When reviewing Bluetooth headphones it makes sense to talk about their sound while in BT mode first because that’s how they’re supposed to be used. But for Philips SHB9100, I would like to talk about their sound in wired mode first.
They sound fairly balanced as a whole and definitely more balanced yet laid back against the likes of Sennheiser PX 210 BT and Harman Kardon BT (both in passive mode). Bass is quite present and not over accentuated. It lacks extension and a little tightness in my opinion but they don’t bleed into mids.
The midrange is nice and warm as it’s boosted a bit by the upper lows. In my listening tests, the midrange resembles my old favorite Audio Technica ESW9 although the ones is ESW9 is slightly thicker. The upper midrange going to the presence region is laid back but is definitely present. It’s a little soft sounding and lacks clarity in that area.
Overall the SHB9100 in passive mode doesn’t sound aggressive and may appear to be dull-sounding at times. Also it’s quite efficient when used in wired mode unlike some of the other BT headphones mentioned above.
It’s surprisingly different when used in BT mode. The bass gets reduced significantly and it is easily audible on a quick listen. Initially, I thought the bass became a bit tighter however it really does not as it simply just loses some mid bass and upper bass quantity. Because of this, the signature changes even without a difference in the other spectrum of the frequency response.
The sound is less warm (it’s still warm btw) and more neutral and treble becomes more prominent. Again this is all due to having a reduced low frequencies. This may be less pleasant-sounding to most people and it’s interesting how Philips tuned this headphone for active BT mode.
I personally like a neutral sound ala Etymotic but listening for longer sessions, I can attest that it’s not the case for this headphone and it’s quite artificially neutral (think of Shure 940)
I don’t have that much expectations from the old set of Philips headphones but this one isn’t bad. I definitely wouldn’t spend 5,000 pesos for this but on Amazon it costs a merely $60 (if it’s on stock) and that is definitely a good performance/price ratio.
As for the bigger purpose of this as a BT headphone, I’m quite disappointed that it doesn’t do a good job in passive noise isolation and it’s quite flimsy in build quality. Then there’s the reduced bass that will not go well with most people. In the end, I can’t really recommend this not because it’s bad but because there other BT or even wired headphones that do better overall than the SHB9100.
What’s your take on this headphone?