Philips Citiscape Downtown Page 2

Sound Quality
The sound quality from the Philips Citiscape Downtown is very good indeed for a $100 headphone. My favorite can at this price is the Creative Aurvana Live! and it does outperform the Downtown in terms of clarity and lack of mid-range coloration, but the Downtown bests the CAL! in powerful bass response and isolation.

The bass response of the Downtown is very good, having very good impact and extension without bloom, murk, or mud. I would characterize these headphones as slightly warm sounding, but more because the highs are somewhat polite rather than because of a prominent bass. I would say the low notes are the strong suit of these headphones.

The mid-range of the Downtown is slightly colored with a bit of a "cupped hands," shouty character in the upper-mids. This is clearly audible when compared directly against better sounding headphones, but rapidly recedes when listening only to the Downtown, and becomes a slight nasality in the sound that actually helps a bit with the intelligibility of vocals when in noisy environments.

The treble is somewhat relaxed and artificial sounding, but never strident or harsh. Even though the highs are somewhat lower in level than they ought be, I don't perceive a lack of sparkle in the music. I would say that the resolution isn't particularly accurate, however, cymbals and sibilance tend to get a bit confused and synthetic sounding.

Overall, I'd say the sound of the Downtown is very, very good for a $100 headphone. While it does have a few flaws, it doesn't fail in any way.


Raw frequency response plots (lower gray traces in FR plots) show very consistent level in the bass indicating a very good seal with these on-ear headphones. I'd say the performance from 400Hz and lower is simply excellent for a headphone at this price. Compensated FR plots (upper two traces) shows a noticeable rise starting at 400Hz and peaking at 1kHz. I think this is the upper-mid range coloration heard in listening tests. Frequency response falls off a bit too rapidly above 1kHz for treble neutral sound, but lack of prominent peaks between 1kHz and 10kHz bode well for lack of harshness in listening. The peak at 15kHz is a bit unusual. The feature exists stably in the raw FR plots so it's likely real. I think it may have contributed to the "artificial" sound of the treble I heard.

The 30Hz square wave plot is excellent with fairly flat tops indicating good bass linearity and extension. THD+noise plots are likewise very flat in the low notes indicating a very good seal and good bass performance. Similarly, the isolation plot shows very good seal and isolation from outside noise. I think the "MusicSeal" must be working quite well. THD+noise is somewhat imbalanced left-to-right at 90dB ... argh, making me wonder about gremlins again.

The 300Hz square wave shows a small amount of overshoot, but little in the way of ringing. I'm guessing this indicates that lift in the top octave delivering a clear transient and the impression of detail even though the treble is rolled-off some.

Electrical impedance and phase show a 33 Ohm headphone with little reactive impedance. With 27mVrms needed to deliver 90dBspl, this will be a headphone that is easily driven by portable players and phones.

walloffame100x100I've rarely experienced a pair of headphones where so many pieces seem to fall together so easily. A sure sign of great expertise is the ability to make something look easy, and Philips sure makes designing a great little headphone look easy with the Citiscape Downtown.

It's comfortable and secure on the head, easy to use, provides great isolation from outside noise, is absolutely terrific looking, and sounds very good for a headphone at this price. I'm awarding the Philips Citiscape Downtown "Wall of Fame" status as one of the best $100 portable headphones available, and for being especially attractive for the ladies.

Expected availability March 2012.

1600 Summer St.
P.O. Box 120015
Stamford, CT 06912
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