Philips SHP9500 Open Back Headphone Review

We have a pair of headphones, the Phillips SHP 9500, to review. We bought these for about $75 off Amazon a few weeks back. And I’ve been trying them out and comparing them with other headphones I have.

1.0 What’s In The Box?

We can jump into a what’s in the box for this headphone to discuss what it comes with. First, we have a long cable of 4.9 feet or 1.5 meters.

It’s long, gets tangled up easily, and it’s a mess. So, it also comes with a strange carrying case which I’m not sure if this is a carrying case or if this is just something that they use to package the headphones in, sort of similar to the plastic wrap that surrounds a keyboard when you first get it.

But it’s not exactly high quality, it’s pretty rough-looking material, and it doesn’t look very good. Another thing that came attached to the cable is the 3.5 millimeters to the one-quarter-inch adapter.

This adapter could be handy if you connect these headphones to an amplifier, guitar, piano, or anything that requires this kind of jack.

2.0 Design

They are surprisingly comfortable, and you have this kind of dual-layered headband system at the top.

There’s a thick plastic piece that’s not super flexible, but it does have some give. At the top, we have the Phillips branding embossed into the plastic itself, and it’s shiny, so the light reflects on it quite well. Underneath that, we have a more padded piece.

While I was flexing, twisting, and doing all that jazz, the plastic piece came off. But it’s meant to come off because they clip straight back in.

Then alongside that, you have the left and right indicators within the headband, but you also have them on the sides of the headphones. They’re enormous, and you can tell at an obvious glance, far away, if someone has their headphones on in the wrong direction.

And it does have the metal headband adjusters as well, and it has holes that tell you what number your head size is. The whole pair of headphones are black; there’s white wording, and then it has silver accents.

3.0 Build Quality

3.1 Earpads

Like I said, that pad in between is meant to fall off, but I was looking online for some replacement pad to get a thicker one, maybe, so it would fit my head a little bit better, but I couldn’t find anything alongside that.

I looked at how to replace the ear cups if you could. It seems like there are a few options, but the possibilities I saw were more like a no turning back as you need to cut it off. I did attempt to take off the ear cups, which I soon learned are glued in there.

3.2 Exterior Design

In terms of build, they’re mostly plastic; pretty much everything is plastic, except for the headband adjusters and the metal vents perforated on the side. These allow sound to bleed through, even listening at a low volume.

The person across the room will know what you’re listening to, and you know, that’s not bad. However, it can get annoying, depending on whether the other person is working, if they’re doing something else, or if they don’t want to listen to what you’re listening to.

They look really good, and the build quality is good. However, I did manage to drop them a few times because the cable is so long that when it dangles off my desk, it sometimes gets caught up in the chair or in my elbow or something like that, and it didn’t break or no cracks.

So I’m going to say an excellent job to Phillips for having high-quality built headphones for a pretty affordable price of $75. So, let’s go to the cable itself. I do have a lot more complaints about the cable.

3.3 Cables

I can connect it to the headphones because it does have a detachable cable port which is convenient, and I like that. So that’s an excellent feature, but when I pull out the cable, the metal piece at the end of the socket slides off.

The glue isn’t there, and it’s not sticking, so I have to grab the cable and pull it out. So, it isn’t looking very good. I could put some glue on there and slide it back, but it is not supposed to happen for a new headphone.

So not the best cable, and I do need to replace the cable with something else, something shorter or higher quality. Still, the fact that it has a detachable cable port makes that convenient so that you can toss the stock cable and replace it with something a little bit nicer.

3.4 Comfort

In terms of comfort, it is loose on my head, even at the lowest setting. There’s a lot of gaping behind the ear and below the ear. It doesn’t feel right like it doesn’t stick onto my head very well. If I Lean over and try to pick something up, it does slide out of my head.

So, I can only use this when I’m at my computer. I’m standing very upright and not leaning over, dropping things or moving around. So, I can’t use this for working out, biking, cleaning, even vacuuming, or stuff like that.

So, in that sense, I’m not the biggest fan, but I do understand that these are for listening to music and being more in a sedentary position, maybe laying on the couch, maybe sitting in a chair, sitting in a nice recliner, all relaxed, listening to music, things like that.

But it is very lightweight. I don’t feel much pressure on any spot. I did use these for editing videos, which I think it does well at the voice really comes through, the background music comes through, and everything’s great.

I did notice that after one and a half hours of usage, a spot on the top of the headband provided a little pressure. So, the longer I wore them, the more I started noticing that they were there, but when I first put SHP 9500 on, they felt relatively lightweight, and there was no warmth.

So, I guess that makes sense, and the vents do provide a lot of air coming through, coming out. I can hear many things around me, and people can hear what I’m listening to, so it could be good or bad.

The pads feel extra shallow. I’m used to very puffy, thick memory foam pads that are either genuine leather or that kind of material. So, this is very different. I’m not the biggest fan of them.

So, it does have a few angles of adjustment. Of course, you can flex it and twist it all around, but the ear cups have two angles that they can move. They can move side to side horizontally, and then they can move up and down as well. So that is one way to try and find the right fit.

