The Fidelio X2HR’s were well-regarded in the headphone community for their exceptional clarity and soundstage for the price. After several years in development, Philips is back again with the Fidelio X3s. They’ve been upgraded in virtual every way to become a truly premium wired headphone — including price. Coming to market at $349, are these headphones worth the cost of entry? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
- Price: $349 MSRP, $316.27 (Amazon)
- Connectivity: Cable Connection, detachable Oxygen free cable (3m)
- Distortion: <0.1% THD
- Diaphragm: LMC
- Speaker diameter: 50 mm
- Sensitivity: 100 dB @ 1mW
- Maximum power input: 500 mW
- Impedance: 30 Ohm
- Frequency response: 5 - 40 000 Hz
- Magnet type: Neodymium
- Acoustic system: Open
- Type: Dynamic
- Adaptor plug: 3.5 - 6.3 mm adapter
- Cable management: Cable clip
- Depth: 11cm
- Height: 23cm
- Width: 19cm
- Weight: 0.38kg
Over the last several years, I’ve been lucky enough to try dozens of headphones, but Philips is still a fairly new brand to me. I’ve reviewed its PH805 active noise cancelling headphones and found them to be an incredible value against the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM3. It’s audiophile line-up has eluded me until now, so I didn’t quite know what to expect going into the X3s.
Right away, it’s clear that some serious care went into the materials used to design the headphones. The headband and adjustment strap are trimmed in Muirhead Scottish Leather. That headband is entirely metal, right down to the earcups where a ring hides and protects the yokes. The headband features a self-adjusting strap, further reducing any points of failure. Add to that its pair of detachable cables and its hard to imagine this headphone ever breaking unless seriously mistreated.
The earcups seem to be plastic, but they’re trimmed in stylish gray fabric, so it’s hard to tell for sure. That fabric masks the X3s open-back design, but make no mistake, these headphones are wide open and provide an excellent soundstage, while also allowing sound to enter and escape -- so beware if you’re using them in a cubicle with colleagues nearby.
Philips refers to these headphones as “feather light,” and while that might be a stretch at 0.38kg, they’re certainly comfortable and far from heavy. The ear cushions are memory foam and treated with a pillow-like velour. I love the feel of these pads, but they will attract every stray hair and piece of dust in the vicinity, so be prepared to clean them. The self-adjusting strap also distributed their weight in such a way that hotspots were never issue — and they certainly have been on headphones of a similar weight in the past. The clamping force is just enough to make the headphones feel secure without applying too much pressure to the jaw. I have a medium to small head, so your mileage may vary, but the band is easily flexible, so I feel confident that most users will find a comfortable fit here.
Philips packs the X3s with a pair of detachable three-meter long cables and a ¼-inch adapter to fit more dedicated audio gear. One cable is your standard headphone cord, terminating in a 3.5mm jack. Interestingly, the other is a balanced cable, which is a rarity to see included even with expensive headphones. The idea is that a balanced cable completely separates the left and right channels, eliminating crosstalk and enhancing the overall clarity of what you’re listening to. The downside is that your device will need to support it, which most smartphones and computers won’t. This is definitely audiophile territory, but for the price, it’s a solid inclusion.
When it comes to sound, I can’t compare to the X2HRs, but I can say without hesitation that they sound fantastic. The X2s were well regarded because of their tight, clean bass and high-end detail, as well as the soundstage, and each of those qualities are front and center here. The bass isn’t overpowered, but the X3s have clear punch. It's also well-controlled. Listening to Andy James’ new C.S.I.L. album, the machine-gun double was some of the cleanest I’ve heard at this price point. The response on the X3s is tight.
At the same time, this is guitar and cymbal-heavy music, and the detail in the highs is very good. The dynamics on display with the X3 are very good, easily traversing from chunky distorted rhythm to clean, reverb-laden highs and intricate cymbal work. I lean toward treble and middle-high detail because of how it draws out the tiny details, like how a guitarist or drummer strikes individual notes, and the X3s draw out the layers of sound with great fidelity.
The soundstage is also excellent, which makes them winners for gaming. Earlier this week, I reviewed the Drop + Sennheiser PC38X and remarked about the exceptional soundstage on offer and these come extremely close, despite not being designed for gaming at all. I’d still give the edge to the PC38X, but in combination with the overall sound quality, the Fidelio X3s are the clear winner for a “whole package” high-end headphone. I only wish they came with some kind of microphone, but as it stands they would work well with something like the V-Moda Boom Pro.
The Philips Fidelio X3 is a great headphone, no doubt about it. They sound great with solid, tight bass, good high-end detail, and a spacious soundstage. The challenge here is that they take the original, value-centered pricing and push it well into audiophile territory at $349. That’s going to be a tough-sell for a lot of folks and also puts these in direct competition with other heavy-hitters from Audio-Technica and Sennheiser. In that price tier, there are a lot of great headphones. The Philips Fidelio X3s is a great sounding, comfortable headphone for music or games but ones that will be even better with a price cut.The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.