October 25th 2010 7:59 pm

final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Sound quality Slightly bass heavy good
  • Design and form factor Stretching to fit is not ideal. good
  • Comfort Very comfortable but slightly claustrophobic. good
  • Noise isolation Isolates high freq. well, not so good with lows. so-so
  • Durability Lightweight plastic. good
Detailed review
The Philips O'Neill Stretch has a stronger bass than the average headphone, but it's not just an emphasized upper bass that falls off at lower frequencies. The bass goes all the way down and is still strong in the 30 hz range. The sound from the lower midrange through the upper midrange is tilted to the right somewhat, if you visualize flat (no tilt) as the theoretical ideal. This makes the sound warmer and less bright than the so-called "neutral" headphones such as the B&W P5 or Sennheiser HD-600.

While the sound is less bright in the upper midrange, the very high frequencies around 10 to 12 khz are comparable to most of the better headphones costing twice as much or more than the Philips Stretch. While the bass is generally very strong and might seem overpowering with some music and some listeners, I played quite a few tracks, and especially up-close concert videos by David Gilmore and Diana Krall that have strong bass lines, and the bass never seemed to overpower the vocals or midrange instruments.

I would rate the overall sound of the Philips Stretch for quality and musicality as good as headphones costing at least twice as much, which makes the Philips a bargain in its price range in my opinion. The sensitivity of the Philips is quite good and it will play very loudly with iPods and other comparable music players.

The Philips Stretch is comfortable to wear even after a couple of hours, and there are no comfort or sound quality issues when I'm wearing glasses. This is a closed-back headphone, with isolation from external noise that varies according to the pitch or frequency of the noise (crickets chirping - excellent; running water and fans - good; dishwasher or vaccuum cleaner - not so good).

The construction or build quality of the Philips Stretch is very good from what I see, even though much of it is lightweight plastic. It looks good and feels good, but I can't guess what the durability would be if it gets thrown around a lot, especially outdoors. One of the details I really like is the detachable cord, which can be replaced in an instant if need be. What's even better than that in my view is the quality of the cord itself - it's a woven fabric on the outside that seems very strong, and does not cling to things as do the rubberized cords that come with comparable headphones from Sennheiser and other companies.

In addition to the pop music tracks listed below, which I used mainly for detecting weaknesses or other problems with the sound, I played a wide variety of genres (Jazz, Diana Krall, Bill Evans Trio; Bach organ, Biggs; Beethoven 9th, Solti CSO; Chopin, Moravec; Reggae, Marley, Tosh; Country, Haggard, Yoakam; Verdi, Domingo; Sinatra and Bennett; Punk, Germs, Fear, Sid Vicious, Social Distortion; Medieval, Madrigali, Medieval Babes; Trance, Mylene Farmer, etc.)

The following are some of the music tracks I tested with, and the main features I listened for with those tracks:

Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (piercing guitar sound: handled very well).
Cocteau Twins - Carolyn's Fingers (guitar string detail and quality: excellent).
Commodores - Night Shift (bass detail: fair, slightly boomy).
Germs - Forming (raw garage sound: slightly muffled).
Lick The Tins - Can't Help Falling In Love (tin whistle: clear and clean).
Lou Reed - Walk On The Wild Side (bass impact: slightly boomy. detail: fair).
REM - Radio Free Europe (drum impact: strong).
Rolling Stones - She's So Cold (bass impact: strong. guitar sound: fair).
U2 - With Or Without You (bass: slightly boomy; high-pitched instruments and sibilants: mostly muted).
Van Morrison - Into The Mystic (bass: strong).
Who - Bargain (voice trailing off: "best I ever had", vocal harmonics: fair).

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What was your source for your music? CD? mp3 player? And what was the quality if coming off a PMP?