Philips Fidelio T1 Review: A Unique Design Made for Hi-Res Audio - Rolling Stone
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RS Recommends: Philips’ Fidelio T1 Earbuds Bring Hi-Res Sound, Take a Big Swing on Design

Philips’ first true wireless earbuds from their Hi-Fi audio line sound impressive, and take a chance with the aesthetic design of the buds themselves

Philips Fidelio T1Philips Fidelio T1

Philips

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While Philips isn’t particularly well-known for their earbuds, they busted through the true wireless sound category with the announcement of the newest entry into their Hi-Fi line, the Fidelio T1

The landscape of personal audio has changed a lot in the past few years, with more premium wireless earbuds packing in studio-like sound features you’d more likely find in some of the greatest audiophile headphones. The Fidelio hi-res range, which also features headphones and premium sound bars, likewise does their best to cram as much high-end audio engineering as it can into one tiny package. 

So can the Fidelio T1 compete with what’s already out there in terms of the best wireless earbuds for noise-cancellation (like the Sony WF-1000XM4) or brilliant sound quality (such as our favorite, the Klipsch T5 II ANC)? Well, Philips had some tricks up their sleeve when it came to innovative design, including an advanced dual driver arrangement, and you might very well love the results you hear.

More Room For More Features

If you’re used to the “regular” pill-shaped design of most wireless earbuds, the Philips Fidelio T1 are certainly eye-catchers. The oblong shape of the aluminum shells are pretty lengthy (nearly 3 cm) and with a short insertion tip, they’re unfortunately reminiscent of early Bluetooth earpieces. Frequent AirPods or even Beats users will definitely notice a difference in heft and weight. Thankfully, Philips gives you six sizes of silicone ear-tips and three sizes of foam tips so they stay in your ears while moving around. 

We wouldn’t recommend these for running or intense workouts, though, as it does take some adjustment to create a tight enough seal around your eardrum like the gummy-tipped Beats Fit Pro. But you’ll still get a decent level of active noise cancellation, helped by the addition of six microphones (three per bud) which process out unwanted background noise while working from home and obnoxiously loud wind when you’re out and about. You can also adjust the noise cancellation (from passive, to adaptive modes) in the Philips Headphones App, as well as touch controls. It got the job done, but there was still a bit of bleed from higher-pitched sounds like cars honking.

A pressure-sensitive pad on the end of each bud handles your touch controls, which allows you to control playback, volume, or invoke built-in Google Assistant voice commands. I’m not a huge fan of touch controls, and prefer tactile buttons, but the Fidelio T1 are fairly intuitive, and you never have to feel like you’re rooting around for a button or pressing too lightly.

While the Bluetooth connection was stable while I used it out walking through the New York City streets, and even when I walked into the basement with my phone upstairs, there was one frustrating caveat: I found it had issues pairing to Android smartphones after being connected to the Apple ecosystem for a while (with multipoint connecting fine on both my laptop and phone). While they technically support easy one-touch connection with Google Fast Pair for Android phones, this wasn’t working when I tried. This may have been a personal issue, or it could be fixed in a future software patch update, but it’s worth the mention.

Again, these aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but mean that you should opt of getting the Fidelio T1s if you want earbuds for travel that will block every noise, or earbuds for working out that will stay 100 percent airtight and waterproof (the Fidelio T1s have a respectable, but not laps-around-the-pool IPX4 rating). These were made for pure listening vibes, sitting down for deep album-listening sessions, or getting a higher quality sound out of your tunes during your commute, which isn’t a bad thing at all. 

Philips Fidelio T1

Philips

Buy: Philips Fidelio T1 True Wireless… at $274.54

Bigger Buds, Bigger Sound

While the Fidelio T1’s appearance is the first big thing you’ll notice, Philips has engineered the earbuds with hardware with audiophiles in mind. That unique shape and design plays into their audio quality, and the hardware has an added punch with added Bluetooth 5.2 and support for LDAC codec for hi-res audio playback up to 24 bits / 96 kHz (streaming platforms like Apple Music, Qobuz, and Tidal all support these files). 

