Have you heard some great and some not-so-great things about the X2 open back cans? Do they seem too good to be true? Does their performance actually live up to the positive feedback they’ve received so far? Can they be used in multiple settings such as for listening to music AND as a gaming headset?
The first iteration of the X2 received pretty mixed reviews from audiophiles, gamers, and casual listeners. The new and improved X2/27 model we’re covering in detail here has garnered the attention of many previously unsatisfied owners – in the best way possible.
Do they offer significant improvement on previous open back cans from Philips, or are you better off skipping them and heading straight for a lower-priced model? Keep reading our Philips Fidelio X2 Review to have all your questions answered!
Philips Fidelio X2 Review – The #1 Open Back Headphone?
Features & Technical Specs:
- Circumaural (over-ear) headphone design
- Open back ear cups (for a wider soundstage & added ventilation)
- Memory foam ear pads (covered in velour)
- Airy hammock with 3D mesh headband design
- Includes 1/4″ adapter
- Connectivity: Wired (detachable 3 m cable)
- Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 40 kHz
- Impedance: 30 Ohms
- Driver Type: 50 mm Neodymium Dynamic
- Dimensions: 4.33 x 7.48 x 9.05 inches
- Weight: 13.44 ounces
Before you move on, take a quick look at the links below that you can use to navigate our review. Each section will provide an in-depth analysis for each individual performance aspect.
Here are the 5 most important performance features you’ll want to consider before making your decision:
- Build Quality & Design
- Comfort & Ventilation
- Sonic Performance – What To Expect
- Sound Demonstration
- Who Are These Perfect For?
Now that you’ve taken a quick look at the technical specs, let’s start by examining two of the most important features – build quality and design.
Build Quality & Design
The build quality and design of these cans borrows various elements from other ‘phones – but with a twist. When you pull them out of the box and hold them in your hands, you’ll notice a few things right off the bat.
For one, you’ll notice that both ear cups are fully constructed with a solid metal. The outer grills that cover the 50 mm drivers are also made of metal. The metal mesh covering the drivers feels very durable and sturdy. They also have the holes you’d expect to see on a pair of open back cans.
The headband is also metal with a smooth sliding adjustable function. The combination Philips went with on the headband is similar to the Audio Technica wing-tip support as seen on the ATH-AD900X. As you can see in the picture above, there is a 3D mesh strap attached just under the leather-covered metal headband.
3D Mesh Hammock Headband Design
They call it the 3D mesh hammock. Sounds comfy right? The strap that’s attached to the 3D mesh hammock is made of durable plastic. You’ll notice there is mesh on both the top and bottom of the hammock where the headphones will sit comfortably on top of your head.
The main purpose of the mesh hammock headband design is to ensure there is an even distribution of weight, which we’ll cover in more detail below. On the inside of the headband, just above both respective ear cups, there are left and right indicators.
Complete Lack of Protruding Wires
Another refreshing twist on the overall build is the lack of any visible wires protruding from the headphones (other than the headphone cable of course). The wires that carry the electrical signal to each ear cup are completely hidden, which is a feature that’s not commonly-seen on other similar cans.
Although it may not necessarily have a huge effect on their overall performance, it definitely adds to the clean and sturdy industrial look of the X2. Is the included headphone cable sturdy, or will you have to replace it?
Headphone Cable & Things To Consider (For Gaming)
The included headphone cable is 3 meters (about 9 ft.) long and has the standard 3.5 mm connectors on both ends. You will also receive a 1/4″ adapter for connecting to compatible devices like the Audioengine D1 or other desktop amps if needed.
There is also an included cable clip that you may or may not want to actually use. Regardless if you decide to use it or not, it can be helpful for managing the cables extra length.
If you decide the cable is longer than you’d like – you can easily switch it out with any other 3.5 mm cable you’d rather use instead. Using a standard 3.5 mm cable was a good choice because proprietary cables can make it hard to find a replacement when you need to.
One of the most common complaints about proprietary cables (Sennheiser to be specific) is that you can’t just use any other cable as easily as you can with the X2 (or other similar ‘phones). There is no in-line microphone or other button controls.
Side By Side Comparisons
Overall, in terms of build quality and design, these are easily among some of the most well-built headphones you’ll ever hold.
Many users agree that when compared side by side with the Sennheiser HD 600 or HIFIMAN HE 400I – these are considerably more well built. This applies to not only their sturdy and reliable build, but also how it factors into comfort as well.
