Like a Boss: The Philips Fidelio X2

Philips Fidelio X2 (~$299, expected availability November 2014 on Amazon)
About a year and a half ago I reviewed the Philips Fidelio X1, the precursor to the X2. I felt at the time (and still do) that it was one of the very few open headphones that might satisfy bassheads, but I didn't consider it an audiophile headphone like the Sennheiser HD600 as the bass was too warm to be considered neutral. I also had some issues with some aspects of the build: the headband was too small; the cable resistance was too high; and the earpads were not replaceable. These issues were noted widely amongst headphone enthusiasts on-line as well.

I'm very happy to report that the folks at Philips were listening, and, in my view, went above and beyond simply fixing the issues—while the X2 shares a lot in common with the X1 at first glance, deeper investigation reveals significant changes and real improvements with this new release. The X2 is an excellent headphone...yes, even for audiophiles...maybe especially for audiophiles. For the first time, in a long time, I think we've got a headphone to rival the Sennheiser HD 600 in the mid-priced open headphone category. Yes, I think it's that good.

Physical Description
The Philips Fidelio X2 is a full-sized, circumaural, open headphone. The intended use for this headphone is as a mid-level audiophile headphone for use in quiet places like home or office.

Cable entry is on the left earpiece and uses a flush mounted 3.5mm TRS jack—aftermarket cables will be easily accommodated. The previous X1 cable had a somewhat higher than normal resistance of about 1.8 Ohms, which can be problematic for a headphone with a low impedance (35 Ohms in this case). The 3 meter, Kevlar reinforced woven cover OFC cable of the X2 has about 0.7 Ohm impedance. The cable is terminated on both ends with a 3.5mm TRS plug; there is no remote control cable. A 3.5mm to 1/4" adapter and a cable management clip are the only accessories included. This is a headphone for home use, so I've got no problem with the money going into the headphones and not accessories.

Another gripe I had with the X1 was that its headband was not spacious enough for folks with larger heads. The outer calf-skin leather covered headband loop of the X2 is significantly increased in size and should now fit large heads much better.

The headband pad of the X2 is a large, cushiony, mesh fabric suspended by an elastic strap. I'm really not a fan of this design in general—one-size-fits-all usually doesn't. I found the X2 to be a pretty good example of this type of suspension done fairly well, though a tad on the tight side for me and my slightly larger than normal head.

Continuing with the comfort theme, the large circular velour earpads are a treat for the ears. Though the outside of the pad is circular, the inside opening is oval shaped measuring 50mm X 60mm and about 15mm deep. The inside wall of the cushion opening is extremely soft and compliant so when your ears do touch it's no bother at all. Unless you have enormous ears these pads should be very comfortable.


Another very important improvement over the X1 is the pads are replaceable on the X2. The pads have four holes that receive the four posts on the earpiece. There's also an "align pin" on the rear of the pad and a small hole in the baffle plate to receive it. At first I was convinced the "align pin" was some sort of acoustic vent, but the hole into which it sits is closed. There also appears to be vent holes built into the base of the pad attachement posts. I did ask a Philips engineer about acoustic trickery that might have been built into the pads, he assured me repeatedly that though there is some mechanical damping built into the pad to ensure a tight, secure fit, the pad attachement features in this paragraph do not have any acoustic tuning characteristics. He's going to laugh when he reads this, but I still don't buy it. My skepticism arises from nothing more than the impression that the Philips audio engineering group seems wickedly smart to me, and all those holes must be doing something. Ah well, there's bound to be many secrets in this type of work, guess I'll just relax and enjoy life's little mysteries.

Like the X1 before it, the X2 has a 15 degree angled 50mm driver. While there are certainly many similarities when you inspect these two headphones, a deeper look—and of course chatting with one of the engineers who designed it—reveals a significantly changed headphone. Yes, I would say the X2 evolved from the X1, but I'd also say there's a lot of evolution going on there. Probably best just to quote a few lines from his email:

"The major acoustic changes between the X1 and X2 are a reconfiguration of the damping components in front of the driver, and also the driver diaphragm itself, which is now a composite design. The new diaphragm materials enabled the driver's raw high frequency response to be very smooth and so allowed us to finely tune the upper-mid and high frequency response of the headphone using the front damping components.

The LMC (Layered Motion Control) diaphragm is our special recipe for a polymer-gel-polymer diaphragm. The main reason we use it is to dampen the bending modes of the diaphragm. Bending modes abruptly affect the equivalent surface area of the diaphragm as well as possibly contributing to distortion. In the case of the X2 driver we have a composite type diaphragm, meaning that the diaphragm has different components. We use the LMC material for the dome of the driver, and single layer polymer material (same as X1 driver) for the torus. The bending modes of the dome will affect the frequency range approximately above 8kHz, so the LMC is benefiting that range and helped make it smoother as was our intention. While we found that for this size driver we preferred not so high mechanical damping for the torus (suspension) and kept it the same as the X1.

When I speak about the damping components in front of the driver I'm referring to the configuration of holes in the speaker plate that sits in front of the driver including the 'felt' that covers two of the holes. This has changed slightly since the X1 i.e. thinner 'felt' and less of it, and compared to the X1 we also have a smaller hole in front of the driver's dome.

