(Pocket-lint) - When Apple launched the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in 2016, it sparked a wave of change. Gone was the 3.5mm auxiliary headphone jack that has featured on countless smartphones as a means of connecting headphones to listen to music.
To connect a pair of wired headphones to all iPhones since then you'll need a pair that use Apple's Lightning connection, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Meanwhile the rise of wireless Bluetooth headphones poses the question: "why do I need a wired pair at all?"
Well, if you do still want wired then the Philips Fidelio M2L is a Lightning connection-based pair of headphones. Is their performance above and beyond analogue headphones past to earn them the crown in the digital age?
A comfortable pair of on-ears
- Aluminium construction with leather band
- Memory foam cushions
- Flat folding design, faux suede pouch included
- Lightning connector only, no 3.5mm or Bluetooth
The Philips M2L sport an on-ear design, as opposed to over-ear cups that surround your entire ear. We've often found that on-ear pairs can make our ears incredibly warm over long listening periods. Fortunately that isn't the case with the Fidelio M2L. The fit is rather snug, which may be off-putting for some, but we found wearing comfortable - plus there was no risk of them suddenly slipping off our head.
On the right earcup is a small switch for volume control which has a small protrusion to make it easy to find, instead of having to fumble around. There's also a microphone array built into the headphones - ideal for hands-free calling. A press of the right ear cup will answer and end calls for you. The entire middle section of the right earcup can be pressed to play and pause music, or to answer calls.
Of course, the headline feature of the Philips M2L headphones is the Lightning connection - which is what the "L" stands for. Philips also makes these cans with different cables, this pair is specifically for iPhone users. We've seen older pairs, such as the M2BT, which cater for a different user with their Bluetooth focus.
The only real negative we can find with the design of the Philips M2L lies with the cable. It's very stiff. Sure, that makes it reliable, but it meant we were occasionally walking around with big kinks in it. A little flexibility would have been welcome. And just in case you forgot, you can't charge your iOS device while listening to music using the M2L headphones (although there are splitters available on the market that will allow you to do both if you need).
Brilliantly balanced sound with plenty of bass
- 7 - 25,000Hz frequency response
- 40mm drivers, closed-back design
- Integrated DAC and amp for high-resolution music
The Philips M2L aren't the first pair of Lightning headphones we've heard. That accolade belongs to the Audeze Sine - but the M2L is a lot more affordable, while delivering a decent sound. The whole point of using the Lightning connection instead of 3.5mm auxiliary is so the headphones can have their own built-in digital-to-analogue-converter (DAC) to improve the sound. From our extensive listening, it works a treat.
There's a really generous amount of bass weight offered on tracks, which plays a great supporting role to the rest of the composition. It's not overbearing low-end, yet there isn't too little. Philips has managed to strike the perfect balance.
The same can be said of the mid- and high-frequencies, too. There's not one area of the soundstage that we feel needs improvement. The treble is never harsh and the vocals in tracks come through clear and detailed. It's a very accomplished performance indeed - and without the Bluetooth drop-out that we experienced in the BT model, which makes for a more reliable listen.
You can enjoy the M2L's sound without being disturbed by the outside world as well, as the snug fit combined with the memory foam earpads provide a tight, isolated seal. We did find there was a small amount of sound leakage from the headphones, but it wasn't enough so that those next to us could sing along word for word.
There's no fancy noise-cancellation, however, so if that's what you're looking for then, well, you might come up stumped. Things like the travellers' favourite Bose QC35 would appease your needs - if, of course, there was a Lightning connection version (which there isn't).
The Philips Fidelio M2L are a superb pair of headphones. If you have an iPhone 7 or later and have to have a pair of wired headphones, we highly recommend them. They sound fantastic and remain comfortable to wear for long listening sessions - something that can't be said of all on-ear headphones.
The Lightning cable can be seen as a downside, however, as you won't be able to use these headphones on, well, pretty much any other device. There's no Lightning out on a Mac, for example, so the use-case is restricted and, therefore, a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones might make a better solution for many.
Alternatives to consider
If you've got a little bit more money to spend, then we'd like to point your attention to the Audeze Sine. They deliver one of the best sounds we've heard from a pair of headphones, thanks to the dedicated DAC integrated into the cable. They're incredibly comfortable too and we love the design.
Read the full article: Audeze Sine review
As we said, Bluetooth headphones are fast becoming the norm for music listeners. If you're happy to ditch the wire then this pair of Sony over-ears are some of the best around. Not only do they sound fantastic, they have possibly the most effective noise-cancelling we've ever come across. They're practically perfect in every way.
Read the full article: Sony WH-1000XM2 review