I loved the Downtown from Philips previously; good looks, nice inoffensive sound and great price so colored me interested when the I got hold of the bigger brother – the Uptown. Honestly I think Philips are going in the right direction with these budget cans. Great looks and a redesigned sound that is far more serious than before. I had great impressions of the Downtown so the Uptown would have to be equally stellar to dislodge me from my Downtown thoughts.

Now pricing wise I said budget but the Uptown is on the high end of budget headphone economics coming in around 6-7k local price but he price on Amazon US is more volatile and can sit as low as $80 depending on your luck even lower. It is true to say Philips headphones whilst vastly improving will not hold its residual value quite as much as say a Senn HD600 but the price is pretty competitive to give you a low risk buy.

Thankfully the Uptown justified its price sound wise but with a few minor hiccups that I will talk about later. Similarities to the brown version of the Downtown are there though with the upgraded mature design, high quality construction and the cheese wire plastic box. Sadly nothing else comes with the headphones other than a mobile phone extension jack for recessed headphone sockets in modern mobile phones. I really think a small pouch should come with them and tipping the scale at 6-7k I think that is more inexcusable than the cheaper Downtown. Otherwise the headphone is very well made indeed with metal, pleather and some soft and comfortable thick pads.

Comfort wise I really enjoyed these ones. One of the better fits at the lower end. The circumaural pads are not the biggest but they fit nicely with the above average pleather pads. The headband is well padded with a low center of pressure so you wont find any physical fatigue on your ears or head with the Uptown if wearing for long periods. The pleather though might induce higher levels of heat and sweat if like me your in tropical climes. The metal cup extenders are very reassuring and glide pretty smoothly and from what I can see the cups sport angled drivers also (40mm).

The Music Seal technology I mentioned in the Downtown review is also in the Uptown and true enough they seal pretty well from background noise suffering from minimal or zero leakage aided no doubt by the larger cup size than the Downtown.

Sadly the big turn off for the Uptown is the cable. Its not the strongest looking and is of a flat construct which is good for a tangle free experience but the inbuilt mic and volume control is poorly designed and suffers from inline noise interference when being moved up and down and if not done smoothly with a bit of pressure on the slider you get a bit of channel imbalance also which is unacceptable. DIY guys may wish to recable and my advise is whack it up to full volume on the slider and just forget about it as it adds nothing really to the experience.

Tech Specs

Impedance: 32 Ohm
Sensitivity: 103 dB
Max Power Input: 30mW
Drivers: 40mm
Cable Length: 1.2m (~4ft)
Connector: 3.5mm

At 103db this is a fairly easy headphone to drive but depending on your source and amping the sound reproduction will vary considerably. Out of an iPhone 4 the sound was thin and shallow though clean and detailed with mild u-shape and some suck out in the upper mids giving the treble a a bit of sparkle and a reasonably coherent bass though lacking in any huge amount of slam. Volume wise on the iphone about two thirds to three quarters was sufficient but I just didn’t get a good feel for the them straight out of source. Ok so over the top a bit but sticking them into the Pan Am from ALO Audio and the headphone scaled fantastically well. The bass was much richer and hit harder, the mids were thicker and whilst the treble was still sparkling it sounded much more integrated. With good amping the Uptown is a much more musical headphone and much more enjoyable.

I have seen a few comparisons to the HM5 or Fischer Audio FA-003. I can understand that but I prefer the Uptown’s slightly thicker and warmer tonality to the razor thin mids and colder and narrow presentation of the FA-003. It’s not as hot or spikey either as the FA-003 but doesn’t have quite the same bass impact which the FA-003 is well known for.

I did much prefer the sound staging on the the Uptown than the Downtown. The Downtown’s mellow approach was a hit with me and whilst the closed Uptown is also somewhat laid back the heightened trebles and bigger cups give it a more airy and spacious feel with superior imaging. Layering was excellent and very clear and vocals, though not forward and aggressive, were neither muffled or recessed.

Those who prefer the dark side might think the treble a tad energetic but not way out there or entirely dominant on the overall tonality. It still stayed relatively warm to neutral and didnt suffer from undue sibilance or hot spikes. Driven with a warm amp or a tube amp they really sound much more lush and fluid than straight out of a DAP so do bear this in mind.

