Philips A5-PRO - Made by the pros
Philips A5-PRO - Made by the pros
When a pair of headphones is born of a partnership between a brand dealing with audio products and a music artist, said product will be instantly flagged by the consumer community to be heavily scrutinized. The results of such harsh judgment are usually on either extreme of the spectrum too; it either meets every expectation and passes with flying colors, or misses the point completely, only to crash and burn – at least in the eyes of the public. With that in mind, what could be the fate of the Philips A5-PRO DJ headphones?
As you would’ve guessed by now, the A5-PRO is not just Philips’ independent take on what a pair of DJ headphones should be like. Philips had some idea on what they wanted, but they also thought it would be great to integrate them with ideas from Armin van Buuren, the world-renowned Dutch DJ. In other words, this is no mere endorsement where Philips just went “Armin, can we put your name on it?” but rather, a full-on collaboration starting from scratch.
So what does all this mean to the average users, beyond the fact that it’s primarily aimed at DJs and costs RM1,999? Let’s find out.
Design and features
If the design of the Philips A5-PRO can be summed up in one word, it would be ‘cool’, but it’s impossible – unfair, even – to do so. Beyond the first glance, you will see the finer details on the headphones, which give it a premium appearance.
Let's start with the back of the earcups. We have a pair of matte earcups with the letters ‘L’ and ‘R’ in the middle of the matte surface with a diamondback design. This in itself is great, because it shouts to you regarding which side belong on which ear, instead of having you looking for it in odd places like the hinges or on the inside of the headband. Beyond its practicality, it also contributes to the ‘cool’ air the A5-PRO gives off at first glance, especially the letter ‘L’.
The earcups themselves are padded with memory foam which, along with the tough alloy steel headband, is covered in faux leather. All this means comfort when in use and durability when not. Also on the headband is the Philips branding, which are stitched on instead of just printed on. It is details like this that make the A5-PRO look really premium and beautiful.
As you can see, the headband is also curved in more sharply compared to many other headphones. This gives the impression that it’s going to be very tight on your head, but that is not the case when in use. The headband stretches back quite easily without being flimsy or fragile. You can put in on your head, let it pump out music for hours and your ears will probably sweat before you feel any real discomfort.
The earcups also can pivot 90°, but each side pivots toward the opposite direction. This may feel a little odd, especially when you use them for one-ear monitoring, but this is so that you could fold the earcups in for a compact, easily transportable form. When the earcups fold away or snap into position, there is a very satisfying click which, it must be said, could sound quite intimidating initially, especially when you are reminded of the A5-PRO’s price.
At this point, it should be mentioned that the Philips A5-PRO does not offer any sort of wireless connectivity. What you do get is a gold-plated 3.5mm audio port on both earcups with a twist-lock mechanism, so that your listening experience is not interrupted when the audio cable gets accidentally hooked onto something like a table corner. They are also positioned at an angle towards the back instead of facing the bottom directly, so the provided audio cable – with its right-angled jack – flows downward instead of sticking out at an odd angle. It is a shame that Philips did not provide a plug of some sort to close off the unused audio port. While it does not affect its physical appeal, it does mean a little bit more care towards the A5-PRO’s transportation, usage and storage, lest some stray stands of hair or pieces of fingernail clippings end up in there.
The cable itself is 1.3 meters in length, with a substantial coiled bit that can be extended, bringing the maximum length of the cable to 4.7 meters. On the other end of the cable is the 3.5mm threaded audio jack, which you can screw onto the provided 6.3 adapter.
Also in the box is a carrying pouch, for the convenience of traveling DJs and audiophiles. It is made of the weather-resistant polymer fabric that you would find on many traveling bags, so as long as you don’t end up in too wild a situation, the A5-PRO is quite well protected in it.
With the aesthetics covered, we move on to what really matters: the specifications. Along with the price, the other numbers that follow the Philips A5-PRO fall somewhere in between encouraging and intimidating. We have a pair of 50mm drivers with a frequency range of 10–24kHz, 16Ω impedance and a sensitivity of 105dB. All this is packed in a body that weighs 370g.
Considering all these numbers and how it came to being, it is only fair that we have high expectations of it. After all, a frequency range like this should result in greater detail, and the low impedance would mean that it would perform well without an amplifier or when plugged to a portable device.
In action, the Philips A5-PRO is very well-rounded. Because it does everything so well, there isn’t a particular aspect that we could flag as spectacular, without making it sound as if it came at a cost of some other quality. The listening experience was great throughout the ranges; the bass is strong without being overpowering, mids and highs are crystal clear and have great presence. Resonance sounds very natural as well.
On our formal testing, we put the A5-PRO through a number of our test tracks. First up is NY Rush by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts. Resonance in this instrumental piece sounds natural and not the product of any overcompensation on the hardware’s part. Bass was sufficiently strong, while maintaining clarity of the higher notes. Each instrument sounded clear and clean as well, without any of the instruments overpowering one another.
Next in our lineup of test tracks was Joanna Wang’s The Best Mistake I’ve Ever Made. As before, resonance from the guitar sounds natural, and the vocals are clear. Bass here is not as powerful, but still sufficiently thumpy for you to actually feel it. The same applies to the acoustic version of John Mayer’s Why Georgia.
Next, we tested the A5-PRO with Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life. Again, every note was crisp and clear, and even with the high volume levels, no distortion was heard.
As a bonus, we also threw in I’m In Love With The DJ by German trance DJ, ATB. Sure enough, this is where the Philips A5-PRO is at its best. The sound staging is superb and, dare we say it, almost out of this world. This track is also where one would expect the bass to be overpowering but, surprisingly, that’s not the case.
|NY Rush - Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts||9.0|
|The Best Mistake I've Ever Made - Joanna Wong||8.5|
|Why Georgia (Acoustic Ver.) - John Mayer||8.5|
|It's My Life - Bon Jovi||8.5|
|I'm in Love with the DJ - ATB||9.0|
|Overall Audio Performance||8.5|
The Philips A5-PRO is an amazing pair of headphones; it has the looks, and the performance to match. This is also performance that you can enjoy for extended periods of time, and you will probably want to take a break from listening to music before you feel any discomfort caused by the A5-PRO. It performs well with almost any genre your preference would lead it to. This all-rounded performance does make it feel a little weak on the bass side, especially with modern music’s inclination to overdo it, but as we have experienced through our tests, that’s not quite true.
Perhaps we should mention two things at this point: first is that it would have been nice if the upper limit of the frequency range was a little higher; second is the fact that a DJ-centric set of headphones would have such low impedance comes across as a little odd.
If absolute audio fidelity is a must for you, then the price tag on the Philips A5-PRO should be no deterrent for you. In fact, considering its compatibility with mobile devices, thanks to the low impedance and well-rounded performance, a true audiophile may even find it a bargain.