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

Tarweb1562's picture

Just curious - does this pass with bass head standards?

XB500/700 vs. Cityscape ( only if you consider it bassy enough for it to be called a bass head can ) vs. Crossfade LP/LP2?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
You know, it just might. At least in the sense that they do a great job of reproducing the lows on the track. Most bass heavy music has ... wait for it ... plenty of bass in the recording. These do a great job of that, and tame any harshness in the recording. A really versatile general purpose can.
RPGWiZaRD's picture

I think these headphones look like great candidates for EQing, I suppose you never tried that? Even with the standard 10-band EQ you could probably do a huge improvement by simply lowering the 1kHz but leaving 2kHz slider alone and boost 4kHz and 8kHz slider while leaving 16kHz alone. Should make it very balanced sounding without the lack of bass response (bass extension) the headphones in this price category usually lack. Big thumbs up for the design though (and more "feminine" look).

I know what "nasal" midrange sounds like, I've experienced the same thing to maybe lesser extent in for example Sony XB500 and V-Moda LP2 as the midrange is uneven and have noticable peak vs dip in the midrange. These days I'm very allergic to that and would probably fire up EQ right away if I picked up these headphones lol.

Fidelio L1 review will be up later right? I'm more curious about this one personally. :) Quick question, does L1 also sound "nasal" in midrange or does it seem to be fairly balanced sounding there? I see from the graph it does have a slight peak around 2kHz but is it enough to be audible with your ears in this case? (I'm thinking of female vocals especially)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think these tend to need less tweaking than the cans you mention for bass emphasis. Though you're certainly right, the benefits of a judicious eq of these cans should be clear.

Yes, L1 coming soon. A good headphone, but different in character.

Roy G Biv's picture

These seem to look much smaller than I thought when you were holding them. Would these be close in size to V-Moda M-80, AT ES7, Porta Pros?

These should be a big hit among the gay community too!

johnjen's picture

I laughed mightily when I read...
"It was with both pleasure and dismay that I realized I had just more fully enabled her connection to Justin Bieber."

A great one liner for sure. :thumb


Pablo's picture

These only come in pink ?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
No. Light gray, medium brown, and Purple.
John Grandberg's picture
I wish the light gray option was a little darker (it looks practically white in the pics) but still, a nice looking design. It's great that Philips is interested in making good stuff at reasonable prices.
Roy G Biv's picture

Girly's employing negative stereotypes!

Tolerance. Respect.

alvin's picture

at $34 the older philips shl5500 has similar sound signature. and, i find it to be more stylish than the downtowns

Gelocks's picture

exactly that...

Is it the same sound signature?!?

Still, the citiscape downtown (and uptown) looks really great! I might buy the black/brown version... (or the brown silver uptowns... decisions decisions...)

MarcoGV's picture

I own (as of yesterday!) an SHL5500. I chatted with "Nick" at Philips support earlier today. I asked him whether the SHL5500 and the SHL5605 ("Downtown") used the same drivers. He answered that they both used the 40mm drivers but did not conclusively state that they are the same.

If you compare the specifications on the Philips site ( and, you will notice that the main physical characteristics of the drivers are the same (Magnet type: Neodymium; Voice coil: CCAW; Diaphragm: Mylar dome; Speaker diameter: 40 mm; Impedance: 32 Ohm). However, there are differences in Frequency Response, Maximum Power Input, and Sensitivity: 10-28K vs. 18-22K, 50mW vs. 30Mw, and 106 db vs. 102db (5500 values given first). Surprisingly, the 5500 is listed (incorrectly, I would say) as an open headphone, while the 5605 is listed as a closed headphone.

It would be interesting to hear from someone who has both headphones, or at least has listened to both!

HammerSandwich's picture

I expect this is driver breakup. Most hard-dome 1" tweeters have something like that in the 20-28KHz range. What's this 40mm made of?

zzffnn's picture

Thanks Tyll for your review.

I have some similar questions as Roy above.

1) How do these Philips feel on head compared to V-MODA M80/V80 and Porta Pros?
2) Are these Philips cooler on ear and lighter than V-MODA M80/V80?
3) Will these be good full sized-portables for summer time (are they cool and light in general)?

I currently have V80 and headband mod KSC75s. V80s are much heavier than KSC75s and warm up my ears more. KSC75s, on the other hand, can not compete with V80s in terms of sound quality, look and build.

Thank you in advance!