The main drawback to their durable build design is that it does add more wearing weight. Despite their open back design, it’s important to keep that in mind if you’re used to wearing ultra-lightweight open back cans. This leads us right into the next section – how is their overall comfort & ventilation?
Comfort & Ventilation
The extra wearing weight will be more noticeable if you’re used to wearing lighter open back headphones like the Sennheiser HD 598 SR. Does it cause so much discomfort that they become completely un-wearable after an hour or two?
It might, if it wasn’t for the even weight distribution made possible by the 3D mesh hammock headband design. For example, if you were to remove the mesh hammock and let the leather-covered metal headband rest directly on your head, that would turn into a much more serious issue.
If you’ve ever worn a pair of Audio Technica R70x, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the headband design used on the X2. (The main difference being these are more comfortable.) In terms of aesthetic preference, you may or may not prefer the amount of space between the top band suspended quite a bit above the mesh hammock.
Although it has very little to do with sonic performance or comfort for that matter – some listeners factor the outward appearance into their final decision just as much as the other performance aspects.
Memory Foam Ear Pads – Are They Replaceable?
Another great feature that these cans have to offer is their memory foam ear pads. (Yes, they are replaceable.) If you do decide to replace them, they should come off pretty easily when you gently pull them apart. There’s no need to twist or turn and excessively tug at them in order to remove them.
While the ear pads are circular and not quite as roomy as other ear cups you might be used to, they provide plenty of room and cushion for most ears. Although they do have a tendency to heat up the velour covered ear pads should stay comfortable during longer listening sessions.
A lot of the time, issues with ear pads heating up to the point where you’re forced to take prolonged breaks varies from person to person. Let’s say two people are wearing the same exact pair of headphones. While person A has to take a break due to sweat build up, person B is still completely comfortable.
We don’t all sweat the same amount during a run or other workout – and a similar concept applies here. (If the ear cups made everyone’s ears drip with sweat then they’d be 100% responsible.)
Too Much Clamp?
Overall, the X2/27 have a solid amount of clamp. They don’t produce an unnecessary amount of pressure on your ears or the top of your head. Whether or not you agree 100% will largely depend on your personal preference, although in most cases the clamping force is adequate.
The combination of solid, but comfortable ear cup clamp plus the 3D mesh hammock and plush ear cushions works extremely well at creating a long-lasting and comfy listening experience. How do they sound? Keep reading to see a detailed breakdown.
Sonic Performance – What To Expect
To start off, these cans are very easily powered with or without an amp due to their low impedance. Making the 50 mm drivers come to life is as easy as plugging them directly into your smartphone, laptop, or other portable DAP. (That being said, you can always further amplify their volume output and depth by pairing them with an appropriate DAC/amp.)
These headphones have slightly angled 50 mm drivers that tilt back just a little bit. They were positioned this way to more accurately direct the audio waves towards your ear canal. Does the angled positioning help, or fall flat on its face? Once you read the detailed breakdown below, you’ll have your answer. First, let’s take a closer look at how accurately the lows, mids, and highs are represented.
Lows – Accurate or Distorted?
When you first listen to a track that has any bass at all, you will immediately notice a clean low end presence. You’ll also notice that it’s much tighter and more refined than you might be used to. The fact that it’s tighter and more refined doesn’t mean that it’s too compact or tightly contained. (Think much more spacious and detailed than the punchy, compact bass response that the Sony WH1000XM2 produce).
It has also been pointed out that listening to certain tracks with a stronger-than-usual mid bass performance can cause the low end to slightly ripple through the rest of the mix. This ‘ripple effect’ doesn’t muddy the rest of the track, but it can very slightly bleed into the mid-to-upper frequencies.
Mid Range & Acoustic Instruments
As far as the mid range goes, it’s nice and smooth, but not exaggerated or overstated. It sits comfortably between the bass and treble without trying to fight for more attention. You’ll also notice how the vocals and other acoustic instruments (acoustic guitar, piano, strings, etc.) sound strikingly realistic.
When the vocals and other acoustic instruments sound this authentic, it definitely adds to the spacious and true-to-track soundscape that you’re probably looking to get from a pair of open cans.
Highs – Are They Crisp or Piercing?
The extremely crisp highs you’ll be able to hear in the sound demo below are very well proportioned and lack any semblance of a grainy response.
Some users have even gone as far as to say that the sonic performance of the X2/27 rivals the playback of the Sennheiser HD 700 (which cost almost twice as much).
