In our hunt for the best headphones we've been donning the Philips Fidelio M2BT Bluetooth wireless on-ears to see whether these cans deliver audio that defies their small scale.
As the update to the earlier Fidelio M1BT, the latest generation M2BT makes some small tweaks in build quality by adding a fibre headband, along with NFC (near field communication) for simplified pairing with compatible devices.
Are the Philips Fidelio M2 Bluetooth the on-ear headphones to go for?
Cut the cord
The obvious appeal of Bluetooth headphones is that they cut the need to have any trailing wires. Simply charge the Fidelio M2BT via the microUSB port on the right earcup and you're all set.
Once the battery depletes Philips has been clever in also including a backup cable so that the headphones operate passively without the need for power. Simply plug in the provided cable via the 3.5mm jack on the left earcup and it's like using a normal set of headphones.
In this instance Bluetooth is able to deliver high-quality via aptX, meaning CD-quality audio transmission is possible if you have the source files to match.
However, we've often found that Bluetooth can introduce some issues that don't exist with wired connections. We've used the Fidelio M2BT on-ears with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, in addition to a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. We found occasional drop-outs from the smartphone connection when buried in a pocket or, in the case of the MacBooks when used under pressure - such as opening a new piece of software, for example - that some glitches to audio were present, such as pops, cracks and occasional stutters. That's nothing necessarily new to our Bluetooth audio experience in general, but something we experienced here. From a dedicated audio device it won't be a problem, but not everyone listens in that format.
Design and build
The most striking thing about the Fidelio M2BT is that they're small; dinky in an appealing way. Unlike some of the gigantic headphones that we've seen in the past, the Fidelio build doesn't protrude from your head like the arch of Wembley stadium.
The small-scale padded earcups are really comfortable and as there's no opening for your ears to drop into they don't assert imbalanced pressure to any part of the lobe.
These earcups are held in a metal frame, complete with exterior mesh, and there's no over-the-top branding to be seen. The product name is written white-on-black, alongside all-caps "high definition" and "NFC Bluetooth" - but not in a way that distracts from the overall look. It's all neat and tidy, just as we like it.
The right earcup also houses a volume up/down toggle that works really well and the whole mesh area can be pressed for switching on the headphones or, via a press-and-hold, will be searchable to pair via Bluetooth.
A new woven fibre headband gives a textured look to the exterior, but the underside is a softer finish for comfortable wear. Just like the earcups it feels really good and the small nature of these cans means those with small or large heads are well accommodated for thanks to the easily adjustable band.
Overall the M2BT are good looking and well made headphones. But for their £250 SRP we would expect nothing less - but shop around online and you should be able to purchase for under the £200 mark.
When Bluetooth streaming is on point, the Philips Fidelio M2BT on-ears deliver gigantic audio that you might not expect from their small scale construction. It's impressive.
It's not a neutral listen by any means, though, as bass is huge and while the high-end isn't over-sharp we thought such frequencies were pushed more than some competitors.
It's a clean listen, though, with heaps of volume from the two 40mm drivers encasing you in a deep audio experience. From Metrik's synth-emblazoned Reykjavik to Apex Twin's drum-and-vocal medley in minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix] there's a big, bold tick put in the electronic music box.
That might be more the genre these on-ears are aimed at, as after swapping electro for the multi-instrumental Arcade Fire, we found the band's Black Mirror to exhibit thumping bass a little to excess.
Switching over to the Jon Hopkins and Natasha Khan collaboration Garden Heart and the thudding kick-drums of that track felt much more appropriate, leaving enough room for the soaring vocal - but still the bass was a prominent element of the mix.
Battery life lasts for 10-hours per charge and after a couple of days of listening we'd say this is pretty accurate - even at the high volume levels we tend to subject our ears to.
If you like quality audio and stacks of burbling bass to vibrate your inner ears then the Philips Fidelio M2BT do a fine job. The big sound from these small cans defies expectation.
However, and as we've experienced with some other Bluetooth headphones, the wireless connection isn't foolproof, causing the occasional audio glitch. And for some that mountain of bass will be a little too much.
Small in scale, attractive and not shy of bass, there's a lot to like about the Philips Fidelio M2BT. Find them for a fair price, match them with a suitable genre of music and they'll leave you head-bopping to your favourite tunes - all without the fuss of wires.