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Philips Fidelio X1 review

Andrew Williams

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Philips Fidelio X1

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Good-looking design
  • Removable cable
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Open, articulate sound
  • Tight, well-defined bass

Cons

  • Leaky by design
  • Verging on too much low-end

Key Features

  • Real leather headband
  • 50mm Neodymium drivers
  • Manufacturer: Philips
  • Review Price: free/subscription

Introduction

The Philips Fidelio X1 headphones are the big daddy pair of the new Fidelio range. It's perhaps Philips's most concerted effort at a range of serious high-end headphones, ever. Unlike the Philips Fidelio L1 and the Philips Fidelio M1, these are open-back headphones intended for at-home use rather than to supply tunes on the way to work.

Sets like this tend to provide the best sound quality of all headphones. The Philips Fidelio X1 have a lot to prove. Thankfully, they show that Philips really knows what it's doing.

Philips Fidelio X1 Design and Comfort

The new Fidelio range of headphones from Philips is partly design-led. Philips is keen to big-up that they are headphones that are meant to both sound and look good.

Philips Fidelio X1 2

Open-back headphones rarely pay all that much attention to style, as they are only particularly useful in quiet, private places. Headphones like the Philips Fidelio X1 are not for showing off on the local high street. A focus on design approach pays off, though. We think these cans are significantly better looking than the vast majority of their big-name rivals.

The Philips Fidelio X1 headphones make the Sennheiser HD 650 and Shure SRH1440 appear style-less and drab, and it's an impression that persists once you get hold of the things. Sub-£300 "serious" headphones often use plastic frames, but the Philips Fidelio X1 feel sturdier and more high-end as they make sure most of the bits your hands come into contact with are made of high-end feeling materials.

Philips Fidelio X1

The thick circles of aluminium that orbit each earcup show off the cool, hard-edged touch that only metal can usually provide, and 90 percent of the outer headband is tightly coated in real leather. This should wear better than scratch-happy chromed metal, but we're convinced a big part of its use is to give the Philips Fidelio X1 the look and feel of a compromise-free headphone. And, hey, it works. Even the plastic outer frames of the earcups are textured to make them feel more like ceramic than plastic.

Practically-speaking, what's more important is the quality of the earcup padding and the inner headband - the bit that rests on your head. These are largely what dictates whether a pair of headphones is comfortable or an exercise in accepting agony.

Philips Fidelio X1 5

Again, the Philips Fidelio X1 pass with distinction. The inner headband is less showy than the outer part, made out of a foam-lined pad of mesh fabric that distributes the weight of the headphones across your head with aplomb. It automatically alters its position to suit the shape of your head, further helping it spread the weight across your pate.

The Philips Fidelio X1 ear pads are great, too. Thick, large and covered with fine black velour, they both look the part and cushion the inward pressure of the headband perfectly. These headphones don't have the lightest touch of all open pairs, but they hug your head rather than clamping it. They're wonderfully comfortable.

Philips Fidelio X1 9

As much as we can recommend these headphones for all-day listening sessions, don't even think about taking them outside - well, further than the back garden. The Philips Fidelio X1 are fairly leaky thanks to the black metal mesh that covers the back of each earcup. They do not isolate you from the outside world much at all, and anyone nearby will instantly know your secret obsession with boy bands of the early 90s, as your tunes will leak out freely.

Philips Fidelio X1 Accessories and Cable

As is common in a reasonably high-end set of headphones like this, the Philips Fidelio X1 do not come with a great wealth of accessories. We guess the idea is that you probably won't need them, as they'll spend most of their life in your lounge, bedroom or study.

There's no carry case, but you do get a chunky 6.3mm-to-3.5mm jack converter. Like most serious headphones, the standard cable ends in a full-size 6.3mm plug. It's robustly armoured with a thick tube of anodised metal. The cable itself is solid too.

Philips Fidelio X1 1

It's fabric-braided, 3m long and plugs into the left earcup with an entirely standard non-locking 3.5mm jack. Replacing the cable of the Philips Fidelio X1 is a cinch. Using a fabric cable here feels like a decision based on style rather than function, but there are no particular downsides to its use, and it should help it avoid snagging on other objects in the room, should you be dancing about to some Streisand.