These changes to the damping components took place during the many rounds of tuning, as we tried many different options and unanimously preferred this configuration during our blind Sound Quality Process tests (we talked about this process when you visited last year).

This design change, and the changes to the driver are related to the different responses that you observed between the X1 and X2 including the dip at 6-8kHz and the increased energy above. These changes deviate slightly from our previous sound target curve for a large circumaural headphones. Which goes to show that despite all of our efforts on highly accurate simulations with the aim to design our headphones to meet our current target curves, the listening part of the development cycle is a stage that still throws up some small surprises, and is essential for refining future target responses.

So there you have it, numerous very pointed and careful adjustments have been made evolving the X2. But there's an undercurrent of meaning that I'd like to draw your attention to with that last bolded bit.

During my visit to Philips Research Labs quite a bit of time was spent pointing out their efforts to include blind testing of a wide variety of listeners. They spent a great deal of time developing software tools to survey unsophisticated listeners about their listening preferences, which included methods meant to ensure listeners were accurately reporting their experience. They've developed software tools to train and grade audio acuity for both the public and internal listeners (who have access to a much more comprehensive training and evaluation program than the Golden Ears training tool available to the public on-line). And while measurements and computer modeling are used heavily in the development process, it's the blind listening evaluations that steer the end product.

I have to add here that I've seen similarly intense and careful efforts at Harmon and Sennheiser. The approach is methodical and scientific, but the focus of attention is on the subjective listening experience and not on measured performance. Measurements certainly play an important roll in the process—having objective target responses is considered an important engineering goal—but in the end, it's what the ear hears that counts.

If I might interject a personal note here, it occurs to me that while in the process of evaluating an unnatural product that's developed empirically by subjective impressions (headphone audio coupling is very artificial compared to listening to sound propagated through air), we're likely to find that headphones that sound good have measured response plots that are far from elegant. What I mean by that is we're very unlikely to see a generic target response curve that looks simple at all. And that makes my attempts at performing objective measurement analysis very difficult. I'm going to have to do a lot of learning.

I suggest also that other advanced enthusiasts doing measurements needs to be particularly careful not to let your own developing understanding of the measurements become a confirmation bias of sorts tainting what you think you hear. This experience has served as a wake-up call for me; I get a bit lost as I try to correlate the things I hear when switch between the X1 and X2 with the things I see in the measurements other than in a few very basic ways. (Course EQ changes, bass problems below the primary driver resonance, for example.)

Worse yet, when I mention my perception of this difficulty with the Philips engineer, he first agreed that my perception of the problem was probably correct, and then went on to say:

There is some logic that there will be slight changes to the target curve for a measurement on a dummy head for different headphone architectures (e.g. big vs. small, open vs. closed). This is easier to think about when you consider the difference between an insert earphone and a headphone. You'll probably recognize from your own measurements and listening that an accurate sounding insert earphone vs. a similar sounding headphone will have a significantly dis-similar dummy head response. In a related way there will be differences, though much more subtle, between different headband type headphones depending on the size of their front cavity and cushions, the position of the driver and the associated acoustic impedances (open/closed headphones may have significance).

On top of that there is inter-person ear drum response variation due to the physiological differences in their ears (which is fine when designing speakers based on measurements in the freefield because our brains are calibrated to our own ears, but cannot be ignored when considering a headphone design based on measurements at the microphone position of a dummy head). These human ear variations are most significant from 5kHz and upwards. It should also be noted that most dummy heads have a limited accuracy at high frequencies with respect to how they represent the acoustic impedance of a human ear.

We are trying to justify these points more quantifiably in our current research. Harman has done some commendable published work in this area, but there are plenty of angles still to explore, including the effect of different sized architectures and acoustic impedances of the components and non-linearities of the systems involved. From our experience I suggest that there is not a pressure magnitude/frequency dummy head measurement curve that fits all headphone architectures that is a perfect target to satisfy all. Hopefully we'll be able to share some of our research on this with you soon.

And sorry to say, I do believe this makes your job (and ours) of interpreting headphone responses a little more difficult.


So...I guess we better go to the next page and get on with the listening tests.

1600 Summer St.
P.O. Box 120015
Stamford, CT 06912

ManiaC's picture

Thanks Tyll for review!

BarbecueGamer's picture

I trust your opinion over any other. We both have the same tastes, I have always agreed with you. So, I was hoping you could make my decision much easier. I'd greatly appreciate it if you could please tell me which headphone do you think has better sound, the NAD Viso HP50 or the Sennheiser Momentum?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Personally, I like the HP50 better.
Bryan B.'s picture

Thanks for the review of the X2, I was just wondering in regards to the X1's... They have that magical bass (IMO), that overpowers everything and makes EDM so much fun (as I thought the treble still had that sparkle).

If I get the X2s will I lose that overpowering bass or can I still EQ it? It was just weird with the X1s I will go to work the next day and still be rocking to a bass signature from last's nights track, which I have never had before with a headphone.

-Gast-'s picture

Im not the one you asked, but a short opinion on the Viso: Its great sounding but i dont like the quality of the headband adjustment. Mine made nasty clicking sounds on one side (not the mechanism itself, the part where it should be attached and not move moved a little causing noise and made me think that it will brake there someday) and the part that slides in the headband seems to be a little weak. I got marks/scratches on mine at the sizes i set them.
I sent them back mostly because of that issue with the cracking mechanism. Sound was fine. I would go for Momentum/Urbanite now.

kuzami's picture

Urbanite>Momentum for me, if you don't mind the slightly bass-heavy sound.

NADscratch's picture

i own the hp50 and i personally really like it. the sound is really great. i do have to say that i have dropped it 5-10 times and (accidentally) tugged the chord out roughly a bunch of times. i am pretty sure the cable is damaged, but i haven't tested it yet. it comes with two cables, one with in line volume rocker/mic, one without, so i could easily test it. i assume this because sometimes when i'm listening with it on my bike everything moves around and i get crackling noises/silence for brief moments.

i'm sure if you don't beat it up like i did you'll be fine though.

the Momentum is available in most stores that sell headphones, you should be able to test it.

also, of course everything comes down to personal preference, but i hate the way the Momentum looks.

castleofargh's picture

the video has some nasty noise, don't know what caused it, but I hope you find out before doing the next one ;)
appart from that, nice reading thank you.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Yeah, I know. It's actually a known bug in my Canon 7D audio...a friggen $1500 camera. We'll just have to live with it 'til I can budget for a new camera. I'm working on it.
SkylarGray's picture

Tyll, have you tried the Magic Lantern firmware?

You may be able to resolve the audio issues with it. I think you would also hear huge improvements by adding an external shotgun mic or a lav mic. Less expensive than a new camera.

You should be able to get great video on a 7D...but it needs some help beyond its stock config.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Tried an external mic, but it didn't work. That's when I did some on-line research and found the problem is a deep bug in the update to fix it as yet.
SkylarGray's picture

Okay, that sucks. Have you tried the ML firmware and playing with the gain?

pieman3141's picture

It's usually not recommended to plug in a mic into a camera. You can instead use a shotgun-ish mic (Rode is the cheap go-to option), point it at chest level, and use an external recording device like the H4N to get better sound. A lavalier mic will help greatly too, especially with knocking off environmental sounds.

Lawk's picture

Interesting cans! Don't own open headphones. Would still like to see new Philips A5 Pro DJ.

Side note: the frequency response graph says ATH-M50 vs M50X instead of Philips X1 vs X2. The graph seems to be right, I doubt M50X has such a bass drop off :P

avens's picture

Would you say this is the best low (more like regular) impedance headphone on the market?

mikeaj's picture

Tyll, if you run a sweep from 5 - 10 kHz, does it in your estimation sound like a notch, or are you finding yourself agreeing that the level sounds about right? Or at least, more right than the X1. Maybe the correct level is in between the two, but if so, I guess it's usually better to have a notch than a peak.

Also, I can't help but notice that the Oppo PM-1 and PM-2 have a notch in the same part of the treble. These are also said to be tuned by ear. Coincidence...? Don't think so. Probably. Maybe?

Jay_WJ's picture

You nailed it.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Maybe. I think I heard it, but notches are notoriously difficult to hear reliably due to all the resonances in the cans. Differences between my personal ears and the dummy head and small placement differences make it troublesome. But again, I did think I heard a softening there.
Jay_WJ's picture

Measurements do not lie. I do not agree that these measure worse than X1. I can immediately see the X2 WILL sound better to me than the X1. Both follow existing target curves relatively well whether the target is DF or OW, perhaps better the OW. BUT except the high-freq peak, X2's response at 5 kHz - 8 kHz is lower than X1. This is a critical band in my experience that makes perceived sound fatiguing if accentuated above the target curve. X1's curve is exactly like that. I would choose X2 over X1 any day ONLY by measurements.

Visigoth's picture

Tyll, how would this compare to the Sony MDR-MA900? Does the Philips X2 sound superior to that particular headphone?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Sorry, Haben't heard it.
Claritas's picture

It's so funny how coa and I noticed that.

X2 could be interesting though--with mods.

tony's picture

You must've adjusted your color balance a bit , still on 720p though , your colors have a nice darker contrast , voice still sounds like the mic is in a toilet paper tube , a tunnel kind of sound with a bit of echo .
The X2 review , welllll , we already have plenty of great transducers yet they keep working to improve on em , for $300 ? , greatness for less $$$ , things keep getting better and better !
And the old timers try to resurrect Vinyl from death ! , oh-dear .
I had access to the HD800 and it's matching 800 Amp at the Detroit Headphone Show , it was lovely , now I see why you love em so . Gonna have to sell-off my HD600 and go with the HD800s , never heard anything that good in my entire life , they're Hospital Grade Opiates , lushly smooth , a $3,500 or more investment . Once a person hears em it's gotta have em and no looking back , they sounded great despite the high noise of the event !!!
Hope you are well received at RMAF , people might be a bit edgy about your ascendancy , at such a young age too , rather new to be a respected Guru and not at all from our Industry's Roots in Tube Analog Audio , welcomed to Important Industrial Design Centers , listened to by Key Design decision makers , mc'ing important Seminars , your own TV Show bit with colorful wardrobe department . On top of all that , you're somewhere in Fly-over country where the Polar Bears chase down stray house pets and a Motorcyclist , oh-my , not even a Harley ! You own the "Wall of Fame" , I've heard it from a number of people . You da Boss not the X2s !!

