Review: Philips Fidelio M2L

Apple may have started the talk about Lightning-connected headphones, but Philips is the first to deliver such a product with the Fidelio M2L. This pair of headphones uses a Lightning cable instead of an audio cable that plugs into a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Having a Lightning connection means the M2L works with a digital audio signal, unlike most headphones that work with analogue signals. The digital signal feeds its built-in 24-bit 48kHz digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) for a high resolution sound quality.

It also means that this pair of headphones works only with Lightning-compatible sources, such as the Apple iPhone, iPod or iPad.

In terms of looks, it resembles any other pair of headphones. It has a cushioned leather headband and two earcups, each housing a 40mm neodymium driver. The hinged headband lets you to fold the earcups flat for storage.

On the right earcup is a small volume control rocker and a clickable ear shell.

Turn the rocker up or down to increase or lower the volume. Press the ear shell once to play or pause a song, twice to skip forward, and three times to skip backward. Rewind a song by pressing the ear shell three times and holding it.

Its all-black design looks classy. I also like the comfortable memory-foam earpads. The M2L's 24-bit DAC may be overkill if your main music source is the iTunes Store, or if you only use Apple's iOS music app. This is because iTunes sells largely 16-bit lossy music tracks, while the iOS music app can stream only 16-bit music.

To tap its full potential, you should feed it with lossless music, like those ripped in the Flac format. To play such music via iOS devices, you will have to use third-party apps such as Flac Player+ or VLC.

I tested the headphones with Flac-encoded classical tunes. I also listened to Mastered for iTunes (MfiT) pop songs from the iTunes Store. MfiT tracks are said to sound better than others at the store. I used both the iPhone 6 Plus and latest-generation iPod Touch.

The M2L impressed with classical tunes. With Claude Debussy's Jeux de vagues, for instance, I could hear the different instruments clearly, while bass was strong and not overbearing. Indeed, its dynamic and full-bodied delivery sounded so good, it made me want to throw away the well-regarded EarPods earphones that came with my iPhone and iPod Touch.

But things got much closer with pop tracks. I found the EarPods nearly as enjoyable as the M2L with such tracks, especially when it came to vocals.

Overall, I am happy with the sound quality of the M2L. Ironically, I feel that its biggest bugbear has to do with one of its main selling point. By going with Lightning and doing away with a 3.5mm connection, it excludes the headphones from use with many regular mobile devices and music players.

The Philips Fidelio M2L looks good and sounds great, but its Lightning connection narrows your music playing device options.

trevtan@sph.com.sg

TECH SPECS

Price: $469

Impedance: 16ohms

Sensitivity: 107db

Connectivity: Lightning

Weight: 195g

RATING

Design 4/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 2/5

Overall 3/5


This article was first published on April 1, 2015.
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