The Philips CitiScape Downtown headphones are a lower-end alternative to Philips's Fidelio headphone range, which includes such highlights as the Philips Fidelio X1. They may not look quite as impressive, but they share some features while selling for a massively reduced cost. At under £45, a blend of fantastic comfort and decent sound quality make them a top-pick if you're after a pair to wear to work.
Philips CitiScape Downtown Design
Although they don't bear the Fidelio branding of pairs like the Philips Fidelio M1, the Philips CitiScape Downtown headphones have a similar approach to design. They're lifestyle-leaning, but don't demand you have to be able to pull off the West Coast rapper look to wear them without looking like a fool.
The Philips CitiScape Downtown headphones come in three finishes - white, brown and purple - with brown the most demure of the lot. With just a couple of shades of each colour, and some silver in each set, though, we wouldn’t even feel all that self-conscious even if Philips had sent us the eye-catching purple pair.
Their design is deceptively simple too, much more so than the Fidielio pairs. The Philips Citiscape Downtown headband is little more than a thin foam-packed band of steel with a very lightly padded wrap of fabric swathed around it. There's no complicated stitching and no great big foamy buffers. This minimal style again helps them to look relatively low-key among their lifestyle brethren.
As a side-effect, they don't feel anywhere near as solid as some on-ear headphones, but they are lightweight and appear to be fairly well-made. What's far more noticeable than the ever-so-slightly flimsy design is the comfort factor - these are some of the most comfortable on-ear headphones we've ever tried.
Philips uses ultra-soft cushions of foam underneath synthetic leather pads. There's not a gaping hole in the middle of a ring of foam as with many on-ear sets. Instead, there's a mesh inner that helps the memory foam padding work its way around the contours of your ears.
Wearing glasses is no problem with the Philips CitiScape Downtowns either, as the evenly-distributed mid-level pressure of the headband isn't quite enough to give you sore ears. The earcups swivel freely a little way in each direction too, which should ensure a perfect fit for all shapes and size of noggin.
For comfort alone, the Philips CitiScape Downtown headphones earn some serious brownie points.
Noise isolation is good too. These headphones use what Philips likes to call MusicSeal. What this means is that every attempt has been made to keep a seal between the outer cup, the synthetic leather padding and your ears - hence why there's just a small circle of porous mesh in the middle of each pad. Although MusicSeal is more marketing spiel than design, it works, making the Downtown headphones great partners for the train or bus.
Philips CitiScape Downtown Accessories
The Philips CitiScape Downtown on-ear headphones don't offer anything functionally that notable beyond the ear-hugging comfort and strong isolation. Their cable is flat and matches the headphones in colour, but it's non-removable and ends in conservatively-protected right-angle jack - no apocalypse grade metal sleeves here.
There is a little handsfree housing, though, which features one button and a microphone. This will let you change tracks and play/pause music being piped to you via a smartphone or iPod too, although you won't have any control over volume.
There are certain elements in the Philips CitiScape Downtown that tell you these are sub-£100 headphones, but in our opinion they've made all the right cuts in the right places. And while they don't fold up like genuine travel headphones, there are few sub-£100 pairs we'd rather don for the morning commute.
Philips CitiScape Downtown Sound Quality
The Philips CitiScape Downtown headphones use 40mm dynamic drivers, which is the most common size for on-ear pairs like this. Sonically, they're removed from the style headphone pack.
They're significantly more balanced, with bass that's fairly reserved. There is low-end here, but it's not the scene-stealing kind. If you want the walls (of your head) to shake, you may not be too happy with the Philips CitiScape Downtown, but more discerning listeners should appreciate their style.
Aside from a slight mid-range bump, which brings vocals to the forefront of the soundstage rather than giving them a more relaxed presentation, the CitiScape Downtown response is fairly flat. This is a good thing, providing an even presentation that audio fans will appreciate.
However, there are problems that keep the sound within the low-to-mid headphone pen. There's a slight coarseness to the upper-mids that makes us wish the CitScape Downtown headphones sounded a little smoother, and they're not the most dynamic or exciting headphones in their class. However, we would recommend them over an overly-bassy pair like the Sennheiser XB-series cans.
Philips CitiScape Downtown Verdict
The most impressive aspect of the Philips CitiScape Downtown headphones is their comfort. They're quite possibly the most comfortable on-ear headphones you can get at the price, and their looks are very agreeable too. These are "style" headphones without aggression, making them highly accessible. Those after particularly pumping or warm sound should still think twice, but we enjoy their well-balanced sound too.