Philips Fidelio X3 Review
After Philips and its Fidelio headphones had initially become quite quiet, the Philips Fidelio X3 is now emerging like a phoenix from the ashes. We are investigating whether he has what it takes to carry on the legacy of the X-Series successfully.
With the new wired X3, Philips continues its Fidelio X series, which is valued by headphone fans. However, this is not about wireless convenience but about highly comfortable listening pleasure in an old-fashioned way. If you are looking for audiophile virtues in this price segment, you should take a closer look at the openly designed over-ear headphones.
With the Fidelio X3, as with its two predecessors, the X1 and the X2, Philips relies on classic virtues. However, instead of wirelessly via Bluetooth, it receives the signals via cable and offers large earpads that fit comfortably around the ear. In this way, Philips is already making the sound quality clear on the outside, on which the X3 is based.
- High-resolution audio sound
- Fair price, not so expensive
- Really Comfortable
- Easy control
- Nicely build
- Bass response not so well
- Not for noisy environments
- They are very big
Fidelio X3 in the test
This continues with the frequency response. According to the datasheet, the X3 reaches up to 40 kHz that are no longer audible to the human ear, and even descends at low 5 Hz into the infrasound regions. Of course, wireless headphones can only dream of this. In the meantime, the technology of wireless music transmission has caught up in terms of sound. Still, at the latest, with high-resolution content ( HiRes audio ), wired audiophile listeners have the better cards.
The Philips Fidelio X3 has all the virtues of wired hi-fi headphones. For the development of the X3, Philips hired Benoit Burette, who was already involved in the previous models. Nevertheless, it is old wine in new bottles because the new Fidelio X3 has been refined visually and acoustically.
In addition, headphones also “react” to different cables. This is because both the wiring of the cables, i.e., symmetrical or asymmetrical, and the conductor material used have an audible effect on the sound.
Commendable: The cables supplied with the Philips Fidelio X3
Due to its open construction, the Fidelio X3 is more likely to be found in a quiet environment at home or on the terrace. Because it barely dampens outside noise, and the background noise it emits is less suitable for buses and trains. It is all the more gratifying that Philips has included two 3 meter cables with the X3, which can also bridge longer distances between the listening position and the source device.
One of these two cables is an even asymmetrical cable with a 2.5 mm jack connector. What is also new is that Philips no longer only controls one auricle as before but relies on double-sided cabling for the new X3. Their advantages are obvious. On the one hand, the symmetrical and thus more interference-free and more powerful control offer sonic advantages. On the other hand, handling and wearing comfort are improved due to the shorter connector.
Thanks to the low-resistance design of just 30 ohms, the Fidelio X3 does not overwhelm the amplifiers of mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones. However, if you want to exhaust the sonic potential, you prefer to use a dedicated digital audio player for mobile use.
Sound evaluation of the Fidelio X3
Anyone who expected the developers of the X3 to adopt the sound of the X2 should be quite surprised. Alice from Tom Waits’ album of the same name quickly shows that a fundamental refinement has taken place here. The predecessor, the X2, initially appears more superficial, depicts a bit more concentrated and narrower, and pulls the stage further forward. All in all, this means that it looks a little more strenuous than the new X3.
The X3, on the other hand, sounds more distant and less agitated; it initially refrains from appearing more self-confident. However, after listening for a long time, this ultimately leads to the realization that precisely because of this, subtleties woven into the music become more clearly perceptible. That makes the piece more understandable and authentic overall. The voice of Tom Waits, for example, is not all dominant, so that playing the saxophone appears more concise and is more balanced.
A direct comparison with the X2 shows that the X3 illuminates the width of the stage further, and the view into the depth is also more extensive. Of course, we are talking about nuances here, but these result in a more authentic presentation and make the new Fidelio X3 appear more coherent.
Look at the sound details
The resolution of the X3 is above average for its price range. It reproduces the uppermost layers in great detail and finely drawn. It makes subtle nuances, such as the flow noises of playing the saxophone, perceptible without letting them be over presented.
