Philips has entered the sports headphones market with three new models now available in the Netherlands and some European regions, that are also coming to the UK later in Q1.
Sitting at the top of the range are the Philips ST702 true wireless earbuds, with a few bells and whistles for those who lead a more active lifestyle. And, we got to have a listen to them during a dedicated Philips event in Amsterdam.
TP Vision, the manufacturer behind the Philips TV and now audio brand in several regions, including Europe, is playing catch-up when it comes to headphones. But, 2020 will prove to be a big year with a fair few products planned.
The ST702 true wireless buds are a good indication of its intentions. While rivalling Apple AirPods and several other popular TWS headphones on the market, at around the €199 price point, they offer something slightly different.
That's because they are essentially designed for gym and running use, with IPX5 water and sweat proofing and rubberised eartips to keep them firmly in place while active.
Certainly, in our testing (without any actual exercise possible at the time) they stayed in our ears comfortably. In fact, although we're not sure of the exact weight at present, each earpiece is so light we barely even noticed them in our ears, save for the music playing.
In addition, the charging case that the ST702 buds come in has a UV cleaning function to kill bacteria when closed - handy after an intense workout.
Each earpiece is capable of up to six hours of music playback. The charging case extends that to 18 hours, with two whole charges able to be stored in it.
It also comes with fast charge capability, giving 1.5 hours of playback time for just 15 minutes of charging.
There is a touch sensor on the headphones, with taps controlling music and calling functionality. Apart from that, they are kept simple - no ANC nor much customisation at this price.
For our listening test we ran through several MQA tracks, streamed using Tidal over Bluetooth from an iPhone 11 Pro Max. We plumped for Price's 1999 to get an idea of bass response, a 2019 remaster of The Beatles' Something, and another remastered classic in The Kinks' Shangri-La.
The latter two gave us a good impression of spacing and clarity, especially at higher frequencies, although we did have to up the volume considerably to get the most of them.
The bass in 1999 was a little muted, if we're being honest. Again, volume was key, but you shouldn't expect a Beats-style thump or the grunt of more expensive alternatives. We suppose this is a side effect of producing such small, comfortable TWS headphones - there's not a lot of space for the 6mm neodymium acoustic drivers to get that extra whomp.
We'll find out more in a proper review test, not least to see how they cope with more ambient noise in a gym or busy street environment. But, at least the clarity of vocals were unobstructed by overzealous bass, and many might prefer that anyway.
Our testing period was far too short to gain a proper insight into how the Philips ST702 truly perform, in noisier circumstances too, but we love the idea of the UV cleaning and IPX5 proofing.
Considering most of the people we've seen pounding the pavement are using non-sport-centric equivalents, such as Apple's original AirPods, these could be attractive to those who take their workouts seriously. Especially at the price.
We look forward to giving them a proper road test in the coming weeks.