next to you in the airplane or bus travel?. I’m thinking about getting the L2 that is also semi-open, but worried about this, also considering the M1 causs its closed back…

      • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

        The M1 that I had sounded the opposite of the L1 that I had. L1 had good relatively strong bass and sparkly treble, where the M1 had a very recessed treble.

        • Rafael Capelo

          Thanks for the opinion! What about the sound leakage? Do you think its too much?

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            I don’t have an actual example of leakage for the L1 that I had, but since the isolation was almost none, the leakage would be enough that you couldn’t use it in a public library at normal volume. I’ve almost never had a problem on a train or plane though, unless I’m playing very loud next to someone who’s bothered very easily.

        • Rafael Capelo

          Thanks

      • Joël Bühler

        Hi Rafael,
        The L1 sounds really good and they are enough loud…but I think you would bother someone with your music 😉
        Actualy I’m using the Shure SE 315! =)

  • willy vlyminck

    All the superlatives are justified, I have the L2 since a week, and it is almost frightening how much better this headphone compared with the overhyped Momentum,which by the way, I wanted to like, but it just didn´t work for me, not that I am a difficult person but the main demanding I have to headphones is natural sound, when I hear a Steinway it should sound like one and not like a Fender electric piano :-) It have the natural smoothness of my Grado GR10, and that says a lot if not all..I did just listen to some Steven Wilson works, and was extremely pleased with what I heared and the bass is also exellent in case anyone would doubt, altough I can not speak for the kind of bass required for today´s mainstream styles, but for avant-prog rock, the bass is topnotch. Can´t wait to hear the X2 :-)

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

      X2 is darker, bigger bass, not as tight and fast. Technically I prefer the L2

  • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

    Hi, how is sound leakage on these phones? And is it possible to exchange the cable? I do’nt need a microphone.

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

      It leaks quite a lot of sound actually. Yes the cable can be changed but you’ll have to find one where the 3.5MM plug fits

      • http://www.alkopedia.net Biergourmet

        Thanks, just noticed that it is a semi-open phone. Innerfidelity’s measurement says: Broadband Isolation in dB -8 dBr. Not really much :-(

  • Pingback: PHILIPS FIDELIO L2 ‘Review’ $299 | Audiophilepure()

  • Akis

    How do these compare with the X2’s. The L2’s look less challenging on the head.

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

      they are much more fashinable yes, but the headband starts to hurt on top of your head after a few hours. The L2 is more forward and faster sounding than the X2. I think they’re about on par for what technicalities are concerned but the X2 is a lot warmer and smoother. I like both their sound but the L2 could use some more bass. X2 is pretty perfect but it doesn’t have the WOW effect my HD650 still gives me (the Sennheiser scales a lot better)

      • Akis

        Thanks for a super-fast reply. That means the X2 are the ones for me then.

        I also have some HD700 that I need to make a decision on whether to keep? If I do, I feel I would also like to invest in a Bottlehead Crack amp to get the best out of them.

        The sound is so different to the everyday X2 headphones (which have the more easy-to-live-with, rich, warm sound).

        I’m thinking of maybe keeping both. But then should I spend the combined cost of X2’s and HD700’s on an other alternative i.e. one set of headphones that do it all?!

        I’m using an AK100 II as a source and the X2’s are a great fit but on some tracks the HD700’s have so much more resolving power albeit at the expense of sounding a little clinical.

        Love the website. Keep up the great work.

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          A good planar would be interesting. The HE560, one of the new Oppo’s, or Audeze EL8 etc.

          • Akis

            I’d love to try the EL8’s. I do already have 3 headphones purchased from Amazon that I’m auditioning (the HD700’s, the X2’s and Momentums that I haven’t even unboxed) that I have to make a decision on soon.

            It’s very difficult to do any analytical listening in a shop environment with a limited amount of time, so buying/trying/returning seems to be the best way.

            I don’t want to tie-up any more money (or waste people’s time) unless there’s a good chance I will keep the headphones I now try.

            I’ve already returned some Beyer T51i’s. The Momentums were meant as an alternative to the T51i’s.

            The EL-8’s are £600 in the UK ($870).

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              The B&W P7 might be a viable alternative to the X2, and certainly to the Momentum.

              • Akis

                Looking for that one headphone that does it all.

                But I fear that other than the real thing (the live event) every reproduction is simply just that and we spend time and money trying to get close to something we can never get right by definition.

                • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                  There is a payoff though, in that when you combine your own experience with what you read here (and elsewhere), before you buy and after you buy, you get a pretty good feel for which headphones best represent your music – giving you I guess the most detail or experience for your money, with proper balance. For me, the P7 gives me a full-up experience somewhere near the lower end of my ideal sound, and headphones similar to the latest LCD2 at the top end. I only wish I had everything in between. But once you get a “really good” headphone you feel comfortable with, you can focus on getting the best out of it with an amp that has the right synergy. That’s the tricky part for me – I’m always surprised at the sound of any new amp I get. There are still ‘objectivist’ guys who think they all sound pretty much alike, but when you listen to enough of them with the same headphone, you eventually hit the sweet spot.

                  • Akis

                    Thanks for your time and comments.

                    Not wishing to drag this more off topic and hoping to give something useful to other readers from my experience:

                    – When I plug the X2’s in and listen to ‘my music’, I am never disappointed, nothing jars, nothing detracts. They are really a great headphone. So that’s that then?

                    – Well not quite. The HD700, on some tracks, are clearly better – more detail, more layering, more air, more feel. But at a cost. Things now do jar in places of the track – sibilant in places, less warm, change in tempo, busier sound.

                    – You start to think maybe the HD700 are more accurate and that’s the way the track is recorded. The X2’s maybe are tuned to be more rose-tinted. Maybe the right small valve amp would help tint the HD700’s a little to help them with the track?!

                    My point is do you ever reach a satisfactory conclusion? If you buy top of the range Audeze’s, does all of your music sound comfortable to you and do you stop picking holes or looking for improvements? I’m guessing not. I’m guessing when something then jars, you blame the recording as you have ‘the best headphones’ so it can’t be their fault.

                    In conclusion, for me the X2’s are great everyday, wear and enjoy the music headphones. Others like the HD700’s give you more but are high maintenance. I’m thinking of sticking with the X2’s as my daily wear, whilst still trying to find Nirvana with 1 more expensive offering / amp combo.

                    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                      I found a magic solution called EQ. And I don’t mean to open the Pandora’s Box on that one, but here’s the key: Just like when you restrain yourself from visiting the loan shark to buy all kinds of goodies you can’t afford, you restrain yourself from using EQ to attain perfection – you go after the most problematic sibilant frequency and let the others go. If it makes a difference (and it should) then you’re better off. You can even retune a couple of problems, not just one. Every headphone has multiple resonances and suckouts, and while the mfrs. dampen most of them pretty well, they’re not 100 percent. I’ve found that reducing the problems (not trying to be perfect) really makes the sound more natural and alive, but it takes practice.

                    • Akis

                      Good advice again. Thank you.

                      I’ve placed an order for a Bottlehead Crack to try with the HD700’s.

                    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                      Be sure to report your experience with it.

  • willy vlyminck

    I really like my L2, and bass is exellent, at least for my taste of music, (prog,avant-prog,)where the bass guitar is much more than only a part of the rhytm section.The headphone is a perfect partner for my FiiO X1. I am looking for an in ear that comes close to the L2 Lieven, if you have any idea, don´t hesitate… My IE80 goes in this direction, but doesn´t have the 3D sound and the space of the L2, neither is the bass so clean, My Grado GR10 is a perfect match for my iPhone/ iPod but not for the X1., so an in ear alternative for the L2 would be great.

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      I thought the IE800 was fantastic. It’s not so much a wide stage, but amazing depth. Usually if I hear bass and treble enhanced, I think of it as V-shaped, but I loved every bit of the IE800 spectrum.

      • willy vlyminck

        The price is a bit beyond my budget, and following the threats of the IE800, it seems there is a lot of complaining, which is not ok for a product in this price range, altough I understand that an IEM sounding like the L2 can’t be cheap…

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          I think part of the problem is that a lot of the “richness” in the sound that multi drivers and crossovers add is missing in the IE800, and users who are familiar with those IEMs just won’t like the IE800.

          • willy vlyminck

            Most complains are from a technical nature, as for example a stiffening cable. On the sound matter there is a positive consence.

            • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

              The main complaint I remember is the cable detaches below the ‘Y’, not at the ear pieces, so may require sending to Sennheiser when replacement needed.

              • willy vlyminck

                I know, they give good service but for 700 Euro, you may expect a perfect product, There are far lesser expensive in ears, who never causes trouble, I think of the IE80, never had any issues with that, but unfortunately the bass is not so clean and 3-D as with the L2, if it is fair to compare over ears with in ears?

                • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                  It is OK to compare because you and I both have the experience. So I understand. But 2 things: I don’t think the IE800 is very fragile, and I don’t think the price means it has to be rugged or perfect. But I always treated mine very carefully. If you need to just throw it into a bag etc. for convenience, then probably not a good idea. I found a tiny case for my IE800 that was very quick and convenient to put the earphone into, and also protected it. Putting it into the Sennheiser case was a time waster.

