The Philips M1BT headphones are the follow-up to the Philips Fidelio M1 launched back in 2012, now with added Bluetooth connectivity so you can listen to music wirelessly.
Aside from Bluetooth, they are largely the same and are some of the most stylish headphones around. The same issues however crop up with sound quality, though, and its wireless performance is not quite up to scratch either - hard to accept at £200.
The Philips M1BT on-ear style headphones are near identical to the M1s, but they now come in a slightly darker, smokier shade, and have new connections just below each of the ear cups. On the left you plug in the microUSB charging cable that sits quite tightly against the ear cushion. Over on the right is a port for the 1.2 metre cable, for when you don't want to go wireless.
The Philips M1BT is still largely a metal construction with soft memory foam pads over the cups and a leather-effect padding over the headband, which extends almost over the entire frame to give it the same high-grade look and feel as the M1s.
You can expect good levels of comfort when you put them on. Clamping ever so gently on the head these are going to stay put and remain snug in all the right places to make them ideal for mammoth listening sessions.
It doesn’t entirely escape the plastic treatment, though. The jog dial-style controls on the outside of the right ear cup are plastic. You flick the dial up or down for volume control, press once to skip a track or twice to go back a song. If you're using your phone, you can hit the button once to mute or unmute a call when it comes through.
Overall, the build quality is excellent and the sleek styling puts them up with the B&W P7 and the Sennheiser Momentum On-ear headphones. It's the little signs of premium quality like the stitching on the headband and detailing on the aluminium hinged frames that should give them wider appeal. It's what we have now come to expect from the Fidelio headphone range, so it's just disappointing that they don't quite have the sound performance to go with it.
The Philips M1BT headphones mirror the M1s using 40mm neodyminium drivers and closed-backed ear cups to offer decent noise isolation. They also support aptX audio decoding to improve the quality of audio streamed over Bluetooth. To truly benefit from it both headphones and source need to support it it. For most Android phones that's not really a problem although if you are an iPhone user, iOS currently does not support aptX. Too be honest, though, many people will struggle to distinguish between the two.
We praised the Philips Fidelio L1 headphones for their exceptional clarity and bass management. The M1BT offer sound much closer to that of the M1. It's good, but is not blow-you-away fantastic and for a £200 plus pair of headphones we were hoping for more.
While there's an overriding sense of warmth, the bass depth and power isn't hugely impressive. The detail on vocals is underwhelming too, although the soundstage is suprisingly wide and noise isolation works well if not class leading at blocking out the ambient noise.
Bluetooth 4.0 support is the biggest new addition here and means you can listen to music wirelessly on a smartphone, tablet or anything that supports the latest Bluetooth standard without having a detrimental impact on the battery life of your device storing all the music.
Setting the Philips M1BTs over Bluetooth up is very easy. We tried it out with an iPhone 5, HTC One Mini, Acer Chromebook and Dell Venue Pro 8 Windows 8 tablet and all successfully synced with no problems. If you hook it up to an iPhone you get the very handy addition of a battery level displayed on the iPhone’s status bar.
You needn’t worry about constantly reaching for the microUSB charging cable because the battery life is fantastic. It’s rated at 10 hours but you can definitely eke much more out of it and using it generally over a few weeks it just keeps on going.
There should be little worry on denting the battery life of your smartphone either. Testing it out with the iPhone and HTC One Mini over a few hours with other apps disabled, the impact was barely noticeable. While we can be glowing about its stamina we can’t really say the same about wirelessly listening.
Generally it’s fine, but there were plenty of times when the sound dropped out. We tried clearing out our trouser pocket and moved our phone to a different pocket and it still suffered from the same issue. It was the same with the Chromebook and considering this is the main new feature, this is very disappointing.
There's no doubting that the Philips M1BT headphones are some of the most attractive, best-built on-ear headphones to buy, and offer brilliant battery life. However, we encountered significant Bluetooth issues. And while the sound is good, we weren't blown away. We find it difficult to recommend them especially when they cost more than £200 from many retailers.
If you are sold on wireless headphones there are some alternatives. The Bose AE2W might not be as good looking as the M1BTs but they do offer wireless listening and more impressive sound for £199. Like-wise with the Jabra Revo Wireless, are £200 on-ear headphones that use 40mm dynamic drivers to deliver great sound quality wrapped in a sleek design.
In a case of style over substance, the Philips M1BT Bluetooth headphones suffer from wireless issues issues and their sound quality doesn't make up for it.