Philips Fidelio M2L/27 Lightning Headphones Reviewed

So Apple finally did away with the 3.5mm jack, much to the outrage of the masses. However, just like Blu-ray and CD’s before it, people are slowly realizing and embracing the new possibilities of the new tech, including yourself.

Undoubtably you are searching for Fidelio M2L/27 information because you’ve made the correct decision in upgrading to the iPhone 7 and are ready to take full advantage of all the amazing new functions Lightning connected headphones can offer.

Between higher quality (24bit audio anyone?), integrated digital-to-analog converters and amplifiers, there are many reasons to fully embrace Lightning headphones with arms wide open.

However, with all new tech, there is reason to be cautious. Usually it takes companies a little while to iron out the bugs and glitches that come along with developing brand new products. With price tags into the hundreds of dollars, buying a set of unrefined headphones is something you should be careful to avoid.

That is also why the Fidelio M2L/27’s by Philips are some of the BEST Lightning headphones you can buy right now and probably THE BEST for under the $200 mark. (If you do have a higher budget that goes into the $4-600 range, then we urge you to compare the Audeze EL-8 Titanium and Audeze Sine models as well).

Fidelio M2L/27 Overview

If you haven’t heard of Philips by now, then you’ve probably been living on the moon… or North Korea for that matter. Philips is a Japanese electronics power house, just like Sony, Audio-Technica and the DJ favorite, Denon.

So when you buy Philips you can feel comfortable that you are investing in a gold standard when it comes to audio equipment.

First Lightning Equipped Headsets

Philips isn’t just about mass producing electronics though, they’re also obsessed with R&D and are always looking to the future. That’s why they put the Lightning-cable equipped Fidelio M2L/27’s on market way back in March of 2015!

That’s right, you could buy these headphones over a year and a half ago. It’s crazy to think that long ago Philips was looking into their crystal ball and decided to develop headphones exclusively for Apples proprietary connector type.

Why Lightning?

Why did Philips take that gamble all those years ago? Surely it would have been safer to sit back and wait until September of 2016 to see if Apple truly did drop the 3.5mm jack. We think Philips decided to take the bull by the horn for a few reasons.

First, they want to be a progressive company. If all you do is sit back and react to what has already happened, you will never be an industry LEADER. With this move over a year ago Philips has cemented itself as a Lightning-cable audio leader, just like Audeze and their Sine headphones.

This group is small now but as subsequent iPhone models and other Apple products come out all without 3.5mm connectors, the genius of this move will become all the more apparent.

Second, Philips love high fidelity audio, and Lightning cables have the ability to provide audio fidelity that was previously unobtainable unless you spent $1,000+ on your headphones, bought a DAC and amplifier separate and carried it all around with you.

The ability for the Lightning cable to transmit high fidelity audio (24 bits) and also transmit data and power at the same time, means you can now get an audiophile experience in a friendly lightweight consumer package. The Fidelio M2L/27 is that package.

Product Specifications

So these cans have been on the market for over a year now. We must have had plenty of time to collect some solid data on them then right? Well, in fact we have. There is a lot going on with these headphones so we’ve broken down their top features below:

Integrated Lightning Cable for Lossless Transmission

The Fidelio M2L/27 were designed from the ground up to be Lightning headphones. There are other headphones out there that were designed to be universal-port headphones, with removable cables you can swap out, between 3.5mm jack to USB-C to Lightning (see the Sony MDR1ADAC/B Prestige).

Having a tool specially crafted for a specific purpose usually translates into a damned fine tool indeed. You can see it in the Fidelio’s design, with a built-in/attached Lightning cable they look like every other pair of headphones until you look at the connector type. Subtle. Progressive. Classy. Well done Philips.

Built-in DAC and Amplifier

In part with keeping with a refined and classic look, the Fidelio’s actually have their amplifier and DAC built-into the headphones themselves! Other companies, like Audeze for example, built their DAC and amp into their cable (Cypher cable). It’s cool but bulky. Philips instead went for a minimalist cable design and integrated the DAC and amp into the cans themselves!

This means the M2L/27’s look just like normal headphones, but they’re anything but.

The built in DAC and amp means your music is refined and amplified to improve quality and sound on it’s path from your phone to your ears. This all equates to an overall amazing listening experience that un-powered headphones just cannot match.

Large Neodymium Drivers

The Fidelio’s are actually pretty small headphones, so they are considered “on-ear” cans. There are also over-ear and in-ear varieties.

Over-ear are usually quite a bit larger and thus more bulky, which makes them tough to travel with but good for home listening.

In-ear are your traditional earbud type, which are great for on the go but not the best for sitting around at home or at work.

