Philips are the latest manufacturers to jump into the already crowded DJ headphone market, with their new flagship headphones that have been created in collaboration with Dutch trance DJ Armin van Buuren. Philips have decided that the best way to utilise this ‘celebrity’ endorsement is to tap into the knowledge that Armin has when it comes to gigging on the road and DJing.
A good move as endorsements, whilst appealing to one crowd, can alienate a product from another and put the boot into your all-important valued kit. Armin's involvement was to work very closely with the design department and create headphones that he would be happy to use in a professional environment. For an extensive period there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between Philips and Armin, to get to a stage where they had a working prototype that could be fine-tuned into the final product.
Taking advantage of the industry gathering that was Miami Music Week, Philips launched the A5-Pros to an invited collection of industry experts, movers and shakers. The phones themselves have a cool styling — nothing over-the-top, but ultimately functional, whilst looking the better side of professional.
One of the standout design elements is the leather headband that has been hand-stitched and finished. That really does add to the serious intent of these new headphones.
Another cool feature is the removable and replaceable cover caps in the ear cups — very similar to V Moda's caps, in that DJs can customise their headphones with logos, insignias or anything that takes their fancy. For the launch edition Philips had set up 300 limited-edition phones with caps with an Armin signature and a Miami Music Week logo, as well as the plain ones, which most DJs will probably stick with. The only other notable reference to Armin is a rather small signature on the box.
Philips are definitely pushing the product over the endorsement, and the two parties happily refer to their working partnership as a collaboration. Back to the product, another well-thought-out feature is the ability to change the earpads on the cups in order for the user to change the dynamics and the fit of the phones.
There are three sizes on offer, one for normal ears, one for smaller ears and an oversize variation for studio-style application. The pads are replaced by a simple twist method, as are the cover caps.
Another feature that Armin was keen to show off was the way the phones fold up into a compact size, keeping them neat, discreet and protected when travelling, while a flip-action flick of the wrist opens out the phones into their working functional style.
Whilst we've discussed the aesthetic look of the phones we've not touched upon the most important factor: how they sound. This is where they are either going to fly or fade away without leaving their mark on the DJing scene.
The A5-Pros have had a lot of intensive testing in DJ environments, especially on the road, as Armin has been road-testing the preproduction models for many months, fine-tuning audio and design aspects to his particular needs. The phones were also tested alongside many of the already existing brands that DJs favour, and a reference was set up to make sure that the A5-Pros stacked up against the competitors.
In use the A5-Pros are robust and have a good soundscape, picking up the definition in the mid-range whilst delivering a full bass response — but nothing too OTT, a la the Beats-style phones. The tops were crisp and delivered good detail.
One thing DJ Mag noticed was that the headphones were loud and didn't distort when pushed at high volumes. This is a serious consideration when using the phones in a loud club environment. A DJ has to clearly hear the tunes they are monitoring, and considering these are aimed at the top-end of the market they have to perform at the highest level.
In use Philips’ A5-Pros are more than capable, they deliver a very good sound and are loud, very well-built and look the part with a slightly retro edge.
The coiled cord can be attached to any cup, left or right. Once again picking up on the sound, the A5 Pros deliver tight, punchy sonics at various volume levels and acquit themselves very well to the DJ market. These two entities have delivered headphones that stack up nicely against the main players.
BUILD QUALITY 8
EASE OF USE 8
VALUE FOR MONEY 8
SOUND QUALITY 9
Great-sounding headphones, with a fantastic build.
Expensive, with a DJ endorsement that might not be to everyone’s taste.
Good first-time attempt for a company to enter an already saturated market place. The Philips A5-Pros are great headphones, but the associated DJ tie-in may prove to be a risk as it may not appeal to the wider audience.