Philips Fidelio M1

We recently reviewed the Philips Fidelio L1s, and we did like them quite a bit. So these new M1s were greeted with some excitement when they landed on our doorstep. They're about £50 less expensive than the L1s, but still retain that interesting design and quality finish.

The M1s sit in that category that has recently been introduced by Beats. The price is, we think, quite steep at about £180, but there's a lot of choice in this part of the market. It's clearly a sweet spot, an amount of money that people are prepared to spend without too much thought.

We've seen a few sets of this sort of thing recently, but how do the M1s compare?

Comfort

The first thing we noticed when we put these on, is how nicely balanced they are. Once you adjust the band, you can hardly notice them there, at least for the first few minutes.

Eventually, you do start to feel the band putting pressure on your ears, but that's essential to stop them from slipping off the whole time. And we think Philips has basically got the balancing act about right overall. After a few hours of listening, our ears were aware of their presence, and there was a mild ache, but not as bad as we've experienced with other makes.

The comfort is also assisted by that luxurious band, which is nice and soft on the outside, but good and rigid inside. That should, hopefully, mean that the headphones don't end up getting flabby latter on and slipping off more easily. But, from new, these feel pretty lovely.

Noise-free

As with the L1s, these cans offer you protection from outside sounds and also claim to be pretty leak-free. In our tests, this proved to be pretty much the case. Sounds from outside were muted considerably, but audible enough so you don't miss important things happening.

From the sound leak perspective, they were actually decent. Other people will hear a little sound from them, but it's not as severe as you get from cheaper 'phones. They're better, for example, than the great majority we test - and we test a LOT of headphones. Our patented "does Mrs Pocket-lint moan" test was passed this time.

No user-serviceable parts

One thing that does trouble us, is that there are no real bits here that can be replaced if something goes wrong. For example, the ear pads aren't removable, so if they disintegrate, then you'll have to buy a new set.

Then there's the cable. We like this a lot, because of its anti-tangle design. The main run of cable is replaceable, and that includes the iPod/iPhone remote. But, as with the L1s, there is that little cable drop from the left earphone, that isn't removable. Our honest opinion is that this should be replaced with a socket on the earphone. Medical Professional Dre's headcans manage this, so there's really no excuse.

With all that said, we don't have any quality concerns here at all. The Philips never felt like they were in any danger of falling apart. They are well-built and feel like they could take some abuse. So it may just be that Philips has built them to last, rather than to have bits swapped out.

Sound quality

Good news, these headphones sound decent. In fact, we loved them from the start.

First, they won't divide opinion in the way Beats will. You don't have to want your head stoved in with pounding bass to wear a pair, but they are still more than capable of delivering low-frequency sounds with an impressive punch.

Things at the top end are good too. We did find these a little bit bright on a Windows computer, with an external USB-based DAC and headphone amp. Indeed, we had to boost low frequencies by a little bit to be really satisfied, bit this was a two-second job, then everything sounded great.

We tried out every kind of music we could lay our hands on. From pop, through to pop rock and pop dance. But if pop isn't your thing, rest assured that everything else we could find sounded excellent too.

A quick punt on The Prodigy - Warrior's Dance (Future Funk Squad "Rave Soldier" Mix) told us that both bass and treble are well-balanced. With mids sounding good too. What we liked was that the bass never drowned out everything else, and it didn't leave us with a pounding headache either.

It's also worth mentioning that speech-based content sounds good too. We caught up with some Radio 4, online, and the detail from the studio was impressive. It's amazing what you can hear, in fact.

Verdict

As with the L1s, we found ourselves falling for the M1s. If we could change anything, we'd get rid of that silly little cable drop from the earphone, and perhaps make the memory foam earpads replaceable.

From a sound perspective though, we're very happy with the overall quality. And let's be honest, that's really all that matters.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that these headphones look great, and feel good too. So, we think that counts as something as a glowing recommendation from us.

Note: after publication Philips gave us some good news. The M1s are actually available for £160, which makes them even better value.