Fantastic sound quality for the price, but the open-back design means you can’t take the Fidelio X2 out of the house
Headphones subtype: over-ear headphones, Plug type: 3.5mm headphone jack, Weight: 380g, Cable length: 3m
Philips has long reserved the Fidelio brand for its high-end audio gear, although the name doesn’t necessarily carry as much gravitas as other audiophile-friendly companies like Grado, Oppo or Sennheiser. The Fidelio X2 could change that; it’s a serious pair of headphones that won’t break the bank, yet should deliver fantastic audio.
The Fidelio X2 doesn’t deviate too far from the Fidelio X1, which originally launched in 2012; it has the same over-ear design, open-back 50mm neodymium drivers and comfortable hammock-style headband, but Philips has tweaked the materials and colours for a sleeker look and more comfortable fit. The stainless steel accents on each ear cup are now matte black rather than silver, matching the leather headband and padded ear cups. They certainly look like a premium pair of headphones, and feel the part when you put them on.
The oversized cups surround your ears, with velour cushions filled with memory foam creating a superbly comfortable fit. They do heat up your ears after a while, but not to an uncomfortable level. The headband expands to fit your head, spreading the weight of the ear cups across both sides rather than putting all the strain on your ears or skull, and the cups tilt from side to side to ensure the best possible fit.
Despite the open-back design, the Fidelio X2s only have an impedance of 30ohms. Effectively this means they can be driven by a smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC, as well as more powerful amplifiers and dedicated Hi-Fi gear. Standard bitrate MP3s sounded excellent through an iPhone 6, with crisp highs and clear mids regardless of genre. Rock and electronic tracks had serious presence, with bass kicking in when we expected it without overwhelming the rest of the mix.
Fidelio headphones typically have a warm sound, and the X2 is no different, giving acoustic tracks plenty of ambience without becoming too bright at the high end. It was with our most delicate test tracks that the X2’s only real weakness revealed itself, providing just a little too much bass – if you listen to a lot of classical or acoustic songs you might want to look for a more neutral pair of headphones, as these slightly colour the sound. For practically all other genres, however, the balance is brilliant.
The X2s might play nicely with any device with a 3.5mm audio jack, but they take on a whole new life when you plug them into a dedicated headphone amplifier. We used a Teac AD-301, which can drive up to 600ohm headphones and deliver uncompressed 24-bit audio. The results were astonishing for a pair of £200 headphones.
The 24-bit studio master of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories was brilliantly clean and precise, with absolutely pristine detail bringing the live instruments to the forefront of the mix over the synthesisers. The 20th anniversary remaster of Nirvana’s seminal Nevermind sounded fantastic, giving new life to ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ without losing the original, dirty sound. It’s difficult to pick a pair of headphones that can deliver similar quality for less money.
Open-back headphones certainly aren’t for everyone; the nature of the design means almost as much sound leaks out as goes into your ears, making them all but impossible to use in public. The X2s are no exception, with anyone in the vicinity able to make out every lyric, even at moderate volumes.
Philips is aware of this, however, indicated by the 3m audio cable. It’s ideal for listening at home, as you aren’t tied to the area right next to your Hi-Fi or home cinema system. The cable ends in a 3.5mm audio jack, but Philips includes a 6.3mm phono jack in the box for connecting to older or high-end Hi-Fi components. The cable is detachable too, which is practically a must for high-end headphones; it’s significantly cheaper to replace a cable than it is to replace the entire set.
The Fidelio X2 is a serious pair of headphones that really can’t be used outside the home. If you prefer to have one pair for all situations it certainly won’t be for you, but for serious music fans that want excellent audio quality, it’s a superb choice. At £230, it’s significantly less expensive than other high-end open-back headphones, yet sound quality or design aren’t compromised. Only major audiophiles should consider spending more – for everyone else it gets our Recommended award.
|3.5mm headphone jack
|One year RTB