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Philips Fidelio X2 headphones review – ears on

We get a first listen with Philips' new high-end audiophile headphones at IFA

The Fidelio brand has long been the domain of high-end audio equipment for Philips, a fact the company has reaffirmed at this year’s IFA show with the launch of the Fidelio X2; a pair of open back headphones aimed at audiophiles that picks up where the original X1 over-ears left off. We got to put a pair through its paces earlier today, in order to bring you some hands on first impressions. 

At a glance, it doesn’t look like Philips has made any physical changes with the X2; it has the same huge earcups that completely envelop your ears. Made from velour and stuffed with memory foam, they sit snugly and do a great job at dampening sound from the outside world, so we could appreciate our music even on the busy IFA show floor. The X2 isn’t exactly lightweight, but the new enlarged headband and suspended mesh hammock do an excellent job at distributing the weight across your head.

The combination of velour, stainless steel on the earcups and calf leather on the headband make the X2 feel every bit the premium pair of headphones, but Philips hasn’t just concentrated on style – it has put just as much focus on sound quality. The 50mm neodymium drivers, which are angled at 15-degrees to fire directly into the ear canal, use layer Motion Control (LMC) diaphragms to absorb and dampen any exaggerated frequencies for a flatter response. Looking beyond the technical jargon, it’s clear the company has made sure not to sully the reputation of the well-recieved X1 with a rush job.

Philips has also added a new low impedance cable to the X2, which it says reduces distortion and interference, but without the originals to hand it was impossible to say whether it makes an audible difference – we’ll have to wait until we get a pair in for a full review to deliver a comprehensive verdict.

With a 5 – 40 000 Hz frequency range, the X2 should be ideally suited for high resolution, 24bit audio files, so naturally we used some during our short preview session. Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories sounded incredibly crisp and clear, with top-end details in the cymbals and vocals clearly audible over the bass and electronic beats. Madness, the second track on Muse’s The Second Law starts much calmer, but still gives the low end a workout; the X2 managed to give it real presence without pushing too far, leaving plenty of room to built to a thundering finish.

The open-backed nature of the drivers mean sound leakage is still an issue, so these aren’t the headphones to wear on the train – or even use in the same room as someone else trying to watch TV, as it’s easy to hear from several feet away even at normal volumes.

As you’d expect for a pair of high-end headphones, the Fidelio X2 won’t be cheap; Philips expects it to cost €299 when it goes on sale across Europe later this month. That works out at roughly £250 with VAT in the UK, which is a lot to ask for a set of open back cans you can’t really use out in public. However, based on our short time with a pair, it looks like fantastic value for anyone after on-ears designed for at-home listening.

We walked away impressed after just a short preview, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed we’ll be able to bring you a full review a little closer to launch.

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