SHL-5905 (CitiScape Uptown)

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published: Dec-24-2014, updated: Dec-13-2015

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NO SMOOTHING is applied to the shown plots. Most measurement sites have some smoothing applied which ‘irons flat’ sharp peaks and ‘wiggles’. I do not use smoothing because some info about sound quality is lost when plots are smoothed.

Aside from a small correction of the microphone itself also some correction in the lowest frequencies is applied to the plots to compensate for the perceived loss of bass when using headphones. This is described HERE in more detail.
A ‘horizontal‘ frequency response curve on the shown frequency response plots on this website thus indicates a perceived ‘flat’ tonal signature.

ALL measurements are made with a good SEAL on a flatbed measurement rig.
shape of your head, bone structure, pad size, pad ‘softness,  (compliance), hair or no hair and or wearing glasses may (drastically) change the frequency response of some headphones, so… your personal experience may differ substantially from these plots.

Frequency response (tonal balance) is the most sound-determining aspect of headphones. A horizontal line shows audible neutral response in the plots on this website. Deviations in different severities at different frequency bands have an effect on the sound character.
The bigger the deviation the stronger the effect.

Below an aid to help determining the sound character of headphones with relation to the frequency response.


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Philips SHL-5905 CitiScape Uptown

SHL9505-klThis is one of the cheaper Philips headphones that is now discontinued but still available (end 2014). The headphone in question is called Philips ‘CitiScape Uptown’ type number: SHL5905xx/xx. It’s MSRP is € 99.- but the street-price (end 2014) is somewhere  between € 55.– and € 70.-.It can be found second-hand for around € 30.- to € 50.-which I think is what it’s worth.

It is intended for portable usage and available in 3 colour themes. Silver with brown headband (SHL5905GY/10), all black (SHL5905FB/10) and as shown above black with brown pads and headband (SHL5905BK/10).

These headphones have a tangle free flat silicone cord with a remote control in it. The earlier models also had a (very troublesome) volume control + pause button + mic. The later models only had a mic and remote control. These are intended for usage with i-stuff, Blackbarry, HTC and LG. There is also short conversion cable so it can be used with Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Palm and Sony-Ericson as well. For the North American market there seems to be a version with a different driver as well.
The SHL5905BK/
28 appears to have the same looks but differs in specs and driver materials.

The SHL5905 is a fully closed headphone with soft pleather (fake leather) pads and has a quite decent attenuation of ambient sounds and no leakage of sound to its surroundings.
It has a dynamic
40mm ∅ driver using a neodynium magnet. The 30Ω driver coil is made from Copper Cladded Aluminium Wire and the mylar dome has a 103dB/mW efficiency and 30mW power rating. At 30mW input power it reaches about 118dB SPL which is very loud !
1.2m long flat and tangle free OFC cable has a 3-ring 3.5mm angled goldplated connector and is low in mircrophonics ! The headphone only weighs 260 grams (9.2 oz) and has a pleasant 5N clamping force.
The pads are very soft and provide a
good seal but as the whole system is closed can get your ears hot and sweaty.
in-line volume control is ‘scratchy’, fails quickly and has substantial L-R balance issues…

The stock sound is tuned for the younger on the go generation. Thus… firm bass (too firm to be called Hi-Fi) and very laid back in the mids. Those mids are somewhat recessed. The treble is peaky with a hint of coarseness. The voices have an overly ‘warm’ tilt to it. The SHL5905 sounds decent with crappy low bitrate MP3’s as the upper mids (where most ‘harshness’ in crappy music resides) are attenuated significantly.
For Hi-Fi usage the headphone is too bassy/flabby and slightly ‘honky’ and not very ‘open/clear’ sounding. Treble is decent, not very grainy or overly smooth.

shl9505 stock

The frequency response shows how it sounds (disregard the dip around 80Hz, a measurement thing). Lots of bass and rolled off mids so ‘warm’ and far from accurate but pleasant for crappy low bit-rate popular music. The treble is present and extends pretty well. The sharp dips are partly pad and partly test rig related.

csd stock l+r shl9505

CSD shows some resonating at lower frequencies which I think explains the slight hollow sound. Treble is a shows a lot of ringing yet doesn’t sound really bad.

Because I like these headphones (once modified) I have bought all 3 ‘models’ and measured all of them to see how much they differ.
SHL5905-GY (with ‘music seal’), SHL5905-BK (no ‘music seal’) and SHL5915-BK (with ‘music seal’ but without the pesky volume control).

grey, brown, black stock
It appears that the newer SHL5915-BK differs slightly and appears to have 2-3dB more bass and a higher treble peak near 6kHz.
Otherwise all 3 models are closely the same in sonic signature.

Fortunately this headphone is very easy to modify and this is described HERE.
Once modified it really sounds very good to my ears and is a clear step up from Superlux HD681-HD681-EVO models as well as lots of other headphones.
No.. its not THE best headphone around but it does sound FAR beyond its price point.. even when bought at MSRP and including modding materials.

Below is what the modified SHL5905 looks like.
On the left one without ‘music seal’, on the right one with ‘music seal’

black-brown with-out music seal modified

It measures a lot better once modified as shown below (Left, Right):

SHL9505 modified, wool added

Note the frequency scale on the plot above runs from 10Hz to 30kHz.

Below the distortion plots of the stock uptown (right channel).

DIST stock uptown

And below the distortion plot of the modified uptown (right channel)


2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion improved substantially.
A 12dB lower 3rd harmonics and 13dB lower 2nd harmonic distortion at 50Hz.

Not only distortion and frequency response improves but the CSD and impulse response also improves. (plots from 500Hz to 30kHz)

and CSD…. before mods

CSD stockuptown

and CSD after mods:

CSD modified uptown

That’s a substantial and worthwhile improvement.

The square-wave and impulse response plots also show some interesting things.

uptown SQR

The mids have improved in ‘speed’. The impulse response has improved substantially. On the stock plot you can clearly see there is no ‘speed’ and the target level isn’t reached at all and the resonance following the pulse is even equal in amplitude.
After mods the impulse response is there and even almost reaches the stimulus level.

Because the FR plots above are a bit too revealing below the FR plot as it would be seen on most other websites (with 1/6th oct. smoothing)

modified smoothed 1-6 100db

As said before … performs well above it’s pricepoint and has become my favorite portable headphone (no amp needed for this one)

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