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Qobuz tests the Philips A5-Pro headphones (€299): a delight for the eardrums!

By Brunhild M. |

Philips are on a roll. Their line of Fidélio products has been hugely successful, and the brand continues to launch new models. Qobuz couldn’t resist the opportunity to test these unusual, professional headphones that were initially designed for DJs. They are incredibly dynamic, capable of blocking out external sounds, playing HD 24-bit audio, and even prove to be excellent on the move. They cost €299.

As a lover of music and pure sound, the Qobuz Hi-Fi Guide has never paid much attention to headphones that are designed by or for DJs. We believe that though such products are undeniably effective when DJing in a night club, in general their sound isn't as delicate as one would perhaps desire.

According to the Qobuz Hi-Fi guide, only the stainless steel Sennheiser HD 25 (25 years of existence!) are a true cult item, solely used by sound engineers, film directors, DJs and fans of dynamic music on the move. There are only a few competitors in this market of headphones, which has been dominated by Sennheiser for a very long time, and almost without contest...

The question remains: has the Sennheiser HD 25 finally met its match in the Philips? new A5-Pro? Philips has managed to design a pair of headphones that is not only capable of playing high-level audio whilst on the move, but is also of the necessary standard for DJs. As such, this nifty product proves to be a very strong competitor for the almost untouchable Sennheiser HD 25.

Today we are going to examine the Philips (WOOX) headphones. To be completely honest, Philips defied all expectations when it successfully made its comeback into the audio industry, causing a storm with their Fidélio headphones, their portable speakers and their speaker systems for music and Home Cinema. In this domain, the manufacturer has just won an EISA Award for its modular sound bar E5, having already been awarded a prize for their Hi-Fi headphones in the Fidélio Range.

Philips A5Pro (?299): The headband is almost 500g!

This headphone set is exceedingly beautiful. It is extremely solid, weighing 470 grams, and contains an extendable cable of up to 4.7 metres, that you can attach to either the left or right earpiece. It comes with several types of ear cushions, depending on the desired sound insulation. The quality and design of the headband enables you to almost forget about its weight, apart from a high pressure that hugs the head and which, as a result, firmly holds the earphones in place. One should also bear in mind that this model is circumaural with earphones that you can position at 90°, that the hinge of the headband is made of aluminium, and that it is accompanied with a general anodised finish.

The heart of the music: The 5 cm HP has a sensitivity of 105 dB!
The headphone was conceived and designed by Philips? own team, and are associated with renowned DJ Armin Van Buuren. The A5-Pro even contains an input power of 3500 mW and has an HP with a neodymium magnet with a diagonal of 5cm. Thanks to its impedance of 16 ohms, it ensures a frequency response of between 10 to 24.000 Hz, whilst the set is based on a closed acoustic system. The headphone is fully collapsible and, when held in your hand, is truly exceptional in its finish and solidity.

At the moment, you may be wondering what such a "beast" is doing in the Qobuz Hi-Fi magazine. The answer is simple: When we carry out our tests we aim to discover something that satisfies our high expectations and desiderata, they don?t necessarily have to be beautiful and slender.

When testing the A5-Pro, we considered in particular our readers who listen to music whilst on the move (public transport, on the streets, in a plane), and who are not adverse to the idea of a circumaural model, which, though not very thick, is rather heavy. In addition we were highly impressed by the technical features developed by Philips, notably in terms of the bandwidth, power input, heightened sensitivity and sound insulation.

Listening: Mission accomplished, it triumphs on every level!
Let?s start by discussing the grip, and the position over the ears. The headphones immediately give the user a stunning sensation of solidity and are very comfortable considering that the extendable cable can reach 4.7 metres, including a fixed section of 1m and a spiral section. You no longer have to fear that the cable will snag on something and drag both the headphones and your head along with it.

Secondly, the extremely robust and notched headband offers a guaranteed fit, firmly placing the two ear cushions around the ears. The headphones are undeniably quite heavy and do put some pressure on the skull, but as a result they place you in direct contact with the music, by blocking out all external sounds. (Although they manage this well, it is not as impressive in this regard as the Sennheiser HD2, for example).

We have spent a fortnight with this headphone covering our ears: on the metro, on the plane, walking around the streets of Paris, listening peacefully at home with the Astell&Kern AK120 player and with a Marantz NA-11 network drive. We even listened to it with the DJ (Laurent B) in Bataclan.

We won?t hide from you that the headphones create an unusual sound, one that somehow manages to clear away the ?pulp? and get to the core of the songs, creating a dynamic that you'd never have imagined. The enclosed architecture of the A5-Pro and its 5 cm HP creates a ?pretty crazy? bulk energy. The headphones are able to significantly exploit any amount of ?juice? given to it, reacting like clockwork, whatever the musical genre.

And so, what do we have to say about the audio texture? The body of the music is surprising in its depth. The Hi-Fi sound reproduction enables you to surpass the sugary calm of the dB; the Philips animate or revive the songs and offer a rendering of the bass when necessary?that?s to say that it plays the bass with a profound depth doubled with a fantastic sound level. You could never label the A5-Pro as mild. Rather, when it plays songs in HD audio, it knows how to highlight the dynamic, as it has the necessary power reserve and blast to play music without distortion from every side. You won?t believe your ears!

It is precise, pleasant, emphasizing the midrange, whilst the treble is clear without being shrill and the bass support adds an important presence to the sound rendering.

We should also be honest about the fact that it is set to be a favourite amongst classical music lovers, who are leaning towards, for example, a B&O H6. Indeed these headphones provide a (truly) dynamic sound rendering, which is both playful but also gives the sound substantial body, whilst the headphone?s robustness is an astonishing extra. A true giant in terms of dB.

The good points :
Quality of manufacturing, astonishingly robust
Incredible dynamic peaks
Astonishing rendering of the bass
Very contemporary medium
Possible sound level (oulala)
Works very well with the majority of musical genres
Beautiful results with HD audio sources, and a nice overall presence
Crisp and clear rendering of the treble (not ?shrill?)
A spiral cable of 4.7m
Effectively blocks out all external noises, contains three interchangeable ear cushions

The not-so-good points :
Heavy, rather tight around the head, occasional headlock
There are 4 prominent screws on the interior of the headband?
Spatialization of the good stereo, without being exceptional
It may prove to be tiring to wear it for a long time
The mid and low range are highlighted in the sound reproduction
The insulation from external noises is less effective than the Sennheiser HD 25 for example.

Manufacturing features:
A closed acoustic system, responds to a frequency of 10 to 24,000 Hz, has an impedance of 16 ohms, speakers are 5cm diagonally and use a neodyme magnet, the maximum input power is 3500 mW, sensitivity of 105 dB, pivoting body of 90°, robust headband and aluminium hinges; extendable cable of up to 4.7m (fixed and spiral cable), three ear cushions to choose from, fully collapsible. Weight: 476 grams. Price/ ?299.

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