Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
The Philips Fidelio L2, which costs around $250 online (£162 UK, AU$360), doesn't get talked about much compared to competing models from the likes of Sony, Sennheiser, V-Moda, Audio-Technica, Bose, and Beats, but it's a really good headphone. It's been on the market for several months, but it's beginning to become available at additional retailers.
The L2 is a semi-open design, which means it will leak some sound but not as much as an open-back headphone (such as its sibling, the Fidelio X2). It comes with two cloth-covered cables, one of which has an inline remote and microphone for cell-phone use, so it does double duty as a home and mobile headphone.
It's got a one-button remote that's designed to work with both Android and Apple phones, which is good. It lacks volume controls, but you can pause/play tracks and skip them forward and back, as well as answer and end calls.
Overall, the 260-gram headphone seems sturdily built -- its headband is made out of aluminum -- and is comfortable to wear, with nicely padded, leather-covered ear cushions that are equipped with memory foam. They fit snugly but not too snugly on your ears, and sound isolation is good.
While we were able to wear the L2 for long stretches, it's not as comfortable as the Sony MDR-1A , which is lighter at 225 grams. It's also worth mentioning that this wouldn't be the best headphone to wear around during summer because your ears will get steamy.
The L2 folds flat but it doesn't fold up like the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 does. A basic cloth carrying pouch is included to stow the headphones. Some other headphones in this price class come with better carrying cases.
This is a very likable-sounding headphone. It offers a lot clarity but plays harsh, overcompressed recordings with a rare ease. Bass is plentiful, but never crosses over the line to muddy. The Fidelio L2 sounds more open and spacious than most closed-back headphones in its price range.
That might not seem like such a big deal, but once you get used to hearing that expansive quality, closed-back headphones can sound a little claustrophobic by comparison.
Back to the bass: The Fidelio L2's is more precise and "tuneful" than some of our favorite 'phones, like the NAD Viso HP50 . By tuneful we mean you can hear bass notes more clearly on the Fidelio L2, and it has a much fuller and warmer sound balance than the Viso HP50.
The NAD is clearer overall than the Fidelio L2, but the Fidelio L2 is much easier to listen to and enjoy with recordings that are less than stellar-sounding. For example, Arcade Fire's aggressively bright "Reflektor" album on the Viso HP50 was tamed by the Fidelio L2, so sibilants didn't tear our ears off. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 also took the edge off, and plumped up the bass a little more than the Fidelio L2 did.
Listening to jazz pianist John Lewis' solo album "Evolution," his subtle dynamic shifts were fully revealed on the Fidelio L2, so while the sound balance is on the lush and romantic side of neutral, we never felt the sound was lacking in clarity.
Bass power is another strong suit -- the Fidelio L2 goes nice and low without overdoing it. V-Moda's Crossfade M100's deep bass may win for sheer skull-thumping power, but the Fidelio L2's more nuanced low bass isn't far behind. The M100 has less midrange and treble clarity; the Fidelio L2 is a far more balanced design.
There are several great headphones in the $250-$300 price class, including the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0, V-Moda Crossfade M100, NAD Viso HP50, Audio Technica ATH-MSR7, and Sony MDR-1A to name a few of our favorites. The Fidelio L2 doesn't usually get mentioned in the same breath as those headphones, but it should.