Philips is one of the most famous brands in the world when it comes to anything technological, and audio equipment is something it absolutely excels in, with countless ranges across its headphone department. Whether it's wireless bluetooth earbuds you're looking for, or over-ear, open-backed audiophile headphones like the Philips Fidelio X3, which is the set that I've had the pleasure of testing for the last week, How does this successor to the X2 — launched almost six years later — fare? Will the Philips Fidelio X3 make it onto our guide for the best headphones (opens in new tab)? Let's find out.
Type: Wired (2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 6.3mm jacks)
Sound output: Dynamic
Compatibility: PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, mobile
Impedance: 30 Ω (Ohms)
Frequency response: 5 - 40,000Hz
Before you even get a glimpse of the headphones themselves, inside the box is a note explaining how the headphones use "fine Scottish leather" from a company called Muirhead. Sure, the Fidelio X3 is a premium device at £300/$350, but as someone environmentally conscious, it's certainly not necessary. Faux leather could've had the same result but for those who care about that sort of thing, know that some serious thought has gone into the quality of the exterior materials.
Both the inner and outer headbands are connected to the frame which has a sleek, gunmetal grey finish on the perfectly circular ear cups. Within that is a cloth fabric that is almost tweed-like, continuing the Scottish theme. The thick cushions on the inside are lined with black velvet, completing the look of perhaps one of the most gorgeous headphones on the market.
Connectivity-wise, there's not a lot to talk about. The Philips Fidelio X3 is wired, but rather than just having one cable from the headphones to the source, instead it has two 3.5mm connections on the bottom of both ear cups. These go to either a 3.5mm or 2.5mm jack, though it comes bundled with a 6.3mm adapter too. The cables are 3m and while too long is always better than too short, this toes the line of being too long, and the included cable clip is a little useless. Since the X3 is aimed at audiophiles, there is no mic option, though they work splendidly playing games that don't require voice comms. If you need a mic and perhaps some fancier immersive virtual surround sound features though, you might want to check out our guide to the best gaming headsets (opens in new tab).
The Fidelio X range has always been about deep bass clarity and just like the previous X2HR did half a decade ago, the X3 delivers on a silver platter. For testing, I kicked things off with Hans Zimmer's Time, from the Inception soundtrack. Volume cranked up to full, the gradual bass background beats sounded truly epic, with goosebumps kicking in somewhere around the second minute when the other instruments joined the fray.
Over to AWOLNATION's Sail now, a song with repeated bass-heavy thumps, and as expected, the driving bass is almost quaking. Paper Moon, from German duo Booka Shade, provides a more electronic-inspired bass that resonates throughout almost the entire song. It was like there was a warehouse rave happening inside my head.
Away from the bass now and to a song I wasn't familiar with going into this testing; Feel Like Going Home by Muddy Waters. The reverberation of Waters' powerful lyrics could probably be felt by my neighbours, but I ran into the first notable issue; the clarity of some lines could be improved. While the instrumental sounds were clear as day, songs that rely on a mix of vocals can have lyrics that are hard to make out.
To test out a mix of everything, I used Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous by Good Charlotte. This song has a lot going on at once and again, some lyrics were obscured behind the punchy drums and crashing cymbals. Finally, Renaud Garcia-Fons' Aljamiado — a song that has utterly captivated me since I first heard it — is full of string instruments, each one captured vividly through the X3. There's a deeper bass undertone throughout too, which is balanced excellently against the higher pitched notes that take centre stage.
It has to be said, the Philips Fidelio X3 is magnificent. Typically, I'm not fond of open-backed headphones due to how loud they are for others in the room, but if you can blast the tunes without disturbing anyone else then Philips have the headphones for you. I've been able to wear them for 8-10 hours a day without any discomfort; they're light, airy, and have a snug fit atop the ol' noggin. Closed-back is still my preference, but this is some seriously premium audio quality at a mid-range price tag. You can't go wrong.