Final thoughts

The Uptown is a great headphone to be honest. The build quality is above average for its price and only let down by the inline remote and volume slider noise interference on a thin cable. It could do with a case and a quarter jack since it costs a bit more than the Downtown but its durable enough to be carried around without any worries about breaking it or scuffing it. It isolates well and doesn’t fatigue but has can be a tad thin without a dark or tube amp depending on whether you on the go or at home. I really hope Philip’s keep up this exciting new direction as the whole range is benefiting from this new dynamic and serious focus on their headphone range.

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24 Responses

  1. Gabriel Forbes

    My pair of Music Seal headphones are really great, though there a two downsides I’d like to make notice :
    1 – It takes a lot of power to get a descent amount of volume from that thing. I can barely listen to music or movies from my phone or tablet. Though on my computer and guitar amp it doesn’t really matter. The sound is great, it’s just really power hungry.
    2 – The volume slider is the worst. Always fighting to get the 100% volume on that thing, since it’s not exactly at the top, it’s at like 84/100 of the slider, so it’s really hard to get. Maybe just an isolated case.

    So, great headphones, just not optimal for small devices, at all. For gaming and music on computer though it kicks ass.

    • headfonics

      Yes it is not the most efficient of drivers much like the Downtown and the slider is bit cheap but otherwise sounds really good for the price.

  2. Toink

    which side is the right ear he one with the cable or the one without?

    • headfonics

      If memory serves me right the cable is on the left cup – which is the norm for most single entry cans.

  3. Sergio

    I currently have a Shure SE215, IEM. I am thinking about getting the Uptown, as it is currently priced £63, a significant drop. Do you think the sound quality is worth the money? I am looking for a headphone with similar quality as the SE215s that I currently own. Thanks for the great review!

    • headfonics

      Moving from an IEM to a headphone will provide you with a whole new set of experiences to be honest so it can be challenging to provide an exact match to what you are looking for. What I can say though is that the Uptown is much more difficult to drive than any IEM and you may wish to invest in a FiiO amp or something small to get some extra power from the DAP/Phone to the Uptown. The payoff should be a much better sound stage and less fatiguing listening experience.

  4. Damien

    Just a heads up for anyone like me reading these reviews. These headphones sound great when I plug them into my PC, like nothing else I have owned. I just sat there in awe listening to songs I have heard many times but never really heard. The joy ended quickly when I commuted to work the next day, and could not achieve even passable sound out of these cans when powered from either my iPod or Mobile phone (sgs4). They require a lot of power as well, on max off my phone I still feel like the sound is lacking. The cans boom when you walk, even on cold days it warms my ears up a lot after only 30 mins.

    • headfonics

      You are right Damien and I think I mentioned out of an iphone you wont get the best results from the Uptown. Try a small amp like a FiiO E11 or E12 and see what a difference the extra power makes whilst commuting.

  5. Stephen

    Barring the volume slider of the Uptowns, would you consider this phone superior in terms sound quality than the Downtowns? I currently own one but contemplating on exchanging it for the Downtown given the good reviews from Cnet, Innerfidelity and yourself. I also find the Uptowns hard to drive. Is this the case for the Downtowns as well? Many thanks.

  6. Toni Montana

    Comparing the uptowns with the noontec zoro headphones, which one would you pick in terms of sound quality?? Leaving the style and apart because the uptowns are amazingly cool. Great review though!!

    • headfonics

      Uptowns would edge for me – slightly more mature sound, bigger scaling and more comfortable and rugged. The Zoro is very musical and lots of fun and great for the price though.

      • Toni montana

        Price of the zoro is great but i found the uptown for 4€ more. Easy to spend the difference i guess from your sound opinion. Thanks!

  7. James Bickerton

    Great review, currently tossing up between these the downtown and Urbanears Zinken.

    I’m looking for something I can wear in a busy environment, that is comfortable for long periods and which I can Skype with. My current headphones (for 4 years) are AKG 81’s and they are really portable but just too tight for my big bonce, plus the material on the cups is falling apart now.

    Thanks for the insight

    • headfonics

      The Downtown is slightly more comfortable with a better seal though and thew Zinken has a touch more top end clarity. The Zinken is more aggressive than the more laid back Downtown.

      Skype will required a mic so both have the capability of using a mic and remote but unsure if this is going to work with skype without trying it first.

    • headfonics

      I see they started at $150 but street price dropped it to sub $100, its like a high priced ford car on the used market – everyone likes them but no one will dish out the cash to pay the asking price – they are indeed good headphones.


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