3.5 Sound Quality

So as far as sound goes, it’s one of the best-sounding pairs of headphones I’ve ever put on. However, that doesn’t say much coming from that. I’ve never really used a pair of audiophile headphones, so I’ve only used gaming headsets for listening to music.

My primary headset for gaming is the HyperX Cloud 2, which I’ve been using forever and I love. But, the Philips SHP9500 sounds so much better when I listen to music, even things like lo-fi; I can hear those really small, subtle ambient sounds in the background, like the birds chirping or the train coming through and things like that, that I just never really noticed before. So, it sounds absolutely amazing.

Most of the genres of music that I listen to are pop, EDM, some instrumental piano and things like that, and it sounds terrific. However, as far as hip hop goes, the bass is a bit lacking, and you can always fix that in an equalizer.

Especially the subtle bass sounds like the big bass-sy kinds of things. So it does sit fine, but the subtle bass in the background, if you’re listening to like a rock band or something, and there’s that bass in the back, you don’t hear that too well.

3.6 Noise Leak

So, I recently got another pair of open-back headphones, the HiFiman HE-4XX, which also opened back, and Philips SHP9500 leaks a lot more sound than HiFiman HE-4XX does.

HiFiman HE-4XX have thick cushions and different drivers, but Philips SHP9500 still has the perforated vents and leaks so much more sound. It can get annoying for someone who works right next to me.

I find myself having to switch to the closed-back headset a lot often. From my point of view, I only listen to music when I’m working or when I need to get my mind off things if I’m stressed or anxious.

So Philips SHP9500 helps with listening to that kind of music. Still, as we’re working, I prefer a close-back headset or headphones where I can focus on what I’m doing instead of feeling distracted and hearing everything else around me.

4.0 What I am Looking for in a Pair of Headphones

There comes a time, place, and situation where I feel like I need to enjoy the music more or listen to it better. And in those cases, I would like a pair of headphones that fits me really well, that I love putting on and makes me enjoy music much more.

5.0 Philips SHP 9600 Versus SHP 9500 Versus Fidelio X2HR

So to keep this comparison as concise and clean as possible, I will try my best only to discuss the key differences that I feel are making a difference in the buyer’s purchasing decision. The price for each headphone at the time of this review is as below:

Fidelio X2HR - $144.99

SHP 9600 - $84.99

SHP 9500 - $74.99

5.1 What’s In the Box

Each comes in a cardboard box that doesn’t look special but protects its contents during shipping. In addition, each comes with an extended 3.5-millimetre cable, a fourth-inch adapter and a black sleeve that shields them from dust.

5.2 Build Quality

Now, as far as the build quality’s concerned, the SHP 9600 are very similar to the SHP 9600, which makes sense considering they’re in the same product line; they’ve got the same plastic design with the same type of fence link type of grills and metal headband for size adjustment mechanisms. However, the SHP 9600 aim for a more minimalistic design eliminating the bold white text that covers the 9,500 like tattoos on Post Malone’s face.

There is no longer an indicator on the headband that shows you the length of the headband, but the grills for SHP 9600 possess a bronze ring around its border. Other than that, the cups are the same size. The pads in the headband are the same type of Velour material; really, not a massive design overhaul whatsoever.

On the other hand, the Fidelio X2HR are pretty different from the SHPs. For example, the Fidelio X2HR feature a different headband style. In addition, the grill design exposes the driver a lot less, another type of velour for the pad, and a much more premium build.

I’m still amazed at how well-built the Fidelio X2HR are primarily for the price. Now, the cups are round on the Fidelio X2HR, while on the SHPs, they are slightly oval-shaped.

5.3 Comfort

Now when it comes to comfort. Again, the SHP 9600 personally take the cake for me. However, the Fidelio X2HR premium feeling design comes at a price, and the weight is a bit heavier than either of the SHPs.

So, to compensate for this weight, they possess a stronger clamp force. So, although they’re not precisely agonizing, now and then, I have to adjust them, and after approximately 90 minutes, I find that I need to remove them for a brief period of pressure relief.

Then you put them back on, and I’m good to go. The SHP 9500 are lightweight by comparison and possesses a very light clamp force. Although this combination does feel quite comfortable, I would personally not use these for doing activities and moving around. I would personally not use these for doing exercises and moving around.

They tend to slide back and forth just a bit, and it gets annoying after a little while. The SHP 9600 is about as lightweight as the SHP 9500 but grips onto your head a little better. The clamping force is still lighter than the Fidelio X2HR.

Ultimately it simply comes down to what activity I am doing. If I am at my desk, I will go with the SHP 9500. If I’m moving around doing chores around the house, SHP 9600 are the way to go. For the Fidelio X2HR, you’ll have to stick to a desk for these just straight up.

5.4 Bass

Now let’s jump into the sound. First, I want to make it clear that I conducted these tests without the use of EQ.

As far as the bass is concerned with bass guitars, the Fidelio X2HR have the upper hand. The SHP 9600 is a straight-up mess. Although the entire bass response sounds bloated and sluggish by comparison, even after listening to them for hours and acclimating to their sound, there’s still an extra amount of heft and presence to the bass guitar that you can’t shake off.

