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Philips Fidelio M2BT review

Andrew Williams

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Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT
  • Philips Fidelio M2BT

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Feature-rich
  • Good sound with wired or aptX connection

Cons

  • Latency and sound quality issues with non-aptX sources
  • Fit might be a bit tight for some

Key Features

  • Bluetooth and NFC
  • Wireless remote
  • Built-in microphone
  • Manufacturer: Philips
  • Review Price: £179.99

What is the Phillips Fidelio M2BT?

The Philips Fidelio M2BT are wireless headphones designed for people who want to wear them out in town, rather than just at home. They cost around £190.

While there’s the usual Bluetooth tax when it comes to the sound-price ratio, they make a good alternative to the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear and V-Moda XS if you must have wireless audio. Philips also seems to have addressed some issues since the previous Fidelio M1BT model.

SEE ALSO: Best Headphones Round-up

Philips Fidelio M2BT – Design and Comfort

The Philips Fidelio M2BT are on-ear headphones, the kind you can wear out and about even if you’re over 30, have a bit of a paunch or are thinning on top. Or all three.

That’s not to say they're devoid of style or wouldn’t suit a young crowd, but the all-black design of the Philips Fidelio M2BT doesn’t give them the aggressive presence of some other style headphones.

The look and build of the Philips Fidelio M2BT are all top-notch. The frame is metal and the headband is covered with fabric of a texture similar to the diamond-embossed earcups.

You get a hint of urban flavour, not a month-long residency in a urine-soaked underpass.

Comfort is another win, if one with caveats. In order to keep the Phillips Fidelio M2BT secure on your head, should you take them out running or to the gym, the headband tension is relatively strong, but the pressure is expertly spread across a couple of lovely synthetic leather and mesh-topped memory foam pads.

The softness here is similar to the B&W P5 headphones, but with a much more secure fit. We did find they can cause a bit of cartilage discomfort after a few hours’ use, making us wonder whether the pads could do with being even thicker – but this would likely undermine their grip, too. It’s a balancing act.

Another thing the design gets you is very good sound isolation. They’re among the better on-ear headphones for blocking out the exterior noise, making them perfect for public transport and muffling the offensive rubbish they might play at the gym.

SEE ALSO: What is Hi-Res Audio?

Philips Fidelio M2BT – Features

The Philips Fidelio M2BT offer loads more features than your average pair of headphones. That comes with the territory in a wireless set, but these go a step further.


As well as Bluetooth, you get NFC and aptX. NFC is used to pair the phone with the headphones without fiddling around too much in the menu system. I found it more comfortable to just do the setup manually, though – holding up a phone to your headphones in public both looks and feels a bit weird.

Still, it’s there if you want it, and is optional.

AptX is really more important. It’s a codec that provides far greater wireless audio performance than the default Bluetooth codec, called SBC. A wireless headphone isn’t a serious wireless headphone unless it has aptX.

We’ll discuss its effects shortly.

There’s also 3.5mm jack that lets you plug in a standard cable if you run out of battery, are using a non-wireless source such as an iPod Classic (RIP) or simply don't fancy going wireless. The cable is a nice ’n’ chunky fabric-covered affair.

It doesn’t have a remote control or mic, though. All of that's handled on the headphones themselves.

There’s a flicky controller that lets you take calls and change volume on an Android phone, or control music on an iOS device. There's also a microphone on the bottom of one earcup, acting as a call mic.

The remote and microphone only work when hooked up wirelessly, not with the cable attached.

Philips Fidelio M2BT – Sound Quality

There are significant sound benefits to going wired with the Fidelio, if you’re stuck with a non-aptX phone – plenty still don't have it, including the iPhone 6. Without a wired connection or aptX, the bass is rather one-note and unrefined, and the top end is harsh and fatiguing.

If using a non-aptX phone, the sound quality doesn’t really match up to the M2BT's price. That’s really to be expected, though – at the best of times Bluetooth doesn't offer an audiophile-grade experience, and aptX just offers a mostly satisfying compromise.

