The Philips Fidelio L3 make a good impression, especially in terms of sound and noise cancelling. The drivers deliver good performance and impressed us in terms of spatial resolution and attention to detail – so listening fun was guaranteed! These over-ears also score points for their long battery life. There are deductions for the sound when ANC is deactivated and for the app. We would like to see more detailed configuration options on such a premium pair of headphones. As universal headphones for use at home and when travelling, the Philips Fidelio L3 are a good investment at an acceptable price.
The Philips Fidelio L3 sound good, offer effective noise cancelling, are easy to use and impressed us with very good battery life.
Philips last proved that they can make headphones with the open Fidelio X3, which were the best hi-fi headphones in October 2020 (go to review). Now, the Fidelio L3 join the ranks as a closed version, and they score points not only with good sound for use at home but also with premium features for use when travelling.
According to the manufacturer, the Philips Fidelio L3s cost just under 350 euros, but they are offered online for 210 euros. The price suggests that they are in the premium model category, where you will also find comparable models such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Bose QuietComfort 45. The impeccable workmanship with its mix of plastic, metal and leather underscores this claim.
To ensure that the Philips Fidelio L3 survive every travel adventure safely and undamaged, the manufacturer provides a case made of imitation leather with a compartment for the supplied USB-C charging cable, a mini-jack cable and an aeroplane adapter. A fabric pouch is also provided as an alternative or additional protective measure.
These headphones distribute their 366 grams comfortably on your head. The Muirhead leather ear cups (approx. 6 x 5 cm), padded with memory foam, are comfortable and seal nicely – together with the fairly high contact pressure, this results in very good passive noise cancellation. The cups can be rotated 90 degrees for transport and offer sufficient play to adapt optimally to the shape of the head. However, the headphones tend to slip during very vigorous head movements due to their inflexibility. Long hours of listening are no problem for the Fidelio L3, even if a slight build-up of heat occurs at higher temperatures.
The power button is on the left earcup, and this also starts Bluetooth pairing when pressed and held. Below that, the USB-C port takes care of charging the headphones. The two buttons on the right earcup control noise cancelling, transparency mode, the microphone and calling up a voice assistant. Media content is managed via the touch-sensitive pad on the right earcup: Play/pause, answer calls, change volume, skip tracks forward and back, and answer or switch calls. Something extremely practical – and unfortunately rarely found on headphones – to activate transparency mode, you can simply place the palm of your hand on the right side of the earpiece, and you can have a quick conversation.
The right earcup also features an infrared sensor that automatically pauses playback when the headphones are taken off and put down and resumes when they are put back on.
During our test, all command inputs were reliably implemented with a slight delay.
Bluetooth & battery life
Thanks to Bluetooth version 5.1 and Google Fast Pair, pairing only takes a few seconds. The Philips Fidelio L3 not only support the codecs SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX HD, but also multipoint, i.e. simultaneous connection with several devices. In practice, this means that if you are listening to music from your laptop and your smartphone rings, the laptop’s playback is automatically interrupted. The call is then forwarded to the headphones, and when the call ends, the computer resumes playback.
In terms of battery life, you can’t complain: the Fidelio L3 manage about 32 hours with noise cancellation activated and 38 hours without. The quick-charge function really earns its name because just 15 minutes plugged in with the cable gives these headphones a full six hours of playback time. One drawback was that the Fidelio L3 automatically switched off as soon as the USB cable was connected. It was therefore not possible to listen to music and charge the headphones at the same time.
Thanks to an app with the appropriate name “Headphones”, there is a central contact point for iOS and Android users that allows them to make various settings. In addition to the remaining battery life in per cent and a display of which codec is currently active, you can adjust the environment control, i.e. noise-cancelling and transparency mode. A tap on “Adjusted” activates the adaptive noise cancelling, which recognises how loud your environment is based on the ambient noise. Four EQ presets and a six-band equaliser are available under “Sound Effects”. However, it is not possible to save multiple customised EQ curves. A small player with title display, the ability to deactivate the wear recognition and the touchpad, read user manuals or install firmware updates can also be found here. Unfortunately, if you want to change or even deactivate the English female LoFi voice announcements, then you are out of luck.
Noise cancellation and transparency mode
The adaptive noise cancelling filters out unwanted noise with the help of an external and an internal microphone. The ANC works hard and in particular suppresses low and medium frequencies. Voices, birdsong and traffic noise are thus quite effectively deprived of their “substance” so that quiet space is created. It is a pity that especially with podcasts or silence, distinct background noise is perceptible and the headphones switch on the ANC as soon as they are switched on. We would have liked to have the option of adjusting this in the app.
The transparency mode also does its job well, but it doesn’t sound as natural as the Apple AirPods Max.
The following sound assessment was done with noise cancelling turned on, as it made a perceptible difference whether it was activated or not.
The 40 mm drivers with their frequency response from 7 Hz to 40,000 Hz deliver a natural, balanced sound and are High-Resolution Audio certified.
Throughout the entire sound spectrum, reproduction was evenly harmonious without any of the ranges being too loud. The Fidelio L3 deliver a rich, crisp bass to the ear and remain tonally transparent. The mids skilfully brought out voices and lead instruments and, together with the highs, revealed fine details. Whether it’s the resonance of a string of the finest breath sounds – the Philips Fidelio L3s were articulate and agile.
We were particularly impressed by the spatial stage. Wide and deep, it allowed instruments to travel through the stereo field and be tracked with confidence. With appropriately produced audio plays, there was a feeling of being in the middle of things instead of just being there, which we have rarely experienced with headphones in this class.
In conclusion: The Philips Fidelio L3 don’t deliver an analytical sound image, but instead it is warm, not exaggerated and without sharpness. It was a pity that the sound changed as soon as the ANC was deactivated. Then, the bass was reduced and everything sounded a bit more mid-range and constricted.
Talking on the phone with the Philips Fidelio L3
Those we called attested to clear, good speech intelligibility. Background noises such as birds chirping were perceived by our interlocutor.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)7 - 40.000 Hz
- Impedance16 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@1 kHz: 103 dB
- Weight without cable366 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- Mini jack cable (2.5 mm to 3.5 mm)
- USB-C charging cable (50 cm)
- Aeroplane adapter
- Fabric pouch
- Travel case
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD
- BT version: 5.1
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP