Presented at the IFA in Berlin in September 2019, the Philips PH805 marks the return of the brand to the audio market. For this first active noise reduction headset (RBA), the manufacturer has attacked the mid-range by positioning the device at € 179.99, that is to say against some very good competitors like the Jabra Elite 85h where the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2.
Suffice to say that competing with these helmets which offer excellent value for money will not be easy. For this, the PH805 has a few arguments to make, including its Hi-Res certification. Let’s see this in more detail.
Design: a correct finish
Let’s start at the beginning, the PH805 comes with a carrying pouch containing a jack cable (3.5 mm on the source side but 2.5 mm on the headset side) to connect it by wire, an adapter for air travel and a cable… Micro USB, a completely anachronistic and very unfortunate choice in 2020 (even in 2019 for that matter).
To store it in its pouch, fold the device “so Sony WH-1000XM3 “. The result is therefore in the image of the latter: a little bulky. However, the cover seems quite solid and proves to be rather reassuring, you just have to think about removing the small strip of fabric inside which is not very useful and even a little annoying.
The headphones themselves, in circumural format (surrounding the ears), are fairly well made even if the plastic of the headband is a bit cheap and serves the whole in our opinion, especially as the matt plastic of the ear cups is quite elegant and reminds again of the Sony WH-1000XM3. Besides, the PH805 as a whole recalls its Japanese competitor, with the exception of the hinges. Overall, the finish is correct, the leather pads also, even if we regret that they are not replaceable.
Comfort: largely perfectible
However, you really can’t say that the comfort is at the level of a WH-1000XM3, or a Jabra Elite 85h. The Philips PH805 is not as uncomfortable as a Marshall Mid for example, but it is difficult to wear it more than 40 minutes in a row.
If at first, the helmet seems relatively comfortable, it still applies a significant pressure on the temples and around the ears which becomes a little painful in the long run. Nothing prohibitive but we really hope that the helmet will relax over time, which we were unable to verify during our limited-time test.
Wireless connection and pairing: no complaints
Now let’s move on to usage. First of all, the pairing procedure is simple and very classic, just keep pressing the on / off button longer to trigger the pairing mode. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is stable and efficient. We had no complaints of cuts or interference. The range is a bit limited, about 10 meters, but sufficient.
Also, the signal latency is low enough to allow video playback. This is almost imperceptible to the naked eye and does not interfere in any way, whether it is YouTube, Netflix (which operate a small latency compensation) or a file played on PC or smartphone locally . Our only regret regarding the wireless connection, the fact that the brand was content with the SBC codec, but we will come back to this later.
Controls: complete but a bit strange
Although they are very comprehensive, we found the choice of the brand for its controls, half tactile and half physical, somewhat strange. If the headset does have a touchpad on the right atrium, it is only used to adjust the volume with a swipe down or up, change the noise reduction mode with a short press and activate the personal assistant on the phone (covering the headset with your hand).
To put in play / pause, you must press the on / off button once, and to change tracks you must then orient this button forwards or backwards. As this button is placed on the edge on the back of the right ear cup, it is not necessarily very intuitive and practical. It’s not clear why Philips chose this option rather than centralizing commands on the touchpad, or at least changing tracks with a swipe forward or back, like at Sony or Bose. In addition, the pavement is a bit recalcitrant and the switching between the noise reduction modes is sometimes done by mistake. Worse, it has happened to us several times that the noise reduction modes change without any intervention on our part.
Functions: Useless “Aware” mode, honest RBA
In terms of functionality, the proposal from Philips is limited, in particular because there is no application accompanying this headset. Thus, no equalizer available, no key configuration and no mode to optimize the reduction of noise or sound according to your environment as with some competitors. In fact the only choices of personalization available to you are the use or not of the active noise reduction and the activation of the “Aware” mode supposed, as at Sony or Jabra in particular, to amplify the ambient noises to hear well its environment which is sometimes practical in the street. Except that in use, the “Aware” mode drastically reduces the listening volume, which ultimately makes it useless. Pity.