Tony in Michigan

Long time listener's picture

Hi, I'm not sure why you say the square wave for the X2 looks noisier. Well, visually it "looks" noisier, but analyze it for a minute. It "looks" more like a square wave, since it has more of a square top, and while there are some ups and downs, if you look closely they seem to be actually lower in amplitude than in the X1. Visually, the broad ripples of the X1 wave "look" smoother than the tight zig-zags of the X2, but they're not. So your hearing is correct, and the measurements reflect it, I think.

DrForBin's picture


AKG fanboi here.

how do these compare to the K712 PRO.


Jazz Casual's picture

"If it measures good and sounds bad, -- it is bad. If it sounds good and measures bad, -- you've measured the wrong thing." :)

Impulse's picture

I gotta say I didn't expect Philips to have changed much (beyond the pads/cable), but I guess little tweaks can indeed go a long way.

I didn't think you'd end up gushing so much about them either, I almost jumped on the X1 recently (since they're back down to $220) but I'm glad I held off for this review.

I'm pretty excited to try the X2, did Philips actually confirm stateside availability this year? Think I read a rumor saying their US distribution was having issues...

I sure hope not, at $300 or even $350 I'd be all over these the second they're available on Amazon.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Philips USA told me they're slated for availability in Nov on Amazon at $299.
Impulse's picture

Thanks for the confirmation. I think I'll go ahead and order them right now on Amazon. They aren't in stock yet but they're available to order at $299, I imagine they'll ship whenever they're actually in stock next month.

I'm a little surprised they debuted these at $300, wasn't the price of the X1 higher at launch? Or was that just retailers going over MSRP due to demand? I remember the X1 were available for months in Europe before they showed up in the US.

I believe I read the sale of Philips' headphone/audio division to Funai didn't actually go thru, did that ever come up while talking with the reps and engineers you had contact with? I'm just curious here.

Elmariachi43's picture

Hey ive been using the hd600 through a RSA sr-71b with balanced cable. Do you think i would get better results from the x2 then The hd600 with balanced output? Thanks!

markus's picture

"... there is not a pressure magnitude/frequency dummy head measurement curve that fits all headphone architectures that is a perfect target to satisfy all."
Well that's why a parametric EQ is a MUST for everyone!! Kill your ear canal resonances. It makes listening by headphones so much nicer.

maricius's picture

Great review Tyll!!

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of reading headphone measurements… back to learning.

Also, when, if you are still going to, will you post the review for the Philips Fidelio L2? I'm very keen in hearing your opinion of them seeing that Jude and the guys at Headfonia have them in high regards, not to mention you also previously mentioned that they sounded quite a bit better than they measured.


valissax's picture

me too, please!!

alexnishi's picture

Hey there Tyll!

You said that the X2 has a tighter bass than the HD600. How would you compare the X2 to the HD650, which people claim to have a better bass response than the HD600?

Keep up the good work! You are a benchmark in this sweet i new hobby of mine.

Thank you!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I think the X2 bests the HD650 bass. It's a little more emphasized down low where it should be, the HD 650 really doesn't have any low bass emphasis.
muad's picture

Hey Tyll,

I am just about to preorder these as a replacement for my hd650, which I consider almost perfect if it weren't for the lack of bass. I was just wondering if the 10khz peak is causing sibilance.


alexnishi's picture

What is your setup sibilance? The HD650 aren't basshead phones, but aren't supposed to be lacking there either.

muad's picture

No, that's why i said they lack of bass. They roll off and thus have a lack of perceived low bass. Everything i have tried as replacements have sibilance. He500, k712 etc. The x2 have a spike at 10khz same as the aforementioned cans.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Maybe a little. The X2 seems slightly to edgy to me...but just slightly.
muad's picture

Ok, I am going to take a chance on these. Was disappointed with the he500 and K712 sibilance. Fingers crossed...

forkboy1965's picture

Thought you may want to fix such for posterity...

"slightly withdrawn do to the bass and mid-treble emphasis".... we need a "due" here.

Otherwise... very glad to read there is so much work being done on subjective listening tests. No doubt measurements offer a good starting place, but I wouldn't dream of buying anything like headphones without first listening to them and for as much time as a salesperson will give me!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
bronson's picture

"but in the end, it's what the ear hears that counts" amen to that for sure.

I've the X1 and love em - serious amount of HP for your monies - possible the best value open bk available currently?

Great to see Phillips pushing their envelope to bigger and better but for me, I'm going to pass on the X2 in hope of Phillips really going for a big win with something very special as you suggest - something extraordinary in the $600 - $1000 price bracket. I think there's definitely a baying market for such, just look at the fervour surrounding the SONY Z7 for that validation.

Thanks for this review and your YT one too on this new offering from Phillips.

ps nice shirt ;)

kuzami's picture

Hey Tyll, first I wanna say that I enjoy your reviews. Keep up the good work! Now, to my question. I am an electronic music producer, and I have been looking for a comfortable pair to use in the studio (composing, mixing and mastering, the latter two as a reference to my studio monitor speakers) as well as some home listening. I have been looking at the Focal Pro, but I don't think I could wear them for more than an hour straight. So, finally, my question: do you think these headphones will be suitable for my needs?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
As long as you can deal with an open headphone, sure. If you need sealed cans, I'd have a look at the NAD VISO HP50.
kuzami's picture

Okay, thanks :) I can definetely deal with open cans, I don't plan to use them in noisy enviroments, for that i have my V-Moda M100's.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Thanks dude for another outstanding write up. I love how you have incorporated items and discussion points from the recent threads around headphone profiling (data vs human eval vs mixture of both). I also appreciate your sharing the Philips engineers comments...the details around dummy-head measurement systems is helping me understand more about the challenges of effective data-driven measurement systems.

Quick question: is it safe to assume that the X2's will be easily driven by a portable player? I think you mention they are 35 Ohm. If so i think thats a pretty impressive accomplishment as you compare them to the HD600s (300Ohm)...thou the open cans are really not ideal for on-the-go use. hrmm. Hopefully this sound improvement continues for their closed and semi-closed lines (L2?..and maybe M2 if they make one?)

Peace .n. Living in Stereo


Tyll Hertsens's picture
They're pretty sensitive, and play plenty loud on my phone.
neo's picture

Great review Tyll!! What would you personally choose between the philips or an hd600/650 driven by an OTL amp such as the crack or woo wa6?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
With an equivalently good and properly matched amp I think I'd take the X2...but it's probably more about what you're looking for. While I really like the laid-back sound of a Crack and HD 600, I think the X2 gets things a bit more tonally correct.
balkanguy's picture

There R 3 main factors in good headphone design:
1) Sounds good with EVERYTHING (no 'fatiguing colorations'). This requires a smooth, descenting (from lows 2 highs) EQ curve.
2) Goes LOUD without distorting or changing sound 'signature' (mostly a factor of mechanical design like voice coil length &/or magnetic field uniformity)
3) Is EFFICIENT = goes really LOUD with power output available on N E typical cheap device, such as an average computer's headphone output.

Lastly, keeping in mind that many people have SIGNIFICANT hearing damage is important, because those people will tolerate just about N E piece of harsh, shrill, unbalanced 'balanced armature' krap in existence =)) I liken BA types 2 fans of metal dome tweeters or midrange drivers. They ALL sound absolute krap, VERY distorted-sounding, mainly from the odd breakup in the decay pattern. Doesn't matter if they can make a fancy square wave. They SOUND like trash. When designing 4 real human beings instead of fans of nails-on-blackboard madness, smooth is the way 2 go. EVERYBODY likes Koss Porta Pro phones. They have flaws = kinda' muddy, but 'nice with everything' pretty much. People can always add highs & roll off lows with EQ if they want. The SMOOTHNESS is the most important thing, & Y Koss PURPOSELY KILLS the performance of their cheaper Porta-Pro variants like the over-ears by using metalized drivers 2 fuk up the sound, much like Gib$on guitars will cripple it's lower end products just 2 separate the market & keep the 'people buying the price' in their pens. Don't B a sucker. IGNORE price. It has absolutely NOTHING 2 do with sound quality in the headphone market. This is a GOOD thing, because the Koss KEB15i, with a bit of redesign, is the best headphone on Earth & only costs about eight dollars now =))

Seth195208's picture're acting a totally MANIC, I will take your WORD and purchase the BPOE. They better B GOOD, DAMMIT!

exsomnis's picture

Hi Tyll, thanks for the great review, it's as detailed and informative as always.

Sorry if I've missed it but what amp did you do your critical listening on? I've actually done a quick audition with the X2s before this and while I did hear some hifi-ness in the mids to highs, on my iPhone the bass was so severely pronounced as to be unbearable.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I listened to them on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, A&K120, HeadRoom Max, and AURALiC DAC and Amp.

I think a properly emphasized bass does take a little getting used to (like any sound). I find I prefer that Harman low frequency boost after hearing it on a number of headphones (NAD VISO HOP50, Focal Spirit Pro, Shure SRH1530, ext).

SevenPlus's picture

How good did they sound on the S3? Are these good headphones to be used just with a mobile device for listening mostly EDM, or would you suggest something different (X1, ATH-M50x etc)? (I will be listening at home, don't need any isolation)

In the X1 review you mentioned that the X1 is "a really great headphone for EDM". Are the X2 "even greater" in this regard (EDM)?


Tyll Hertsens's picture
One note of caution here: I'm not a big fan of EDM or a cultural fit into the scene, so my esthetic values may make it impossible to answer you with is all subjective, you know. Frankly, I'd think most EDM listeners would prefer sealed cans that can do a better job of achieving sub-bass than open headphones. The real advantage of the X2 for many will be their excellent imaging...or maybe sense of space is a better word. The bass is damned good though on the X2, and I'm sure it will satisfy many folks wanting a better sense of thump than they get with measured flat bass response cans.

RPGWiZaRD's picture

Any chance you could have a look at the new Philips A3-PRO and A5-PRO sometimes? :) I've seen frequency response measurement on head-fi and it looks pretty good.

RPGWiZaRD's picture

And the headphone itself is nice, especially A5 accessory-wise with 3 choices of pads made for it and the headphone looks like built like a tank, yet looks very nice at the same time. Probably a headphone which can replace V-Moda M100 in WOF.

bronson's picture

Hey RPGWiZaRD, so ULTRASONE Sig DJ's not besting the Q40's for you bro?

