‘Sound, design and simplicity’ guide creation of world’s first Lightning headphones


Philips M2L headphones will be the first to use Apple's Lightning port. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Philips M2L headphones will be the first to use Apple's Lightning connector. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

LAS VEGAS — The wait for the world’s first Lightning headphones is almost over.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 Philips’ upcoming Fidelio M2L bypasses the analog headphone jack, instead sending the digital audio signal through the Lightning port used in late-model iOS devices.

“You keep the digital signal as far as possible until you have no choice,” Benoit Borette, a Philips audio engineer, told Cult of Mac.

The headphones convert files from any source to 24-bit, 48-KHz audio using a built-in digital audio converter. The result is a stereo soundstage that delivers a better spatial impression, Borette said. He described the headphones as a collaboration with Apple, a company which shares Philips’ commitment to high-quality audio.

“Sound, design and simplicity,” Borette said. “These are the three pillars.”

On a trade show floor, it’s impossible to tell exactly how good headphones or speakers sound. But the M2L’s cushy ear cushions, which are made from memory foam, cut out much of the nattering of journalists and PR reps. The memory foam “allows you to have more clarity and better sound,” Borette said.

Like the rest of the models in Philips high-end Fidelio headphones line, the all-black M2L cans look great. They’re based on the design of Philips’ M1 and M2 headphones, with a slender top band that’s covered in luxurious leather. Rocker switches let you control volume and also fast-forward and rewind tracks. Pushing the panel on the outside of the ear pad pauses the audio.

So, how did Philips beat Apple — which now owns Beats Electronics — and the rest of the audio world to the punch on Lightning headphones?

“You have to be quick on these kinds of things,” said Borette. “The tech is nothing new. “It’s just that we are now allowed to do it — and that we’re doing it first.”

Philips’ Fidelio M2L headphones will be available this spring for $299.