Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible. Yes, it sounds like a paradox haha. For all tests, I connected the Philips SHP9600 to my Focusrite Scarlett Solo. This should reduce the potential for our source being an issue in our auditioning. After over 75 hours of break-in time -- well above typically required period -- we put the Philips SHP9600 to the tests. All tracks are FLAC, high bitrate AAC, or LAME-encoded MP3s.
Starting at the bottom end, the Philips SHP9600 offered more bass than I would expect for an open-back headset. Considering this is an open-back headset, omissions in this region is to be expected, especially in the lower ends. This was true with the Philips SHP9600. In contrast, the middle to upper bass regions were a bit more emphasized, offering a good amount of groove and oomph. For bass heads, the SHP9600 probably will not be sufficient for you, as it does miss the deep thumps. For what is present, the bass offers a good rounded feel.
Moving to the midrange, vocals and instruments in this region were clean and clear. In fact, this region felt natural and present. It has been a while since I have heard a flatter sound signature. Instruments in this region sounded natural and present. Vocals in this region also felt wet. However, there was a slight dip in the upper midrange that caused vocalists to lose its strength or fullness, affecting the amount of details of the voices here.
On the upper end of the SHP9600, the trebles came through strong and bright. Instruments like high hat crashes and violins were sharp. The dip in the upper-mids continued to the lower trebles, which again affected instruments and vocalists in this region. There was also a bit of sibilance noted in the trebles, though it sounded like this was purposefully dulled to prevent the ear-piercing sounds without affecting the accuracy. Overall, I found the Philips SHP9600 delivered a flat and clean sound signature. This signature is not always to the preference of everyone, especially as most consumers like the heavy bass and bright treble V-shape combination. On the other hand, this does make the SHP9600 quite accurate and balanced with the exception of the roll off at the back end.
In terms of soundstaging, the Philips SHP9600 really delivered a wide and open listening experience. Music was delivered with depth and directional width that made listening to music, especially live recordings, quite enjoyable. The open-back design with large 50mm drivers definitely helps in this regard, but the listening experience felt quite immersive. Imaging-wise, the Philips SHP9600 provided a realistic sound and stayed true to the original production or recording.
When we look at layering, the Philips SHP9600 provided a good amount of detail across its entire frequency range. There however were some slight dips in the midrange and the higher trebles that unfortunately made some of those regions to lose its detail. This affected the thickness in these regions as we mentioned previously. Even so, frequency separation was still good, as regions sounded distinct from one another. In addition, the headphones sounded cohesive still with the layers. Cleanness was not an issue here either.
As for sound isolation, the Philips SHP9600 did not fare as well, especially since they use an open-back design. This means music will leak into your environment, while ambient noise will also come in. While this is good for soundstaging purposes, this also means you probably should be considerate when using this with other people sitting nearby, as they may not have the same tastes of music as you. Similarly, if have noisy neighbors, you may end up hearing too much of them.
All in all, the Philips SHP9600 are a great pair of accurate and detailed headphones for those at home. While its flat sound signature reproduces the music as it was recorded, it may not necessarily be to everyone's preferences. Personally, I do like this clean original sound with its wide soundstage, but keep this in mind when considering the Philips SHP9600.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis