(Pocket-lint) - We were impressed with Philips SHE9850 headphones when we looked at them earlier in the year. But can the similarly titled SHE9800 give a similar performance?

Despite the single digit difference in title, there is enough in terms of design to tell these apart from their more expensive rivals. However, once you plug them into your ear, we can’t with hand on heart say there is much to differentiate them in terms of performance. Which is a good thing.

The SHE9800 have an interesting design, fusing the looks of typical in-ear headphone with an ear canal protrusion. What this effectively means is that body of the headphone sits in your outer ear whilst the rubber fills the ear canal. Philips go a bit crazy in their description: "Sound stage enhancer designed for spacious sound experience", "Ergonomic Angled Acoustic design ensures a natural fit".

As with the SHE9850 we found that that they fit straight out of the box and that leads us to a rare disclaimer: headphones are subjective – if you find the perfect fit, you’ll probably fall in love.

Which is what we did.

The SHE9800 do come with a selection of rubbers for the ear canal, be as we said, the standard size was a perfect fit. What this means is that exterior noise isolation was very good for us which goes hand-in-hand with performance, especially when it comes to bass.

The bass delivery from these headphones is a good place to start, because it’s lacking bass that normally leads people to fiddle with equaliser settings and crank the volume up on their headphones. The snug fit on these headphones combines with excellent bass delivery to give an impressive bass performance. With headphones that deliver bass this well, you don’t want to be messing around with equalisers or bass boost settings, because there is simply no need.

From this great low range delivery, the rest just sort of falls into place. Ok, so perhaps they don’t perform so well in tracks where bass is less prevalent, like the delivery of some classical tracks. If you’re more interested Beethoven’s 4th than Pendulum’s 9000 Miles, then perhaps you’ll want to shop around, however across a broad spectrum of music from NOFX to Eric Prydz, you can’t help but lose yourself in the music.

The build quality is also great with a 1.2m cable running down to the gold plated 3.5mm jack. Philips also do a good job of packaging these headphones as a premium product as you’ll find a case with built-in cable winder in the box as well as those other ear buds.

Volume levels are also good thanks to the great fit that we achieved, so you don’t have to turn your iPod up to 11, you can having something in reserve for when you step onto the Tube and need a little extra. The downside of a tight fit is you do get some cable noise as it brushes around, something that is less evident with the Shure over-the-ear type cable configuration, however, in the SHE9800 this cable noise is less obvious than in the SHE9850.


At £50 these headphones represent great performance for what you pay. If you have been living with poor quality bundled headphones then this is an option seriously worth considering. Coming in cheaper than their £89 cousins the SHE9850, but rivalling their performance and having the same great design ethic, we think we’ve found our favourite headphones and you should put them on your Christmas list.

Writing by Chris Hall.