The Fidelio X1 by Philips


Disclaimer: I received the X1 sample directly from Philips Asia.

Ah, the Philips Fidelio X1 headphone. I’ve had it for almost two full months now and I’m guilty for not having published this review sooner. From the first moment I listened to the X1, my impression have been very positive. Weeks go by where I didn’t listen to the HD650, mainly due to this Philips. I’m not saying that this is a better headphone than the HD650. It’s really hard to say since the X1 is very new and the 650 has been tested for years. However when you look at the positives of the X1, not only does it sound very good in a review like this, it also sounds really good when you are listening to it. Take the warm and full sound of the HD650, add top end air, add pace, snap and attack, and you’ve got the X1. All without losing the bottom end weight and punch. Sweet.

I did go back to the 650 once or twice during my few weeks with the X1. And although I’ve always knew that the 650 is a slow headphone, my ears have somehow adapted to it during the many years that I listen to music through the 650. It’s not fast, but I didn’t really feel it to be slow. After just weeks with the X1 however, I went back to the 650 and there it was: that slow, sluggish sound that felt a little veiled. The X1 by contrast was a lot more snappy especially on the top end. A lot more airy than the 650, and very clear sounding. Of course, if air and clarity is what you are looking for, it’s pretty easy to find such characteristics on many other headphones. The Beyers, the AD-Series Audio Technicas, the Grados, you don’t really have to wait for the X1. Definitely there is something more being offered here by the Philips.

If you were there during the K701, DT880, and HD650 era years ago, you know how we used to fight over which of the three was really the best. People like the 880 for its clarity, detail and speed. The HD650 camp however, always found it to be lacking warmth and low end body. Well those two camps can now make peace as the X1 combines the strengths of the Beyer and the Senn, meanwhile the K701 camp now have the K550. With the X1, Beyer people should not be calling veiled anymore, and the Senn crowd should be equally happy as this headphone does have a worthy low end.

Of course if you like the linear top-down clarity of the DT880, which some people call unreal since bass doesn’t sound as clear in real life as the DT880 portrays, the X1 would still sound a tad less clear and less articulated. Likewise on the other hand the Senn crowd may complain that the treble is still a tad too much than what they’re used to on the 650, and that the mids aren’t as smooth as the 650, and that ultimately bass impact still wins by a few percents on the 650. So, this is about making compromises. And yet, while most “middle ground” headphones often fall sounding flat and dull, the X1 happens to be a successful blend. Ignoring the good adjectives I throw at it, the X1 is most importantly an enjoyable headphone to listen to.




I wouldn’t have guessed how the X1 came out with this sort of a sound signature. The L1 which was the first Fidelio headphone, is really nice with its laid back sound, good bass with a clean and black background. The X1 is in no way similar. Though a bigger headphone is usually more laid back than a smaller one, the X1 is more forward than the L1. It doesn’t have the L1’s black background and the sound of the X1 is actually quite grainy like the HD650 and DT880. It does sound bigger than the L1, and it does sound more HiFi so in that regard Philips have done the X1 right. But the bottom line is that with the X1 and the L1 we’re talking about two completely different sounding headphones. Interestingly, the sound character of both Fidelios seem to back up their form factor. I would go for the X1 when listening to music at home with a nice desktop amp, but the L1 seems to be the one I prefer sound-wise when I’m on my portable system.

Again comparing it to the HD650, I still feel that the Senn scales up higher than the X1. It just have more resolution to it, despite the now “veiled” feel of the sound. Soundstage, though felt less open than the X1, is more proper on the 650 with better imaging and depth. Bass impact is still best on the 650, but the X1 comes very close in second place. So, not quite the end of the 10 years old Senn, but by the moment you add the other strengths of the X1, I think more people would find it easier to enjoy the X1 as it is a far less love/hate headphone than the 650.


More comparisons on the next page…


The Fidelio X1 by Philips
4 (80%) 4 votes

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  • MathH

    It’s really frustrated how the AKG K550 gets called a great sounding alternative to practically anything. Yes, it does sound great, but I never find a word of how they sound claustrophobic and have no position, separation or space. They may have some of it depending on your interpretation, but you can’t just compare them with open sounding headphones. It’s a completely different experience. Why do people not mention this or unconsciously change the way their words refer to its characteristics? You can’t put such different headphones next to each other and say it’s all a matter of sound characteristics but none of space and positioning.

    • Dave Ulrich

      Well, a closed headphone will never sound completely like an open one. However, I found the staging and instrument separation to be fantastic on the K550

      • MathH

        Will never sound completely like one is an understatement. It should be one of the most emphasized statements in any comparison of headphones. It is a COMPLETE different.

