Philips SHB9850NC full review
You might aspire to own a pair of Bose or Sony headphones with noise-cancelling but just can't stomach the price. Well Philips is on hand for those with a tighter budget so here's our Philips SHB9850NC review. See also: Best headphones 2016.
Noise-cancelling headphones are becoming more common and popular and we can see why. In a nut shell, they use microphones on the outside to listen to what's happening around you and via clever audio trickery reduce how well you can hear it. We'll explain more later but it's useful for a number of things.
Philips SHB9850NC review: Price and competition
The recommended retail price for these headphones is £129 but you can pick them up for Amazon and Currys for just £109. That's a decent saving when you compare them to more premium options like the £289 Bose QC35 and the Sony h.ear on Wireless NC MDR-100ABN which are £220 RRP.
Philips SHB9850NC review: Design and build
At this price, you can't expect the kind of build quality and materials that more expensive rivals offer.
These headphones have a distinct plastic look and feel, luckily not the kind that is creaky and makes you think they will crack. The advantage of the plastic build is that is keeps the weight down so 230g isn't bad for over-ear headphones.
Although the headphones are plastic we do like the faux leather section of the headband, complete with stitching. The large pads also make for a comfortable fit around your ear, there's not a great deal of air flow due to the closed-back design so you might find things getting a bit hot after a long time of listening.
Over-ear headphones can be difficult to transport making them more suitable for home use but the Philips has ensured the SHB9850NC headphones can go with you easily. The foldable design means they can be quite compact when needed so will fit into a bag easily. You don't get a carry case or anything, though.
With most wireless headphones, you get various buttons and controls on the sides of the ear cups and it will take a little while to get accustomed to them all. Almost all of them are on the right-side with the left just housing the noise cancelling button and an NFC chip for easier paring. Each has a microphone so you can use the headphones for hands-free phone calls.
On the right is a power button, Bluetooth button, indication lights and a headphone jack in case you need to use them wired. There's also a touch pad for controlling playback – you swipe up and down for volume, swipe front and back to change track and tap to pause/play. As with most touch controls on audio products this is typically hit and miss and normally needs at least two attempts to get the result you're after.
Philips SHB9850NC review: Sound quality
It's easy to set up the Philips SHB9850NC headphones with Bluetooth for a wireless connection, either with the button or the NFC chip (you can connect to two devices simultaneously). However, you can use them with devices that aren't Bluetooth-enabled using the supplied 3.5mm jack cable.
As usual the wireless performance isn't as good compared to using the cable and it will also vary depending on what you connect to. Either way we're pretty impressed with the headphones considering the price.
It's no surprise that these headphones feature 40mm drivers like most over-ear models on the market. These neodymium drivers combined with the closed-back design creates a contained sound with very little leakage.
We're a bit dubious about the quoted 8- to 40,000Hz frequency range but let's talk about what these headphones sound like.
The overall sound quality is very good for the price and the SHB9850NC produce a rich and warm sound for your ears. The frequency response, partly due to the design, is somewhat lopsided with the bass end most prominent.
That may be a strategic move by Philips as this kind of balance will suit a lot of general users listening to pop and dance music. There is still good definition in the mid-range so tracks with instruments like acoustic guitars still sound lively but also muddy at times with a lack of top-end to provide clarity.
One of the main reasons to buy these headphones is to get noise cancelling without spending loads of money. Sadly, we're not overly impressed with the quality of the noise cancelling here with companies like Bose and Sony setting an extremely high standard, albeit for a heftier sum.
Sitting in a relatively noisy office, the noise cancelling barely makes a difference since the design offers good noise isolation anyway. In fact, sometimes switching it on can make your music sound worse. It's more effective when travelling on a train or similarly loud situations but again, we hoped it would do more. For the price it's not bad but we don't recommend buying them simply based on this feature.
Philips SHB9850NC: Specs
- Over-ear headphones
- 8-40,000Hz frequency response
- 40mm drivers
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 3.5mm headphone jack