Philips Downtown CitiScape Review
This purple set of on-ears won't impress a practiced ear, but easy-going listeners may enjoy a thing or two.
If the Downtown CitiScapes (MSRP $99.99) tested with the same vibrancy as their purpleness, they'd be in good shape. Alas, that was not the case.
These headphones are woefully average, so while ordinary subscribers will likely have little to complain about, testing suggests the same will not go for the more learned listener. And that's not all, because even in areas of comfort, design, and features, the Downtowns continually leave more to be desired.
Comfort, Design, & Features
As with many on-ears, these headphones are not for tender-eared folk. The snug fit felt a bit like punishment after an hour, yet did nothing to deter the band's propensity to slip with a small movement of my head. It eases the pressure if you stress the metal band for a looser fit, and we do appreciate the foam lining on the headband—and the lightweight materials, as well.
As for style, the box for the purple Downtowns indicates an "urban culture" inspired design, but there's something sort of... Tinky Winky-ish about them, too. There's a bit of visual contrast, thanks to the attractive brushed metal band, but the overall scheme is so intensely purple that it borders on cartoonish. They do come in different colors, but the white ones look surgical and the brown ones don't make us forget the leather isn't real. For whatever reason, the faux leather is very chintzy to the touch and the stitching is unattractive, puckering at the seams.
We do like both the appearance and the functionality of the four-foot cord, though, which is flat instead of rounded; the result is a mostly tangle-free and attractive design, so while it may not be the most durable thing we've ever seen, we acknowledge its niceties. The cord also wears a remote control with microphone towards the top, which enables calls, pauses music, and skips songs. Controlling volume remotely is not an option, however, which is sorely missed, and many of the weak points have no special protective features. These are about as basic as you can get with a set of headphones.
If you send your Benjamin Franklin on his merry way, off to someone else's cash drawer, you deserve some solid returns. The Downtowns certainly don't look or feel like $100 dollar headphones, but what about sound?
You and Mr. Franklin can do better. In terms of measured data, testing produced some dreary results. The Downtowns perform just fine until the lower half of the high frequency range, which is underemphasized, meaning higher notes will be less audible than lower ones. Some listeners will feel tempted to turn their music up in order to hear harmonic overtones, and since prolonged loud-listening can cause permanent hearing loss, this flaw is somewhat concerning.
The crowds won't go wild for the tracking, either. Tracking is a measure of how well the left speaker and the right speaker match one another in volume, so that music isn't too loud on one side, and too quiet on the other. Though overall performance here was sufficient, some of the errors occurred at the most perceptible point of the scale—the low, bass-end—which will sound louder in the left ear.
Escape the CitiScape
The CitiScape Downtowns (MSRP $99.99) just don't dazzle. On the plus side, they feature a great no-tangle cord, a handy remote, and a statement look. However, they aren't quite comfortable enough, portable enough, or durable enough, and their audio is certainly nothing to go crazy for.
Casual listener or not, you can probably do better than this for the money. Even if you find them on sale (we did, for around $65), you may want to keep shopping around. Thanks to underemphasized high notes, questionable channel preference, and second-rate durability, the CitiScape Downtowns just aren't the talk of the town.
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