Philips Fidelio X3 Headphones Review

Posted on 9th December, 2020

Philips Fidelio X3 Headphones Review

David Price discovers one of the best pairs of new cans he's heard in a long time…

Philips

Fidelio X3 Headphones

£349

Philips Fidelio X3 Review

Philips has played a larger part in hi-fi history than practically any other company on Earth. From 1963's Compact Cassette to 1982's Compact Disc (in conjunction with Sony), the Dutch consumer electronics giant has indelibly stamped itself upon the hi-fi firmament by introducing formats that people want(ed) to buy. We'll let the company off for Digital Compact Cassette though because nobody's perfect…

Now, in conjunction with long-term partner TP Vision, Philips has come up with a range of new audio products under its resurrected Fidelio sub-brand, including the £349 X3 cans you see here. This product is aimed slap-bang in the middle of the mid-price hi-fi headphone market and right up against Sennheiser's iconic £369 HD600. It impresses by being less plasticky with a frame made of satin grey finished steel, so scores an early points win. Its two-tier headband is responsibly sourced Scottish Muirhead hide, and the earcups are covered in Danish made Kvadrat acoustic fabric. The result feels just as classy as the HD600, if not more…

Philips Fidelio X3 Review

The drivers are 50mm dynamic designs with neodymium magnets, set into double-layered open-backed earcups. The earpads are finished in a velvety material that's similar to the HD600; it's not as cool-looking as the faux leather (i.e. vinyl) of some rivals but is far less sweaty during a long listening session. Underneath this is memory foam, and the result is a very comfortable headphone indeed – one of the best around anywhere. Okay, it doesn't look especially 'high tech' and/or 'cool', but if you're looking at your headphones while you're listening to them, you've really got the wrong idea. Although a firm fit, there's no sense of having your head in a vice, and the lightish 380g weight helps too.

Philips Fidelio X3 Review

The Fidelio X3 comes with a thin cloth bag, inside which are a choice of headphone leads with either 2.5mm minijack (plus 3.5mm adapter) or 2.5mm TRRS connectors. At the other end, small plugs insert into each earcup, making the lead(s) easy to swap or upgrade. All leads supplied are of good quality and aren't especially microphonic. The manufacturer quotes a sensitivity figure of 100dB@1mW, and a frequency response of 5Hz–40kHz.

THE LISTENING

The X3 shows real strength in depth. Like every good medic and physician, it's a proponent of the primum non nocere, or 'first, do no harm', approach. Just as the Philips is easy to wear for long periods, so it is to listen to. That doesn't mean it's boring and bland though, rather that it's a very low distortion design that lacks an uncouth edge. Too many expensive headphones can sound pretty forward, but the Philips is balanced and even in a way that a great hi-fi design needs to be. Not only are its drive units smooth and nimble, but there's little sense of the headphone's earcups or frame joining in the party to sully the sound.

Philips Fidelio X3 Review

The banging nineties techno of Felix's Don't You Want Me? was something of a revelation; the X3 communicated the timbre of those old analogue synthesisers in a more accurate way than expected. Drum patterns were fast and impactful, yet never jarred. The close-miked vocal had a real human presence to it, and no sign of stridency. Moving to smooth jazz in the shape of Herbie Hancock's I Have a Dream, and this headphone gave a very realistic tone to the piano work and percussion and threw out loads of subtle detail. Bass was tauter than the Sennheiser HD600, and more tuneful too.

Philips Fidelio X3 Review

Energetic, brightly lit rock recordings like REM's These Days are often unlistenable through modern headphones. However, the X3 served up a visceral, adrenaline-fuelled extravaganza without giving me tinnitus by the third verse. Its combination of clarity and speed, allied to a lack of intrinsic tonal brightness and/or distortion made it a gripping listen. At the same time, it doesn't inject any particular artifice into the sound, such as dollops of bass that were never on the original recording. Some won't think it as instantly 'impressive' as products from certain trendy brands, but others will think hallelujah for precisely this.

THE VERDICT

Philips' Fidelio X3 is a super-capable new mid-price headphone that's subtle and smooth yet highly satisfying from a musical point of view. A great all-rounder, it deserves to make many friends.

See Philips for more information

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David Price

David started his career in 1993 writing for Hi-Fi World and went on to edit the magazine for nearly a decade. He was then made Editor of Hi-Fi Choice and continued to freelance for it and Hi-Fi News until becoming StereoNET’s Editor-in-Chief.

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Posted in: Headphones Applause Awards 2020 Headphones Over / On Ear
Tags: philips  tp vision 

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