2,518-word post, approx. 4-5 min. read
- 2/27/19. The SHP9500 had been discontinued, but it looks like New Egg just brought it back.
- 9/7/19. Grammar updates and buttons added.
- 1/26/21. Article/link cleanup.
- 5/20/21. Moved the 9500 down a spot to make room for the 30i.
Hi there friend and Welcome!!
Before we get into the Philips SHP9500 Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
This is part of my “Budget Kings” Series, which takes a look at some of the best options for under $100. Check out:
- Budget King #1: The semi-open back Koss KPH30i Review!
- Budget King #2: This review
- Budget King #3: The closed back Sony MDR-7506 Review!
- Budget King #4: The closed back Creative Aurvana Live! Review
- Budget King #5: The semi-open AKG K240 Studio Review!
- Budget King #6: The closed back Status Audio CB-1 Review!
Why did I place this second?
The 9500 was tops on the list for 3 years until I tried the 30i, which I believe is a perfect headphone across the board. The 9500 is close but has some issues which now prevent it from holding the crown.
In a nutshell, the 9500 provides everything you need out of an open back headphone if it’s your first foray into the hobby. It’s just about the closest you’ll get to a true audiophile headphone, at a ridiculously great price. In fact, there’s a debate on whether this thing is better than the venerable HD600. The discussion has got somewhat heated, and in my mind, there is nothing the 600’s do better. For the longest time, I was a huge proponent of the 600’s (and still am), it’s just that the 9500 actually sounds just as good if not better in my opinion. The only real differences are that the HD600’s treble is darker, and side by side you can tell that there is a bit of extra emphasis on the 9500. Some would say it makes them harsher. Now all of a sudden “bright” is equated to harsh because people don’t want to admit that the 9500’s sound is more lively than the duller, more relaxed 600. I A/B tested the 600 against 9500 multiple times with my Oppo HA-2 (no gain, same volume) and the 9500 is indeed more exciting, while the 600’s sound is a bit boring, and almost too laid back. That’s a bit weird for me to say since I really do still love them.
The Mid-range/Treble Freak Out
Can the 9500 be harsher at times? Sure, but people are grossly overreacting about this (especially lately). If you’re really going to go out of your way to criticize a $50 headphone for being a little bright, then you’ll have to include the rest of the lot in there as well. Beyerdynamic’s DT880/990, The Shure SRH440, The Audio Technica ATH AD900x, Sennheiser’s HD800, Sennheiser’s HD25, The M50x, literally any Grado offering, and the list goes on.
My point is that all of these headphones are very well regarded, all have a bright character, and all of them are more expensive than a 9500. So why the flame fest? That’s a good question. The 9500 is more than worthy of your dollars. Let’s try not to freak out about it. 🙂 Movie reference in 3…2…1…
See Jan is a fan of the 9500. You should do what Jan does. Lol.
The other reason this takes the top spot is that it’s overall build, comfort level, and features are the best among headphones in this price range. Any headphone that’s roughly $50 and employs metal is a winner every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Any headphone that sits on your head and feels like the air is always worth a purchase. More on the features side of it in a bit!
What I will bring you in this review
- Quick view
- Video Review
- Amp/DAC requirements
- Who these headphones benefit?
- Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
- Astonishing price to performance ratio. Yeah, they’re basically giving these away. They perform as good, if not better than an HD600. More on that in a bit.
- Remarkable build quality and comfort for such a cheap model. It’s ridiculous how solid these feel in your hand, and they even employ the metal for the headband adjustment. That rarely happens at this price range. Comfort is also on point. You can wear these for hours without fatigue or the worry that they’re going to dig into your melon.
- Unbelievable sound quality at this price point or any price point. If you’re strapped for cash but desire an audiophile type of sound, this is your best bet hands down. There are others that perform very well in this range, but I believe the 9500’s to be the most enjoyable listening experience out of them. Details are heard and felt on an immense level, the sound has room to breathe, and the tonal balance is on point. Instrument separation is also phenomenal, and while the Timbre isn’t perfect, it’s very close. What is Timbre? The bass is articulate and textured, and in my opinion, there’s enough of it. Just be aware that this is not a headphone for bass heads. Mid-range is just about perfect and doesn’t get out of line, and though you may perceive a slight amount of grain from time to time, it’s negligible when looking at the big picture.
- It does the little things right. Great build, great comfort, a manage-ably sized detachable cable, and small details like the R and L indicators that appear in huge block letters on the outside of the ear cups. Instead of wasting precious time looking for what might not even exist, you’re now able to immediately put the headphones on and enjoy music. I’ve lost count of how much wasted time was spent looking for a tiny R/L indicator, only to barely find it because it appeared in the smallest font possible, in the most awkward location, in a color that you can’t even see because it blends in with all the other colors. If that wasn’t enough, the 9500 not only gives you numbered adjustments, but also a small window on each side for the most obsessive-compulsive of users.
- Does well with a variety of genres. Because the sound doesn’t tend to favor anything in particular, these work well with a plethora of different types of music and applications. They also work well as a mixing/mastering and reference headphone because of the mostly flat frequency response. Overall, the 9500 is one of the easiest recommendations I can make. They’re also great for Gaming! Learn more:The Best Headphones for Gaming!
Onto the official review…
In The Box
Philips SHP9500 Headphones
4.9ft. Straight Cable (Detachable)
Big shoutout to Crinacle for the graph!