        I compared them to the Sennheiser HD 598 in a shop and there is zero space or separation compared to them. Yes, they are separated in the sense that anything which is not the same thing is in some sense necessarily separated, but it’s not the same as being in a space, relative to each other, whcih is simply put “not the case”. To be frank, I often thought they were shoddily separated at best, and I couldn’t hear the layers in any of the clarity as with the Sennheiser, although the sound signature as such was clearer (less darkish, veiled) than the Sennheiser.

        Let’s stop beating about the bush and just call it what it is. Since when is clarity of descrition not appreciated in that context? What’s the point of it? Here I mention it and immediately I get oh-so-clever wisdom of headphone-commonplaces (saying the same thing and a row of other remarks)… If one likes it (and aprt from that they do sound good) then fine, but that’s not the same thing. It is claustrophibic sounding and if I had bought it based on reviews I would be hugely disappointed.

        Cue in the blahbah…

        • Dave Ulrich

          Wasn’t trying to sound clever. I just have a very different impression of the K550 than you. That’s all.

          • LustEnvy

            I think the K550 is a horrible sounding headphone myself. 🙁

  • George Lai

    Out of curiosity, I removed the earpads. The driver housing has 4 plugs that plug (what else?) into holes on the earpad. They are then glued together. In my case, the glue doesn’t seem to be that strong as it gave hardly any resistance when I pulled the earpads out. Though the diameter of the driver housing is 100 cm, and hence similar to the Beyerdynamics, the housing has no lip upon which you could affix the Beyerdynamic earpads. The alternative is to use the said Beyerdynamic earpads, sand down the plugs, and then just glue them on. I might still do that as the Beyerdynamic velours are a lot more comfortable.

    • Interesting. Yes the Beyer pads are a lot more comfortable

      • LustEnvy

        But what will the swap do to the sound signature? Pad rolling isn’t always a good idea.

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  • Wid

    Mike, Need cheap camp recommendation for the x1. Currently I’m using fiio E17, any other cheap amp that you can suggest? Aune T1/X1 perhaps?

    • Dave Ulrich

      Mike has said that the Fiio e9k is wonderful with the X1.

      • Wid

        I already got the e17, just wanted something different and its also for my future headphone (akg k712 or hd650)
        Something cheap and practical, so my choice is aune t1/x1 or little dot mk1/ld1. Need expert opinion for my choice here.

        • The LD1 is not so good. The Aune is supposed to be good but I still haven’t had the chance to audition.

          • Wid

            How about the little dot mk1? Compared to the aune.
            Its easier for me to get the little dot than aune, and the mk1 is very practical like fiio

            • I have not tried the Aune, sorry.

            • I have not tried the Aune, sorry.

      • Yes the E9K is wonderful with the X1. The new version with the “K”

  • breizh

    hi Mike,

    how would you compare Beyer T1 with this one ?

    Is the Beyer in a complete different league ?
    What about bass comparison between the two ?

    thanks !

    • Clearly the T1 is leaps ahead in terms of technicalities. There is no comparison.
      Bass is fuller on the X1 but less detailed and slower.

      • breizh

        allright, thank you Mike !

        • You’re welcome!

  • vick_85


    Hi guys

    X1+HA 160D(have it). A good pairing or should I look elsewhere??

    I need a fun headphone with good bass response that doesn’t suffer with a lot of coloration, has good dynamics, and even response across the board with airy spaciousness,and the stuff in the mid-range shouldn’t get lost in translation.

    I like my headphones with ‘good’ bass, not the exaggerated kind served by beats/v-moda and other such cans. For me low bass quantity = no toe tapping=no fun.

    Bass being a tad loose what does that mean??

    Is the X1 a bright headphone??

    I’ve read on a few forums that the headphone jack tends to snap off, is it true or were they a few isolated incidents?

    The X1 will also be used by me at my work place where i have a Fiio E12 so it should work well with a not so powerful amp as well.

    My current reference headphone is the HD650 which I’m considering trading in for the LCD-2 rev2.
    How much better is the LCD-2 rev 2 compared to the HD650??


    • Lots of questions there.

      How do you like the bass on the HD650? The X1 has roughly a similar bass. The LCD-2 is good on the HA-160.

      • vick_85

        Thanks for he reply Mike.

        I do like the bass on the HD650.
        With electronica/hip hop its good but with rock/alternative, I feel it lacks weight/slam in the guitar & drums sections.

        Lots of people say the HD650 is a dark headphone but I don’t think so,I have the silver screen one. I feel its harsh in the treble section with some recordings & I hate harshness.

        I’m looking for a 2nd headphone which will primarily be used by me at my work place. It should be a fun headphone and it should work well with a portable USB amp/dac.

        The LCD 2 rev2 will replace the HD650 as soon as my wallet allows to do so.
        I’ve read in a lot of reviews about the LCD-2 & all of them rave about the bass, is it just the extension & definition it excels at or the weight & slam??


