Philips TAH8506BK: The audio market these days may seem to be governed by wireless earphones and earbuds, but there are some customers and audiophiles who still prefer these bulky, chunky headphones. You may ask, why? Well, a simple answer is better audio quality and comfort.
At least, that is a general perception, without trying to take credit away from wireless earbuds that have significantly improved over the years. But if you’re someone like me who is not blessed with big ears, a comfortable pair of headphones could be your best companion for listening to music or taking call.
If these are your priorities plus some extra features, the Philips TAH8506BK wireless headphones are a good option worth considering. Firstly, they are significantly cheaper (Rs 8,699) than Sony’s premium WH headphones series and Apple’s AirPods Max (but still pricey enough to make you think twice). There are select companies such as Sennheiser and JBL that make worthy mid-budget headphones, but Philips gains an edge due to its popularity, at least in India.
Secondly, the Philips TAH8506BK also appears promising based on the specifications. These include fans’ favourite ANC (active noise cancellation) to cut out ambient noises while listening to music. There’s also a transparency (awareness) mode to amplify ambient noises, which I appreciate while on a walk with my dog. Additionally, there’s a distinct feature to let you pause music by covering the right side of the headphone, enabling you to hear sounds without removing the headphones.
Of course, there are some caveats and the biggest one being availability. There are some tiny issues with the audio quality since the Philips TAH8506BK is well-suited for bass-heavy lovers. In that case, should you consider these headphones? Let’s find out.
Philips TAH8506BK design and fit
The last time I tested Philips headphones was in 2022 (coincidentally in May). That time, I checked out the Philips (TAA4216) that launched for Rs 8,999. While the headphones offered good audio output, the design lacked finesse.
The Philips TAH8506BK headphones, in that case, are much more thoughtful in terms of design and finesse. The packaging includes a carry case that fits easily in your backpack. Inside the case, there’s a tiny mesh pocket to store the Type-C charging cable and AUX cable. The carry case can repel water to an extent, but I’d advise you to keep it dry because freak accidents happen. This is critically important since there’s no official IP rating for protection against dust and water.
The earcups and headband of the Philips TAH8506BK feature a synthetic leather finish for a premium look and feel. However, the biggest drawback is that the material is not very breathable. This might not be an issue if you’re sitting still while working or gaming. However, if you’re outdoors for a run, the lack of breathability may cause discomfort due to sweat buildup around the earcups. Additionally, unlike last year’s Philips TAA4216, the earcups of this model are not washable.
The build quality feels premium even though it is mostly plastic, which is expected considering the price you pay. The headband can be adjusted with a satisfying clicking sound, which adds a therapeutic touch. The earcups fit nicely on my ears, and during my month-long testing, I didn’t experience any fatigue or issues. As mentioned before, for someone like me with smaller ears, on-ear or over-ear headphones are ideal. However, the fit may vary depending on the size and shape of your ears.
The right cup of headphones houses all the in-line controls, providing a truly hands-free experience. You can adjust the volume, change audio modes, and activate voice assistants directly from the headphones, which is a convenient feature. The right cup also supports gestures to play, pause, and change music. Moreover, the right cup includes an audio port for wired connections, although I didn’t find the experience particularly enjoyable. More details on this later.
Overall, the Philips TAH8506BK has an appealing design, but it is slightly on the heavier side, weighing 230 grams. The build quality of both the headphones and the case feels premium. While the company tends to offer plain black headphones, which I’m not a big fan of, Sony provides limited options with blacks merged with hints of gold and rose gold. Apple offers the AirPods Max in a range of colours. In my opinion, having more colour options never hurts and gives customers more choices.
Philips TAH8506BK audio quality
Since the Philips TAH8506BK offers both wired and wireless listening options, let’s focus on the latter first.
Wired connectivity on headphones is a nice touch as you climb the price ladder. Many elderly users will prefer this option who are not too tech-savvy. However, the sound output with the wired option is decent, but not what you’d expect for this price. The music is loud, but there is noticeable distortion (not always) and the bass level is average. For reference, I listened to Heat Waves by Glass Animals, which incorporates pop and electronic elements. Somehow, I felt the output lacked the thump in the bass and the mids were slightly muffled.
What matters is the sound quality in the wireless mode, since Philips TAH8506BK are primarily wireless headphones. The Philips TAH8506BK are easy to set up (via Bluetooth) and I mostly used them with my iPhone – mostly with ANC on. You can also tweak settings via the Philips Headphones app for iOS and Android.
