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Philips SHE9850 review: Philips SHE9850 sound-isolating earphones

The Philips SHE9850 reach towards the higher end of sound-isolating earphones. They certainly reach the top in terms of comfort and their lightweight construction make them great for use at the gym. For all types of music, these are an excellent choice of 'phones

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
2 min read

Philips has extended its hand to a higher-end earphone that promises extreme comfort and accurate audio reproduction. For around £80 , the SHE9850s are shouting in the same arena as Denon, Shure and Etymotic -- manufacturers whose names are ubiquitous with high performance earphones.


Philips SHE9850

The Good

General sound quality; warm tone; great comfort; good sound isolation; snug and secure; suitable for gym use.

The Bad

Lack of deep bass; less inspiring treble performance.

The Bottom Line

An excellent all-rounder, with good detail, a balanced, warm sound and superb comfort and fit. Deeper bass and brighter treble exists in competing models, but for almost all genres of music and in most listening environments, the SHE9850s will impress and for a good price

Compact, ergonomic enclosures meant that the SHE9850s provided instant and exceptional comfort. In fact, they're among the most comfortable we've worn -- not to mention discreet -- with a range of differently sized silicon and foam tips. Gym-goers will enjoy their lightweight construction too, and with a good seal between the tip and ear canal, they're perfectly suited to use on the jog.

These tips do a great job of isolating sound, making the commute or the office a more enjoyable place to listen to music by blocking out the noises from air conditioners, constant coughers and the sound of wind rushing past windows.

The whole package, along with the excellent, less tangle-prone cabling and an earwax remover, can be packed away in a stylish aluminium case, if you're so inclined.

Most important, however, is sound quality. Generally, the particularly loud SHE9850s offer a decent, detailed sound with emphasis on upper bass, mids and the lower high-end. This gives most music a warm tone, with no harshness or shrill qualities surrounding cymbals and other treble frequencies, similar to Sennheiser's CX 95s.

Ingrid Michaelson's voice throughout her stunning album Girls and Boys had great depth and warm body, and the smooth guitars and piano tracks that surround it were delivered impressively.

We punished the 'phones with plenty of hard rock and metal too, notably Protest The Hero's 2008 prog-metal masterpiece Fortress. The band's thick assault of guitar tracks were handled well and drums pounded away with brute force, providing good detail for earphones in this price bracket. 

Unfortunately, we weren't blown away by their bass presence. Sure, there's plenty there, and most music sounds fine, but a deeper low end exists in other models. Pendulum's incredible drum 'n' bass record In Silico lacked the undertones that are fundamental to its excellence.

The very top end of the treble didn't sparkle either, taking away an element of openness and a sense of polished transparency. Is this an issue? No -- it's a subjective matter, as is the bass. But it's something to be aware of if you like cymbals and tambourines to shimmer like crystal, and bass to shake the bones in your head into a state of sheer panic.

Truly, Philips has produced an excellent pair of earphones here, and as they can be snagged from certain Web stores for less than their RRP, they're nothing short of a steal.

If you want deep, ultra-low bass for dance music, check out Denon's AH-C551s and Sennheiser's CX 95s. If that sparkling treble and brightness is your poison, consult Etymotic's ER-6is. But for almost all types of music, the SHE9850s get a thumbs up from us.

Edited by Shannon Doubleday