The Low Down
The Philips Fidelio X2HR punches well above its weight at around $150, providing performance in line with some much more expensive headphones. The sound is full and immersive, with excellent imaging for what could be called a budget pair of headphones. The V-shaped signature brings a bit of extra bass to the party, which you’ll either love or hate, depending on what you look for in headphones.
Philips Fidelio X2HR
The Philips Fidelio X2HR is the successor to the extremely popular X2 model, which was initially launched in 2014. Philips managed to retain all the features that brought the X2 into the hall of fame as a budget open-back headphone that could satisfy audiophiles without breaking the bank.
Going into this review, I was already educated on what the X2HR brings to the table and how it got its reputation, albeit if much of that stems from the initial X2 release. So I was quite excited to see how my experience lines up. For this review, I used the 50mm driver version.
The Unboxing Experience
While it doesn’t impact the quality of sound you’ll experience, the unboxing process is always an exciting experience for a buyer, and feeling as though you’re getting a premium experience can go a long way. The X2HR doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. The packing is simple but effective. Inside the box, you’ll find the headphones, a 5m long 3.5mm auxiliary cable with cable holder, and a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter.
Solid Build Quality But Not Without Flaws
Once in hand, the Philips Fidelio X2HR feels sturdy with a combination of metal and high-quality plastic that results in a fairly weighty pair of cans at 13.4oz. Even though they have a bit of weight to them, they don’t come across as excessively heavy or influence the comfort much. With that said, those with smaller stature or who prefer a lightweight product may not be fans of the fit.
The way the headband is developed includes an elastic hammock that adjusts itself in relation to your head, meaning you don’t need to deal with adjusting the earcups; it adjusts automatically as you put it on. It also does this in a way that provides maximum comfort, and I find that I can easily wear these headphones for hours on end without any discomfort. Something to note, however, is that the velour on the ear cup collects fluff (thankfully, this can be easily removed by hand within seconds.)
The soft velour earcups aren’t the softest cups I’ve come across, and in comparison to the Sivga SV021, they are fairly firm. However, I didn’t find the extra firmness a problem, as the clamping force is still low enough to not excessively compress around your ear.
It’s worth mentioning that these are not small headphones; they are quite large and bulky, and even as someone who likes a big pair of cans, the Fidelio X2HR is pushing the limits but manages to still stay within what I’d consider a reasonable size format.
Even with the impressive build quality that the X2HR provides, there is a bit of an Achilles heel to this pair of headphones, and that’s the pivot pin that connects the earcups to the headband. You shouldn’t need to worry about this breaking during regular use, but if you drop the headphones, this is the most common point of weakness and where breaks usually occur. Thankfully, some gems on the internet offer some solutions.
A Versatile & Fun Sound Signature
One of the reasons why open-back designs have become more popular is due to the increased soundstage that the open-back style is known to create. But not every pair of open-back headphones has the same type of sound, and open-back headphones have a tendency to produce flatter sounds which are great for reference/music production but also often end up disappointing those used to traditional closed-back sound signatures.
That’s where the Philips Fidelio X2HR comes to the table. They capture the wide soundstage that open-back headphones are renowned for while at the same time bringing a more V-shaped sound signature to the table, with an increased bass response and a bit more brightness to the high end.
This type of sound signature lends itself to versatility as the increase in the bass is not only a positive for bassheads, but also for those looking to game with their headset. Open-back headphones with a balanced sound signature often don’t provide the same immersive experience for gaming because of their lack of bass.
The sound signature of the Fidelio X2HR isn’t better or worse than a flat response; it just depends on what you’re looking to get out of a pair of headphones. If you’re in the market for a flat pair of reference headphones, these aren’t what you’re looking for. Instead, consider something like the Beyerdynamics DT990, which is a bit more neutral but in a similar price range, or even the Audio-Technica MX50. If budget is not a concern, you could also consider something from the Sennheiser 600 series.
With all that said, if you’re after a bit more bass and a V-shaped signature, the Fidelio X2HR may be exactly what you’re after.
The Listening Experience
Given that these headphones operate at an impedance of 30 ohms, they are one of the easier open-back headphones to drive in its price range and should not require an additional DAC or headphone amplifier. Though I did find that my onboard sound with the MSI Z690-A Pro performed better from the front panel aux out than the main back panel. This varies between motherboards, so always try both your aux ports to see which gives you the best results.
I was impressed by the soundstage of the X2HR, especially for a headphone in its price range. It’s got a very wide sound, especially left to right. Front-to-back spacial sound is still great but is outdone by some of the more expensive models. The bass stands out immediately, too, with a punchy and clean sound. For a pair of open-back headphones, the bass is difficult to beat at this price point, particularly for how broad the low end is, without ever sounding muddy. It is worth noting that you aren’t going to get quite the same bass on the very low end of the response that you would with some pairs of closed-back headphones.
The mids are crisp and full yet also brilliantly separated in the mix, even when the mixing isn’t of the highest caliber. These headphones provide that distinct sound that we look for in a pair of open-backs sounding mostly neutral but, as stated, with some additional bass and treble.
While on the topic of treble, it must be noted that although the Philips Fidelio X2HR is a well-favored pair of headphones, those more critical of them typically have their issues stemming from the treble, where there are a few peaks and dips in the signature that if you’re sensitive to treble, could cause the feeling of excessive sharpness in this range.
Personally, there are a few cases where I have noticed pronounced treble, particularly in the mid to high treble range that isn’t ideal, but this is mostly dependent on the mix, and for majority of music and typical use, I haven’t been bothered by this but can sometimes identify it with some production.
It all comes down to the subjectivity of sound and how we perceive sound. For some, sibilance is rarely a consideration, while others severely struggle to listen to speakers with excessive sibilance. If you’re very sensitive to treble and find yourself easily annoyed by these traits, there are a lot of EQ presets available online that can help you tune them to your liking.
These headphones excel at creating an immersive listening experience and do particularly well with EDM, metal, and hip-hop. Though these are versatile cans that can do well with most music genres.
A Beast on a Budget
It’s often easy to compare headphones from different price ranges to bring attention to where the product could have performed better, but it’s also vital to take into account the budget and where they sit in the market. Sure, we could talk about Focal, Audeze, and even some of the more expensive Sennheiser models to show where the X2HR could improve, but when compared with other headphone models in the same price range, the list of products able to keep up with the X2HR drop considerably.
If you’re on the fence between the Beyerdynamics DT990 and the X2HR, the DT990 is a bit better for gaming, but if you’re going to be using it primarily for music, the X2HR can bring a bit more to the table, with a bit more versatility. Additionally, even with the peaks in the treble on the X2HR, they are still more forgiving than the DT990.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find open-back headphones with the same experience as the X2HR for any cheaper. There is a reason these speakers are considered the open-back budget king by many and have served as a gateway product for many budding audiophiles in recent years. You’ll also find that the X2HR is a pair of headphones that you aren’t likely to outgrow and will likely remain in your collection for years to come.