                  • willy vlyminck

                    I use this one for my GR10 and IE80

                    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

                      OK – that looks good. As long as you use the case when not listening you should be good. I think the reason I’ve had a few headphone cables break is because of the weight of the headphones – when a cable snags there’s a lot of weight pulling against that snag. With IEMs that shouldn’t happen unless the IEM cord is somehow immovable on one end and the other end is snagged. Of course nobody can guarantee anything.

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

      I have to say I only listen to customs. There are some universals I like but they don’t seem to be what you’re looking for.

      Probably Nathan has a better idea, he’s our IEM guy

      • willy vlyminck

        Customs are certainly the optimal choice if you want to have sound like an over ear headphone, the only problem is that they are incredible expensive, but I will ask Nathan if he know a more down to earth solution

  • Gabriel Ross

    L. Here in the States I was able to get a pair of L2’s from a seller in Japan. Since that time your good word about Forza, encouraged me to order a aftermarket cable. Neutrik straight 3.5 mm, with 1.5 m Quad hybrid series cable. Every thing improved of course, highs are perfect and the bass has improved. I just wanted you to know how much Headfonia, is helping me to enjoy my music collection. p.s., I D.I.Y my CD’s to windows on WAV, it seems to be a good way to go; do you agree? HFN#1. Thanks.

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      Did you mean that you rip your CDs to WAV files and store those files on the computer?

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

      I’m so happy to read that. Enjoy your setup. The L2 is nice.
      WAV is a good format but I hardly ever use it, I always go for FLAC

      • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

        I always rip my CDs to bit-perfect WAVs, then make FLACs from the WAVs, then make 320k CBR MP3s from the WAVs, then toss the WAVs. When the FLACs are re-converted to WAV, they are bit-identical to the original WAV files. The MP3s go onto portable players (Apple), and a few of the WAVs go onto one Apple device for testing with DACs.

        There are people who claim that the WAVs may sound slightly better than equivalent FLACs, due to the burden the player has of uncompressing the FLACs in real-time, however, even if it’s unlikely, something to be aware of.

        • johthor

          Would you share which software you prefer to use when you rip from CDs? I actually do the same as you when ripping from my CDs. I have been using dbpoweramp but would like to know what you prefer to use. Thanks

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            Usually Foobar2000, with the verify turned on. Sometimes it reports errors and I may have to do the songs one by one. But I’ve also ripped to WMA with Windows Media Player, or even Mac lossless with iTunes (not recently). When I use Foobar to convert WAV to FLAC and FLAC to WAV, those conversions are not only lossless, the WAV-from-FLAC is always identical to the original WAV, just as though I did a PKZip and PKUnzip.

          • Haryanto Suryonoto

            Try dBPoweramp. Can do accuraterip.

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

            dBPoweramp is pretty darn good, I use it too.

  • Rafael Capelo

    Great review. I’m thinking of getting the L2 after so good opinions about it, and the cost-bennefit in my country is great. I have some concern about the isolation for travelling neightboors, since I use it a lot in airplane or bus travels. Seen some coments saying it may boder people sitting next to me, and other comments saying its ok. Even considering the M1 cause its closed back, but really wanted an over ear headphone with this quality. How would you compare the isolation of the M1 and L2? And the sound quality? It would be great to hear the opinion of the L2 owners =). Thanks

  • Marco Mare

    What is “jpop” kpop”?
    Call them with their name: CRAP
    The majority of US “music” is pure GARBAGE and what is tragic is that the people of US is completely unaware of what REAL MUSIC is.
    The dumbness of so many Americans is so pathetic.
    (c)rap (s)hit hop du(m)bstep alternative techno punk grunge etc…all of this garbage is just noise for monkeys.
    Incredibly US gave birth to modern Music like rock-blues-jazz-funk-soul etc….
    Nowadays music means NOISE and not harmony for too many idiots.
    This is like humanity is returning to the stone-age

    • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

      Most people aren’t serious music lovers, they just like a melody or a beat to play in the background while they do other things. Other people – young people for example – use their ‘music’ to frame their culture, and most of them will be listening to “music of your life or era” when they’re older, just to remind them of a better time before they had to go to work, to a horrible job to support their families. The marketing people understand this, and the stuff they churn out rarely affects audiophiles. Fortunately, unlike bygone eras, we can find what we like in a lot of different internet forums – Soundcloud, whatever.

      Oh, BTW – a lot of audiophiles, maybe even the majority, play their favorite music while they do other things too. Cruising the internet especially.

    • George Lai

      I don’t like JPop or KPop but I wouldn’t call them crap. People don’t purposely like music because they like crap. Different cultures listen to different kinds of music and we should all respect that.