        • The LCD-2 sounds like the headphone to get yes. The treble is a little softer than the HD650. Rev 1 is even more.
          The bass part, yes on the extension and definition, weight and slam depends on the recording. But it’s one of the best now for bass.

          • vick_85

            Thanks Mike. Will go for the lcd-2.

            Any suggestions for a full size sealed headphone which will work well with a portable dac/amp.

            • Full size sealed, I think there are many to choose from.

              Fostex TH600/900
              Denon D600/7100
              Beyer DT770, T5p

              Just to name a few.

              • L.

                And the Beyer COP!

            • dalethorn

              The B&O H6 is very efficent, easy to wear around neck when not listening due to light weight and fold-flat earcups, very comfy, looks good wearing, great sound, …. My next favorite for portable is the Senn Momentum on-ear – needs a treble boost, quality is plenty good enough for portable use, comfort is great, looks good, easy to carry around neck – without a treble boost just ignore. Great bass.

  • ro

    First of all, thanks for providing this awesome resource. Very informative with the bonus of great writing style.

    I have the X1 and they’re fine when used with the microStreamer, but if looking at the portable Theorem 720 vs. HiFi-M8, which would really make the X1 shine?

    • Ro,
      I like the Theorem better, I think overall it’s the better unit and the one I’d go for, but I haven’t tried both of them with the X1.

  • Marc


    Which would you prefer more? The Fidelio X1 on the ALO PanAm or the HD650 on the bottlehead crack? Also, do the X1 make the HD650 sound slow and veiled even when the latter is properly amplified?

    I really can’t decide between the two and there’s also the fear that Philips or Funai would release an X2… Thanks!! This site had been a great help for me so far

  • John123John

    mike.. the ear pads are too small… gg qq

    • L.

      Are you George in disguise? 😉

      • John123John

        lol I dont think so. So does this mean I will have the same comfort results from the other fidelio line, espeically L2?

        Apparently I have a monster head and monster ears.. The elastic headband exerts too much pressure. The ear pads are both too shallow and too narrow…
        Time to start looking for a HE-500 or T90~

        • George Lai

          Lieven, no it’s not me in disguise. John, I agree. The X1 ear pads inner cavity are too narrow. They can be removed if you pull them off. You can experiment by trying Alpha pads, LCD pads, even Beyer pads. The upper headband can be bent, whilst the lower headband’s elastic at each end can be snipped off. All these were in my comments on head-fi with photos. But having said all that, and despite all that, there is something about the curvature of the overall headband that didn’t suit me. So I gave them away. The L2 has even smaller ear pads. I also gave that away.

          • George Lai

            I believe the HE-500 has the same ear pads as my HE-400 (Lieven has both) and I found them too small too. My he-400 uses LCD pads. I think the T90 has similar sized ear pads as the 770/880/990 (Again Lieven has them all I think) and the pads were also too small. My 770 uses Alpha pads.

            • L.

              George is right

  • David

    Hi Mike, which amp/DAC combo do you find better for the Fidelio X1? Audinst HUD-MX2 or Fostex HP-A3? Everybody says the Fostex has a very good DAC but a rather weak amp. Is that a reason to buy the Audinst instead?

    • Dave Ulrich

      I think he might recommend the Fiio e7k/e9k combo. It will take up about the same amount of space, give your a portable dac/amp as well, and is cheaper.

      • David

        Thanks, but I need an optical input 🙂
        I did a lot of research on amp/DAC combos and the Fostex and the Audinst are the two models that I consider buying, based on personal preference. I just need to know how the two compare in regard to the Fidelio X1 from someone who used all 3 products.

  • Will

    Hello Mike, I was wondering how these compare to the Hifiman HE-400? I am picking between these two headphones, which one does EDM, Rock and Roll, Soundtracks equally well?

  • Tibor

    So I own X1 for a few months now and recently I bought
    Meridian Explorer to make it sound better. Aaah and how better they
    sounds now 🙂 Now I am considering to buy Alo PanAm with those Siemens
    tubes because Explorer doesn´t have enough power to drive them. So my
    question is, will that amp take me to another level of hi-fi experience?
    I will probably use the Meridian as a DAC connected to Alo. Thank You

  • Elie Hendriks

    I have the X1 for quite some time now and I’m wondering how a tube amp would sound with it. I’ve always wanted a tube amp so reading this review made me very happy 🙂
    Now, I’ve always really really liked the look of the Woo Audio stuff so the WA6 comes to mind. Now my question is, will this be any better than the Pan Am? Because a 699$ amp for a 299$ headphone might be a little overkill for only aesthetic purposes..

    • L.

      I like the X1 (X2 is out now) but I didn’t find the WA6 to add anything to it really.

    • Patrick

      why don’t you go with the fiio e17 and the e09k? cost at the most places 299$ and you have a mobile dac and a nice little amp which fits perfectly for X1 and I hope for the coming X2.

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