This fine dynamic transparency goes hand in hand with a never glassy or hard high-frequency resolution. Thanks to the symmetrical connection, the Philips Fidelio X3 reproduces the finest details in a more concentrated yet unobtrusive manner. This makes his game energetic and engaging.
Compared to a Sennheiser HD 560S, the X3 is more balanced and more intense in color, while it is very close to the heels of a Beyerdynamic Amiron Home. The Philips X3 counteracts it is spatially more pronounced and gently melting fundamental characteristics with a slightly more compact but more accurate intonation of the finest details. The comparison with the Sennheiser HD 660S is also interesting: The HD 660S sounds more gentle and ethereal with a more pronounced depth gradation, while the Philips draws attention to itself with more energetic, more direct, and ostensible intonation. The Philips Fidelio X3 cannot keep up with an open Audeze LCD-X (approx. 1,500 euros), but it achieves an impressively high level of sound for its price range.
Philips Fidelio X3: the design
A more progressive industrial orientation characterizes the design of the Fidelio X1 and X2. The design language of the Fidelio X3 in our test, on the other hand, embodies a reorientation towards more luxury and solidity. For example, suppose the outer headband of the predecessor models consists of two smoothly polished, parallel metal rods. In that case, the X3 has a very finely polished, matt black full metal headband covered in black leather. But the X3 is not just made of any leather but from the Scottish company Muirhead, known for its special quality and responsible production.
Of course, the second, flexible headband can also be found here, with which the adaptation to the wearer’s head is continuously and wonderfully made as if by magic. In connection with the well-dosed firm contact pressure, this ensures excellent wearing comfort, allowing longer listening sessions.
The auricles no longer appear as a superficial eye-catcher but rather as a unit. The fabric contributed by the Danish manufacturer Kvadrat envelops the outward-facing side of the auricle and is not only found on high-quality sofas. No, loudspeaker manufacturers such as KEF also cover their loudspeakers with fabric from Kvadrat.
Overall, the X3 contrasts the more technical appearance of the previous models with its elegance and calm. The Fidelio X3 was awarded the coveted Red Dot Design Award 2020 for its design shows that it seems to be in tune with the times.
The technology of the X3
Philips relies on the tried and tested and uses a dynamic 50 mm driver made of three polymer layers of different thicknesses filled with damping gel. This is to prevent the diaphragm from breaking open at higher frequencies and thus hard, glassy highs.
When looking at the membrane, it is noticeable that the X2 has 40 fine notches intended to prevent the formation of resonances. However, with its improved design and thanks to the properties of the polymer layers, the X3 manages with just 20 of these notches. In addition, the double-layer housing also counteracts resonances and vibrations.
While the open construction of the predecessor was characterized by a visible, closing border made of metal wire, the membrane of the Fidelio X3 now plays on the back of an auricle covered with sound-permeable Kvadrat fabric.
Compared to a solid, fully closed auricle, there are hardly any sound reflections that could be disturbing. However, their reflective energy counteracts the membrane movement and consequently appears “sabotaging” (disruptive). Open constructions, therefore, achieve a more spacious and “airier” reproduction per se. This should also support the 15-degree incline of the drivers, which is used for more targeted radiation into the auditory canal of the inner ear.
Operation and practice of the Fidelio X3 in the test
The interchangeable cables offer a certain freedom thanks to their length. The cables supplied are made of high-purity, low-oxygen copper and are in no way objectionable. Thanks to the fabric covering, they are neither stubborn nor prone to particular microphony, on the contrary.
In everyday life, the Philips X3 scores with its uncomplicated handling and its very comfortable seat. Despite its weight of 380 grams, you hardly notice it after a certain time. This is certainly due to the generously dimensioned ear cushions made of supple foam encased in soft velor.
Our test result for the Philips Fidelio X3
The Philips Fidelio X3 extends the audiophile virtues of its predecessors with an even more differentiated and filigree style of play. There are hardly any headphones in this price range that can play the fine nuances in such a calm and meticulous manner.
The X3 also shows larger facets in terms of spatial representation so that significantly more expensive headphones only capture it. So if you are looking for an audiophile all-rounder for both everyday use and special moments of pleasure, you will surely find it here.