Philips was never known as a brand for leading high end headphone solutions, but that all changed when the Fidelio range was introduced. The Fidelio L2 is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed L1 and our first foray into the Fidelio family. Read on to find out how much we loved what we heard and why this is our favorite pair of headphones. Ever.
Sure, that may be a bold statement, but we’ve had the L2 for a while now and it keeps coming out on top no matter what we compare it to. This is mainly due to its excellent performance in terms of sound, and we’ll get to that later. First looks are important as well though, so let’s start there. The Fidelio L2 looks (and acts) as the perfect fusion of “functional” and “trendy”, or perhaps “engineering” and “design”. Everything about the L2 looks engineered to perfection, but this doesn’t come at the expense of still looking the part. This may be a matter of personal taste, but we’ve seen too many examples that leaned too much to one side or the other over the past years.
The Fidelio L2’s earphones are padded with very soft memory foam/leather cushions, and can be worn comfortably for hours without your ears getting hot. This is partly due to the half-open design, which helps in terms of comfort as well as in providing a wide soundscape. The headband has a black leather finish, visibly stitched in orange for subtle yet distinct visual style. Inside the headband is the thinnest of layers of padding, allowing the L2 to sit comfortably on top of your head without you even noticing it’s there. If there’s one negative to point out here, it’s that the leather finish is so smooth that the headband (with its limited width) would slide a little during bigger head movements (a subtle way of saying ‘rocking out to great-sounding music’). When you consider that the alternative would be to feel more pressure from the headband at all times, this is an easy trade-off.
Looking at the total package, the Fidelio L2 combines the leather finish with aluminium look for the swivels and earcups. Despite feeling so light and comfortable to wear, this is a sturdy set of headphones. Perhaps this is why Philips packed it with a soft carry pouch instead of a hard carry case. Also included are two cables (with and without remote) and a hi-fi jack adapter. It’s also worth mentioning that the L2 fits comfortably around the ears, so we didn’t run into any trouble like we did with Sennheiser’s Momentum. This makes the L2’s earcups slightly larger, but with its half-open design this is less of an issue as users aren’t as likely to use this is a travel option. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a great option for environments that aren’t completely quiet, because the L2 does a great job blocking a quite a bit of outside noise despite the half-open design. On the flip side – people around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to, as your music definitely will leak out of the earcups.
Which brings us to the quality of the audio output – which is, in its price range (and also the one above it), unrivalled. With neutral, precise and balanced output across all frequencies, the L2 delivers no matter what you throw at it. Classical music has an amazing clarity and depth to it, but bass-heavy dance or rap music sounds just as convincing. This is mainly due to frequency response levels that offer a tiny bit of extra oomph in the low and high ranges, while never compromising its neutral overall sound. This sound is largely determined by outstanding performance levels in the middle frequencies, which really brings music to life that doesn’t rely on high or low tones – often the area where other headphones fall short.
Adding to the strong performance in frequency response, the Fidelio L2’s half-open design also helps it in delivering a wide, open sound. Tracks that make good use of stereo mixing are truly a treat, as you can easily tell individual instruments and vocals apart. This is no doubt enhanced by an impedance level of 16 Ohms delivering a clean and crisp sound even when powered by the smallest of MP3 players. Movie watching is also a joy with amazing clarity in the spoken parts, though you’re giving up on surround sound.
We can’t sing the Philips Fidelio L2’s praises enough – this is a remarkable piece of technology that jumped right to the front of the pack for us. The sound quality is ahead of recent models by Sennheiser and AKG, and you’re getting a comfortable and stylish set of headphones to boot. If you’re in the market for a set of quality portable headphones this Christmas, don’t think twice – check out the Fidelio L2.