Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones Review

Philips_Headphones
Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones offer a great deal of comfort and quality audio reproduction, although oddly noise cancellation isn’t their strong suit.
There’s an awful lot of choice when it comes to noise cancelling headphones these days. Headphones from Bose are often held up as the gold standard — I’m a big fan of the Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for what it’s worth — but they’re far from the only game in town.
Philips enters the very quiet fray with the Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones, but they’ve taken a slightly different tack to most sets of noise cancelling cans.

Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones: On the plus side

Specifically, they’ve taken a lightweight approach to noise cancelling headphones, with an eye to the fact that you’re likely to be travelling long distances carrying these particular headphones. They’re very light, and feature soft memory foam earpieces that act in an on-ear fashion where so many other sets of noise cancelling headphones cover the entire ear. That has some definite comfort benefits, as it’s feasible to wear the Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones for a very long time indeed without them becoming uncomfortable. That’s not something I can say for other pairs such as the Plantronics Backbeat PRO headphones, for example.

Super soft, and super comfortable earpieces. Unlike other noise cancelling headphones, however, they don't cover your ears.
Super soft, and super comfortable earpieces. Unlike other noise cancelling headphones, however, they don’t cover your ears.

The Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones use an inbuilt battery that charges over microUSB, with claimed battery life of around 30 hours. Like the Backbeat PRO headphones, they’re also perfectly capable of acting as regular headphones once the power runs out. The supplied 1.2m audio cable is strong and fabric coated, so it should travel well and is mostly tangle resistant.
"Mostly" tangle free doesn't mean that they never tangle, but it's rarely a big problem.
“Mostly” tangle free doesn’t mean that they never tangle, but it’s rarely a big problem.

Audio reproduction is fair, but not exceptional. To give that a little more detail, they’re notably a little light on the bass reproduction side, which will suit some musical styles more than others. On Prince’s “When Doves Cry”, for example, higher pop tones registered well, but the thumping back beat of the drums lacked a little oomph for my tastes. Switching over to Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” confirmed my suspicions in this area.
Of course, this is a matter of personal taste, and I’m not particularly enamoured of bass-heavy headphones as promoted by Dre, for example. The Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones aren’t the pinnacle of noise reproduction, but they’re entirely fair within their price bracket.

Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones: On the minus side

The Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones use active microphones to provide their noise cancelling functionality, accessed from a switch on the left earpiece. It’s a minor grumble, but throughout my review period I always struggled to find the switch on the left earpiece, because it’s rather flat.

The noise cancelling switch, like the noise cancelling effect, is quite subtle.
The noise cancelling switch, like the noise cancelling effect, is quite subtle.

What’s rather more pressing is that compared to many other noise cancelling headphones, the Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones offers quite modest noise cancellation. This may be a function of them sitting on instead of around your ears, thereby letting more additional sound in, or it may be the way that Philips has tuned the microphone pickup, but it’s definitely noticeable compared to other headphones. The design also promotes a little noise leakage at higher volumes if you like your music quite loud.

Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones: Pricing

The Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones have an Australian RRP of $349.

Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones: Fat Duck Verdict

The Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones are really comfortable to wear, and their audio reproduction, while a little light on the bass side, is quite decent. However I’m struck by the fact that they’re the exact same RRP as the Plantronics Backbeat PRO headphones, and that presents me with a quandary, because prior to testing the Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones, I would have told you to buy the Backbeat PROs.

By headphone branding standards, the logo on the Philips NC1s is practically invisible.
By headphone branding standards, the logo on the Philips NC1s is practically invisible.

The Backbeat PRO headphones have better noise cancellation, active on/off by slotting them around your neck and the same level of audio quality. But they’re heavy, and for longer haul travel you will feel that rather markedly. Conversely, the Philips Fidelio NC1 Noise Cancelling Headphones are lightweight and a lot more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time, but they’re nowhere near as good at audio isolation thanks to that design that sees them sit on but not around your ears.
Ultimately I suspect most buyers of noise cancelling headphones are after that precise aspect, and on that score, I’d say that the Backbeat PROs were still the headphones to buy at this price point, but only just. If you only lightly need the noise cancelling aspect but don’t want something as bulky as most noise cancelling headphones, the Philips are a solid buy.

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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