I own & enjoy the A5Pro and agree that continuing the Phillips flow would be interesting to hear Tyll's impressions of the Armin Van Buuren collaborated A5Pro offering.

Not sure if A5Pro will do it for you though as it doesn't have the kind of bass centric sound signature of the Q40 or that matter the Sig DJ's. I find the A5Pro far more nearer to neutral sounding in the bass dept.

RPGWiZaRD's picture

Yea, I ended up now going back to Q40 and probably will put up Signature DJs for sale sometimes soon. They did provide technical improvements, especially in terms of soundstaging and airiness. But for my taste the Sig DJs were slightly too bright / mids slightly too recessed. I'm looking for a fullbodied, up-front and bassy (punchy) sound. The Sig DJs got very close with the added foam I put in the cups to balance out the mids/highs but the comfort/fit issues and the fact that Q40 seems to entertain me just as much and possibly slightly more (works better with badly mastered music), decided it for me.

I'm personally looking for the "punch" characteristics in bass, the digiZoid ZO amp can boost the bass pretty nicely. You know the kind of invisible sound like standing near a "drumset" and feeling that impact of every drum hit. Both Q40 and Sig DJs do that well.

sszorin's picture

What is your PERCEIVED volume drop of the middle frequencies ? Are the mids of X2 mildly or moderately recessed ?

MarkThompson's picture

I've actually been quite happy with my Philips Fidelio X1, think I might get the X2 too :)

Mark Thompson

MarkThompson's picture

Though I have to say they are a bit too tight in my opinion, or maybe it's just that my head is too big, not sure.


funambulistic's picture

Perhaps some, ahem, "moderation" is in order...

hutnicks's picture

IT's banHAMMER time:)

Man is that dude going to be embarrassed when he gets back on his meds and reads what he posted

luisriva's picture

I'm in line waiting for Amazon to start selling these headphones... Thank you for this deep review.

Spy's picture

Hey Tyll, thanks for another great review.

How would you compare the sound experience of the Philips X2 vs NAD HP50 ?

Which headphones do you prefer to listen to (let's assume in a quiet enviroment where sound isolation doesn't matter).

ar's picture

I'm not Tyll, but I much prefer the X2 sound to HP50. Though I put a ton more hours into listening to X2.

Go somewhere where they would have both... though I failed to find a place that would have both - it's been a while.

Dizzy's picture

My thoughts on both of these: Overall, Fidelio X2 are the better headphones for detail, soundstage, and musicality. They are, however, ever so slightly coloured in their presentation. They're also less neutral with a bit more bass emphasis.

In comparison, HP50s are very neutral, very uncoloured. The HP50s do nothing wrong, but nothing wows you either. They do it all well in a very fatigue-free package that is also portable, closed, and easy to drive. They're fatigue-free because they're just pulled back a little on mids and trebles, ever so slightly veiled, if you wish. It's exactly what you want if you want headphones for work, because they are so fatigue-free and because they still sound good at quiet volumes.

HP50s are great for commuting and work and only a small step down from the X2s. I'll choose the X2s at home any day of the week however because you just enjoy every song with them. They make me enjoy music that I thought I didn't like.

They're also direct opposites in build: The HP50s are compact, light, and plasticky, whereas the X2s are huge, solid, bulky metal things that would make you look like a fool in public.

Neither is bad. Both outdo both my Bose QC25s and my old Sennheiser HD595s.

Mad Lust Envy's picture

Tyll tends to have very, very similar tastes to mine (nowadays), and his compensated graphs is among the best at giving a very good idea on a headphone's sound (it hasn't let me down yet).

Looks like the X2 is my next headphone. That detachable cable (I like to add a V-moda BoomPro mic cable for gaming), the fact that it's open, not pleather/leather padded, and warmish bass sold me.

I really liked the X1, but it's fit wasn't perfect, and the bass was a bit too loose. Looks like they fixed the two biggest issues I had with the X1. I also like that they attenuated the 5khz-9khz range, as that is definitely among the worst areas in sound to have even moderately emphasized. If any treble range deserves a peak, it's 10khz, not anything before that.

I think the X2 is going to be a HUGE win for Philips.

DaveinSM's picture

Great to see that they fixed all the issues with the X1. Maybe it's the skeptic in me, but the alignment pin and hole in the new replaceable ear pads are to ensure that we have to buy the replacement pads from Philips and not an aftermarket 3rd party pad maker.

lr99gt's picture

Hi Tyll,

Long time reader and this thread finally made me decide to post. I have already purchased the NAD HP50 based on your recommendation and have really been enjoying them. Previous to that I had a D 1001 Denon which recently broke so I am looking for another set. I have narrowed my search down to these 3 and would like your advice since I cannot audition these myself:

Philips X2 ( Do you prefer this to the NAD HP50? )
Oppo PM2 ( is it worth the price jump over the x2? )
Pandora Final VI ( have you had a listen to these? Reviews sound interesting )

I realize the last is sealed which doesn't make or break it for me. Comfort and sound quality are important. I would like something with a slight bass boost. I also want something that can be amped with my AQDF since I use it from my laptop mostly.

