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.

Philips_FidelioS1S2_Photo_Inside

Exploded view of the Fidelio S1

Design
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.

COMPANY INFO
Philips
1600 Summer St.
P.O. Box 120015
Stamford, CT 06912
888-744-5477
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
JRAudio's picture

Philips sold his consumer section including the rights for the name to Funai. What will be with the support of those products? Is this the last sold out of Philips ear- and head-phone. Who has interest in buying such products, that are already sold, without knowing about the future of it. I have heard that in the meantime, the support for Philips CD Drives and repair parts has stopped already.

JR

Impulse's picture

I'm pretty sure Funai stated they wanted to continue operating most divisions, otherwise they wouldn't have signed a contract for the rights to use the Philips brands (with the option to renew it no less). Where'd you read about them discontinuing support for certain products? Not doubting it, just curious.

JRAudio's picture

I know if from contacts to the manufacturing plants. They have stopped production already and you can not get any sufficient numbers of their CD drives or any spare parts. And this was all of a sudden.

Juergen

Martygord's picture

Hi JR --

On behalf of Philips I just wanted to clarify and address your comment.  Philips in the U.S. has signed a distribution agreement with Philips-Funai to distribute our Lifestyle Entertainment products – including headphones, audio products, accessories and other CE products – in the U.S.  This means that in the U.S., Philips-Funai distributes these products on Philips’ behalf and we expect this to continue in the future, with full product support.  Consumers looking for support on our products, including CD Drives, can find it at (www.support.philips.com or by calling the general support line at 888-744-5477.

Best,
Marty

Long time listener's picture

I notice from the measurements that both of these have peaks in the treble at around 5 Khz. In my experience, this is not good, so I was surprised, given your comments about the treble quality (though I note the measurements are good in all other respects). Most IEMs--and over the ear headphones--that are typically considered to measure well, such as the Shure SE535s and the V-Sonics, tend to have broad dips here instead, followed by a rise to a peak in the 9-10Khz region. I once had a multi-armature Sony IEM that sounded quite good overall, except for a strong peak in this same region. The result was harsh, aggressive sounding treble when the music had strong content in this region (e.g., electric guitars). Do you think most people will really find the treble on these free of problems? Thanks.

ljokerl's picture

I will defer the measurement discussion to Tyll but can talk about my listening experience against the VSonics. I have a VSonic GR07BE (based on the 2nd-gen GR07) and a regular GR07 of the 1st-gen variety. The GR07s (the old one more so than the new one) sound sibilant and a little harsh to me compared to Philips. The same is true for the VSonic GR06, GR02BE, and even the new VC02 (though to a lesser extent). With a proper seal in the ear and good recordings, I don't think the treble of the Philips is problematic. 

Also, if you think that treble curve doesn't dip enough, you should see the Audio-Technica CKM500 - it's pretty much flat after compensation and the treble has this strange brittle quality despite not being harsh in the conventional sense. Very strange earphones that are nonetheless popular on Head-Fi. 

Long time listener's picture

Thanks for clearing that up. I guess because the peak at 5Khz is lower than the bass levels, and at about the same or just slightly below the midrange levels, it won't be heard as intrusive. On top of which the distortion levels are very low, which will also help. It's just that I've had bad experiences with peaks in the low treble. Tyll himself once said "Just no..." to the Sennheiser HD700 for a peak in this same region (just slightly higher actually). And there's the JVC HA-S500-Z, which measures and sounds beautiful...until you hit that peak at 7Khz, which really ruins it. So I was rightfully wary of these, but now I will likely want to give them a try.

Majestic91's picture

"The result was harsh, aggressive sounding treble when the music had strong content in this region (e.g., electric guitars)." - I've just got the S1 and I must say that this statement is 100% correct. When I listen to the music with the loud guitars or vocals the S1 starts to sound very aggresive and you can hear what can be described as the annoying "sss" noises.

Guitarist9273's picture

How do they compare to the Shure SE215, which is still up on the Wall of Fame & is exactly the same price as the Fidelio S1?

Is it just me, or do their measurements look very similar? (Though, the S1 appears to be smoother & cleaner, overall.)

By the way --- Any plans for an Innerfidelity review the newish HifiMan RE-400? Would love to see their measurements. At the same price as the S1, I'd be curious to know which one sounds better & represents a better value, in the opinions of Joker & Tyll. Had a chance to hear the RE-400 yet & form any opinions on it, Tyll?

ljokerl's picture

I thought the SE215 was worth keeping on the Wall of Fame as it does some things that the S1 doesn't - it isolates a lot, fits over-the-ear, and has detachable cables. Plus, it sounds warmer and bassier overall so it may actually work better for the average consumer. 

