Philips CitiScape Uptown SHL5905BK Headphones Review

A full review of the Philips SHL5905 headphones

Philips SHL5905BK Headphones
Image © Philips Electronics N.V.

Global electronics giant Philips have drawn inspiration from several cities throughout the world to create a range of fashionable headphones called CitiScape. There are 4 unique headphones in the CitiScape collection which covers both in-ear and headphone types, with each one uniquely designed to mirror the style, culture, and essence of city life. This high-quality headphone collection covers 6 awe-inspiring cities which are: New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Shanghai.

Philips have also designed some of the headphones in their urban collection for total music immersion too. Their MusicSeal technology enables you to enjoy music in privacy without anybody else being able to listen in -- or even getting annoyed by it!

So how good is the sound when listening to your digital music collection, and does their MusicSeal technology really work?


  • Great style and the build quality is excellent.
  • Memory foam padding and air-quilting give comfortable long-term use.
  • Excellent audio quality for mid-range headphones.
  • MusicSeal technology performs well to keep your music private.
  • Good value for money.


  • In-line volume and microphone controls can be fiddly to use.
  • Volume slider can easily be knocked.

Before You Buy

If you are looking to upgrade your current set of earbuds or headphones in order to enhance your digital music listening experience, then this section covers the key specifications on the Philips CitiScape Uptown headphones worth looking at before you invest.

Main Features

  • MusicSeal
  • Over-ear headphones
  • Memory foam cushions
  • The headband is air-quilted
  • Anti-tangle flat 1.2 M cable
  • In-line volume control and microphone button

Technical Specifications

  • Frequency Range: 12 - 23,500 Hz
  • Magnet Type: Neodymium
  • Driver Diameter: 40 mm
  • Maximum Power Input: 30 mW
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB
  • Speaker Type: Dynamic
  • Acoustic System: Closed

Style and Design

There’s no doubt that Philips have achieved a very stylish urban look to their CitiScape collection. The test unit we received (Uptown SHL5905BK) has a great retro look and feel about it that harks back to the vintage car and motorbike days when chrome bumpers, wooden dashes, and leather seats reigned supreme. If you want a fashionable pair of headphones, then these certainly make the grade when it comes to original urban styling.

Build Quality

Looking at the build quality, the Uptown headphones are sturdy, surprisingly light-weight, and have great padding where it matters -- memory foam and air-quilting gives a comfortable fit without the worry of them unexpectedly sliding off your ears or even falling off altogether. It's also nice to see that Philips' have thought about a way to keep the wires tangle-free too. There's a single piece of flat cable which should negate the need to spend several hours over the lifetime of your headphones untangling wires before you can listen.

Overall, the CitiScape Uptown headphones look like they were born for the city -- they're robust, stylish, and scream quality without the price tag.

Audio Features and Controls

  • MusicSeal: Philips tout their MusicSeal as a sure-fire way to keep your music private, but how well does this sonic barrier perform? To fully test this feature out, we listened to several MP3s covering a broad spectrum of frequencies to see if anybody could hear anything. Even at relatively high volumes, no audio could be heard by the people sitting next to us.
  • Inline Volume and Microphone: Conveniently built into the Philips' anti-tangle cable are volume and microphone controls. The volume level can be adjusted by a small amount up or down by using a slider. The button next to this is for smartphones where you may want to quickly switch to the phone's microphone in order to take a call. Overall these controls work well but can be fiddly to use; a little lower down on the cable, for instance, would make these facilities so much easier to use. There's also virtually no resistance on the volume slider which makes it easy to accidentally knock.

Sound Quality

A growing number of online music services and Internet Radio stations (like MOG, iTunes Store, Spotify, etc.) now offer songs in high-quality audio of up to 320 Kbps and so it makes sense to have a good pair of headphones to get the full sonic picture. Low-quality earbuds and headphones won't give you the audio detail that high precision gear does so it's best to choose ones that can deliver the highest resolution possible for your budget.

Pro headphones from makers such as Sennheiser, Shure, Monster Beats, etc. offer studio quality audio but may be beyond your budget. This is where the Philips CitiScape headsets fit in by bridging the gap between standard and pro headphones. Currently, these retail for less than $150 and offer a solid set of tech features.

The biggest difference you'll no doubt see is if upgrading from standard earbuds. To test this, we compared the standard earbuds that you get with the iPhone/iPod Touch with the Philips CitiScape Uptown headphones. We were amazed by the difference in audio reproduction considering the Uptown's price point. The clarity of the sound is impressive with a lot more detail being produced at most frequencies compared to standard earbuds. Vocals are crystal clear, bass sounds are controlled well and go quite low, while the mid to high-end frequencies are reasonably detailed. The stereo image also seemed much wider than the standard iPhone earbuds.


The Uptown SHL5905 headphones are undoubtedly a large step up from standard earbuds that you usually get with MP3 Players, PMPs, smartphones, etc. Visually, Philips have triumphed in creating headphones that are stylish to wear, but also capture the essence of 'the city'. On the sonic front, the Philips CitiScape Uptown headphones give great sound reproduction when listening to digital music. Even though they aren't up there with pro headphones (which are a lot more expensive too), the audio is impressive considering they weight in at under $150. Bass sounds are nice and punchy, vocals are crystal-clear, and mid to high-end frequencies are reasonably detailed.

There're some nice design touches we like about the Uptown SHL5905's too. An anti-tangle cable, built-in volume and microphone controls, and luxury materials for making your listening time comfortable. We also liked Philips' MusicSeal technology which worked well on testing -- you can totally immerse yourself in music without having to worry about disturbing a fellow city commuter with your personal digital music library.

Overall, there's no doubt in our minds after reviewing the SHL5905's that Philips have created a pair of headphones that not only look good and sound great but are affordable and comfortably bridge the gap between standard and pro headphones.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.