Philips SHP9500 / SHP9500S Headphones Review: A Great Cheap Open Pair!

I’ve wanted to check out the $70 or so open-backed Philips SHP9500 headphones ever since THIS infamous Z Reviews video.

Would they live up to the hype? Are they a giant killer? A legendary pair of headphones? Or just a solid value from a company that makes a bunch of other things, like toothbrushes?

I ordered a pair…and got a 9500S in the mail. Let’s start there.

I borrowed this picture from the Philips web site. No selfie this time, because using these in public would be very rude due to their sound leak.

Version Differences

The original SHP9500 comes with a ten foot springy cord, and a cloth carrying bag. The newer SHP9500S comes with a 5 foot cord of decent quality, and no carrying bag.

That’s it. The specs listed on the box have changed a little bit. But I can’t find any reports that this is a new driver. The differences between the two models are akin to those between the Sony MDR-V6 and the 7506; they’re basically cosmetic.

Sound

The SHP9500 has a bright sound signature, delivered by a large 50mm driver. It’s breathy, airy, and thankfully without much fatigue. Bass is okay, with enough presence in the mid-bass to keep things from sounding tinny and lame, but if you want some serious sub-bass rumble…you’re gonna have to check out some Beyerdynamics. Or maybe the QC35 if you want to spend all the money. Or many others…

I’m off track here.

Mids have a slightly withdrawn character to them, but they’re not hollow or fake-sounding. They’re just a little bit back in the mix, and vocals sometimes get overwhelmed more than I’d like. The treble is bright and forward, but not fatiguing…but there’s also nothing all that amazing about it. It’s just kind of nice, to my ears.

Soundstage is okay as open pairs go, but not as wide as the Sennheiser 598’s. Imaging is good. They don’t sound much wider than the DT770 actually. But they’re not as closed-in as something like the M50X.

The sound, overall, is pretty impressive for the price. It’s a bit cold, a bit clinical, but airy enough to remain musical.

If you like treble, or “neutral” headphones in general, you’ll have much more to appreciate here than someone who loves bass. It has the at-first unremarkable, bass-light, balanced tone that neutral headphones tend to have, with a little wonkiness in the mids and treble that’ll only be noticed by the most critical of listeners.

Comfort

Yes.

All the way yes.

This is the part of the review that Zeos gets the most right in his video at the top of the article. The comfort of the SHP9500 is exceptionally good. The headband pad is nice and soft, and its suspension design should hug the contours of your head even if it’s weirdly-shaped or bumpy or you have hair in the way.

The ear pads have huge openings, and they’re covered in a weird sort of moisture-wicking fabric not unlike “performance” athletic shirts. Not as good as the fabric on the Steelseries Arctis, but still okay. The depth is a bit shallow, so your ears may gently touch the insides of the cups, but everything is nicely padded in there.

Ample adjustment room means that I can wear this on my big head just half-extended. Quite impressive!

This is one of the most comfortable headphones on the market. It matches the comfort level of Sennheiser’s stuff, Bose’s stuff, Sony’s MDR-1A, and the DT770 in a much cheaper package. You could wear it for hours, happily!

Isolation

HAH right.

There’s none. Zero. The headphones are tremendously open. They leak a lot, too.

Don’t use these in a public place where other people are, unless you want to be a massive jerk.

They aren’t good for studio use either, as the mic will most definitely pick up their leaking audio.

Philips printed a little thing on the side of the box that says “Good for Home Audio,” or something like that, and they’re right. These are best for use at home, and home only!

Design/Build

Hmm. Design is a little all over the place. It has echoes of 1980’s studio gear mixed with modern touches mixed with clunky nonsense. The ear cups have giant letters on them marking the left and right sides. They sit close enough to the head not to look completely silly…but you shouldn’t use them in public anyway because of how much they leak. The adjustment arms are numbered, which is nice, and the detents are solid and clicky.

Build quality is great for the price. The plastic is not as nice or thick-feeling as the plastic on Sennheiser’s 500 series or the Beyerdynamic DT770…but those both cost more. And what’s here doesn’t feel tremendously cheap, or anything. The headband adjustments are metal-reinforced. The hinges don’t creak or squeak or rattle.

Again, like the sound, good for the price.

Features/Extras

As I got the “S” version, I didn’t get a bag. But I don’t think I’d ever need to put these in a bag since they’re so inadequate for taking out and about.

But I still like bags. If you love bags, you’ll want the first and now-discontinued version.

The cord is relatively thick and free of too much annoying springy-ness. And both ends are standard 3.5mm! This means you could plug any old 3.5mm cord in and use these. Great yes good yes yay! Every headphone should probably do this…even though I have a soft spot for the locking Audio-Technica/Sennheiser connector.

Final Thoughts

If you listened to the SHP9500, and say, the Sennheiser HD 598 back-to-back… you’d be able to tell that the 598 was a bit better-sounding, better-built, and more costly.

But the SHP9500 gets a good bit of the way there for less money.

It’s normally $99 but it usually goes on sale for around $70. Sometimes it’s lower than $60. If you’re looking to see what open headphones are all about but don’t want to spend a ton of money, this is a perfect choice. They’re good enough to be your only in-home/open pair…and also good enough to be a gateway into the nightmare world of headphone upgrades.

They’re not designed for portable use. The sound signature is a little bit lacking in pizzazz compared to other more expensive headphones, and the warmer signatures that dominate the market right now. But I could easily live with these being my only pair for home listening.

A curious thing these! Not quite a “giant-killer” audio-wise, but certainly more than worth their price if you need an open over-ear headphone. Their comfort and removable cable option stand toe-to-toe with anything at any price.

Here’s the official web site.

Want something even cheaper? Koss PortaPro

Want this but more? Sennheiser HD 598.

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