On the point of sound - the SE215 was a touch too warm for me while the S1/S2 are not. The treble is more present and extended but at the same time cleaner and more free of grain compared to the Shures, and the bass seems cleaner as well. I think the S1 is definitely more "Hi-Fi" overall and actually competes with the RE-400. When I compared the two I slightly preferred the S1 for bass depth and midrange clarity but was very impressed by both as far as $99 earphones go.

Regarding the RE-400 - I am not sure if Tyll is getting one from HiFiMan to measure. I can always send in mine but I would like to cover the Senn IE 800 first. It's a statement product, after all, and an interesting one. 

Three Toes of Fury's picture

It appears we headphones enthusiasts share the same thoughts....i was just about to ask the same thing as Guitarist9273,,,,S1 vs SE215.     I picked up the SE215's a few months ago per the wall-o-fame recommendation.   I like them bunches.  Sooooo i was wondering if you think the S1's are as good as, or, moreso,  substantially better?  If so i'll snag a pair. 

Thanks for the great write ups

Peace & Living in Stereo

3ToF

neo's picture

These might certainly be better than the Shures, but not worth to buy a pair if you just got your Shures. Enjoy your IEMs, and most importantly your MUSIC..

The Fidelios are tempting though. I'd be curious to see how they compare to some TDK BA200s or TDK IE800?

Three Toes of Fury's picture

i appreciate the feedback, follow-up, and thoughts.    This site is a great place for open discussion and information sharing between headphone fans.

Peace & "If music be the food of love, play on;  give me excess of it"  duke orsino, shakespear, 12th Night,   1602

3ToF

 

ljokerl's picture

Added a reply above. I do like the S1 better than the Shures but that doesn't mean you will. It also doesn't mean you should toss your new Shures and drop another $100 on the Philips. 

neo's picture

What about the TDKs mate? ClieOS seems to love them..

ljokerl's picture

on the TDKs. Maybe Tyll can get a set for us to try.

lushkin's picture

Very impressed both from the comparative view against refenrce models and the measurments. Even the isolation seems above decent for a semi-closed design.

Joker, How good you think the S1 would be as a an active heaset? Do they stay secure with wet ears?

ljokerl's picture

I suppose the more lightweight S1 could work - you would probably want to use the Comply foam tips for more secure fit. If they (the tips) are sized right for your ears, they don't slip out with sweat. 

I am not sure about the longevity of the earphones, though - they are probably not designed to cope with sweat. The housings have vents both front and rear that moisture could seep into. 

Personally I would go for a sealed-back, over-the-ear design like the Shure SE215 or the (way cheaper) MEElectronics M6. 

Impulse's picture

I had been thinking about getting custom tips for my Ety hf but now I'm pondering putting those $100 towards a pair of these instead, just for a different sound and for when I don't want/need as much isolation as the Etys provide... Although that's also what my M-80 are for. Improved long term comfort with the Etys vs new toy, decisions decisions. :p

ljokerl's picture

As an owner of custom Ety tips, I have to admit that's not an easy decision. The isolation of the FIdelios really isn't that poor, especially with the Comply tips. The M-80 still isolates less for me.

Impulse's picture

Yeah I wouldn't expect the S1 to be terrible at isolation, but it does seem like they'd be easier to take out and put on... I still have to do that whole two-hand tugging on my upper ear maneuver to get the Etys in, then again, I hear the custom tips help with that too heh...

ljokerl's picture

You still need to straighten out the ear canal when inserting custom tips, or at least I do (unless I use the supplied ear lubricant beforehand). The S1 is defintely easier to insert and remove in a hurry.

Audioaddict's picture

|Joker|, you said that the midrange clarity in the S1 compares to the RE-262. Would you say that the S1 is a good alternative if i wanted a touch more bass impact, a clear midrange, and slightly more present treble? And if you can say how does the soundstage of the two compare?? 

ljokerl's picture

That's spot on. More bass impact and more treble presence without sounding notably v-shaped. Mids are less forward than with the RE262, as expected.  

I prefer the presentation of the RE262/RE272 by a small margin - they seem to have slightly better layering. If you like wide soundstages, you'll be fine with the Philips. If you prefer more intimate/enveloping, you might miss the RE262 a bit. 

Audioaddict's picture

Thank you! i'm debating on picking up a cheaper alternative for when i dont want to worry about babying the RE-262 and for a little more fun. That and a Grado SR-80 for rock. I do like my soundstage though so i'll miss the intamacy but if it's fairly wide i should be good. The RE-262's presentation is magical the first time you hear it or try a new song. 

