Well-balanced mid-range IEMs
- Clear sweet highs, great detail, wide soundstage
- Bass a little uncontrolled, short cord
Philips' SHE9850 headphones are another strong entry into the mid-range IEM space. Their bass could be a little punchier and more controlled, but for the price these IEMs offer a clear, smooth and well-balanced sound.
Price$ 179.95 (AUD)
Designed with classical, jazz and blues listening in mind, the SHE9850 headphones are part of Philips' new line of in-ear monitors (IEMs), along with the SHE9800. Their slightly more well-rounded sound, which has an emphasis on detail and transparency, makes them well suited to the afore-mentioned musical styles. Overall, the audio quality is quite impressive; they are a good option for users looking to try something a cut above regular ear buds.
These IEMs are fairly small compared to other units on the market. The tips are tiny and slide easily into ears. Users who have never tried canal-phones before will still need to adjust to the slightly bizarre, invasive feeling, but this is the trade-off you make for clear, immersive audio.
Fortunately, size is not an indicator of quality when it comes to headphones. The SHE9850 headphones are strong performers overall. They have a wonderfully detailed sound that brings out all the nuances of music. Subtle percussion instruments, snare drums, backup vocals and individual guitar strings are all well defined and crisp, giving music a smooth transparent sound.
The bass is probably the weakest element of the music. It has a pleasing tone and is quite detailed, but lacks the power and extension of some more bass-heavy IEMs. It could also be a little more controlled, with the notes lingering a little longer than usual.
However, the highs were excellent, with a rich, sweet sound and excellent extension. The clarity and smoothness were exceptional, particularly with high-pitched acoustic guitar and piano notes, which sounded great and were never harsh or fatiguing.
The mid-range was pretty solid, too, with the same smoothness found in the treble notes. Some users might prefer a grittier and more dirty, visceral approach but for certain musical genres the style of these IEMs is more appropriate. Couple that with an excellent soundstage that creates a wide, immersive listening environment and you have an excellent platform for classical music.
Aesthetically, these headphones look pretty classy for IEMs. It’s hard for canal-phones to look too stylish, but Philips has done a pretty good job here with the black tips and gunmetal driver case contrasting nicely. We would have liked the cable to be a little longer but aside from that we have no design complaints.
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