Detail Separation & Sound Profile
Even if the lows, mids, and highs perform well individually, without some strong detail separation, their individual performance matters much less. These cans have excellent detail separation that’s especially noticeable when you’re listening to multi-layered tracks.
Even on tracks where the bass is at the forefront, you can easily hear each element distinctly represented. Tracks that feature instrumentation that pans from left to right further showcase the impressive detail separation you can expect from these cans.
It’s also important to point out that the actual sound signature of the X2 is almost on the verge of v-shaped, but not quite. When each frequency is clearly represented without being overshadowed, it’s hard to box them into the v-shaped category. (This will be clearly demonstrated in the sound demo below.)
If these didn’t have the slightly more elevated mid range that they do, they might fit more neatly somewhere along that spectrum. On top of that, if the low end wasn’t as clean and refined as it is – they would probably have a darker-leaning sound profile. What you get instead, is a fairly bright and extremely lively audio experience.
As gaming becomes more and more popular, it would be a mistake to not mention gaming performance in this review. For some, open headphones are the preferred style of gaming ‘phones since they tend to produce a wider soundstage.
The spatial atmosphere created by excellent detail separation (and a bass response that’s as wide as it is deep) make these a top performing pair of ‘phones for gaming. Instead of hearing the footsteps, sound effects, etc. around you – the X2/27 bring games to life.
You’ll be able to hear extremely detailed footsteps, explosions, and other sound effects happening within the game. The spacious soundscape adds to the effect that you’re actually inside the game, not just playing.
The only downside is that there isn’t a built-in boom mic. If you do plan on using these for gaming, you can easily trade the cable for a BoomPro Microphone like this one from V-Moda on Amazon. Aside from the lack of a microphone for playing on Live or streaming on Twitch, these cans excel in the exact areas you’d need from a gaming headphone.
Sound Leakage – More Than Average?
No matter what pair of open headphones you use, a certain level of sound leakage will always occur. Some leak sound more than others, but no matter how you try to spin it – they leak regardless. It’s only a downside if you plan on wearing them in crowded areas.
People around you will be able to hear more of what you’re listening to (that is, more than average). Some open cans don’t leak quite as much, but you’ll want to be aware that these ones aren’t recommended for use in public. (Unless you don’t mind answering questions about what you’re listening to, or what kind of headphones those are.)
You’ve read our take on these cans, but it’s hard to beat an actual sound demonstration. The video below is an almost-perfect representation of the audio playback you can expect. (Almost-perfect since you are listening to the demo on headphones or speakers so it can’t be exactly spot on.)
Watch the sound demo below to hear how they perform (you might want to check your volume before you press play):
What do you think? Can you hear the crisp detail separation and wide bass response? Did they sound as good as they claim to? Take a look at our final recommendation below to see who these cans are perfect for!
Who Are These Perfect For?
It’s extremely hard to find open headphones with such a sturdy build that’s matched by an impressive sonic performance. If you’ve been researching sub-$300 open headphones and haven’t been able to find what you’re looking for – the X2/27 definitely have a lot to offer.
The only minor downside worth mentioning is the added wearing weight due to their durable build materials. That, and the fact that they don’t have a built-in microphone, which will most likely only matter if you’re looking for a new gaming headphone.
Overall, the highlighted low and high end performance plus a smooth mid range creates a spacious atmosphere that’s hard to beat at this price point. Far above-average detail separation and a durable design that rivals cans costing nearly twice as much makes these ‘phones an easy Top 3 contender.
You can see our final pros/cons checklist and overall rating by taking a look at the review table below. If you’re interested in trying them out for yourself or checking pricing info on Amazon, click here.
We hope you enjoyed our Philips Fidelio X2 Review and that you found the information here helpful! If you have any questions about any of the features we covered, feel free to ask your question below. If you want to share your experience with your current favorite pair of open headphones, drop a comment below!
Thanks for stopping by to check out our review, we hope you enjoyed!
Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves.
Philips Fidelio X2/27 Open Back Headphones
Build & Durability9.5/10
- Spacious Soundscape That Works Well For Listening To Music or Gaming
- 3D Mesh Hammock Headband Design Provides Extended Comfort
- Extremely Well-Built/Durable Headband & Ear Cups
- Very Distinct Detail Separation
- Powerful Low End That Doesn't Overshadow The Rest Of The Track
- No built-in Microphone (Only a Con For Gaming Specifically)
- Slightly Heavier Than Your Average Open Headphone
- Velour Ear Pads Can Tend To Over-Heat In Some Cases