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Philips Fidelio X3: Ears-on with Philips’ latest home headphones

They’re not for everyone but the Fidelio X3 are shaping up to be a solid choice for home listening

Every pair of headphones released recently, it seems, has either been ANC-enabled, true wireless or sport-focused so it comes as welcome relief to see Philips focus purely on sound quality in its latest pair of headphones.

The Philips Fidelio X3, due to be released later in 2020, is a pair of headphones unashamedly targeted at the audiophile. The customer who cares more about sound quality and less about portability or cutting out background noise, and who doesn’t mind a little inconvenience to get the best possible sound quality.

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Philips Fidelio X3: Specifications, price and release date

  • 50mm neodymium drivers
  • Balanced or regular 3.5mm cable connection
  • Karvad cloth covering, pressed steel frame
  • Muirhead sustainable leather headband
  • Velvet ear cups with memory foam pads
  • Price: 349 Euros (UK price TBC)
  • Release date: Q2 2020

Philips Fidelio X3: Key features and first impressions

The Fidelio X3 don’t quite reach into the arena of specialist audiophile headgear – a price of €349 ensures that – but they’re expensive enough that they won’t be an impulse purchase. They’re for customers who, perhaps having spent a good chunk on a pair of ANC headphones, are after a more sophisticated experience for listening at home.

They certainly have all the hallmarks of a more serious pair of headphones. They’re beautifully made, with plush, velvet-clad memory foam ear cups and a leather-wrapped headband that perches lightly on top your head without digging in.

They’re light and super comfortable (I have to admit I’m a bit of a sucker for velvet pads – your mileage, however, may vary) and the materials used are of a suitably high level of quality. The cups, attached on each side to dark-grey pressed steel arms, are wrapped neatly in fabric from Danish designer firm Karvad. The leather used on the headband is from Muirhead, a Scottish company that specialises in supplying leather for use in premium products such as luxury cars, and whose material is sourced “sustainably”.

These, along with other elements of the design of the Fidelio X3, reinforce the fact that they’re definitively not headphones designed to be used on the go. They’re wired, with 3.5mm cables running to each ear cup – either standard or balanced cables can be used, the latter of which are an optional extra – and this rules out use with a lot of today’s flagship smartphones models – unless you happen to have an adapter with you.

They also have an open back design. This has two what could be considered negative side effects: first, the ear cups don’t block out an awful lot of ambient noise, which means you’ll be cranking the volume right up in noisy environments; and second, when you do wind up the volume, they leak sound, so you won’t be the most popular person in your row of aeroplane seats. As such, these are headphones are best used at home – connected to your TV or your Hi-Fi system – preferably via a decent headphone amp like the Chord Mojo or the iFi Nano.

The bonus, as with all good open-back headphones, is that the driver in each ear cup has more room to breathe and soundwaves can escape into the room without bouncing around inside the cup, thus lending the sound a lovely airy quality that eludes most closed-back headphones.

In a brief ten-minute listening test, the X3 lived up to this reputation, and then some. Alas, I wasn’t able to test using my usual playlist tracks because I didn’t have a 3.5mm to Lightning adapter for my iPhone. However, using the player and the test tracks supplied by Philips, the headphones sounded superb.

Instrument separation and clarity were impressive and even bass – which can suffer in open-back headphones – was powerful and yet still tight, impactful and well-controlled. I hesitate to evaluate the X3 any further than this because I wasn’t particularly familiar with the music in the playlist or the Fiio M3K player the headphones were connected to, but the early signs are promising.

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Philips Fidelio X3: Early verdict

It’s clear from the get-go that the Fidelio X3 is a niche product but it’s priced at a level that appeals to people who care about sound quality without stretching into the realms of the impractical.

Coupled with minimalist Nordic design and good comfort levels the Fidelio X3 seems destined to be a successful product. We’ll certainly be updating this hands-on into a full review just as soon as we can get our hands on the finished product.

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