LuisCypher's picture

Joker, from the FR I would say that the S1 is quite bassy. However you describe the bass as just a bit enhanced. How does that match up?

Also, is the distortion at 5 kHz audible on the S1?

ljokerl's picture

It really depends on where you draw the line for calling something "bassy". The bass quantity of the Philips is similar to that of the GR07s from VSonic and I have never heard anyone complain about getting too much bass out of those - I consider them bass-enhanced but still leaning towards an accurate sound compared to most dynamic-driver earphones on the market. It is nowhere near the bass quantity of stuff like the Monster Turbine series or the Bowers&Wilkins C5, which are truly bassy (and annoying in that respect). 

The distortion was not audible to me. 

poleepkwa's picture

ljokerl, would these (fidelio S1) be a good replacement for my now defunct Phonaks Golds or are there better alternatives?

poleepkwa's picture

ljokerl, would these (fidelio S1) be a good replacement for my now defunct Phonaks Golds or are there better alternatives?

ljokerl's picture

I am not familiar with the Phonak Gold. Is that a limited edition of one of their other models? If so, which?

poleepkwa's picture

Sorry,ljokerl. 

They are called Phonak PFE 112. I saw they are called Phonak Gold on the Wall of Fame so I was not sure if the American version had another name. Guess they do not...

ljokerl's picture

The Phonak 112s are a little different - not as bass-enhanced as the two Philips sets and more focused on the midrange and high end (exact balance depends on the filters used - gray sounded brighter to me). I wouldn't call the Philips a step up but they are a great replacement if you want to try something a little different and also don't mind the completely different form factor (I'm one of those who found the PFEs super comfortable; the Philips are just average). 

The S1/S2 are certainly more reasonably-priced than Phonak's own PFE "upgrade" (the PFE 232). Speaking of the PFE 232, if you want something that gets reasonably close to that sound without spending $599, you can try the VSonic GR07 mkII or GR07 Bass Edition. They've always reminded me of the Phonaks. 

poleepkwa's picture

Thanks for the informative answer. I am looking for a replacement and not a step up as such. My 3.5 mm plug on the Phonaks seems to be not making proper contact; the sound cuts. So I am looking for alternative for " active" use in summer as the Focals Spirit Ones are too warm in summer when out and about.(Great earmuffs in winter though). Have to look at the Vsonics if I can get those here in Europe. I saw you like the Philips and could perhaps give them a go as the price seem reasonable. I will also look at the MEE161P and the Shures SE215 in that price range. yes

Kookie Monster's picture

Sorry if I'm dense or simply missed it somewhere in the article, but where can these be found for purchase?  I followed the links to the philips website, but didn't notice a place where I could purchase them.  I'm guessing that, perhaps, they'll have a wider release in the near future?

Thanks!

ljokerl's picture

I am sure they will hit wider distribution in the near future. So far I've only seen them on eBay, Accessoryjack, and Amazon UK. Both models are brand new so it may take time for more retailers to carry them. 

Tiger Woods's picture

I'm just getting into so called IEM because they really help me relax on the course and block everything out and these sound a whole lot better than the ones that came with my iPod.

giorgiocis's picture

nice work ljokerl! unfortunately my yamaha eph-100 broken twice, maybe cause i have extremely narrow ear canals and i really have to force them in a lot every time i put them on(they also hurt after 2 hour of listening :'( )...i was thinking to give the brand new that will come from the warranty service to a friend and change to something else...i really really love the eph-100 sound signature, even a bit more than the one of my brand new fidelio x1 (they are similar in my opinion), but i'm forced to change to something else for comfort purpose, could the s2 be a really good alternative? what are you suggestion in the same price tag? are the s2 better that the gr07? are the gr07 bass edition similar the eph-100(i don't want more bass)?  what about the rock-it sounds r-50? the only thing that i don't like about the yamaha is that the lack of sparkling in your face treble(but not bad!just maybe a bit lacking) made me avoid soprano voices for something more warm and fully enjoable...thank you in advance, big fan, i never miss a new entry in the iem comparison thread :)

P.S: comfort is really important for me, i had to re-insert the yamaha every 5 10 minute cause the left one was keep being pushed out by my narrow ear... 

P.S: sorry for my english,it's not my native language!

ljokerl's picture

Unfortuantely the EPH-100 and S2 are not very similar in sound signature. Neither the S2 nor the GR07 Bass have as much bass and warmth as the Yamahas. They are good if you want a flatter, but still fairly punchy signature, but not alternatives to the EPH-100 per se. The R-50 you can pretty much forget about.