When it comes to active noise reduction, it has been relatively effective but not incredible either. It does not reach the level of a Sony WH-1000XM3, a Bose QC35 II or Jabra Elite 85h. In the Paris metro, background noise is significantly reduced but remains more noticeable than with the competitors mentioned just before. In addition, the PH805 produces a little background breath, this is not very serious but again, the impression of absolute silence that can offer the best headsets of its kind is not quite there.
Finally, note that the autonomy announced by the brand is 30 hours of music listening without RBA and 25 with. For us, the deal is respected. The headphones even hold a little more if you are really reasonable in terms of volume. With such figures, the PH805 is positioned in the high average of this type of product, even if some like the Jabra exceed 35 hours.
Sound: warm and Hi-Res … but wired
If the PH805 may seem a bit outdated in some respects compared to its competitors, and thus have a little trouble making the difference, it stands out on the sound side by its very wide frequency response (7 to 40,000 Hz), which which allows him to obtain a Hi-Res certification, something rare enough to be highlighted. Nevertheless, and this is our main regret in terms of audio quality, the headphones do not include any high definition wireless transmission codec. No AptX HD, or even AptX at all, so it’s only Hi-Res wired. Too bad, especially for those who have a smartphone without a jack. It is hoped that Philips will add this function via a headset update.
Apart from that, the general audio quality (with the RBA activated) is very good, the sound is detailed, very warm, with powerful and punchy bass but treble which remains clear and a very good separation of the instruments, especially in wire since in Bluetooth the rendering is a little more compact, the audio scene is narrower and the treble slightly less brilliant and defined. This is not surprising since the SBC codec significantly compresses the signal. If you mainly use streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, or your music library is made up of MP3 files, no problem for you. On the other hand, if you are a Qobuz user or want to take advantage of a 24 bit FLAC / WAV library, the Hi-Res capabilities of the headphones in short, you should avoid Bluetooth.
The audio signature of the PH805 really reminded us of that of the Sony WH-1000XM3. Lovers of big, warm sound for Hip Hop, Rock or Electro will therefore be won over, and those looking for a more neutral look will be sure to calm their ardor at the bottom of the spectrum via an equalizer. It is also possible to cut the active noise reduction, this will considerably attenuate the bass (at the expense of the insulation of course). Wired, the PH805 is dynamic enough for a closed headset, slightly less in Bluetooth. The volume level is largely sufficient, not too high but just enough so that the sound can be loud without risking distortion.
Finally, the most dangerous rival of this helmet is the Jabra Elite 85h, sold at the same price but more successful, more advanced and more modern. The only advantage of the Philips PH805 compared to the latter is its wired audio quality, which exceeds all of its competitors at the same price and approaches Sony and its WH-1000XM3.
Those who want to save a little can also turn to the Sennheiser HD 4.50, at a more affordable price and excellent value for money (the autonomy will be lower, however). These are two alternatives to consider before checking out (Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 is a bit old now). Those who can add a little more can also go to the excellent BOSE QC35 II but it is no longer the same price range.
The Philips PH805 is not without qualities, it offers a good audio quality with a very warm sound close to the Sony WH-1000XM3, a satisfactory autonomy and a very correct active noise reduction, only it is too expensive and sins on various aspects very important to us. First, it is not as comfortable as some of its competitors at the same price, in particular the Jabra Elite 85h which is also more technologically advanced and has a USB-C port. Then, he suffers from some bugs affecting his commands (not necessarily practical by the way), does not offer a companion application and has an unnecessary “Aware” mode. It could also have stood out by being the only Hi-Res wireless headset in its price range, but unfortunately it only has an SBC transmission codec. In short, for such a price, we prefer to advise you on Jabra Elite 85h, where the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC for around € 50 less. If the price of this PH805 were to change, the situation could however change.