The Philips Fidelio S2 mark the first time Philips has put its Fidelio brand onto a pair of in-ear headphones – it's the same mark reserved for audio products the company thinks sound really, really good.
They may not quite challenge the top dual and triple driver competition, but the Fidelio S2 show that the ears behind Fidelio really know their sound.
These earphones are one of two new pairs to wear the Philips Fidelio badge, the brothers of the cheaper Fidelio S1 earphones. The Philips Fidelio S2 are the higher-end pair of the two, and are made of metal rather than plastic.
Whether or not it dramatically affects the sound, these are extremely well-made earphones. They are decked out in gold and black – which sounds like it could be a garish mess – but Philips donned its tasteful hat and didn't make the gold parts too showy.
The design of the Fidelio S2 is actually quite unusual, though. Their rear parts are semi open, inspired by the over-ears Fidelio L1 headphones.
You might assume that this means they leak sound like water through a sieve, but they don't. Noise isolation isn't fantastic, but the Fidelio S2s can handle most public transport without too much fuss, and they won't force the person next to you at work to listen to your tunes.
The Philips Fidelio S2 are pretty picky about fit, though. If they don't sit correctly in your ears, bass performance will be severely impaired. This mostly means you need to take extra care as to which tip you use.
There's a very generous selection included with the Philips Fidelio S2. You get two pairs of Comply foam tips and five pairs of rubber ones. Using the foamies more-or-less eradicates any fit issues, as the foam expands to fit your ear canal.
Another potential issue is microphonic noise – the Philips Fidelio S2 use a thick, flat, non-removable two-tone cable designed to reduce tangling. It certainly doesn't get rid of tangling altogether, but doesn't create loads of microphonics (noise caused by cables rustling against clothing) either. Unfortunately, the cable is non-removable. Break the jack and it's game over.
Philips Fidelio S2 – Sound Quality
Once you get above the £100 mark, earphones increasingly start to use balanced armature drivers. These high-end drivers offer great accuracy, although have trouble reproducing bass – which is on reason why many top-end earphone use multiple drivers.
The Philips Fidelio S2 steer clear of the balanced armature type, sticking with the dynamic driver used in entry-level earphones. Of course, that doesn't mean this is an entry-level driver.
It's a 13.5mm neodymium speaker, and it is masterfully tuned. Sound balance is nigh-on immaculate and bass control is truly expert.
What you get with the Philips Fidelio S2 is a carefully-crafted, slightly 'warm' sounding signature that's fairly accurate, and very easy on the ear thanks to its lack of sibilance or harshness. Philips has made no wrong moves, and these earphones are quite hard to criticise.
However, that does not mean they are perfect. Forward presentation means the Fidelio S2 don't have the most open and airiest of sound – something you might expect them to have given the semi-open design.
You can also get better treble performance from a dual-driver earphone such as the UE 700, and that these earphones don't have quite the sound separation of a balanced armature headphone means they're not the most challenging or revealing pair.
Philips has not dropped the ball with the Fidelio S2. They're technically very accomplished headphones with sound even more tasteful than the mostly-classy look.
However, they don't excel in a particular area as high-end (especially multi-driver) earphones tend to, and their £130 price means they stray into the territory of some pretty serious headphones. We'd suggest considering the lower-end series-sibling Fidelio S1. They are tuned to the same sound signature, but have less flashy bodies, offer fewer accessories and use a lesser-dampened driver.
The S2 may be better, but given the price the S1 sell for online, it seems like that may be the better deal of the two.
The Philips Fidelio S2 are high-quality earphones with a superbly-tuned sound and great build quality. They can't quite compete with top multi-driver earphones, but it's a good first-wave effort from Philips.
Next, check out our best headphones round-up