Before you read on, know that the Philips Fidelio X3 wired, over-ear, open-back headphones are for those that appreciate music – not those that are happy with their regular Bluetooth cans. So, with that in mind, let’s look at what makes them special.
First, they are audiophile-grade and, for the price, probably offer the best sound for your buck. Second, they are very comfortable, and the hammock style headband and deep velour ear cups make it so. Third, with a DAC and hi-res music, they perform as well as headphones twice the price.
And finally, they are a keeper – a well-made premium product. But you may have to seek them out as we could not find them at the usual CE suspects – JB, Good Guys, Bing Lee etc.
Philips Fidelio X3
3-metre, oxygen-free, 3.5mm (and 6.3mm adapter) to a separate 3.5mm cable going to each cup. 3-metre 2.5mm, balanced TRRS (Tip/Ring/Ring/Sleeve) to 2 x 3.5mm Balanced TRRS
Means sits over, not on the ear, for limited noise isolation
Allows for a wider left/right separation and sound stage
Total Harmonic Distortion <0.1%
98dB at 1mW
5Hz to 40kHz
Capable of reproducing hi-res, lossless audio
50mm Neodymium drivers tilted at 15°
Muirhead Scottish Leather hammock style headband Acoustically transparent Kvadrat fabric means no pressure Memory foam ear cups
Quite big but not overly heavy at 380g. I love the leather headband over an alloy matte black frame and the Danish charcoal Kvadrat knitted fabric shell. The memory foam cushions are thick and luxurious (and replaceable). The clamping force is surprisingly light, so it is suitable for long sessions.
They are for relaxing in your favourite comfortable chair where you can immerse yourself in your favourite music. You buy these to listen to music as it was intended free from all manner of processing, compression, or trickery. The sound signature (we will come to that later) is totally neutral.
So, audio content is the key. If you play crappy MP3s, then that is what you get. If you play hi-res content via a DAC (digital analogue converter) or Balanced output, that is what you get.
Being open-back, they are not for travel on the train or plane as they leak sound (as they should), and there is no real noise isolation. They don’t fold up or have a hard travel case.
How do they sound?
The maximum volume via 3.5mm cable from a Surface Pro 8 was 80.8dB. Using an Astell&Kern PE51 USB-C DAC on the Surface Pro took that to 86.6dB. We could not test the Balanced TRRS implementation.
The native sound signature (white noise generator) using the DAC (ignore the white line)
And the 3.5m cable below (ignore the white line)
Several things stand out using the DAC over a 3.5mm port
It is a lot louder
It produces a far flatter frequency response (neutral) from 100Hz to nearly 10kHz
Bass is strong building from 20Hz to 100Hz (3.5mm starts at about 50kHz)
Sound is more ‘composed’ with negligible if any distortion (3.5mm loses a little coherence from about 2kHz)
The DAC is the only device you should use with Hi-Res. We tested with PCM 24-bit, 44.1kHz and 32-bit/96kHz, and the results were superb.
The sound stage is wide (as expected), and the left/right separation and transition is excellent. Being open-back, you hear the sound around you – not inside your head like closed-back.
The Philips Fidelio X3 has a highly accurate neutral sound signature that neither adds nor subtracts from the audio source, but please use a DAC- any DAC – for the best results.
We note that a few older reviews suggest sub-bass (20-100Hz) is lacking, and treble can be sibilant. Rubbish! I suspect these reviews used 3.5mm and not a DAC.
As these are cabled, the latency is close to 0ms. Gamers would like that, but they don’t have a mic.
I am an amateur audiophile, unlike our departed Stephen Dawson, who lives and breaths this stuff. So please excuse any foibles as I try to live up to his standards.
I have tested a few Sennheiser audiophile headphones, including the Sennheiser ie900 ($3,000) reference buds, HD 560S entry-level audiophile ($320) and the HD 660S ($800). I would place these well above the HD560S and slightly below the HD 660S (mainly due to these being 260g and using a balanced port).
That is high praise for Philips Fidelio X3 – the best cabled headphone it makes. These are great value that makes an amateur audiophile without pretentiousness, smile.
You have to remember that these are specific purpose, open back, cabled, hi-res headphones – so we are not comparing them to closed-back cans or Bluetooth wireless noise cancelling.
As such, they exceeded all my tests presenting as well as headphones nearly double the price.
Philips Fidelio X3 wired, over-ear, open back headphones
The Philips Fidelio X3 are the best cabled headphones it makes. These are great value that makes an amateur audiophile without pretentiousness, smile.
Value for money
Ease of use
Reasonable price for audiophile-class, hi-res headphones
Quality, very well-made and finished
3.5mm and Balanced inputs
Comes with 3m oxygen-free braided cables
Neutral sound signature and a vast sound stage
Slightly heavier but nonetheless very comfortable
You should use a DAC (at extra cost) and Hi-Res music to get the best out of these
The best sound quality for the price
Fabric slip-cover does not fasten
No 4.4mm Balanced adapter
Remember its audio quality is directly related to the source content audio quality