Ruffra

November 8, 2012, 4:42 pm

I have listening to these phones since late September and consider them of exceptional audio quality for the price. Their sound is certainly better than Senn HD650 and AKG Q701 phones both of which I own as well. The small faults in terms of sound balance identified in the review are I believe due to two things. 1stly the supplied cable suppresses slightly the upper mid band and higher frequencies which although gives a smooth presentation tends to make them slightly bass heavy and 2ndly their low impedance really means you need a headphone amp of very low output impedance to control the bass well.
I have found Silver plated high purity copper cable and a good matching headphone Amp have really made these phones outstanding and listen more to this combination than my much more expensive Beyer T1 set up.

Hamish Campbell

November 9, 2012, 7:16 pm

Aaaahhh the great audio cable myth. I hear drizzling snake oil over the silver plating really widens the sound stage and really brings the midrange percussion to the fore.

Sorry to be a bit troll-y, but save the money on the cables people.

corporeal4now

December 30, 2012, 12:11 am

Or is it really a myth. I have seen significant improvements in better quality hdmi cables, so I dont doubt that in headphones which are capable of revealing normally hidden and subtle details in the music could do with the extra help from additional conductivity.

Hamish Campbell

January 2, 2013, 9:05 am

Ok, is that a wind up? A digital cable that gives an improved signal! Love it. Although I believe over something like 50 metres (or is it 100?) then you can have issues with loss of signal, but other than that you are talking about a defective cable.

Bjarte Bergsvåg

January 3, 2013, 10:03 am

Digital? The signal is analog last time I checked. A better (larger in cross section) cable should improve the quality. Since sound is sent as waves, my calculated guess is that the sound will be worse in a small cable than a large, and the quality of the core will also affect this. If the signal was digital, the story would be different :)

Hamish Campbell

January 3, 2013, 10:11 am

My digital comment is about the mentioning of improved hdmi cables by coproreal4now.

From all my reading on the subject, the analogue cables can make a difference, however the point at which the difference becomes indetectable (by person or scientific testing) is not that high. So adding silver or insane shielding or talking about oxydation levels etc etc and putting up the price by hundreds of pounds is just silly.

Here's a digital(!!) example for £2500

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nordos...

And 1.5m rca cable for £850

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tellur...

Hopefully noone ever bought one of these.

corporeal4now

February 19, 2013, 6:49 pm

Digital signal transmission will allows for data loss. If your hdmi cable is cheap, some data loss will occur. The TV will still display a good image, but the fine detail will be missing. Now Swap in a quality cable (I am not talking about crazy money) but a good thick shielded cable and check again for the details.

A similar rule applies for analogue. But as always there is the law of diminishing returns, so dont waste too much money, just a little :o)

disqus_cD4dHjNNbn

April 2, 2013, 1:20 pm

Ruffra is right about the stock cables. They have too much resistance that they tend to alter the true sound of the X1. Just try a different cable with it... doesn't have to be silver coated. I used the extra cable from the Sony MDR 1r and it works in perfect synergy to the X1.

LustEnvy

June 16, 2013, 7:06 pm

I'm late in saying this, but the stock cable is badly matched with the X1. It has too high an impedance and hazes up the sound a bit. Just find a cheap cable with a low impedance (something like the Inakustic Star MP3 cable on Amazon) which has a .2ohm impedance vs the 1.8 impedance on the X1's stock cable.

Other than that, I do agree. cable talk is mostly snake oil.

Malc C

October 14, 2013, 5:23 pm

I can confirm the stock cable leaves bass too loose and imaging unsharp. I replaced with a short (1.5m to the amp on my desk) cable of decent quality for only £12 and will not be using the stock cable again ! Bass is there but more control, depth unaffected, imaging focussed better and hi-mid to treble lifted slightly; in other words PERFECT. This brings this sub £200 headphone into competition with any headphone at any price.

Malc C

October 14, 2013, 5:28 pm

As you don't believe in cables you clearly haven't actually listened before you started trolling. Cable doesn't have to be expensive, just good quality, short as possible and with decent terminations. I replaced mine for only £12 and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the very significant improvement.

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