Philips Fidelio L4 review: over-ear indulgence

Over-ear ANC headphones aren't short of competition, but Philips' Fidelio L4 can go head-to-head with the best

Philips Fidelio L4 review
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
T3 Verdict

If you're looking for a pair of active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones with stacks of features and highly accomplished sound then the Philips Fidelio L4 clearly hold their own against the key competition. However, they are on the larger side, so at-home use is preferential, while some disconnect issues hold them back from perfect. Still, the price is right against key Sony, Bose and Bowers competition.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Big, warm sound & capable active noise-cancelling (ANC)

  • +

    Nice accompanying app with customisation options

  • +

    Love the touch-controls

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Intermittent disconnection issues

  • -

    Significant competition at this price

  • -

    ANC when outdoors and Transparency less accomplished

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If you've been considering buying a pair of the best active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones then you'll likely already know that the market isn't short of competition. Philips needn't shy away from its Sony or Bose or Bowers competition, though, as its Fidelio L4 over-ears on review here have some seriously sophisticated features and deliver indulgent sound. 

I was a major fan of the previous Philips Fidelio L3 over-ears, which I used extensively (although that was before my time at T3), so that the Fidelio L4 bring enhanced battery life, supposed improvements to ANC, while dropping the overall weight by 10% and tweaking the design to better accommodate fit sounds like good news all round.

I've been using the Philips Fidelio L4 for a number of weeks, during which time I've been able to compare them against a number of key competitors (Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e) – both indoors and out, at the desk versus on public transport of various kinds – to see how Philips' altogether bulkier over-ears fit into the current crop of best headphones.

Philips Fidelio L4: Price & Availability

The Fidelio L4 was due on sale towards the end of October 2023, but stock with retailers was clearly held back – when they do go on sale the price is expected to be £349/$349 (no AU$ price available at the time of writing). 

That's means the L4 see a UK price increase compared to their predecessors, but in the bigger context of the ANC headphones market it's still competitive – after all the Sony WH-1000XM5 were £379 at launch, while Bose's QuietComfort Ultra Headphones demand a lofty £449.

Philips Fidelio L4 review: What's New?

Philips Fidelio L4 review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

If you were to place the Philips Fidelio L4 next to their older L3 equivalent then you'd not spot massive variations in appearance. However, the new model is marginally larger for an even better fit, with deeper earcups as a result to accommodate more types of ear shapes and sizes. Material changes see the weight drop from 360g to 330g, which is closer to 8% than the claimed 10%.

While both the Fidelio L4 and L3 both feature the same battery capacities (800mAh), the change from lithium-polymer in the older cans to lithium-ion in the newer model means a performance boost is possible. That's on multiple fronts: battery life with ANC active is up from 32 to 40 hours – a massive 25% jump – while the new battery format means faster-charging too, so 15 minutes at the plug will give you 12 hours of ANC listening.

The active noise-cancelling system is also said to be improved in the Fidelio L4, largely down to microphone placement for better call quality and avoid wind tear when it's windy outside. There's a more robust Philips Headphones app to make ANC and equalisation (EQ) adjustments (and more) too.

Philips Fidelio L4 review: Design & Usability

Philips Fidelio L4 review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

The thing about the Fidelio L4 that's going to be reason to buy or reason to avoid is their physical scale. While I wouldn't call these massive headphones, having gotten used to wearing the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones means the Philips product feels much larger – because that's the truth of the matter. For some this deeper earcup proposition will be the better solution, though, it simply depends on your preference. 

For myself, I like wearing the Fidelio L4 most when at home, as they're supremely comfortable. The comfort factor doesn't dissipate when elsewhere, of course, but I've found when on the go that critical earcup positioning can slip around – these larger openings mean you need to ensure your ears sit in a relevant position to the 40mm drivers – and as wind tear with ANC active isn't especially great at avoiding resulting distortions, I've found these to not be my favourite out-and-about headphones.

Philips Fidelio L4 review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

From a control perspective the Fidelio L4 are kitted out with a trio of buttons: on/off on the left earcup; voice assistant control and ANC/Transparency controls on the right earcup (there's a 2.5mm jack next to these for wired listening). The buttons are small and quite close together, but this avoids them getting in the way of an otherwise clean aesthetic.

Better than the physical buttons, and a personal preference of mine, is the touch-based controls. You can turn these off in the app if you don't wish to use them, or find accidental touch an issue, but for me they're firmly set to on. An easy tap on the right earcup can turn the volume up or down, while a swipe can skip through tracks in a playlist. I loved this in my old Bose 700 Headphones and was sad the Bose QC Ultra Headphones dropped the feature – so hurrah to Philips.

Philips Fidelio L4 review: Features & Performance

Philips Fidelio L4 review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

The Philips Fidelio L4 house plenty of features, most of which are easily accessible and visible within the Philips Headphones app. There's an extensive list of highlights: from LDAC enabling (for Hi-Res quality), to auto-play/pause, those touch controls, a Spatial Audio sound enhancer, ANC 'Noise Control Settings' adjustment, even access to the user manual and a quick-start guide to help you when running into difficulty. 

The performance of the L4 does depend on a variety of factors though: namely you'll want to have ANC switched on for the most engaged listening experience. It just brings the bass up a touch and makes everything feel like you're more part of the music. If things are still too lightweight then a comprehensive six-band equaliser means you can adjust the sound profile as you wish (or pick from pre-sets instead). 

The ANC is very effective at cancelling out external sounds when it's active. However, I find its 'Awareness' option thins the sound, irrelevant of the five-level Transparency slider's position within the app – for me this is one to avoid as it also sounds overprocessed. In total silence the ANC is also 'fizzy' and audible, so you can hear that these headphones are keenly processing at all times (perhaps overly keen – as I've had better experiences on planes, for example, with the Bose option (I took both long-haul to Los Angeles and the Philips didn't win that fight in testing)). 

Philips Fidelio L4

(Image credit: Philips / Future)

Get everything setup right – by which I mean perfect ear position, ANC set to 'Custom' and 'Max', Spatial Audio switched on for extra enhancement to any track, and the EQ tweaked for your genre preference – and the Fidelio L4 sound is absolutely epic. Warmth, burbling bass, tightness yet crispness all round, and an adeptness at handling any musical genre you may wish to throw its way. I've been very impressed by the listening quality potential, that's for sure.

However, there's one irksome 'but' that I've found time and again – intermittently and unpredictably – is with connectivity issues. I've had Bluetooth disconnects whilst walking (auto-on/off sensor playing up?). I've had others whilst static on planes (too much surrounding interference?). This is from multiple sources and it's the one thing holding these cans back from a full score.

Philips Fidelio L4 review: Verdict

Philips Fidelio L4 review

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

If you're looking for a pair of active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones with stacks of features and highly accomplished sound then the Philips Fidelio L4 clearly hold their own against the key competition. 

However, I've experienced some irritating disconnection issues, while the physical scale of these over-ears isn't going to suit all – I've found at-home use is by far my preference, where the comfort and sound have proven indulgent. 

Also consider

If you want a similarly large-scale product then the previous generation Fidelio L3 model will save you triple figures. Alternatively there's the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless at a similar price with superb battery life and ANC to boot. Or, again great for at-home, is the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 – now at a great price because the S2e model has hit the shops. 

For more travel-adept headphones, however, I'd recommend considering the smaller and lighter Sony WH-1000XM5 as a great option or, better still, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones – it's just that the latter in particular are of huge expense by comparison (but worth it if you're on the go a lot). 

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike is the Tech Editor at He's been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and, as a phones expert, has seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone too (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech and audio aficionado his beat at T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a tech stone unturned he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.