What is your role within Philips Audio?
Audio Strategy and Product Planning Director. To put it simply, my role at TP Vision is to be the bridge between the Research and Development sector and the Product Managers, for headphones, soundbars, and connected audio products in general. Having a background as an acoustical engineer, I have accumulated 11 years of experience in R&D, always working with Philips.
How did this idea to create the Fidelio range come about? What do Philips Fidelio headphones and soundbars have in common?
The introduction of the Fidelio range in the Philips portfolio came from the fact that we started within Philips to have acquired a certain competence to develop more and more high-end products while remaining accessible to the general public, with innovative acoustic concepts, unique designs and very competitive performance for a more upscale morket.
Several scenarios were considered, including that of creating a separate brand from Philips. The choice of a clear segmentation and always within the Philips brand seemed to us the most effective, combining the image of a brand already well established with the general public, and the clear distinction of the values that Fidelio still represents today.
Fidelio tries be its own thing, with a certain consistency in terms of its values through successive generations of products. Our strategy is based on 3 pillars that I find essential to describe the experience of an audio product, regardless of its category, function, or even brand:
1. The sound. We are working to implement a sound signature not only for headphones, but also extended to other product categories.
Fidelio seeks to build the sound experience around a user who is both demanding and pragmatic, a person who places audio quality at the center of their interests, but who will nevertheless seek a certain integration of their audio system.
On the technical level, Fidelio ensures a selection of quality components throughout the entier conception chain.
2. The design. It stands out through the elegant integration of acoustic concepts and is able to be dirrerent in a meaningful way, because the sound is not compromised. Philips being a European brand (the Netherlands), Fidelio tries to sublimate this approach with authentic materials and through noble collaborations such as the leather producer Muirhead (Scotland), or the textile specialist Kvadrat (Denmark).
3. Experience. It brings together everything that surrounds the first 2 pillars: the simplicity of a user interface that is both clean and intuitive, the desire to remain focused on the essential functions of the product, those that best serve everyday life, too. complex in the background.
Regarding Fidelio headphones, you have just launched the new Philips Fidelio L3 and X3 this year, each contrasting more or less clearly with its predecessor. Why did you switch from a semi-open design with the Philips Fidelio L2 to a closed-back design for the Philips Fidelio L3 with noise reduction? Everything seems to have changed in its conception, what remains of the famous “L”?
The single-letter designation is rather a way of categorizing our products according to their intent. For headphones, ‘L’ characterizes an over-ear designed for indoor or outdoor use. In contrast to the ‘M’ (supra-aural for the exterior), the ‘X’ (circum-aural for the interior), or even the ‘S’ (in-ear monitors).
From this point of view, the application of L3 has remained the same as its predecessor marketed in 2012, but in 8 years the demand for features has been strongly oriented towards active noise reduction (ANC). So we naturally added it to L3. For performance reasons, this decision forced us to change the acoustic architecture from semi-open to closed, in order to optimize the so-called ‘passive’ noise reduction of the headphones, a complementary and essential element for a good noise reduction in the broad sense.
Compared to the Philips Fidelio X2, which was also very well received by critics, the audio design of the Philips Fidelio X3 is identical, using the famous 50mm LMC transducer. Can you explain how it works?
Any loudspeaker is subject to the phenomenon of resonance of its cone – or ‘modes’ – beyond a certain frequency ( ‘cone break-up point’ ).
LMC ( Layer Motion Control ) is a technology allowing better control of the modal density, as well as an attenuation of the amplitude of certain modes of the diaphragm.
LMC technology is actually a combination of several layers of different materials, with controllable and complementary properties: polymer and polyurethane.
Polymer is basically a classic material, relatively easy to carve to fit the acoustic needs of headphones and used in the design of many headphone speaker diaphragms. In the X3 it is used in combination with a polyurethane layer with absorbent properties. It is presented as a kind of ‘gum’ whose thickness and density make it possible to attenuate, or better distribute the different resonances, or modes, of the diaphragm, resulting in a smoothing of the high frequencies, leaving a scene to open. stereo more natural, wider and enveloping than for example with intras. And all this without sacrificing the precision of the spatial distribution of the instruments on the soundstage.
The Philips Fidelio X3 is a beautiful set of headphones, but where does this desire to completely revamp its design came from? Does this change affect its sound?
As you rightly mentioned, the X2 having been very well received by the press, it seemed unwise to stray from this sound signature. We have subtly refined the rendering in the low frequencies (more precise) and slightly improved the spatial rendering through work at the high end of the spectrum.
As the X3 is an open-back, wired model, it clearly positions itself as putting the sound first. So we didn’t have much interest in adding practical features or anything else. Hence the decision to focus on design, as a way of underlining the new strategic orientation of European Design, which is not only part of the Fidelio DNA, but also of Philips’ as brand.
The approach to designing a Fidelio product will always be Sound and Design in perfect harmony. Considering its positioning in the market, acoustics should remain predominant in the design of the Fidelio X3, we will make no compromise in this regard.
With the arrival of the Fidelio L3 and X3, can we also expect the Fidelio M3 soon to be released? If so, will it also be completely different from its predecessor?
The Fidelio range is expanding rapidly, this goes for headphones but we are also focusing on other categories such as sound bars, with the release of the Fidelio B95 and B97 this year. We continue to explore the most relevant product categories of the moment to confidently bring-in new models, and to provide an added value in which our customers will find what they are looking for.
A case to follow next year …
Will Philips Fidelio offer connected speakers again like the famous DS9800 with debaffle tweeter?
As an acoustic engineer I loved working on Soundsphere technology (they’re kind of my babies …) and I’m proud to be part of the patent on this acoustic concept, and all the more happy to see that 10 years after its first incarnation the interest remains!
I would personally be delighted to be able to help put this acoustic concept back in the hands of our Head of Design Rod White, and especially curious to see how he and his team would bring it up to date.
Also a case to follow, if it were up to me!