This review isway overdue. I was supposed to write this during the weekend but due to me being out for a while for some stuff , I wasn’t able to make some time to write this one. I can partly blame it on writer’s block as well, hehe. ;D
Short background: Bro Mondi was kind enough to loan me this pair of budget IEMs for the week (He was also supposed to loan me the UE Metrofi 200 for a comparo, but we kinda forgot all about it after being floored by Boss Racio’s MSPro during the last meet :-[ ;D ) and I kinda promised him to write a review for this IEM after a week of “serious intensive testing” (Headfi is serious business haha :D ). Don’t worry bro Mondi, I’ll loan you the uDAC for a week or two when it arrives. ;)
Going back to topic, Philips has been a mainstream brand specializing on home appliances and personal electronic devices, and had a hand in the invention of the CD, DVD and Blu-Ray formats. Oh and they also do MP3 Players, Headphones and IEMs. The SHE9850 is currently the brand’s flagship IEM, and you should probably know by know, the subject of this review.
Since this is a loaner unit I have to skip the packaging part and move on to the supplied accessories. What really caught my attention was the nice looking gunmetal casing Philips provided. the IEMs along with the supplied accesories store neatly in a slide out tray, which is made of flimsy plastic.
A shirt clip, wax loop and silicone earbuds and a pair of what I think are comply foamies (which Philips market as “Memory Foams”) were also supplied.
Design and Build Quality
The Philips SHE9850 is arguably one of the better looking IEMs i’ve seen. the transparent driver housing and metal trim is really appealing and a fitting testament to it’s flagship status. Build is petty solid too, although I wished there were stress reliefs on the plug and the area where the cables meet the transducers.
The cables on the other hand is where I’m a bit iffy at, since I find it a bit stiff and somewhat microphonic. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing since I feel it’s a bit better (more solid) than the cables of my CX500, yet it gives me a certain paranoia that it may go stiffer in due time, like the cables of some UE IEMs.
Fit, Comfort and Isolation
The SHE9850 is an above average sized IEM, and the truth is I did have some problems with the fit. Luckily I found out that it can be also be worn cables above the ear which made the IEM a bit more flushed to the earlobes; the problem with this setup tough, is that it pulls the Y junction a bit higher to the neck, which may cause discomfort.
The SHE9850 also provides very good noise isolation, especially with Complys or Olives.
Sound Quality and Listening Impressions
First, the specs:
# Single Balanced Armature Driver
# Sensitivity: 115 dB SPL per 1 mW
# Frequency Range: 20 Hz-20 kHz
# Impedance: 12 ohms
# Cable Length: 1.2m
# Weight: 14g
# Cowon S9 > SHE9850
# Laptop > Foobar > WASAPI > D10 Cobra > SHE9850
Other IEMs for comparison: Senn CX500, Westone UM3X
A bit of everything including Female Vocals, RnB, Jazz, Electronica, Classical, Acoustic and some Piano Pieces and obligatory Jpop and Girls Generation ;D
The low impedance and 112db sensitivity of the SHE9850 means that this IEM is fairly easy to drive, I get adequate listening volumes at around 10 o’clock volume travel with the D10 and 13-14/40 on the cowon S9.
note: most of my listening impressions were done using shure olives.
My first impression with the SH9850 is that it is a warm sounding IEM with a slight emphasis on the mids. Bass impact is a also a bit lean on this IEM, kinda reminds me of the UM3X although the latter extends a bit deeper. Hiphop and RnB doesn’t give that head bobbing experience with this IEM.
The Mids on the other hand is the best facet of this IEM – they’re not as forward as the UM3X nor as laidback as the senns. they’re simply just right. there’s a bit of veil though, but that does not stop the SHE9850 from sounding musical. Vocals, acoustic and piano genres shine very well with this IEM.
Treble response is also a bit of a letdown on the SHE9850, sometimes hovering from very thin to almost lifeless. In most tracks the treble also rolls off very early I think this is the weakest area of this IEM.
In terms of detail and soundstage I find the SHE9850 on the average side of the scale, it definitely offers more detail than the CX500 and certainly not up to the detail delivery prowess of the UM3X. Soundstage wise i find it airier than the UM3X and almost at par inf not better than the CX500. Instrument separation is also fairly average, but definitely better than the CX500.
throughout my listening for the last week is that the SHE9850 reminds me a lot of the Shure SE530, (which i have previously tried in one of the meets) in terms of sound signature – warm, midcentric with lean and rolled off highs. it also comes quite close to the soundstage of the Shure flagship but certainly lags in the detail and instrument separation t. I also find the midrange a thinner compared to the SE530 and the UM3X, but its a fair compromise for being 1/5 the price of the Shure locally and 1/4 the price of the Westone.
To close it off, is the Philips SHE9850 a good value for money? For me its a yes. the SHE9850 is an excellent first foray into balanced armature territory which not only sounds good but also looks good. I would recommend this IEM for starting headphilers who are looking for their first serious IEM.
+ Very nice metal case and plenty of useful accessories
+ Looks good 8)
+ Excellent build quality
+ warm and musical sound signature
+ excellent and detailed midrange
+ very good noise isolation
+/- fairly average soundstage
+/- durable but the cables are kinda stiff
– some fit issues
– somewhat lacks bass impact
– lean and rolled off treble