On-ear strike the perfect balance between the two, making them mobile yet comfortable. What makes the Fidelio’s stand out amongst other on-ear headphones however is that they’ve still managed to retain large 40mm neodymium drivers. This is rare. Larger drivers produce a more powerful sound and deeper bass, and are usually only found in larger, over-ear type headphones.

Philips have somehow found a way to pack 40mm drivers into their ear units AND include a DAC and amplifier as well, all without getting overly bulky or ruining their design aesthetic. The design team at Philips deservers a serious round of applause here.

Uniquely Sealed Cups

If you are the type to blast your music and not care what people around you think, or you listen to your music at home only then you won’t care about this, but there is an interesting tech that makes the Fidelio’s great for listening in public spaces.

The Fidelio’s have a ribbon-lock sound seal built into each ear cup. This keeps outside noise out, preserving the bass notes in your music. It also keeps music from leaking out excessively all around you.

Again, on-ear headphones are often “open-backed”, meaning, well, they are open, so all the sound they make can be heard by people around the listener. Open-back headphones also allow ambient sounds to leak into your music, muddling the experience.

Closed-back headphones, usually only available with over-ear models, isolate your listening experience from the outside world, and that is what Philips has done with their unique acoustic sealing ribbon lock.

Proprietary Bass Reflex System (BRS)

Let’s first state, that if big bass is what you want, these probably aren’t for you. The Fidelio’s are more refined, offering a more natural soundstage than your typical Beats by Dre for example.

This isn’t to say they are bass slouches though, as Philips have integrated their proprietary BRS system, which essentially entails strategically placing special vents in the ear-shells themselves to maintain an internal pressure conducive to optimal bass frequency creation.

When intelligently placed vents work in unison with Philips acoustic seal tech, the result is a perfectly optimized ear-cup pressure, resulting in superb sound replication, form bass to mids to highs.

Huge Frequency Response

All of the above mentioned audio engineering has resulted in an amazingly flexible headset. The Fidelio’s have a respectable frequency response of 7-25,000Hz and an operating impedance of 16 Ohm. They also run at 107db of sensitivity with distortion less than .1%  THD.

What does this mean? Well, it means that whether you prefer pop music or country music or opera or hardcore techno you’ll be able to enjoy all aspects of the sound, not just the middle ones that you get with stock Apple earbuds or car speakers.

Quality Materials & Comfort Fit

Visually, the headphones look classic. Like seriously, in 50 years they’ll still look nice. They look like something guitar company Marshall would design, or perhaps something Mercedes would make. We’re talking classy here.

This is done by using breathable memory foam on the ear cups to provide long term listening comfort. The headband is aluminum and wrapped in a beautifully stitched leather pad. Seriously, they look like something a luxury German sports car maker would dream up.

Expert Reviews

The Fidelio M2L’s  have been received quite well by the audio community actually, which is a surprise given their relatively affordable price point. Usually headphone lovers (also known as audiophiles) tend to not like anything with a starting price point below $500, but the Fidelio’s seem to be an exception.

Jim Hill form Tech Radar gave them a 4.5/5 rating stating that:

“given their superior build quality, the open soundstage and the thrilling bass response, these are surely the high-res headphones iPhone audiophiles have been waiting for.”

 

Users on the audiophile forum Head-Fi also have had positive things to say about the Fidelios:

…nice sound, a bit tight on the headband, I thought the DAC made everything sound very nice, good solid bass, uppers a bit light.

 

Likewise on Forbes the Fidelios have received very high praise from writer Mark Sparrow when he stated:

The sound quality from these headphones is nothing short of awesome and incredibly revelatory.

 

The only not-so-positive review we could find on these prodigy children was from a writer at the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. Oddly though it seemed their main gripe with the Fidelio M2L’s was that it has a Lightning connector and they can’t use them with other devices.

This seems kind of obvious and besides the point, but hey, it’s a negative review, even for odd reasons, so to be balanced we figured we’d at least mention it..

Our Opinion

One other little caveat we forgot to mention previously, the Fidelio’s have touch sensitive audio control on the right ear cup. This means you can adjust your audio without taking out your phone or having to press buttons or spin wheels, which is pretty neat.

If you’re an all-around listener or you just want something besides the shitty stock earbuds that Apple provides, then the Fidelio’s are a no brainer.

The only people we might caution in buying these are hard-core bassheads. People who only listen to hip hop and dubstep will probably want to look for a closed-back, over-ear option with larger drivers to deliver the tooth-rattling bass they are accustomed to.

For the rest of us plain Janes the Fidelio’s should result an an awesome listening experience to compliment our awesome Apple devices. If you’re hungry for more, check out the official overview teaser video from Philips below:

All-in-all what we have here are an exceptional pair of headphones that are truly groundbreaking. We hope they are a sign of more to come from the blooming Lightning-connected headphone segment.

Reply