The True Wireless Earbud market is a highly competitive one. It takes a unique product to cut through the armada of earphones constantly launched at consumers, and Philips, with their new $299 Fidelio T1 High-Quality True Wireless Headphones, promises just that.
With the T1, they have pulled out all the stops from a features standpoint, incorporating hybrid drivers, metal and leather trim, advanced active noise canceling, smartphone app control, and enlarged touch sensors to simplify operation.
Obviously, Philips is aiming for the top of the True Wireless market, a segment occupied by heavy-hitting products from Sony, Bowers & Wilkins, Technics, Bang & Olufsen, Samsung, and the like. Naturally, people buying these products want the best.
So…how does the Fidelio T1 match up with the top dogs in the category? Read on, and I’ll let you know what I think!
Disclaimer: This unit was sent to us by Philips Audio in exchange for our review. No input was given or promises made regarding the content contained in this evaluation.
Upon taking the T1’s charging case out of the package, the first thing I noticed was how large it was. It’s almost double the size of the Technics earbuds I just reviewed and nearly three times the size of the Apple and Samsung cases I use most often. It’s just big enough to deter me from sticking it in my jeans pocket.
On the other hand, the substantial metal case is probably one of the sturdier ones I’ve come across. That, combined with the Scottish leather trim on top, makes it look like a full-fledged luxury good. I can see corporate types gravitating towards the elegant design.
You can charge the case via a Qi-compatible wireless charger or via the USB-C port on the side. The case takes 3 hours to charge with the included USB cable, or 4 hours wirelessly. A wireless charger is not included.
The buds take 1.5 hours to charge, and the case can charge them up three times before it has to be recharged itself. Playback time is about 5-6 hours, depending on if you use ANC or not. That’s about average for a TWS earphone nowadays.
Like the case, the earpieces are also amongst the largest I have seen. However, they still manage to look somewhat sleek and remain lightweight. I dig their brushed metal trim, which matches the case’s finish well.
In addition, the larger earpieces allow for a larger touchpad to control playback, take calls, turn on ANC, etc., which is good from a usability standpoint.
That said, the earpieces’ bulk did cause some issues from a comfort perspective. Once I got the earpieces seated properly and picked out the correct size ear tips (a larger tip than the pre-installed one), they fit ok. However, due to their size, I could never forget I had them in like I do with the Samsung and Apple earphones I use.
Speaking of eartips, you get a total of nine pairs, including three pairs of Comply foam along with six pairs of the traditional silicone ear tips (One pair is preinstalled). It’s good to see they provide a good amount of ear tips to ensure a decent fit. Of course, more tips are always better when it comes to earphones.
Inside each earpiece are two drivers, one 10mm dynamic driver for the low end and a balanced armature for the mids and highs. There are also four mics for the Active Noise Cancelling and a sensor that automatically starts/stops the music when you take them out or put them back in your ear.
As mentioned earlier, the large touchpad controls on the exterior of the earbuds are easy to use and responsive. However, I did find it strange that all of the controls except for the virtual assistant button were placed on the right earbud, as it seemed like a wasted opportunity for improved accessibility.
For example, they could’ve put track controls on both sides to make overall operation easier. But, unfortunately, there’s no way to rearrange the controls either, as I’ve seen on other earphones.
As far as wireless specs go, the Fidelio T1 uses Bluetooth 5.0 along with the SBC, AAC, and LDAC BT audio codecs. BT 5.0 is good for battery life, connections, and range. I also applaud the use of LDAC as a hi-res wireless streaming option since that’s the standard option on most Android phones.
Philips Headphone App
Like most competitors, Philips offers a companion app to provide additional functionality, and the Philips Headphone app (Android and iOS) works pretty well.
It’s laid out nicely and lets you select between three types of noise cancellation (noise control, awareness, adaptive) as well as an option to adjust the strength of each one. The adaptive mode is interesting as it’s sort of a blend of the other two modes, changing the strength and type of ANC automatically depending on your activity.
For example, if you’re resting or commuting, it will turn up the noise control to block a lot of outside noise, and if you’re running or walking, it will operate in awareness mode, bringing in more outside sound so you can hear what’s going on around you.
I commend Philips for giving users so much control over noise-canceling, but it could be a bit stronger overall at the end of the day. In my experience, I found the ANC Pro + wasn’t quite as effective as the ANC systems from Technics, Samsung, or Apple.
It did well with low environmental rumbles like HVAC noise, but it didn’t work as well with higher-pitched sounds like some engine noise. I can see it working well for train and bus commutes, but not as well for Plane rides.
Along with ANC options, the app also lets you view battery life for the case and earpieces and view the BT audio codec in use (wish you could change it there as well).
It also controls music playback, lets you perform software updates, read the user manual, as well as set an EQ to tailor your audio.
The EQ is pretty basic, as it only has four presets, but it provides the opportunity to add more bass, treble, or mids to the mix, depending on your preference. A custom EQ like the one in the Technics app would’ve been nice for even more personalization.
For my listening tests, I connected the Fidelio T1 to my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra via the LDAC codec (optimized for audio). Then, I played a bunch of music from my hi-res music playlist in Qobuz, and I found it to be an entertaining listen, if not an accurate one.
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Out of the box, I found the bass to be just a little overdone, but it was deep and articulate. Using a separate Balanced Armature driver for the mids and highs, they managed to get some good extension down low without affecting the clarity of the midrange, which is excellent.
Even so, I did find the upper mids to be a little edgy, which made the earphones come across as shouty on certain songs. This is common with BA drivers, so it’s not surprising that this is the case.
As far as treble goes, the T1 has excellent treble detail and air, which adds a sense of realism to instruments. The trailing edges of tones are represented well, and you feel like you hear the complete piano notes when you listen. Cymbals also have a nice metallic ripple, as they should.
When it comes to soundstage and imaging, you don’t get a lot of width from the T1, but there is a substantial amount of depth, making you feel like you hear “into” a recording. In addition, the separation between the elements of the mix is pretty good, allowing you to listen to the background singers and instrumentation as separate from the lead performer. This is remarkable for a true wireless earbud.
These are true wireless earbuds with audiophile chops, providing a nice open sound with surprising detail for a pair of wireless earphones. The realism on certain songs is electric. My only issue is a little hardness up top, along with a little bit too much energy in the midbass. This becomes distracting to someone like me that likes his sound to trend neutral.
On the other hand, if you like an exciting sound with a lot of sparkle and deep bass, the T1’s sound signature may be right up your alley. Also, you do have the EQ option to adjust the sound, but even that is limited because you have to depend on the four presets on offer.
The Wrap Up
To sum things up, the Philips Fidelio T1 High-Quality True Wireless Headphones, while not perfect, have some of the best fit and finish I’ve ever seen in True Wireless Earbuds. They’re also probably the most detailed buds I’ve ever heard. Conversely, I wish the earpieces and charging case were a little smaller for easier transport and wearability, plus I also wish the sound signature was a little more neutral. I also wish the ANC was a little bit stronger. That said, if you want a well-made pair of TWS earbuds with above-average sound, you should check them out.
I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.