Philips Fidelio M1 Stereo Headphone (full review)

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    The Philips M1 has an extremely recessed high frequency response compared to the average high fidelity headphone (the M1 is advertised prominently as having High Fidelity sound). Using Foobar2000 on a desktop PC with various DAC/headphone amp combinations, I played the Shure 1840 headphone flat and EQ'd the treble end of the M1 until it sounded like it had nearly the high frequency response of the 1840. The settings for the M1 were plus 4 db at 3.5 khz, plus 8 db at 5 khz, plus 12 db at 7 khz, and plus 16 db at 10 khz. These settings did not make the M1 sound as good or as bright as the non-bright 1840, but it raised the treble to nearly the same level as the 1840, giving me an approximation of how much the M1's treble is rolled off, which seems to be about 8 db per octave above 2.5 khz. I also made comparisons to other headphones such as the Philips L1, B&W P5 (and P3) and v-moda M80, and the M1's treble was just as far below all of them.

    Young people with good hearing may be able to accomodate some high-frequency rolloff in their headphones, but the laws of physics may come back to haunt them in later years if they use headphones that are very treble-shy. The natural compensation for lack of high-frequency details in the music is to turn up the volume, and while I'm aware of this and compensate for treble rolloff (if I use a treble-shy headphone), most young people will simply crank up the volume and suffer long-term hearing damage as a result. NOTE: This is not to say that any specific headphone such as the M1 represents a threat to hearing - I'm merely suggesting that when people use headphones that are significantly recessed in any one part of the sound spectrum, they may be compensating by increasing the volume.

    Used with iPods and iPhones as a portable headphone, using Treble Booster EQ, the M1 seems adequate to me for music that has fairly strong highs. Music with soft highs will sound very treble-shy with the M1 with Treble Booster EQ on, and with the EQ off will likely sound quite muffled. The bass of the M1 is good, especially for a small portable, but I can't rate the midrange as good unless the treble boost EQ is applied, since the treble rolloff has a strong effect on the midrange. I wanted to remove the M1's earpads to see if some of the foam could be taken out and thus improve the highs, but the earpads are not removable. The other bad news is that the pads can't be replaced (as far as I know) when they get significant wear on them.

    While the larger Philips L1 headphone has an impressive appearance that suggests fairly good value for its price, the small, light, plastic M1 headphone looks like a $100 USD item, far below the $250 street price. If the sound of the M1 were among the better $250 headphones, the lower-budget appearance could be overlooked. The M1 has a short (5 inch) cable at the bottom of the left earcup terminated by a stereo mini-plug, to which you attach the regular headphone cable that has a mini-jack on one end and a straight (not angled) mini-plug on the other end. The M1 comes with one cable only, about 4 feet long, 2.5mm thick and fabric-covered, with Apple i_device controls. If the cable would ever fail, you could substitute any common headphone extension cord with mini-plug and mini-jack ends. A 1/4 inch (6.35mm) adapter is NOT supplied.

    The earpads are supraaural (on-ear), about 3 inches wide, with fabric-covered openings for the sound that are 1-3/4 inches wide. Getting a proper fit, i.e. centering the openings over your ear canals, is no problem at all with the M1. The earpads are a thick memory foam that (as noted above) are probably not replaceable. The headband grip is fairly strong on my average-size head, and because the entire pad presses on the outer ears, it may be uncomfortable for some people due to pinching of the outer ear parts. Since the earcups rotate flat and pull down quite far, the M1 can be worn around the neck all day when not in use, which makes it very portable.

    The headband has a stitched leather cover surrounding it which feels very comfortable on my head, but if there is any tendency for discomfort in spite of the light weight of the headphone, I recommend pulling the earcups down just slightly more than the minimum, to let most of the weight be borne by the earcups and not the headband. The M1 is a decent-looking headphone if you've seen photos of it, but I would rate its appearance as well below average in its price range. The very thin cloth carry bag issued with the M1 offers no impact protection at all. Isolation from outside sounds is very good with the M1. Leakage is very minimal and would not be a problem in office cubicles at medium-loud volumes. It's quiet enough that the sound would probably not be noticed by a person trying to sleep next to the person playing music, as long as the volume were not loud.

    Now that I've covered the basics of the sound, it's time to describe how the Philips M1 sounds with a variety of music that's available on CD's or as high-quality downloads from Internet music stores. I've used the following examples in other reviews, so these will serve as good test tracks for this review and the results can also be compared to the results noted in the other reviews.