However, if you’re stuck with the standard Bluetooth SBC codec, the Fidelio M2BT headphones still make sense – the design is great for running and using in the gym, where wireless transmission may matter a whole lot more than truly top-notch audio. They certainly don’t sound awful, though, just not worthy of the reliable Fidelio name.

That all changes when you go wired or use an aptX-capable device. The treble smoothes out and the bottom end loses its unrefined character. The Philips Fidelio M2BT suddenly become the headphones we expect at the price.

The Philips Fidelio M2BT have quite a warm tone, providing a fairly lush sound that – quite removed from the performance with standard Bluetooth streaming – is easy on the ears and non-fatiguing. It’s an enjoyable sound that, when partnered with a nice, wide soundstage for an on-ear headphone, provides expansive scale. This is something you don’t often get in headphones of this size, especially not wireless ones.

While the bottom end – the bass and lower mids – get a boost in the Philips Fidelio M2BT, sound balance is otherwise pretty good, providing a fairly natural tone. That’s something you need in order to produce ‘real-sounding’ vocals.

Treble detailing could be improved, though. While we find the level of detail on offer perfectly fine, those looking for the more delicate ‘hi-fi’ sound by forking out this much cash would be better off with another pair. Although we admit no wireless sets in this class come to mind.

Philips Fidelio M2BT – Bluetooth Performance

We had an awful lot of connection issues when reviewing the original M1BT, but all we experienced with the M2BT was a little fluttering of the signal during the early stages of connecting to some phones. And we do stress some phones — there are two sides to any Bluetooth exchange.

The battery lasts for around 10 hours off a charge – enough for a week’s daily light use (for the commute perhaps), or a couple of days for people who want to wear the Philips Fidelio M2BT all the time. They use the same micro-USB charging socket as Android and Windows phones, so unless you’re an iPhone user you should have no trouble finding a spare charger. You do get a cable in the box, of course.

Considering you can also carry on using the Philips Fidelio M2BT when the battery’s dead, they’re pretty easy to get on with in day-to-day life.

However, there’s one other thing to consider, and once again it comes down to the limitation of Bluetooth. When not using an aptX device, the audio lag in the Philips Fidelio M2BT is really quite bad, to the extent that streaming from Netflix or watching downloaded movies isn’t too much fun at all. The lip-sync disconnect is just too jarring.

The latency of standard Bluetooth is 100-200 milliseconds, and judging by our experiences the M2BT is towards the worse end of the spectrum. However, this is massively improved using aptX, and of course there’s no discernable lag when using a wired connection.

Should I buy the Philips Fidelio M2BT?

After finding the M1BT disappointing, the Philips Fidelio M2BT are a refreshing improvement. While the biggest change is the addition of NFC, we were also much happier with both the Bluetooth performance and the sound quality when used wired or with an aptX device.

The Bluetooth tax still applies — if you don’t really want or need Bluetooth, don’t kid yourself that you’re not paying for it in the Philips Fidelio M2BT. Something like the Audio Technica ATH-M50x offers sound that's at least as good, at a shade over £100.

However, if you're truly keen on Bluetooth, this is one of the very best options at the price. Good looks, decent comfort and a design that lets you use them while exercising all give the M2BT great versatility. And the last is something you don’t get as much of with the rival Bose AE2W.

Verdict

Strong all-round performance makes the Philips Fidelio M2BT one of the best pairs of Bluetooth headphones, and a healthy upgrade over the previous model.

Next, read more Headphone Reviews

Overall Score

8

Sir Joe

November 22, 2014, 10:56 pm

Hello, could you please try to explain how they differ in the sound respect to the original M1BT? What changed?
Thanks

James

December 30, 2014, 10:33 pm

According to Philips' website, these headphones support the AAC codec over A2DP profile. This means an iOS device should be able to stream AAC in full quality to the headphones with no further transcoding - theoretically resulting in superior sound. Is the reviewer aware of this, and can he comment on quality of sound via iOS devices please?

Quick answer to Sir Joe below - from what I can find out from other reviews, the only major difference between these and the M1BT is NFC pairing.