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
- Type: Open back
- Magnet Type: Neodymium
- Impedance: 32 Ohm. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Maximum power input: 200mW
- Sensitivity: 101dB
- Speaker Diameter: 50mm
- Frequency Response: 12 – 35,000 Hz
The Philips SHP9500 is an open-backed headphone that will leak quite a bit of sound. Open back vs. Closed back headphones. I wouldn’t recommend taking these puppies out because they will bother everyone around you. Lol. At full blast, I can literally hear the details of every song, so you should definitely chill with these in your studio. They are pretty big and bulky, but not that heavy. They sit on my head quite nicely, but the fit is rather odd. It’s not loose or tight, but just right I suppose. I’m thinking that the cloth padding is what’s throwing me off. Rest assured, they are quite comfortable.
I truly believe these are a hidden gem amongst the audiophile world. I had previously heard nothing about them until I did a search for the best headphones for under $100 out of curiosity. I wanted to see what people were saying, and for the most part, there’s a consensus about a select few. The top 10 best headphones under $100.
It’s interesting, they kind of mimic a closed back in that the sound is pretty aggressive, but yet still airy and laid back. I know it sort of doesn’t make sense. The instrument separation is there in spades, and everything just comes through really crisp. It sort of relaxes you in a way. Whereas something like the HD600 has a forward mid-range, the SHP9500 seems more balanced overall. The bass is definitely there but stays in its place. If there’s a heavier emphasis on the low end in a song, the 9500’s will let you know. However, it never feels bloated or artificial.
While I love the comfort factor, the earpads themselves are rather shallow. I imagine these also wouldn’t be good for a person with a small head. I’ve been accused of having an “apple a*s head” so yeah. Lol.
Quick HD600 comparison
In comparison to the HD600? It’s astonishing even to me, but I kind of do prefer this over the 600 in some regards. People may crucify me for it, but the truth of the matter is that this headphone is just as good, and in fact sounds more lively due to an extra bit of brightness in the high mid/low treble regions. In fact, I was talking with a guy on YouTube (check the video below in the comments) and out of my Oppo HA-2 the 600’s sound quite a bit duller in comparison. However, I still hold the 600’s in high regard, but if you’re on a budget, these are absolutely astonishing and well worth the small investment. I have no intentions of selling mine, and out of the 9-10 headphones I currently have, these will likely be the last to go if I ever do decide to get rid of them.
If you would like a more in-depth comparison to the HD600, and find out why I’m so upset about the fact that they discontinued the 9500: Sennheiser HD600 vs. Philips SHP9500
- Lightweight and comfortable.
- Crisp, balanced sound.
- Durable. They are light but don’t feel like they will break. They are mostly plastic with some metal for the headband.
- Great instrument separation.
- Detachable cable.
- The SHP9500S version does not come with a 1/4″ adapter.
- They can be a tad bright/sibilant at times. What does sibilant mean?
My Video Review!
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Here’s Part II!
Click to see the 9500!
These don’t really require an amp, but I’m sure they would sound fantastic with one. How to choose a headphone amp!
Who do these headphones benefit?
They do very well with a variety of genres and uses:
- Classic Rock
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- The S model is the same as the original model sound-wise but does not come with a 1/4″ adapter which disappointed me.
- These will sound really good coming out of your phone, but be aware that with your laptop, results may vary. Mine is a little older so the internal Soundcard isn’t that great. What is a Soundcard?
- These are not for bass heads, but they will render hip-hop very nicely. If the track has bass, they will let you know. Overall though they are what I would call “bass lean.” The emphasis is more on the overall sound rather than any specific frequency. The bass is tight but doesn’t bleed into the mid-range which I really appreciate. For instance, Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” sounds a lot different due to the fact that you can actually hear the subtle instrumentation going on.
- These will sound really good straight out of your phone.
- The fit is good, but a tad loose. I actually kind of prefer it to some tighter-fitting headphones. They do seem to be made for big melons and I definitely have one of those. 🙂 Also, your ears will touch the drivers as the ear cups aren’t very deep. I haven’t had any issues with comfort in this regard but keep it in mind.
- I would put these above the AKG K240’s as far as build quality goes; they are a bit heavier and feel less like a toy. I love the 240’s but I could imagine them breaking down pretty easily. The 9500’s don’t feel like they’re going to just sporadically break down but also aren’t on the level of something like an M50.
- The earpads are said to not be removable but I heard that if you’re extremely careful you can get them off.
- The headband is very unique in that it actually displays numbers on each side so you aren’t guessing while trying to size them to your ears.
- Not portable or practical for outside use. They are pretty much strictly studio headphones.
- The inclusion of the large white “R” and “L” to indicate which ear is which is extremely helpful, especially since most headphones put them in tiny letters that you can’t even see without a magnifying glass.
- The Soundstage is pretty good but not extraordinary. You will get some added depth and extension to about shoulder width, with some effective instrument separation. What is Soundstage? As I was listening to “Missed the Boat” by Modest Mouse, I thought the voice at the start was in the room with me, which stopped my heart for a second, lol.
Surprisingly good sound. Nice clarity and detail. Somewhat loose fit. Durable. A bit bass lean. Treble is sometimes harsh. They will move around on your head at times, but this is usually subtle. Don’t bother taking them out of your studio. They will leak sound but do extremely well in quiet environments.
The lightweight fit and open, airy sound is what keeps me coming back to these. I love the crisp sound and attention to detail. These are just immensely enjoyable headphones. They make you want to kick back and analyze the intricacies in the sound, and perhaps pinpoint something you haven’t heard before. They aren’t so analytical as to ruin the experience but do reveal stuff that you may have missed. These would undoubtedly be perfect entry-level open-backed headphones for the enthusiast looking to see what audiophile sound is all about.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Philips SHP9500 review.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
What do you think about these bad boys? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,