The SHP 9500 possess the leanest and farthest bass guitars. Although they sound pretty clean, they can be slightly anemic in some tracks. To my ears, though, the bass response is the closest to neutral of the three headphones.

The Fidelio X2HR hit that sweet spot between the two featuring a somewhat forward base guitar with detail and authority. While not splashing everywhere and ruining the entire bass response. By comparison, bass guitars are a tad warmer than on the SHP 9500.

The SHP 9500 are the cleanest of the bunch possessing plenty of detail while delivering modest quantities of bass. Last, of all, the Fidelio X2HR are the perfect headphone. They deliver with impact and power, just like the SHP 9600, but know when to dial it back to provide the note with dynamism and detail.

However, the most significant contrast has to do with their deliveries. The SHP 9500 had the leanest sound. On the other hand, when reaching down below, the Fidelio X2HR had the thickest bass response with an intense growl all the way down until the note vanished, then it returned with intensity all the same. The SHP 9600 intensity lies between these two.

However, the timbre of the base for SHP 9600 is thick and smooth as opposed to the more textured base of the Fidelio X2HR and the leaner base of the SHP 9500.

An example for drums, the SHP 9500 drum re-production is the shallowest of the three. The Fidelio X2HR sit right down the middle but does possess the most rumble on those lower drum notes. Last, the SHP 9600 offers the hollowest sounding drums of the bunch.

5.5 Mids

The SHP 9600 offers some decent vocals but can often get overpowered by the mid to upper-base response. When they don’t, however, vocals are in line with the rest of the instruments while still sounding quite detailed.

The SHP 9500 vocals are the most distinctive of the bunch possessing an absolutely clear response. They sound the most open and weightless. The vocals sound about two steps in front of the instruments, having their own space to exist.

The Fidelio X2HR also have a distinct vocal presence and sounds. Instruments do sound separated from the vocals, but they sound like they are off to the sides as opposed to the background. In addition, the timbre of vocals can be a tad too thin for my tastes.

Pertaining to the cello, none of them tickled my fancy, to be honest. The SHP 9600 offered good detail but sounded too thick and “tubey”, while the SHP 9500 offered the most articulation and sounded the most lightweight of the bunch but sounded a bit anemic for my tastes.

The Fidelio X2HR offered better detail than the SHP 9600 but sounded slightly nasal. The entire time the only thing I could think about was like a bee speaking to my ear, just whispering.

So overall, I found the SHP 9500 to be the best in mids. They sound the least restricted and have excellent detail to them. Despite being a V-shaped headphone, the Fidelio X2HR do not suffer in the mids. They still come across as detailed and present. The SHP 9600 perform well but suffers from bloom and bloat that carries over from the base.

5.6 Treble

As far as trebles are concerned, the SHP 9500 are the most treble-heavy and sibilant of the bunch, with the Fidelio X2HR coming in second. To my ears, the SHP 9500 possess a very cold timbre.

The Fidelio X2HR possess a somewhat neutral timbre but is hyped towards the colder side. Lastly, the SHP 9600 is the least bright of the group and, in my opinion, offers the best timbre. So, the SHP 9500 sound the airiest, while the Fidelio X2HR sound airy but with a bit of roll-off at the peak of the response.

The SHP 9600 has a good amount of air, but it is the least noticeable since they are the darkest of the three. On the SHP 9500, symbols sound the most sparkly; however, symbols sound more metallic with better control on the Fidelio X2HR. On the SHP 9600, symbols sound the most natural.

5.7 Sound Stage and Imaging

The sound stage for all of these three differs significantly. The Fidelio X2HR offer the most expansive sound stage but sound the shortest in terms of sound stage height. SHP 9500 and SHP 9600 sound are taller by comparison but not as wide. Between the two SHPs. I find it difficult to ascertain which has the wider sound stage.

However, the bass in the SHP 9500 creates a sort of like a thick wall that sort of limits the sound stage, almost making the headphones sound a little more closed by comparison. On the other hand, the Fidelio X2HR have the best imaging capabilities. So, although the SHP also offers excellent imaging, the Fidelio X2HR can display the particular instrument sound with more clarity and focus.

The sound remains contained at a particular point in space. Although to my ears, the SHP 9500 offers slightly better imaging than the SHP 9600. There’s too close together to declare a winner between the two. Now, for some notes and observations,

6.0 My Verdict on SHP 9500, SHP 9500 and Fidelio X2HR

So, to conclude, these headphones are incredibly different from each other, which makes my job easier when it comes to recommending one headphone over the other for a particular purpose.

The SHP 9500 is best suited for acoustic tracks, like rock metal, classical and jazz. On the other hand, the SHP 9600 are better suited for electronic music, such as dubstep, EDM, trap and hip hop.

If your goal is to find headphones with a boosted sound signature for this type of music, I strongly recommend going with the Fidelio X2HR. You will get that energetic sound with sparkly treble and powerful bass without sacrificing cleanliness and vocal presence.