Any advice is appreciated!

Thanks Tyll!

DiRo's picture

Hi, These X2 seems like a great value considered comparable for 1/4 less. Was reading though the comments unless I messed it was wondering how these compare to the HE-400 now HiFiMan have dropped them to exact same price at $299? Thanks

Jazz1's picture

Thank for the review. I'll have the X2's on my hot little ears this Sat. Great way to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend. They are going to sit right next to my HD-650's.

macauley86's picture

Has anyone had the chance to compare the Fidelio X2 and the Sennheiser HD 598 for both music reproduction and comfort over extended stretches of time?
Thank you

Jazz1's picture

New headphone fever here! I'm sure it is probably too soon to give them my best opinion. But, I have to say they are very comfortable, and the self-adjusting feature of the leather headband strap is much appreciated.

My ears fit nicely cushioned ear pads. I'm still going to give a slight edge on comfort to the HD650's, but I think these will loosen up on the clamping force and may equal them over time. But the clamping force of the X2 does not bother me. You don't want them falling off your head while grooving to the excellent sound.

They are lighter than I imagined when hefting them in my hands. But the HD650's feel lighter on my head. Not a complaint. I also own the Blue Mo-fi's and nothing in my collections is going to feel heavy compared to them.

Build and hardware quality are good, not great. Not even close to my B&W P7. I see a little white/silver metal or glue showing through where the headphone ring hits the speaker housing. This is a little disappointing as the marketing pictures gave them a Porsche persona. Also the Blue Mo-Fi's "industrial" metal beats these for an extra $50.00. that said the X2's aren't going to fall apart when compared to the build of the aforementioned headphones.

When you think about it, it is amazing what an extra $100.00 can get you with the P7. The leather is of higher quality on the P7. I know leather as I used to work in a shoe factory many years ago (Frye Boots anyone?) However, none of this ultimately detracts from the great sound of the X2. So I won't bring them to the Gentleman's smoking and single malt club ;) So don't chastise me for appreciating materials and quality control. The X2's may become my favorite based on sound alone.

Using my desktop rig at the moment. PS Audio GCHA and Musical Fidelity M1 DAC fed AIFF files from my iMac. I'll try my IOS devices later this afternoon.

Let me just say that Jackson Browne sounds great on these. Listening to "Running On Empty" and "You Love The Thunder" are bringing me back to Jackson's 70"s concert in Iowa City, IA sans the burning leaves smell ;) Los Lobos' "The Road to Gila Bend" has very rich guitar and the drums sound great, all without drowning out the vocals. Little Village's "Inside Job" sounds rich and balanced.These headphones really entertain!

Jazz1's picture

These sound great driven only by my iPhone 6. The guitars on Greg Caquico and Russ Freeman's "From the Redwoods" blew me away. Sonny Landreth's work also surprised me.The drum beats on Chrisette Michele's "Blame it on Me" made me look down to make sure I hadn't plugged into my desktop rig. I don't think I've heard better sound from any of my IOS devices.

Tyll your review is right on. Now I finally own one of the "Wall of Fame" headphones. Thanks!

carlosodze's picture

Hi, great review, i was about to pull the trigger on a soundmagic hp200, but now i am not sure, do you thing the fidelio x2 is worth the extra 100? i would like to buy from a bigger brand than soundmagic though....
thanks for information.

robertbratosin's picture

i dont understand the freq response here on your tests because recording to your tests the focal pro have much more sub bass and bass than fidelio x2 or x1 and you say that focal pro is very very neutral ?? than u say that x1 /x2 have more bass than q701 ,but in your test the q701 is far superior in sub bass than x1 or x2...damn, i miss something or what ? thanks

Suboceanic's picture

Tyll how are you. I hope you are great. Very nice review.
Do you find the sound of the X2? Fun to hear? Are the highs reicive?
Thank you!

nOiZepHyZiX's picture

Hi Tyll, Thank you for your great analysis of the Fidelio X2! I love my X2s, but unfortunately have come across a physical issue with them - The hex-bolt attachments at the base of the headband are starting to come loose - they look like they can be tightened, but disassembly looks a bit tricky. Might you have any access to resources available (assembly drawings, insight, etc...) for assisting in self-servicing these bad boys? Shot in the dark here, but figured your place held some hope with at least a point in the right direction to tackle this issue. I also have high-mag photos of this issue exposed if you're interested. Thank you!

audioauthority's picture

I found out about these headphones by reading a review on Amazon. It made me laugh out loud so I googled more information and found this site:

Now I know everything needed to purchase this product. Thank you to the great reviewer on Amazon and Mr Tyll also.

Mr Tyll your review is wonderful and very in depth.

Thank you.

AndrewG's picture

The X2 sounds like a phenomenal midrange open headphone. I have closed midrange cans that I really like (NAD Vido HP50's) but I'm wondering Tyll if you think it would be worth it to invest in an open pair for home use. (I primarily use the HP50's at work - I have a very desk-oriented desk job, if you know what I mean.)

Perhaps you could do a short article doing a comparison of open and closed designs at different price levels and for different use cases? That would be useful!