    Note that all of these examples were played with the equipment noted above, with the equivalent of iPod/iPhone Treble Booster EQ applied in Foobar2000 (plus 2 db at 1.75 khz, plus 4 db at 3.5 khz, plus 6 db at 7 khz, and plus 8 db at 14 khz). Without this treble boost, the M1 would not have been usable for high fidelity (or near hi-fi) playback. Note also that the treble boost EQ I'm specifying in this paragraph is much less than the treble boost I used at the beginning to estimate the extent of the M1's high frequency rolloff. I'm using the equivalent of Apple i-device EQ with the music tracks below, since that's the most common treble boost EQ available to people who use portable music players.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Not a problem with the M1.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Fair overall sound, but reproduction of the triangles, bells and other high-frequency instruments that are just audible with other headphones are nearly inaudible with the M1 (note that this is with the treble boost applied).

    Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (1966): Rarely mentioned, but one of the greatest white blues recordings ever. The loud piercing guitar sound at 0:41 into the track is a good test for distortion or other problems. Not a problem with the M1.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Sounds OK with the M1.

    Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman (~1968): A Richie Furay song entirely, rarely mentioned, but one of the best sounding rock ballads ever. This will sound good on most headphones, and it sounds good with the M1.

    Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (early 70's): A near-perfect test for overall sound - this track will separate the best sounding headphones from the lesser quality types. The harmonics that give the guitar strings their characteristic sound are nearly inaudible with the M1 (note that this is with the treble boost applied).

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the M1 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions fairly well.

    Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak (1981): MTV goth/pop/metal at its best - good ambience and high energy - the better headphones will separate the details and make for a good experience. Lesser quality and the details tend to mush together. Sounds OK with the M1.

    J.S. Bach - E. Power Biggs Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche (~1970): Recorded on a tracker organ in East Germany, the tracks on this recording have the authentic baroque sound that Bach composed for, albeit the bellows are operated by motor today. The M1 plays the music well for the most part, but since the high-frequency harmonics are suppressed, a lot of the ambience is missing (note that this is with the treble boost applied).

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has some loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical on some headphones. The M1 provides fair reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in, for maximum detail effect.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (~2009): Featured in The September Issue, this song has heavy overdub and will sound a bit muddy on some headphones. Sounds OK with the M1.

    Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery - Delilah (Take 3) (1962): The vibraphone is heavily dependent on harmonics to sound right, and while the M1 reproduces most of that sound, the vibes sound slightly muted (note that this is with the treble boost applied).

    Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon - Speak To Me (1973): Strong deep bass impacts will be heard and felt here.

    Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues (1968): Dirty, gritty blues that very few white artists could match. On some headphones the vocals and guitar lack the edge and fall more-or-less flat, and with the M1 some of that edge is missing. If you're a really good person, playing this song will probably make you feel nervous and uneasy.

    Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1962): Frank Sinatra's favorite singer. Highest recommendation. With some of the best headphones, the sibilants on this recording are very strong, but they're not an issue with the M1.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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  3. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    This headphone is definitely not for detail freaks - too relaxed for me but I bet there are plenty of people who like a very warm smooth sound who would find the relaxed feel great for films and movie soundtracks. Thanks Dale great info!:)
     
  4. marcusd

    marcusd Member

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    Looking forward to listening to this shortly myself.
     
  5. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    I'm looking forward to that too. Maybe you or someone you know can figure out a way to bring the treble up a little without EQ'ing it. I had a similar issue with a new Pioneer SE-MJ591 I bought from B&H at the suddenly-reduced price of $205 (reduced from $300). Mine sounded stone cold dead, but not defective. Everything was there except the lack of highs, and it looked genuine and came from B&H, so maybe the unusual sound had something to do with a new batch they made for the new pricing.
     
  6. marcusd

    marcusd Member

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    Oh you cut the foam out Dale hehe.. how does it sound compared to stock since I dont have stock now to comparo?
     
  7. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    No different at all, Marcus. If I knew it was just a paper-thin strip of cloth on the earcups, I would have left it alone. The plastic(?) strip underneath that was just partial and did not cover the ear hole so it too did not have any effect on the sound. Why they did this like they did I don't know. So it is all cosmetic, and if you could attach a thin piece of black cloth back onto each earcup it would be exactly like new.

    I haven't seen anything on the M1 as far as user comments - maybe I should look harder. But I would expect to read complaints about the pricing, since $250 is a lot for such a small plain headphone that sounds so bland.
     
  8. marcusd

    marcusd Member

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    Philips Phils will send a stock around to me next week - for fun I will make them believe in the review i cut it to pieces - joke joke!

    This is a comfy headphone but a consumer headphone with tapered highs, ok mids and a big mid-bass hump. Good news is if you get ear fatigue on this your an alien.
     
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