A Big Bottom and a Lively Top: The Philips Fidelio X1

Philips Fidelio X1 ($399)
Man, what a nice, cuddly Teddy Bear of a headphone! Big round velour pads, real leather headband, cushy head pad. Yeah, I like it.

The Philips Fidelio X1 is a full-size, around-the-ear, open headphone designed for home and office use. There's no isolation from outside noise, so walking around town with them wouldn't be a good idea. And their big, black, fuzzy earpads gather dust and lint like nobody's business, so this is a headphone for wonderful occasions where serious listening sessions can be had in a quiet environment...if by 'serious listening sessions' you mean FUN! This is a headphone for Ambient, DnB, EDM, and all that spacious, funky, fun music. But I'm getting ahead of myself, lets look over the cans first.

Philips calls this a "hammock design" headphone, meaning it has a headband arch and separate head pad thats on an elastic suspension. It's somewhat similar to the AKG K701 in that regard. The elastic in this case, however, is inside the headband pad attached to two flat plastic sliders, which are attached to the end of the leather portion of the headband.

The problem with this type of design is that making a self-adjusting system that works for all head sizes and shapes is a bit tricky, and I'm not quite sure Philips nailed it with the X1. For me (and my modestly larger than normal sized male head), these cans are a bit small. The elastic tension is slightly too tight, and the arch of the headband slightly too short. When the cups feel like they're in the right place on my ears, the head-pad touches the head band arch and exerts a bit too much pressure at the top of my head. Fortunately, the (apparently) stainless steel rods of the headband arch are both sturdy and fairly easy to muscle away from the circular shape and into a more 'pinhead' shape like the top of my head, netting me about a half inch more headroom. (See video for said muscling demo.)

Since I'm on to gripes---and I only have a few---I might as well mention them and get it over with. It seems the earpads are not user replaceable. All sorts of dust and sweat gets on earpads over time, and they break down slowly but surely. This is a very nice headphone, and I think Philips needs to think of it as a reparable item that users may have for a decade or more. Too much planned obsolescence these days, and I think we should demand better of our headphone makers.

There's been a lot of chatter in the X1 thread at Head-Fi about cable swaps and making a big difference. I'm rather skeptical of claims like that, so I measured the stock cables resistance: 1.8 Ohms, on both signal and ground wires. This seemed rather high to me, so I measured a 5 other similar cables I had lying around and got between 0.5 and 0.8 Ohms. There are two problems with a headphone cable that has this much resistance. First, if you've been following along with the Meridian Explorer and it's initial output impedance problem you'll know that series resistance is going to decrease your damping factor, and cause the headphones to be a little loose sounding. This is a big bass headphone and throwing away damping factor in the cable doesn't seem like a good idea.

The second problem is that the signal shares a common return through the ground of the cable, and the relatively high resistance of the cable will cause a voltage to develop on the ground channel that will produce some crosstalk between channels. The good news is that the stock cable is terminated in a stereo mini-plug at the headphone end and there are plenty of replacement cables available. The V-Moda cable has 0.5 Ohm resistance and it works fine. Plus you can convert your cans to a phone headset that way. I'm tempted to put a Moon Audio Black Dragon on it.

Last gripe, I promise. It's not really a gripe, more of a caution: I've seen numerous comments about people breaking the jack on the headphones. It sounds to me like there may be a bit of a durability problem here. Again, this is a headphone for home or office use where you can and should be careful with these headphones. Gripes done.

Once you've bent you headband around to have it fit your head really well, replaced the cable, and know to be careful in handling, these are a great headphone. Stylish, comfortable, sumptuous leather and metal materials that feel good to the hands and look good to the eyes. The really important thing, though, is the sound. And these cans have a sound that will put a great big smile on your face.

Let's talk about that.

COMPANY INFO
Philips
1600 Summer St.
P.O. Box 120015
Stamford, CT 06912
888-744-5477
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COMMENTS
Impulse's picture

Sweet, thanks for reviewing these! Specially now that it looks like they're finally coming to Amazon...

I'm surprised the stock cable's resistance is really that high, I had actually also tested the V-moda cable (along with a couple others) for someone on the boards who was talking about this but I was still skeptical... I figured either my measurement or his were off, guess not!

