Philips Fidelio L1 headphones review

Do the Philips Fidelio L1 headphones offer enough substance to back up the style?

T3 Platinum Award
Reasons to buy
  • +

    Retro design and sturdy build

  • +

    Excellent audio

  • +

    Non-tangle cable

Reasons to avoid
  • -


  • -

    Could do with longer TV cable

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The Philips Fidelio L1 headphones are the first pieces of ear furniture to get the brand's Fidelio premium audio sub-branding, as seen on the Philips Fidelio DS9000

There's now a wider range of headphones on offer than ever before, with the Philips Fidelio L1 taking on the likes of the Beats by Dre Pro Beats, the TDK ST-700 and the Urbanears Plattan cans. But have the L1 headphones got what it takes to make it into our list of the best headphones around? Read on to find out...

Phililps Fidelio L1: Design

It's hard not to be won over instantly by the retro aesthetics of the L1, especially the vinyl-style grooves around the earcups, the speaker grille detail and the pleasingly 1970s-tinged brown headband.

You'll also find a steel ruler-style on the inside of the adjustable headband - not only a fantastic design feature but also a handy way of readjusting your cans to the perfect fit if you've leant them momentarily to a big-bonced friend who's messed up your settings.

The understated vintage style means that the L1 are headphones that you could happily wear on the street without feeling like you wearing a pair of cans that have been designed for a teenager.

Phililps Fidelio L1: Comfort

The headband has a reasonable amount of cushioning on the underside so that the cans sit comforably on top of you head, and there's plenty of room for adjustment, no matter how big your loaf is.

The earcups sit around the ear, so you want get the invetible hot ears that on-ear designs tend to cause after a while. The memory phone cushioning provides comfort as well as a decent seal so you shouldn't be leaking too much commuter-baiting sound if you're listening on public transport.

Phililps Fidelio L1: Durability

All of the stuctural elements of the headphones have been crafted from metal, rather plastic, for a tank-like build that should keep them safe, even when they're getting battered about in the bottom of your rucksack.

The headphones are supplied with two cables, one standard, and one with a basic inline controller built in. Both are connected to a dropped cable from the left earcup so that if they wire gets hooked on something, it'll simply unplug itself, rather than breaking or pulling you towards the obstable, slapstick-style.

Both cables are covered in fabric weave, which is far more durable than a plastic covereing while also keeping tangling to a minimum.

Phililps Fidelio L1: Sound quality

Philips has clearly put a lot of effort into the developement of the L1, concentrating just as much on the audio chops as the style, using a specification testing system - with the unimprovable name of Golden Ears - to test out the L1 against all main rivals.

The L1's drivers are mounted at a tilt within the earcups so that they line up with the natural angle of the ear canal, with the results being inpressively clear and transparent. The bass response is also strong, although it may not be meaty enough for some, especially those that are used to the slightly overcooked low-end reponse found on Beats products.

Having said that, the 'phones still sound fantastic on a variety of music from classical to bass-laden dance tracks and electronica (we took them for a spin on the Drive soundtrack).

The fine-woven metal grilles themselves are joined by fine acoustically resistant fabric that's been designed to reduce sound leakage and keep ambient noise to a minumum, and pretty effective they are, too.

While there's no noise-cancelling tech on board, the cans do block out a significant amount of background noise and the semi-open design also helps to keep sound leakage to a minimum.

Phililps Fidelio L1: Verdict

As with any audio products, there's a certain amount of subjectivity involved, depending on what kind of sound you prefer. While strong, the bass response on the Philips Fidelio L1 might not be meaty enough for some, but it was certainly good enough for us, while the overall sound quality is also superb.

The headphones are portable enough to wear while out on the go, but also decent enough to use at home (although you'll probably need a longer cable if you want to use them with your TV), and the reassuringly sturdy build quality and retro looks complete the package, making these the best headphones we've seen in a while.

We doubt that anyone but the most pedantic of audiophiles could find much to criticise with the L1.

Phililps Fidelio L1 availability: Available now

Phililps Fidelio L1 price: £230