Philips has been selling headphones for 50+ years. Still, the company’s not known for headphones the way it is for electric razors and light bulbs. Maybe that’ll change this year with the company’s introduction of several new fashion-forward (did I actually use that term?) models that have already garnered enthusiastic reviews.
For $49, the CitiScape Metro looks like a hell of a deal whether you want to wear it around your neck as I’m told the cool kids do these days, or actually listen to it. Its earpieces represent a minor triumph in industrial design — the 40mm drivers mount in enclosures that swivel over a wide range to assure an impeccable fit on practically any head. That’s especially important with an on-ear design; without a great fit, you’ll get less-than-great bass, and all of the panelists thought the fit and comfort of the Metro was good to great.
More thoughtful design touches: a tangle-resistant flat cable and a padded headband. The base version of the Metro is available in black or white. For an extra $10, you can get the Metro with an inline microphone; that model also gives you the choice of purple, pink, or teal in addition to black or white.
Generally, the panelists ranked the Metro in the middle of the pack. Joe liked it the best, ranking it #2. “I’m kind of a sucker for bass,” he said, “and these had stronger lows and low mids than most of the other headphones.” Howard kind of agreed, saying, “A pretty good balance, and the bass is especially good, but it didn’t have the extended treble of my favorites.” Lauren didn’t especially like the Metro, complaining about a lack of clarity in the highs and one-notey bass, but at least preferred it to some of the other headphones tested here.
For me, though, riding the Metro was no fun. I thought the bass was ostentatiously hyped-up, with exaggerated dynamics and a boomy lack of definition. The highs seemed muted, probably as a result of the excessive bass output. And the mids sounded to me as if they were coming through a cardboard tube.
Measurements: The frequency response of the Metro is a little unusual, with a bit of a bass boost centered at 140 Hz, a midrange boost at 1.4 kHz, and a rather soft treble response. Adding 70 ohms output impedance to the V-Can’s 5 ohms to simulate the effects of using a low-quality amplifier boosts bass significantly, typically +2 dB below 80 Hz. Total harmonic distortion (THD) is high in the bass: at 80 dBA it hits 9% at 20 Hz, and at 100 dBA it hits 15% at 100 Hz and 19% at 20 Hz. Impedance averages 32 ohms across the audio band, with just a few inconsequential bumps at certain frequencies. Isolation is good for an on-ear, measuring -10 to -25 dB above 1.3 kHz but with especially good noise rejection above 5 kHz. Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 1 mW signal at the rated 32 ohms impedance is 100.1 dB.
Bottom Line: While the style, comfort, and build quality of the Metro are definitely above-par for its price category, its sound will appeal only to those who really love powerful bass and aren’t much concerned about the rest of the audio range.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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