It's a minor thing for an enthusiast but it seems like a silly oversight on Philips part, ever run across another relatively sensitive headphone with a cable that has a similarly high resistance?

Wall of Fame huh, definitely gonna have to try them. I'd been looking for a warmer complement to my DT 880, was leaning towards the more neutral Mad Dogs but now I'll probably get both of them in for a listen.

Warm yet spacious without mid range sacrificeX1 sound like it'd be great for gamers (there were a few of us interested in them for that purpose at Head Fi).

Tyll Hertsens's picture

...But yeah, I think these might make great gaming headphones. The imaging seems to be there.

I haven't made a practice of measuring the resistance of cables so I'm not sure what the range really is, but I will start doing it regularly now.

miceblue's picture

...were you using the stock X1 cable, or the V-MODA ones you were recommending?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Mostly the stock cable, but I did both. It made a bit of difference---not huge, but worthwhile.

georgelai's picture

Hi,

I am so glad I bought the X1 for USD263 a couple of months ago. Hate the headband though as my head is probably as big as yours, no insult intended. Now I'm thinking of getting the L1 too but I'm a bit worried by the small cups (big head comes with big ear lobes I guess). Tell me, are the L1 cups bigger than the Momentum? Also, would it be an overkill to have both an L1 and an X1?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

The L1 earcups are moderately larger than the Momentum.

The problem, it seems to me, with having both is that they're to similar in use.  The L1 doesn't isolate very well, so they really don't make a good portable headphone. 

If you've got ears too big for the Momentum, I think the Sony MDR-1R is a good portable can.  If you're just looking for a stablemate for the X1 at home, I'd say the HD 600. 

georgelai's picture

Thanks Tyll. What attracted me to the L1 was the fact that it was a bit more portable than the X1. It's also, as you indicated in its review, a gentleman kind of headphone in its looks. Whilst I find the MDR1R nice sounding, I don't like its design. 

I wish headphone manufacturers would learn from clothing manufacturers and give us optional sized earcups in S, M and L for every model. There are many headphones I rule out on account of the cup size, and the fact I don't find on-ears and IEMs comfortable doesn't help.

Cheers.

WolfOx101's picture

I roll with both the X1 and L1.

X1 for home / office use.  L1 for commuting / out and about.

Before purchase of the X1 I did think it would be a bit silly having similar headphones - but contary to my fears I think both are great at their intended use cases.

I had to return a pair of Momentums because of ear cup size, but the L1s are fine (for me of slight larger head / ear size).

kyrian's picture

Hi,

I'm thinking about buying these but, since I have a big head, I'm concerned about comfort and the size of the head band.

Do you know the maximum recommended head size recommended for these? for example, measuring from lower lobe to lower lobe. In my case is around 45 cm

Are the L1s wider?

Thanks!!!!

Broskies's picture

How do these compare to the Beyerdynamc DT 990, another open basshead headphone?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I remember the 990 as being uneven sounding. Been a while, but I know I didn't like them.

(Hm. No measurements of them, need to fix that.)

markus's picture

Yes please measure them Tyll!

I bought the 250 ohms premium edition lately. The soundstage amazed me. These are awesome for gaming and movies when using headphone surround encoding like Dolby Headphone or DTS Headphone:X. Never thought this was possible.

But the sound is uneven, yes. Mids are a bit recessed and treble is too pronounciated.

Comfortwise, the Beyerdynamic dt 990  probably beat every other headphone, too.

HiFiGuy528's picture

Tyll, have you tried the Sony MA900?  The bass on them kicks ass.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I been hearing stuff about it.  I'll put it on the Sony list.  Gotta do the R1 series first so they know I'm on it. 

That series is pretty good, BTW. Not great, but competent performance across the board so far. Not done playing with them though, so you never know what may crop up.

Audioaddict's picture

I thought in gaming headphones the wish list was, soundstage and imaging, with a clear and possibly forward midrange? 

Impulse's picture

Depends what kinda gaming you're doing, if all you care about is competitive online play then you're not gonna get much of am improvement from something like the AT AD700 or Senn HD558/598 regardless of how far up you go...

