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…