After being thoroughly impressed with the Philips Fidelio X2, I received the Fidelio NC1 for review. It is a pair of foldable active noise-cancellation (ANC) wired on-ear headphones, and the first ANC headphones developed by Philips. The overall build is good and I have no qualms bringing it out without the hard case. The ear cushion are made of memory form, which feels comfortable against the ears without feeling too tight. The internal battery powers the active noise cancellation and you can easily charge it by plugging the micro USB cable to it. The battery that drives the ANC function lasts 30 hours.

I put the headphones through several devices to get a sense of what it is capable of. I would describe the NC1 sound signature – with active noise cancellation turned off – as neutral. The treble is not exceptionally clear nor too veiled, while the bass is adequately delivered though not gratifying. The mid-tones are sufficient to provide details yet not sounding muddy.

When active noise cancellation is activated, the volume did not alter dramatically. The treble has opened up slightly to deliver more punch while the low-bass is also enhanced. What’s missing is the upper bass, which has been suppressed by the ANC, and the NC1 is not the first ANC headphones I have experienced this. The result is that the bass range becomes narrower: you get the kick but you don’t get the tonality.

Having said that, the ANC mode is much appreciated when listening to music in noisy environment. The audio is delivered with better clarity and details which otherwise would be drowned by the ambience. This led me to deduce that the audio balancing with ANC is intended as such – to counter the effects of ambient noise. And like most other ANC headphones, the NC1 is not able to eliminate high-frequency ambient noises effectively, but one could safely assume that the music would be loud enough to drown these noises.


The Fidelio NC1 is not a particularly exciting headphones to listen to, with none of the big bass or bright treble output. But it looks gorgeous, is compact and feels sturdy, a vast contrast to the Bose QC15. I am not convinced at how an on-ear headphones can be more effective in noise-cancellation than over-the-ear types. Neither could I recall the QC15 noise-cancelling strength to compare against the Fidelio NC1. But I would say the NC1 offers a cosier fit, and delivers audio quality that is more enjoyable to someone like me who values music details. On that point, the NC1 wins my vote as the preferred ANC headphones for audiophiles. Currently retailing in Singapore for S$499.


Acoustic system: Closed
Diaphragm: PET
Magnet type: Neodymium
Maximum power input: 150 mW
Sensitivity: 107 dB
Speaker diameter: 40 mm
Frequency response: 7 – 25,000 Hz
Impedance: 16 ohm
Type: Dynamic
Cable length: 1.2 m
Connector: 3.5 mm stereo
Finishing of connector: Gold plated
Type of cable: Copper
Accessories: aircraft plug, USB charging cable, 1.2m audio cable, travel case
Weight: 191g

Reviewed by Chester Tan
Rating: 3.8 of 5

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