      “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Berthold Auerbach

      And whilst we are on the subject, some U.S. music had their origins from their immigrants from all over the world.

      • Marco Mare

        The problem is that what some ignorant people calle “music” is NOT Music at all.
        The term Music do NOT means ANY possible sound,but it means that there are rules of harmony and melody to be respected,otherwise is just random noise.
        In order to be Music it needs REAL singers REAL musicians and REAL instruments to be used .
        The lack of intelligence and culture is the result of the primitive unintelligent noise that the media want us to swallow.

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          I don’t follow “media” and neither should you. It just gets people upset for nothing.

      • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

        “Long way from home, can’t sleep at all, you know another mule is kickin’ in your stall.” — Howlin’ Wolf a.k.a. Chester Burnett, migrated from the plantations of Mississippi to urban Chicago. Same country, but two different worlds. Huge influence on Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Animals, Cream, many others.

        • George Lai

          Indeed, Dale. It is also thought that U.S. blues were influenced by African roots.

          There’s a Malian artist – Ali Faraka Toure – whose music has so many underpinnings in US blues and he has never heard US blues. When Ry Cooder, I believe, found him, he couldn’t believe the similarity.

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            Good reference. I have over 10 thousand blues tracks on tape from my wife’s late brother, tracing plantation blues from the 1920’s through the urban blues of the 1990’s. Similarities work both directions, interestingly enough – you hear artists of today reflecting some of the early riffs, and occasionally you even hear a few bars in a 1920’s recording that sounds amazingly modern. I have a CD by Miriam Makeba of South African “field” songs that I believe were ancestor to much of the ‘spiritual’ songs of the American plantations.

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            There is one problem with the reference to “primitive unintelligent noise” etc. The clues are found in language itself – for example the predecessor to English, the Indo-European, has many times the complexity of English. Navajo and other native languages here are far more complex than English, simply because the thoughts and history of the peoples were kept in the head and not generally written down. Listen to some of the pow-wow songs of American Indians, and after awhile you’ll be transported to a different level of song appreciation, or you’ll be cut off completely due to ignorance of the language and culture. If you stick it out, it will transform you, in a good way.

  • Anon

    Hi guys, great review. two things in respect to the L2:

    1. Would a Fiio X5 be a preferred pairing to a Fiio X3 II? As in would the price increase be justified? I also know the X5 II will be released soon so is it worth waiting?

    2. For hip-hop would the HD650 be better suited than the L2? The laid back signature of the HD650 makes me think otherwise but then again you say the bass impact is better on the HD650 than the L2 so i’m really not sure. What do you think?

    • willy vlyminck

      The L2 will just do great with any of the FiiO´s because it doesn´t require much power. I don´t listen to hip-hop but apart from the the L2 does really well with plenty of (sub)genres. Thx to Lieven, I did buy the L2, and I think in it´s segment it is one of the very best no matter the price. The L2 is also very beautifull made, at a level you normally find only at headphones, costing the double or triple.

  • Dadbeh Shaddel

    if L2 is such an overacheiver, you should have compared it with OPPO PM2 and PM-3

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

      The OPPOs weren’t around back then. Chill

      • Dadbeh Shaddel

        oh i wasnt upset or skeptical or anything like that. I just wanted to see how they compare. also the link to this came up on your facebook and i clicked on it, i didnt realize how old it was. funny thing is, it is still hard to find one of these in the US.

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

          Yes for some reason the Fidelio brand never really made it to the US. Very strange

          • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

            I talked to Kevin the Philips guy on Facebook about whether the original M1 was going to be re-tuned for the U.S. market, since it was delayed several months after the Europe release. He stopped responding after the first question, so I’m pretty sure that was a clue to why it came out so dark it was like having no treble. Anyway, when corporations get so big they can’t communicate at all with reviewers, just because the reviewer has a sensitive question, it’s no surprise that some products fail. BTW, I paid $250 for my M1, out of pocket.

        • http://dalethorn.com dalethorn

          Philips makes some great quality headphones. I’ve had three. The SHP-9500 can be had for less than $100 now- sounds really great – just add a little bit of bass boost and it’s a total experience.

  • willy vlyminck

    Hi Lieven, did Philips already send the M2L with lightning contact ? The reviews I did find are all very positive exept for the limited use due to the lightning contact only, but I like the idea of such compact item, where Dac/ amp is included, so all you need is your iPhone7/ iPod.

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

      I won’t be doing that for review Willy, sorry

  • willy vlyminck

    No problem Lieven, I just thought due to your good contacts with Philips they might send you a review sample.