Philips Fidelio L2 headphone – macro review

A Head-Fi friend of mine, Mark, was kind enough to send his own personal pair of Fidelio L2s around to a few of the ‘usual suspects’ for us to check them out. I have limited time at the moment so this will be a macro review – more of an overview and summary of my thoughts – rather than a full in-dept review.

Quick Overview

The Fidelio L2 is the successor to Philips’ original Fidelio L1, a headphone that I really like. The specs for the new version look like this:

  • Frequency response:  12 – 26,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity:  105dB
  • Impedance:  16 ohm

As you can see from the specs, the L2s are an easy-to-drive headphone that will happily sing from any phone or portable player, so let’s chat about how the look, feel and sound.

Looks

Philips Fidelio L2 full shotThe L2s look schmick! They are a beautifully styled headphone with a striking, but elegant combination of gunmetal and black with red embellishments. They’re a headphone that I’d be more than happy to wear in public. The red stitching around the headband is tasteful and reminds me of a luxury sports car while the gunmetal coloured inner headband and ear cups are equally luxurious and stylish. In short, they’re a great looking headphone.

Feel

Thankfully, the L2s feel as good as they look. They are predominantly metal and leather with plastic being used in appropriate places only. The result is a very high quality feeling headphone that’s still nice and light due to the use of lightweight, anodised aluminium.

The headband is wrapped in leather with slight padding on the underside which is enough to be comfortable for moderate-length sessions, but like most headphones (except the most exceptional) I do find that they create a ‘hotspot’ on my bald noggin after an hour or so. That’s pretty normal though until you compare them to $1000 options like T1s or HD800s so at the $300-400 price point, the comfort is as good as I’d expect.

The earcups are big enough to comfortably fit over most ears and the pads are very soft and comfortable so there should be no comfort issues for all but those with the largest of ears.

Sound

If I’m honest, I wasn’t initially overwhelmed by the sound of these. As I spent more time with them though, things became a little harder to judge.

The good points

The bass from the L2s goes crazy deep

Put on a good bass track and be amazed by the tight, controlled punch that these can deliver. For the bass performance alone these are worth a listen.

Open, but intimate soundstage

That may sound slightly contradictory, but the L2s manage to balance the task of sounding open and spacious, but still completely connected to the music. It’s a really nice compromise that keeps you fully engaged in the music, but still shows the size and scope of the recording.

Overall balance

All-in-all the L2s are quite balanced-sounding. They have great bass that’s tight and controlled, clean and lifelike mids, and crisp treble. They don’t overly favour any particular frequency which is great.

The not-so-good point

That heading’s not a typo – there’s only one not-so-good point and it’s a slightly metallic and edgy treble that creeps up every now and then. It seems to just be certain frequencies that are effected, but I am occasionally lifted out of a blissful musical experience by an awareness of the treble separate from the overall musical landscape. It’s not that the treble’s too hot overall, it’s just something about the quality of the treble that occasionally takes away from the overall experience.

This issue will be partly source dependent because different sources present the treble differently, but I found that the issue was present with a couple of different sources so it’s something about the headphone’s treble quality – like it’s a touch grainy at certain frequencies – rather than an isolated synergy problem.

Summary

If you’re looking to buy an open headphone that will perform as well with your phone as it will with your desktop amp then the Fidelio L2 should be 100% on your audition list, but consider listening to some alternatives as well. While the L2 is undeniably a great sounding headphone, something about it still leaves me wanting and I’d probably stick to the Thinksound On1 despite its slightly more closed-in and bassier sound. The L2 smashes the On1s for bass (and that’s saying something), but the treble on the On1s is more enjoyable more consistently. For about the same price, they are two of the very best headphones out there.

Lachlan Fennen Written by:

Facilitator, training design consultant, blogger / writer and amateur photographer

2 Comments

  1. David Reid
    January 1, 2017
    Reply

    Great review, very accurate and exactly how I feel about my L2’s. It is a shame about that treble although not always present with all sources, as you say!

    • January 17, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for the feedback, David. Glad I’m hearing and reporting things accurately! 🙂

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