The Philips Fidelio F1 are on-ear headphones that try their best to be as portable as possible. They fold, they’re light and they have a look that's sensible enough to fit in anywhere.
Some stability issues stop the Philips Fidelio F1 from being quite as good for strenuous exercise as something like the Beats Solo 2, but if you’re going to be wearing headphones on the train rather than in the gym, that’s no issue. In only undercutting other 'style' headphones by a smidge at £150, they don’t set any new standards. But this a solid set of highly portable, good-looking headphones.
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It has only been around for a few years, but the Philips Fidelio range has become highly regarded. Consistent, great sound quality and good design have cemented that.
The Philips Fidelio F1 are the most portable on-ear set in the range to date. They are a bit lighter and more streamlined than the Fidelio M2.
Philips has chopped off some of the more contentious design elements to produce something we can’t imagine people not getting on with. The ear cup backs are contoured aluminium, with a bronze-gold finish that’s both attractive and fairly low-key. There are no upper age limits or coolness quotients to fill here.
The Philips Fidelio F1 feel well-made too. There’s no creaking, and while they are light, they don’t feel flimsy. It’s probably helped by not letting basic plastic cover too much of the frame. The synthetic leather headband padding covers much of the top part, while those aluminium cup caps are 99 per cent there for the look and feel.
So how comfortable are they? Very, for the most part. Their light weight and the use of high-quality memory foam pads give the Philips Fidelio F1 a nice, easy feel. All the synthetic leather is of excellent quality too.
As with most headphones of this design, though, they will give most glasses-wearers a bit of discomfort after a couple of hours. There’s just enough headband pressure to push your earlobes against the glasses' arms.
Headband stability is not great either. The Philips Fidelio F1 use a faux leather inner part for the headband, where pairs such as the Beats Solo 2 have a rubberised coating that keeps them solidly stuck on your head.
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This is really only an issue if you want to take them out running or you're doing exercises where you’ll bob your head up and down, but it also makes them feel a little insecure for the first few minutes of wear. The memory foam pads take a little while to bed in and mould around your ears.
They’re comfy enough, but just take a little patience.
In terms of wider features, though, the Philips Fidelio F1 have everything we're after. They may not wireless and there's no active noise cancellation, but the 3.5mm cable is removable, there’s an in-line one-button remote and the ear cups fold into the headband to make them nicely compact.
Noise isolation is fairly good too. Using protein leather pads with carefully positioned sound holes cut into them lets Philips manage the output pretty well. In a side-by-side comparison, the Beats Solo 2 are marginally better isolators, but we’ve been using the Philips Fidelio F1 out and about for a couple of weeks now with no issue.
They’re fine for use on public transport and leak virtually zero sound when properly seated. In other words, you can wear them on the commute as well as at work without annoying anyone sitting nearby.
In the past the Philips Fidelio range has offered style-conscious headphones with more of a focus on sound quality than some rivals. And that’s more-or-less true of the Philips Fidelio F1 as well.
In an A/B comparison with the Beats Solo 2, they have more balanced, less aggressive bass and less treble dampening at the very top-end. The sound signature is fairly similar to that of the other pairs in the Fidelio range.
They solve the most obvious issues of the most popular on-ear headphones, making them a bit of an antidote to the archetypal style pair. They’re that bit more natural.
There are no odd skews, no obvious trebly harshness, resulting in a sound that’s very easy to get on with. We did find that some content can sound a little thin in the mid-range when it’s competing against a lot of ambient noise, but that’s what happens when a portable headphone opts for a slightly more balanced sound.
It also lacks a bit of soundstage width compared with the best of the Fidelio range, and the mid-range at times lacks some of the coherence and intricacy we start to hope for at this sort of level. They can sound a bit too constrained, too closed-in and small. And this effect is not simply because they're closed-backed: we've compared the Fidelio F1 to plenty of closed competitors too.
They’re not perfect, but are a good alternative to the Beats Solo 2 if you’re after a less pronounced bass skew and don’t mind a less grippy headband.
The Philips Fidelio F1 are accomplished portable headphones that work pretty well for commuters. However, a not-very-grippy headband mean they're not so great for runners and those looking for something to wear in the gym.
If the portable angle is not a big concern, there are more energetic and involving pairs out there, though. For example, the Audio Technica ATH-M50X have a much larger soundstage and sound and much more energetic presentation.
We also had the chance to compare the Philips Fidelio F1 to the new Sennheiser Momentum On-ear 2.0, and unfortunately the comparison only highlights how restrictive the F1 headphones can sound. The tonal accuracy is similar, but the Sennheiser pair sounds that bit freer, and therefore much more involving.
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Light, highly portable headphones with decent sound quality. But they don’t set any standards.