There are 40mm audio drivers, so you can expect the audio output to be loud. In fact, I’d advise users to cap the audio levels or enable headphone notifications to protect against ear damage. The headphones support both popular AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, but the best part is that there’s Hi-Res audio (HRA). HRA typically has a sampling rate of 96kHz or 192kHz and a bit depth of 24 or 32 bits. It is significantly higher than the standard audio sampling rate and bit depth — typically 44.1kHz and 16 bits.
During my test, I played a variety of music albums but listened to some albums that typically help me review the audio quality since I’ve already played them on multiple devices. Purely based on the audio output, the Philips TAH8506BK checked almost all boxes in the wireless mode. Typically, the audio output leans towards the bass side, as is the case with most headphones and earbuds in this range. Fortunately, you can tweak EQ via the Philips headphone app.
I listened to Harry Styles’ 2023 Grammy-winning Harry House album, which blends pop, rock, and funk elements, and the experience was impressive (with treble mode on). However, when listening to songs with a bass-focused EQ, the highs and mids tend to become slightly muffled. The music experience was more or less the same when I listened to multiple songs by The Staves, a band renowned for their close harmonies and intricate guitar work.
For those who enjoy bass-heavy songs, the Philips TAH8506BK headphones provide a polished and delightful experience. The bass is powerful, surpassing what you typically get from TWS earbuds in this price range. While the thump of the bass may be a bit weak, it doesn’t bother me personally, as I generally prefer music with clean audio and light reverb.
Philips TAH8506BK features and battery
The Philips TAH8506BK headphones come packed with features that justify their price to a certain extent. You have the option to adjust ANC (active noise cancellation) modes, although I didn’t notice a significant difference. Overall, the ANC levels are decent but not the absolute best. Since the headphones do not provide a snug fit like TWS earbuds and rest on the ears, you will hear a fair amount of ambient noises without music playing in the background.
However, you will notice a considerable difference in the ANC with music 20 or 30 per cent audio levels. The headphones also offer an adaptive mode that automatically adjusts the ANC based on the surroundings, but it doesn’t always work efficiently.
I particularly appreciate the awareness modes that can be tweaked from the app. Philips has provided four levels of awareness, or you can opt for the voice mode, which amplifies nearby voices. Additionally, the Philips TAH8506BK includes a dedicated microphone for calls, which is decent, although I have experienced better quality. For regular calls, the voice clarity is relatively clear, but it may give the impression that you’re away from the phone, which can be a bit frustrating during outdoor calls.
In terms of battery, the Philips TAH8506BK will not disappoint. I mostly used the headphones with ANC on, and I was getting over 20 hours of continuous music playback. Of course, most users will use the headphones at different points of the day, and you can expect nearly a week of battery backup. The battery life can easily be expanded by using the headphones with 50 per cent audio levels and ANC off.
Thankfully, the headphones include a Type-C port for charging.
Philips TAH8506BK verdict
The Philips TAH8506BK are a good pair of wireless headphones and worth recommending to those who are not fans of wireless earbuds. The comfort and fit is usually subjective, but if you’re not blessed with big ears, the Philips TAH8506BK should suffice. That being said, these are not the lightest headphones on the market, but when we compare it against premium rivals like AirPods Max or Sony WH-1000XM5, the Philips headphones lead the list in terms of the weigh.
When it comes to sound quality, the Philips TAH8506BK headphones tick many boxes, but the output is generally bass-heavy. Although you can adjust the EQ using the dedicated app, it can become frustrating to do so every time. On the positive side, I appreciate the option to use the headphones in wired mode with the included audio cable.
One aspect I’m not fond of is the limited color options available for the Philips TAH8506BK, as they only come in black. Philips may also need to work on expanding their distribution (at least for the headphones), as their products are not always available in all offline stores. While the Philips TAH8506BK are sold on Amazon, stock availability can be an issue at times. Furthermore, the absence of an IP rating for dust and water protection is a significant setback at this price point.
Overall, these headphones are a good option considering the price, and their battery performance is excellent. If you don’t have the budget for Sony’s premium WH headphones, the Philips TAH8506BK serve as a decent alternative. However, if the question is whether they outperform their premium Sony counterparts, the simple answer would be no.