Rezhasan's picture

Philips has been selling a wide range of headphones, both in-ears and over-ears, in Asian markets for many years. While their in-ears were nothing to write home about, their over ears have generally been very good. One of my favourite pair of cans is from Philips. But no, they never come in colours like purple.

huow's picture

I feel great having view your review on kinds of headphone. I feel sad I haven't watched your review before I get my first headphone beats solo hd. I want a headphone which is comfortable to wear ,noise cancelling, and have good quality of displaying classical music. Sadly, they are the stuffs solo 's lack of. Can you recommend some headphone around 100-150 dollars which can meet my requirement?
Is cityscape downtown or uptown a good choice for me?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Yes ... if it appeals to you with what I've written, yes it is.
huow's picture

Thank you so much for your professional suggestion. So which one should I buy for the best classical music experience regardless of the price, uptown or downtown?

Dick Emery's picture

The L1's review can't come soon enough. I'm not happy with my current cans (Sony MDR-ZX700's) as I have to EQ them to get a warmer bottom (ooer missus!). I am by no means a bass head but I really want a bit more oomph in the lower frequencies. I will also be interested in how these compare comfort wise with the ZX700's.

Once you have the L1's I would also like to know whether they are preferable to say the Beyerdynamics DT990 Premiums or perhaps the Fischer Audio FA-003/Brainwavz.

mikes62's picture

First off, want to thank Ty for his great review on the Downtowns'. I own both the Crossfade LP 2's and Sony XB 500 and these(Philips) to me would not be classified as heavy bass phones like the Vmodas & Sony XB's. They are well balanced more towards the Senn HD 25 II's,Sony mdr-v6's and the Sony mdr-zx 700. The bass is certainly there but the mids & highs balance in nicely for a very good headephones especially at the under 100 price point.I personally like the sound of these better than the 2 sony's but prefer the HD25's.

mikes62's picture

Has anyone had chance to listen the top of line philips uptown?

Oranje's picture

I have found a review on Youtube about this headphone. Here: But I think it would be great if Tyll from Innerfidelity would do a review on it also.

gordonf98's picture

What about the Philips Citiscape Uptown SHL5905GY/10 model? do you recommend it? it has the same price that the Marshall Major headphones, which one should I choose?

JIGF's picture

Wow, I don't remember the Ultrasone Pro 750 (last pair of closed headphones I owned) sounding as good as these Downtowns.

Philips knocked it out of the park.

I hope they pick up in popularity as they seem a bit underrated at the moment.

ychu2000's picture

The wire connects to the ear cup looks flimsy.  The headphone itself sound fantastic but I just afraid the wire can break easily.

Any comment?  Thanks

pajamma's picture

My pair is now resting at the bottom of the garbage can. It's an understatement to say they are not repair-friendly. Stuff's glued that doesn't need to be, and there are three pointed star screws in use, just for spite apparently. The right side went glitchy after about 4 months, and what should have been an easy repair left me with a pile of broken plastic and remarkably thin wire.


Never did find the short.

Alex Altorfer's picture

Hello Tyll!

I'm using the Citiscape Downtown at work, a rather noisy environment, and find its isolation quite satisfying. They sound good, but as I use them for long periods of time (at low volumes), I believe I need crossfeed. I want to use a hardware solution as opposed to a software one, as my player of choice lacks crossfeed plugins. So, I'm about to order a Total Bithead from HeadRoom before the stock runs out. 

I understand the Total Bithead is one of your designs. I was wondering whether you have ever paired the Downtown with the Total Bithead to check for synergy. Do you think the Downtown could be a good match for the Total Bithead?

Also, I see you have not reviewed the Fidelio M1, but you did review the other two Fidelio models. I could not help but notice how similar the Downtown is to the M1. Did you ever have a chance to audition the Fidelio M1? If so, in you opinion, do you think the Downtown offers a sound similar to that of the M1 for less money? Would an upgrade to the M1 be at all worthwhile? Could both use similar drivers or perhaps even the same drivers?

Thank you for the attention.


koptelefoon's picture

I dont have too many on-ear headphones yet. This one reminds me of the over-ear CitiScape SHL5905BK Again i get appealed by the way these look. The musicseal and earcups are some big pros if you ask me. I'm definitely putting these on my wishlist, considering that these aren't new anymore the price might just drop ridiculously low, i'm waiting!

Ekomak's picture

I have this headphone, but now only one ear produce sound.

I want to open it to see if i can do anything but i dont want to break it i saw in one pics on this post that you dissaemble it. Could you give me indication to open it without damage?