If you do any single player gaming or you case for some immersion factor (good weight/bass etc) on your online play, then you can spend more for something that gives you that without sacrificing soundstage and imaging... Never been an easy balance, that's part of what made the X1 intriguing to me. If I can get along with the X1 for music I might just replace my DT 880 with them as my daily/desk/gaming headphone...

If not, well, dunno. I've never liked keeping one headphone just for music and one for gaming. I like having two different sounding headphones, just can't have one be exclusively for gaming, feels like a waste (when life gets busy and I don't get to play anything for a month).

TheManko's picture

It's hard to say there's any ideal headphone for games, given how many different kinds of games there are, and every game has a slightly different type of sound, even in the same genre. I tend to prefer a balanced sound for games, as I personally use the LCD-2 or HD 800 for games. But many shooters have a somewhat weak low end, as if they assume the the players will be using basshead headphones. But again that feels like a generalization as the mixing styles are all over the place. Most important would be long term wearing comfort.

georgelai's picture

Hi again,

In your video clip, you mentioned the V Moda cable. Which one? The 1-button, 3-button, or the plain vanilla one? Thanks.

George

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Any of them will work.  Just depends on what you want for a cable.

cactus_farmer's picture

Hi Tyll,

Great review as always. Since you said that the X1 is an open headphone that can satisfy bassheads - how does its bass compare (in quantity and impact) to another open headphone that is said to satisfy bassheads: the Sennheiser HD650?

Thanks!!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

The X1 has more bass, and is a little livelier up top. I think the impact is a bit better on the X1, but it may be just quantity over quality.

GNagus's picture

Hi Tyll, first time caller, long time listener.

From your review I believe I would like these headphones, but if I can't buy new earpads and replace them myself then that would make these a deal-breaker, especially at this price.

My HD580 headphones are from the 90's, but the earpads and headband pad are new.

me1337je's picture

Nice review! (as always)

Was wondering though, how do these compare to the HE-400?

AncientWisdom's picture

I think many people, myself included, are wondering the same thing...

Magick Man's picture

Well, "fat-bottomed cans, they make the headphone world go `round".

ultrabike's picture

"The second problem is that the signal shares a common return through the ground of the cable, and the relatively high resistance of the cable will cause a voltage to develop on the ground channel that will produce some crosstalk between channels."

Thank you very much for this observation! This got me thinking. Assuming the headphone resitance is roughly resisitive, and since P = (I^2)R, the ratio of the power through the ground cable to the power through headphone driver (ground cable crosstalk) might be 10*log10(Rgc/Rh), where Rgc is the ground cable resitance and Rh is the headphone resistance (not a headphone expert here, so this could be non-sense).

Assuming this is correct, for Rh = 37 ohm, and Rgc = 1.8 the resulting crosstalk would be -13.129 dB for this particular case. If Rgc = 0.5, this would be about -18.7 dB. If Rh = 300 ohm, and Rgc = 0.5, this would be about -27.8 dB.

On a positive side, based on this post (http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/headphone-systems/7727-headphone-cable-crosstalk-how-avoid.html#post83732) some cables may run separate ground wires (maybe the HD580/600/650/800...). My HD558 cable is detachable and at the cup it is a 4 wire termination so it might run the grounds separately (not sure) which may mitigate this problem. I think the V-Moda's are also 4 wire termination from the picture (http://v-moda.com/audio-only-cable/)

As far as the headphones, the remind me of Kojaku's SR225i (metal mesh cup back with thick and wide cushions - http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/last-call-diy-cans-heres-latest-nick-ns-killer-grado-sr225i.) From your impressions, and the FR both cans seem to have a similar warm tilt (and lively top), though the Phillips driver seems a bit more smooth and extended in low frequency. Really looking forward to check them out!

georgelai's picture

Hi Tyll,

i followed your video suggestion and bent it to fit my Conehead and now I don't have to resort to cutting out the lower cloth headband. Thanks for the suggestion.

 

george 

Impulse's picture

You totally forgot to add them to the WoF btw... :p

Jazz Casual's picture

Looks like Philips are right back in the game releasing quality headphones at reasonable price points.

WolfOx101's picture

@ Tyll - thanks for the suggestion on the V-Moda Cable which arrived from the US to the UK yesterday - I have immediatley noticed a noticable "lift" - really pleased with the whole X1 experience now

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