Sir Joe

December 31, 2014, 12:18 am

I have tried both.
Unfortunately I could not compare them side to side.
I think they may sound pretty identical, but I could suppose the M2BT should have deeper bass, because according to the specs they go much much lower on the frequencies.
Another difference is, the M2BT has got Multipoint.
I do not know why Philips do not write it more clear.
But, maybe because like in the Bose Soundlink On Ear, this Technology is a bit beat and both of them are a bit capricious with pairing from time to time.
For example, I have compared lot of BT Headphones, and when I switch from one to another, I can notice that all of them connect immediately, but the Fidelio needs more time, sometimes do not connect and I have to turn bluetooth off and on again, sometimes the music skips....
This happens only when I switch between many devices. It does not happens when I only use the Fidelio.
WIth the Bose it also happens, but less, and without music skipping. WIth the Plantronics Backbeat Pro it also happens, but even less than the Bose, though with some music Skipping.
So, it must be this Multipoint. Because the three have it.
As said, it does not happens when you simply use one headphone and turn it off and on. So for the most users it will be no problem. And in any case it is solved by turning BT off and on again.
And these three are the best three BT Headphones I have tried, with the Fidelio at position N°1. So, this is a minor, very minor problem compared to the magic sound they deliver.
I really love them.

Roman Atellus Calidus

April 26, 2015, 6:01 pm

How would these headphones fair against the Sony MDR-1RBT (about same price range) ?

Sir Joe

April 26, 2015, 7:58 pm

The MDR would die of shame when compared to the M2BT. Plain and simple.
The Fidelio have a MUCH better (quality and quantity) bass, a more balanced sound, more detail (it is also Aptx, while the 1RBT is not. You should eventually get the 1RBTMK2 for that), and all sounds just right on them.
The Sony are muddy, with too much low-mids and a boomy but at same time not so powerful bass.
The soundstage is comparable (EDIT: but I prefer the one of the Fidelio)

Roman Atellus Calidus

April 27, 2015, 12:30 pm

Thanks for your opinion Sir! I just saw these drop to €160 where I live and that should be about as good as it gets for me :)

Sir Joe

April 28, 2015, 6:41 pm

In case you are on a budget and do not need either Multipoint or NFC, you can look for the M1BT.
As far as I know, apart for NFC and Multipoint, the only other differences are a new DSP in the M2 (with a slightly improved sense of soundstage) and an even deeper low range which from the 17hz of the M1 went to the 7 of the M2.
As I wrote below, I could not compare them side to side, but WhatHiFi did, and noticen no difference in sound. I also, even if not side to side, noticed no difference.
You are welcome to post your impression in my thread "Huge Comparison of [almost] all the bet Bluetooth Headphones" in Head-Fi.

Roman Atellus Calidus

April 28, 2015, 7:33 pm

They have already been ordered and I'm picking them up on Thursday so it's all good. Didn't even know they had multipoint but it's a much welcomed feat since I don't plan on using them exclusively with one device only. NFC is certainly not as crucial but aptX is - which is why I also bought myself a new phone last week since I plan on getting into that hi-fi sound experience ;)

Will post my thoughts once I get my hands on them. In any case I appreciate your 2¢.

EDIT: I take it back. NFC is a bliss! No more fiddling around with hold-down button combos.. fantastic material quality. Comfort and fit is quite OK. Will post a full review over at Head-Fi in a few days.

Lukasz Krol

September 29, 2015, 12:01 pm

I've been using M2BT for 3 months now.
I am not an audiophile, but I could tell the difference between this and other BT headphones with similar price tag (I bought M2BT for ~210Euro/155GBP).
Excellent sound. The only headphones I found comparable (at similar price) was HarmanKardon SOHO BT, but I did not like the design of HK. On the other hand I know that I bought M2BT for cheap money, and it should be compared rather with headphones costing around 200GBP.
Cool, original design.
Premium build quality.
The only thing that really sucks is quality of connection when you make or receive phone call using built in mic. It is almost not possible to make normal conversation, no matter what is the environment, noisy or not. The MIC is soo terrible that after several attempts I simply switched off the option on my Xperia Z3, and now even if connected/paired call will never go to M2BT. It is a shame that M2BT has a feature which in fact cannot be used. (just to clarify: I can hear the other person well, but they can't hear me until I start speaking loud and in not noisy environment)
Cheers :)

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