My recommendation would actaully be the JVC FXT90. It has more bass than the S2 and GR07 BE and more prominent, sparkly treble compared to the EPH-100. It would be a good pick as long as you don't mind the shallower, angled-nozzle fit. Plus, you can get some great deals on ebay with the FXT90s down in the $90-100 range from Japanese sellers. 

TheCrimsonFrenzy's picture

Amazon is selling it for $120 and I kinda want to buy them for 99. Their site doesn't seem to have a place where i can buy it and ebay seems to be untrustworthy. And does anyone actually know when they release? Some rep guy on youtube said late fall but that's a little equivocal. It's late fall now and i don't see $99 anywhere.

marab's picture

Hi Joker, could you compare these Fidelios to JVC-FXD80 and MH1? Personally, I prefer MH1 sound over JVC, but I listen to JVC due to cable issues. However, JVC do not sound... coherent, they sound kinda artificial, too cold, they don't give right musical experience, so I'm thinking about buying Philips S1/S2. They lack in midbass and midrange. MH1 sounded right for me, however, the cable is terrible - so could you tell me if Fidelio's cable feels softer and is less microphonic than Sony's? Is there a cable clip, and if there isnt - does the cable feel weighty and gives the impression like the iem is going to fall of ear? And how Fidelios compare soundwise to Sonys?

Thanks!

ljokerl's picture

...I realize it's been a while. Unfortuantely I don't get email notifications for InnerFidelity replies. 

The Fidelios are more JVC FXD80 than MH1. The MH1 is warm and full, with smooth treble and very solid bass. The FXD80 is on the opposite end of the spectrum - good bass punch but brighter, a little too thin in the midrange, and with a noticeable lower midrange recession. I'm personally not a fan of the FXD80s' sound even though I appreciate the clarity they can put out and the tightness of the low end.

Anyway, the Philips Fidelio earphones, while much better overall, are closer to the JVCs in sound signature. While the midrange is not nearly as recessed, note thickness is similar and there's still not a lot of warmth to the sound. 

Cable on these is better than the rubbery Sony cable. They're also pretty secure in the ear - the driver chamber is large and keeps them from moving. 

Anyway, if you want something MH1-like in a JVC-like form factor, I would recommend the Yamaha EPH-100. It's bassy and warm and thick, but it's also very fun to listen to and in a lot of ways sounds more natural compared to the JVC FXD80s.

IEMAGNET's picture

Hi Joker.

fellow head-fier here. I'm also the proud owner and devotee of the JVC FTX90. I bought them strictly from your recommendation on several forums, most directly the IEM comparison page. Funny thing is that I originally bought a pair, liked them , but based on the buzz caused by the Vsonic GR07 and RE-ZERO, I quickly sold my pair on eBay to help fund the purchase of both those other IEM's. Turns out I didn't like, nor regardless of  tips, could I manage the right seal with the 07's (I have a misshapen left ear canal). I also didn't like the high and low end response of the 07's, though they had such lush and smooth mids. The RE-ZERO's were another story. I ended up selling those to another fellow head-fier, who happens to love them very much. I couldn't deal with the extremely dry and linear bass, and what I felt was TOO MUCH transparency. Music of the RE-ZEROS and 262's are just so dull and lacking energy. So recently I repurchased the FXT90's, and after 500+ hours of burn in, I simply can't go back to using any of my other IEM's (minus the VSD1S, which I'm also loving ). The depth and clarity of the sound signature, especially that gorgeously articulate bass and unreal timbre just mesmerizes me. Now to my relevance...I recently bought the S2. I'm winding down my purchases, and maybe have one more left, then I retire to what I own . How do the S2's compare to the FXT90's? Not so much in sound sig, but in overall articulation and quality delivery/clarity and smoothness? 

Also I'm looking at repurchasing the TF 10. Would it be wise to invest in those, or do you think the acquisitions of the FXT90's and S2 are close enough to a side grade that they would be overkill? Or do you think the TF 10 is just that much more an upgrade over both? 

sincerely, 

Charlie

cubby's picture

My tweet
@PhilipsCare I love the @Philips Fidelio S2 headphones, but it’s a shame that I can’t get replacement silicone tips. Might have to return 'em.

Their response
Unfortunately, we do not have replacement earbuds available for this model. Though we do not carry the replacements, you may be able to find them through other online vendors. Apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

JAF's picture

Sorry to be a bit late with this comment. Bought a pair of S2. The look and feel fantastic. Sound is detailed - but the highs were a total turn off for me. The treble is way too bright, harsh and metallic sounding. I actually chose to return them. IMHO they do not deserve a spot on the wall of fame.

tthbroo's picture

Should i buy these for 48€ or RHA MA-750 for 70€

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