ILoveMusic's picture

Hi Tyll, hi Everyone :) Thank You for Being :)
I have the CAL! for ca. 8 years - and I love them until today. One year ego I bought the CAL!2, because many reviews were like: "the CAL!2 are better than the CAL!" or "CAL!2 are a worthy successor". But I send them away... too much low frequency (for me), and not so natural sounding like the CAL!.
Then I read Your review "Like a Boss". I bought the X2. And... I don't know... (I compared them ca. 20h – rock, metal, blues, jazz, pop, electronic, reggae, rap, …). Reason ? Maybe it’s out of habit, or maybe it’s because my music source ? (I’ve got only a mp3-player: Sansa Clip+, but in my opinion it’s a good one).
Some suggestions ? Tyll ? Anyone ? :)
Thank You for any answer :)

Shane Revis's picture

own a Zune 120 and I use the Zune Pass music subscription with it. To my knowledge, there is no way to get a portable amp to work with this Zune. Because of that, I am limited to low impedance headphones. I am currently using the Grado SR-60i, which I consider to be about the best portable headphone (but definitely still just an "entry" headphone [as opposed to mid-fi or summit]). But I was recently introduced to the Philips Fidelio X2 headphone, and it seems to generally compete with the Sennheiser HD 600, which is recognized as about the best mid-fi 'phone. The Philips Fidelio X2 is low impedance (30 ohm) and supposedly sounds decent un-amped with portable players.

My questions are these.

Is this the only low-impedance (un-amped, portable decent), mid-fi headphone in existence? If not, what are the names of the other headphones?

My Zune 120 files are 196 kbps WMA quality. Is the Fidelio X2 too high quality to make files of this quality sound good?

Is the Philips Fidelio X2 a HUGE upgrade in SQ (highly noticeable to the common hearing man) over my Grado SR-60i? After all, the Fidelio X2 ($300) does cost quite a bit more than my Grado headphones ($80).

Thanks, Tyll!

I'll be VERY grateful if you reply!

Shane Revis's picture

The first sentence is supposed to say, "own a Zune 120 and I use the Zune Pass music subscription with it." The 'I' must have gotten cut off somehow.

ar's picture

There seems to be a problem with the pads on X2.

Lots of YT videos of people leaving the X2 on paper and coming back to a purple ink stains in a few min.

I had my X2 swapped because of this. Was hoping it was a "bacth run" issue of that they would have fixed a problem, but it's back.

Tyll, they clearly aren't listening to end users. Could you hit up your connections at Philips? Such an amazing product. Such a small flaw. Would be a shame if that wasn't fixed.

Happy to provide more feedback, to get this fixed.

Nexusforbes's picture

Hello Tyll, might I ask if you have heard any good news re. the Fidelio X2 challenges? I follow your great programs from overseas. A friend asked my opinion on these, but with all the negativity....

May I elaborate for a moment?

Ok, to start. Not everyone can purchase their goods at Amazon. Not all have got the time nor the financial means to - I'm paraphrasing here - buy at least five or six pairs of phones before arriving at ends journey. Heck, I won't live that long.

My concern with the Philips Gibson X2 package is that pads seem to be glued as standard issue globally rather than a once-off run gone bad. I wanted to buy them. I wanted to recommend them and I still do...sort of.

This reduces in my opinion the life span of the product. More, having contacted support division at Philips here in Europe, they demand that these phones were not detachable, never have been, never been a problem solved from the X1 era etc.

In Norway as products carry 3-5 yr warranty periods with full new product replacements or service to equal standard. But to what standard? When confronted, Philips claim " the gluing of the pads is a feature rather than a hick-up, the inking must have been once-off and that "it is mainly an American concern, dealing with typical U.S. reselling not common in Europe."" Horse manure, I say!

Sales support went so far as a total deniability of the existence of detachables at any time on the X2. Now, I happen to come across your excellent 2014 "pads detached" photo and after having viewed you review of the, at the time, new X2, I need to ask if you had a retail sample or an early version? Detachable pads are honorably mentioned on the original retail box, marketing material in the store, but sales rep doesn't want to break the seal.

Albeit, we have sturdy warranty policies, store returns are HIGHLY frowned upon. So this is actually quite important. There is no grace period. Also, I have lost track of the number of pads I have replaced on my now decade-old Sennheisers, extending the lifespan. Silly me, I actually entertained the idea of swapping them out for these X2 beauties. I still hope I can, but I don't want to invest in a company who only wants to shortchange me in return.

What is true and what is not? Have you guys heard anything of an X2 v2 or an X3 anytime soon?

Avid fan of InnerFidelity in Norway.

TheFox's picture

Philips posted an official statement concerning X2 issues on their support forums early this year.

- Ear cushions are fixed by glue in individual batches:
In an attempt to improve the manufacturing process, glue was added to the pins which support the Philips Fidelio X2 headphone’s removable cushions. Acoustic testing showed that this did not impact sound quality, however this modification proved excessive leading to some cushions not being detachable from the headphones in individual cases. For that reason, it has since been removed from the production process.

Maybe you should send the person at Philips who claims the pads should never have been removable that link...

Martin.'s picture

Where in Norway? So good to know I'm not the only one. I recently bought these from Elkjøp for about 100$ and what a bargain! You won't find a better product for that price. Btw, the pads on mine are detachable. I tried.