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The Fidelio X1 by Philips

As flagships go the X1 is more mid-fi than hi-fi or summit-fi so to speak given its launched in and around $300 and with a street price now of around $250 now or even less, so it sits squarely against the likes of Sennheiser’s HD600/650, AKG’s K550/Q701 and the mid-range Grado 325i to name but a few. It is a hot spot in the headphone price range and there are plenty of competitors out there. I would hesitate to say it competes with the more portable $200 range cans like the HD25-1 II and the DT1350 but then again they are all competing for your hard earned cash in one sense or another but given the X1 is an open can and quite large one at that the portability issue is less of a factor when considering whether to buy it or not.

Comfort is the operative word also when slapping on the X1 to your noggin. It is deceptively light on the head despite it’s somewhat bulky appearance and the whole fit and finish is a class above what I normally expect at this price range. True enough the Momentum eschews class also but what distinguishes the X1 from the others is the actual comfort levels particularly around the ears. With the Momentum there is this odd type of cup design that never quite sits right on my head after prolonged use whereas the X1 pads opts for a more AKG K550 type approach being more circular and definitely over the ear with a slight tilt inwards for less downward pressure. The velour materials of the pads are also quite soft and combined with the tilting balance makes this open headphone an excellent choice for prolonged listening without discomfort or sweating which can be the sticking point of some cans. Of course being an open back headphone there is next to no isolation on offer so commuter options are not on the table for the X1.

In terms of durability I don’t see too many weak points in the construction of the X1 apart from the non-replaceable ear pads which is a bit of a shame since prolonged use on velour will invariably mean at some point the need for replacement pads and a change in tonality if they start flattening out. Avid users of the X1 might want to chime in after a years use to let us know how their own pads have aged and changed. I do think though these are pads that will last if well looked after unlike some other ones that flake (plether) or just wear out pretty fast like Hifiman pads used to.

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What you can replace though is the cable which is a thick and long and well designed looking nylon cloth covered cable with a pretty nice little metal motif and terminated both ends with a 3.5mm gold plated plug with an additional matching quarter jack. Sounds perfect? Well looks perfect but sounds not so perfect and the reason, now pretty well agreed on by most, is the impedance of the wiring used in the cable itself. This is the X1 weakspot since the impdeance sits of the cable is around 1.8ohms to 2ohms in most unofficial measurements meaning there is a degradation in sound quality with a slight increase in cross-talk and muddier bass response in general compared to lower ohm rated cables. Yeah that is a shame for such a nice loooking cable but thankfully Philips have saw fit to make the cable detachable and terminated at both ends with a regular stereo 3.5mm jack meaning other cables will indeed fit that have a lower rating. I tried it with my v-moda 3.5mm from an M80 I had lying around and true enough the bass tightened up a notch, less muddy and thin and better separation so that’s a plus. You dont have to buy a v-moda cable by the way, any $5 3.5 to 3.5 or 3.5 to 1/4 will work just fine.

Click on next page for sound impressions…

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