Philips Fidelio S1 and S2 In-Ear Headphones
Philips Fidelio S1 ($99) & S2 ($149)
Philips is far from the first brand that comes to mind when I think "headphone Hi-Fi," but the Dutch electronics giant has been designing and manufacturing headphones since the 1960s - longer than many of its current competitors have been in business. In the past several years Philips has released some real gems, along with a few stinkers, leading up to the 2012 introduction of the Fidelio line of performance-oriented audio products.
The S1 and S2---the first in-ears to bear the Fidelio badge---are modestly-priced by flagship earphone standards, with the S1 set to retail for $99.99 and the higher-end S2 running $149.99. Such aggressive pricing indicates that Philips is serious about the portable audio market, and listening to the two sets makes it clear that they are serious about sound quality as well.
The Fidelio S1 and S2 are both built around 13.5mm dynamic drivers---large for IEMs, but definitely not unheard of. Philips chose a half in-ear form factor for the earphones, a design popular with a few other IEM makers such as Japan-based Audio-Technica. This housing style places the driver enclosure in the outer ear with an angled nozzle fitting into the ear canal, and is commonly considered to sacrifice some noise isolation for the comfort of a shallow seal.
The build quality of the S1 and S2 earphones is extremely similar but whereas the S1 features a cheap-looking plastic baffle at the front and plain shells, the pricier S2 is all-metal and boasts a fancy-looking glossy finish reminiscent of ceramic earphones such as Sennheiser's $1000 IE 800. Both earphones utilize flat cables, though the one on the S2 is textured for a fancier look and feel. Both feature in-line microphones and single-button remotes for use with smartphones and tablets.
Accessories include a hard-shell carrying case and various eartips---four sets for the S1 and seven sets for the S2, including a pair of the super-comfortable Comply Ts-series foam tips. Isolation from outside noise is average and cable noise (microphonics) is very low.
All in all, the Philips S1 and S2 are well-designed, user-friendly, and have good fit and finish. There is only one component still needed to make these earphones great---sound.