Their stunning playback is through an advanced dual-driver arrangement that combines a huge 10mm dynamic driver, with a balanced armature unit. This creates way more precision and a more nuanced sound reproduction than you’d get with one transducer, and it’s fairly rare for wireless earbuds to have more than one. Here you have each producing a unique range like a loudspeaker, with the dynamic driver delivering the low frequencies, and the armature module bringing the mids and highs.

In our tests, this all amounted to bright and detailed sound, with a solidly warm midrange and treble response (if not over-accentuated mids), and a bass frequency that’s deep while still remaining detailed in its richness. There are four preset EQs you can choose from in the Philips app, such as Bass, Powerful, Voice and Treble, but we don’t feel like you need them to get the best sound possible.

We listened to everything from Motown albums of the 1960s to electronic records from 2021, and found the Fidelio T1 could provide them with the depth and clarity the records deserved. Different instruments were easily distinguishable in busy sections of songs like “Spinning” by No Rome, Charli XCX, and The 1975, and vocal effects echoed clearly, especially in songs like “It’s a Party!” by Yung Bae that try to organically recreate spatial audio.  

Philips Fidelio t1

Philips

Buy: Philips Fidelio T1 True Wireless… at $274.54

It’s entirely possible that Philips success here is at least partially to do with their support for Hi-Fi audio, which is not as readily available on many mid range headphones and earbuds, but that many audio companies are slowly catching up. While that remains to be seen, streaming Mitski’s newest album Laurel Hell in hi-res over the Fidelio T1 felt like being in a room where you could hear every soft touch of the piano and every wavering note in the vocals. The buds’ shape may be bulky to some, but the technical reproduction combined with the right music delivers sound to behold. 

Another saving grace of the Fidelio T1s that you’ll appreciate regardless of how you feel about their overall design, is an extremely competitive battery life, especially with the battery case. Philips says the Fidelio T1s offer up to nine hours of music playback per charge, and that’s with the ANC turned on. If you turn noise cancellation off, the battery life will increase to a  whopping 13 hours, which makes a huge difference.

The earbuds’ battery case will provide an extra 25 hours with the case, and 35 hours if you’re not using ANC. That’s some of the best on the market right now, with more than the six hours you’ll get with the Beats Fit Pro, and significantly more than the measly 4.5 hours for the AirPods Pro. While the regular charging time is two hours, a fast charge of 15 minutes tops you off with one hour of battery life, which isn’t too shabby, either. 

The curved brushed metal case is also a sleek touch, with a premium Muirhead leather trim that makes you feel like you’re carrying business cards rather than earbuds. It’s certainly a looker, but what it won’t do is fit neatly into your pocket — it’s as solid and large as the earbuds it holds. But the extended battery life means you hopefully won’t have to lug this around with you too often. It also supports Qi wireless charging, as has USB-C wired charging port. 

Are Philips Fidelio T1 Worth It?

Philips Fidelio T1

Philips

The Fidelio T1s, while not perfect in terms of wearability, are a worthwhile upgrade for anyone looking to dip their toes in the water of hi-res audio, and show that Philips can go toe to toe with comparable premium audio offerings from brands like Sony. We’re still inclined to recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4 if you travel frequently and are looking for truly stellar active noise cancellation, but that comes down to personal preference.

We have no reservations, though, recommending the Philips Fidelio T1 based on sound quality alone, as audiophiles and untrained ears alike will enjoy the rich, clear audio across most any genre. Like some of the great open-back, over-the-ear headphones out there, you’ll feel like you’re sitting right in the studio listening to a jam session.

So if you’re looking for above-average battery life for solo listening sessions, or have been curious about hi-res audio, don’t hesitate to spring for the Philips Fidelio T1. 

Buy: Philips Fidelio T1 True Wireless… at $274.54

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