If you've recently found some cash rattling around your jacket and fancy treating yourself to a new pair of on-ear headphones, then you might want to take a peek at the Philips Fidelio M1s.
With their stark design and excellent sound quality, they're a great option for those of you wanting something stylish for the road, but with a price tag of £160, do they justify the money?
Design and build
The M1s offer a very industrial look that you'll either love or hate. The main body of the ear cup is made from a stiff black plastic with a ridged texture on the outside, which gives them an aggressive look. You'll also notice tiny holes on the cups that are actually bass exhausts, allowing air to be pumped out when the speakers inside are moving quickly to produce heavy low-end sounds.
The ear cups are held in place by grey metal rings that are connected to similarly grey stalks that form the lower portions of the headband. The metal feels extremely sturdy and was all too happy to put up with my barrage of pokes, assaults and squeezes.
The top section of the headband is made from a flexible plastic that sits comfortably on your head, without feeling like it's trying to squeeze your skull to breaking point. It's wrapped in a soft black leather that adds a premium touch and thankfully doesn't immediately feel like the sort of cheap leather that wears out with use.
The cups sit on the ear, rather than around it, which means they don't offer the best passive sound isolation, but they can afford to be quite a lot smaller for this reason. This results in a size that you can happily wear about town or on the bus, rather than having to leave them permanently plugged into your home hi-fi.
The sponge pads are soft, comfortable and the leather coverings feel as durable as the leather on the headband. I found I was able to wear them for at least a couple of hours at a time before I needed to take them off and give my ears a rest.
The cable is wrapped in a black material and can be detached from the headphones, allowing you to replace it if lost or damaged. It feels very strong, which is something of a relief as many headphone manufacturers put great effort into making the headphones durable, then pair them with a shoddy piece of cabling that's likely to snap the first time you catch it on a door. I have every confidence the cable on the M1s will withstand a tough life -- good to know, considering the price tag.
It's not just about the industrial design though. With an asking price of 160 quid, you'd be right to expect at least a half-decent sound too.
You'll be pleased to know the sound quality is rather good, with a warm, natural mix across the spectrum. Rather than go down the Beats by Dre route, the M1s don't attempt to overload you with enough bass to burst your brain, instead offering a more realistic warm and punchy tone.
That's not to say the bass is weak though -- far from it. You still get plenty of wallop and I found they did a great job of handling some of my meatier tunes like the Skrillex remix of Levels by Avicii and Cloudburn by Feed Me, although I did find the mix became a little muddy at times. The bass was deep and powerful, while still allowing the snare hits and vocals to cut through.
They also dealt admirably with the high-end sounds. On Death Cab For Cutie's track Bixby Canyon Bridge, the jingle of the cymbals was clear and well separated, as were the lead synth pads, which were clearly distinguishable against the rest of the mix.
They don't offer quite the level of sparkle I like, but I've certainly heard a lot worse. I would suggest the M1s are well suited to fans of rock, pop and electronic music, but if you want a very open soundscape such as with classical music, you might be better off buying open-backed cans.
The Philips Fidelio M1s offer a very sturdy construction that's likely to appeal if you appreciate stark industrial designs. They provide a strong level of bass without sounding unnatural and bring enough mid and high-end to the table to satisfy all but the most demanding of audiophiles.
At £160, they're certainly not cheap, but they provide a good combination of build and sound quality to make them a worthy option for an upgrade.