(Pocket-lint) - The Fidelio T1 are unlike anything we've seen from Philips' high-end sub-brand before.
After initially focusing on reimaginations of classic products following the line's relaunch, such as the superb open-backed X3 over-ears and a range of premium soundbars, the T1s represent a shift in direction.
For Fidelio's first foray into the wireless earbuds space, Philips is aiming to provide an audiophile-level listening experience. In order to try and achieve this, though, the T1s look a little different to the average option.
So, does Philips achieve something special here, or do the Fidelio T1s feature too many design concessions to be a viable consideration? We've been testing in order to find out.
Other rival earbuds may be smaller or sport better ANC, but the Fidelio T1 earbuds hold their own by offering a superb blend of high-end audio performance and convenience.
Yes, they are significantly larger than many others we've reviewed, but they don't necessarily feel uncomfortable. And, as a trade-off, you get music playback just as artists intended.
Balanced armature drivers combine with a 10mm dynamic driver in each ear to present some of the finest wireless audio performance around. The signature is neutral with great spacing, but there's still that deep, throaty bass response when needed. There's no Qualcomm aptX support, unfortunately, but the T1s are compatible with other popular high bitrate codecs, such as Sony's LDAC.
Even for all the positives, however, we don't think the T1 buds will be for everyone. Most will be better served with top-tier ANC earbuds over high levels of audio fineries, but, at least for purists who have dismissed true wireless in the past, Fidelio's debut entry is worth a closer inspection.
Philips Fidelio T1
- Excellent sound quality
- Premium look and feel
- Wireless charging
- Easy to set up and use
- May be too large for some
- No aptX support
- ANC is good but not class-leading
Design and comfort
- 5.15 x 8.49 x 3.24mm (per earbud)
- 109g (per bud)
- IPX4 water and sweat resistant
- Brushed metal with Muirhead leather case
When you first take the T1 in-ears out of their case, you might be a little taken aback by their size. Not the length, per se, but the part that you place in your ear.
It's reminiscent of an early 90s Bluetooth earpiece, which can be initially intimidating. However, the buds place into each ear easily and sit very comfortably. We wouldn't advise shaking your head wildly - and anything stronger than a light jog is likely out of the question - but sitting and listening to music on a train will be fine. They will stay in place securely during light exercise, too, but, bar IPX4 certification, these are not really aimed at the fitness market.
Instead, the Philips Fidelio T1 pair are in the premium bracket, both internally and out.
As with other devices in the brand's lineup, they are made from top-notch materials. The equally large case, for example, is made of polished metal with a Muirhead leather strip adorning the top. It feels classy, if a little cumbersome, and reassuringly luxurious. The buds also have a brushed metal finish, and feel constructed to last.
You get multiple different sizes of ear tips in the box (six pairs in total), as well, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding a good fit. We do recommend you experiment with them, though, as the active noise cancelling technology relies a tad on noise isolation to work at its best and, with the larger design, the ear tip will be an essential extra barrier to ambient sound.
Setup, controls and features
- Hybrid ANC
- 4 ANC microphones
- Bluetooth 5.2
- LDAC, AAC and SBC support
- Multipoint connectivity
The Fidelio T1 earbuds are a doddle to set up. They come with Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity and can be paired with multiple devices. We connected them to an iPhone 13 Pro Max and Google Pixel 4a with little fuss. Google Fast Pair is also on-board for even easier hook-up to Android phones.
Philips also provides a dedicated headphones app to control their functionality. It's fairly basic in comparison to some - such as equivalents from Sony and Bowers & Wilkins - but, on the flip side, that also makes it cunningly simple to use.
The app offers ambient control, allowing you to turn on active noise cancelling, the audio transparency mode or switch it to an adaptive mode to automate the process, depending on your circumstances.
You also get some fuss-free EQ controls, with sound effects such as 'Bass' and 'Voice' on offer. And then there is a selection of settings to adjust. We found that turning off the wear sensor was essential for us, as the sensor in the right-hand ear occasionally paused the music even though we were just walking down the street and hadn't removed it.
Some won't have that issue at all, but, as we always put the buds back into their case after use, turning it off didn't hamper our enjoyment and solved the issue.
There are touchpad controls that you can turn on or off, as well, but we found them a little sticky in use.
Sound performance and battery
- Frequency range: 7 - 40,000 Hz
- Impedance: 16 Ohm
- Sensitivity: 103 dB (1 kHz)
- 10mm dynamic driver + balance armature driver in each ear
- Battery life: 9 + 25 hours (ANC on), 13 + 35 hours (ANC off)
The main area where the T1 in-ears excel is audio performance.
There are two drivers in each ear, one 10mm dynamic driver and a separate balanced armature driver. These combined enable deep involving bass without ever muddying the mid to high frequencies. Philips claims a frequency range of 7 – 40,000 Hz.
Certainly, in our listening tests, we gave them a very decent workout. The deep bassline and keen guitar rifts that open Ocean Colour Scene's The Riverboat Song (from the remastered, deluxe version of Mosely Shoals) are well separated and tangible. While Liam Gallagher's C'mon You Know is presented with a wide soundstage befitting a potential modern rock and roll anthem.
Conversely, our go-to testing track - Billie Eilish's No Time to Die - is presented with subtlety and control. Her breathy tones hang in the air as the track builds to an emotional crescendo.
And, for great balance, Welcome to the Terrordome from Public Enemy's seminal Fear of a Black Planet is delivered with all the punch of Tyson Fury fired from a cannon.
Where the buds perhaps lag behind some competition, however, is in the active noise cancellation stakes. As we've already stated, ensuring a secure fit is essential. And when we compared the ANC tech to in-ear options from Sony and Bose, the Fidelio T1s are very passable, but not class-leading. If ANC is a priority, there are simply better options out there.
That being said, even when active, the ANC doesn't spoil the quality much at all. You might have to put up with the screeching of a Tube train's wheels a little more, however.
Things are much better when it comes to battery power. Even with ANC on, you get a decent nine hours out of the buds themselves, with a further 25 hours in the charging case. Turn ANC off and there are 13 hours of playback time, with 35 hours with case use.
On top of that, USB-C fast charging will give you an hour after 15 minutes, while the case can also be charged wirelessly through its plastic-covered base.
The Philips Fidelio T1 earbuds may be something of a departure for the audiophile-centric brand, but they fit into its family well. Great sound performance across a wide range of musical genres put them right up there with the top true wireless in-ears around. The ANC isn't the best out there, but it's still very passable. Really, it is their sheer size that may put some off - especially those with smaller ears. Still, you are getting a premium product nonetheless, one that caters for a more discerning audience very capably.