Philips Fidelio X3 Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis

Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.

As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible. Yes, it sounds like a paradox haha. For all tests, I connected the Philips Fidelio X3 to an amplified source such as the SilverStone EB01-E and EB03 or Audioengine HD3. These configurations will reduce its potential to be a limiting factor in our auditioning.

After over 50 hours of break-in time -- well above typically required period -- we put the Philips Fidelio X3 to the tests. All tracks are FLAC, high bitrate AAC, or LAME-encoded MP3s.

I typically do not spend more than a few days doing technical listening with most headphones I test, but I found myself putting on the Fidelio X3 almost every night in the last month or so. I found them to be particularly interesting to listen to, because there is always something surprising with the way they sound or deliver music that are inherently familiar to me. You need to spend the time to break the Philips Fidelio X3 in to get the most out of it, and its sound signature will require some getting used to. And on that note, let me first start off with the sound signature.

The Philips Fidelio X3 is what you expect from audiophile-grade open back headphones: Neutral, balanced output with an acoustically pleasant, natural, and realistic frequency distribution. However, what I found particularly interesting is in its midrange and treble. The midrange, in particular, is standard and neutral almost to a fault; those who prefer a warm, thick, and saturated midrange like the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless are better off, well, getting the Crossfade II Wireless. This, in conjunction with the X3's sharp treble, is a bit more sibilant than what I am used to. If you are sensitive to sibilance, while the X3 is well within the acceptable range, made me feel like these headphones are much better off playing back instrumental tracks or Cantopop than English language songs -- the latter due to the way English words sound.

Let us start off with the bass as we break down the frequencies. The lower end is everything you could expect for good quality, balanced bass. It is deep and solid. Kicks with a kickdrum sounded round, smooth, and punchy. In every other instrument, the low frequency output is well-defined and well-articulated. I only have great things to say in this area.

I alluded to the midrange when I discussed the sound signature. Vocals and instruments in this region were natural and clear with a good range. However, the saturation, richness, and thickness were mostly standard with no surprises. One thing to note is snare drums did not sound very dynamic upon the strike of a drumstick. I have a big preference for fully saturated and warm midrange outputs, so this is where a lot of the Fidelio X3's sound signature differs from my personal preference.

One big highlight of the Fidelio X3 is its awesome treble. The clear, bright, and crisp output made it incredible for instrumental music, especially for those who appreciate string instruments. Anything involving percussion like a cymbal or hi-hat was sharp, tight, immediate, and crisp with a sparkling touch as well. The remarkably clean and wet treble carries a lot of energy and I was impressed in almost every way. The only aspect I see room for improvement was a slight, but noticeable, lack of solidity and depth when metal is being hit.

Here is the part you have all been waiting for: The Fidelio X3's soundstaging. These are open back headphones, and I will confirm that these have a super wide soundstage. I am going to say it again. It is super wide. There is massive depth and width, where all dimensions are extremely well-defined. You just have to experience it to understand. You will not be disappointed.

Closing off with the auxiliary auditioning results, the imaging of the Philips Fidelio X3 was very realistic; staying true to the original production or recording. The layers were precisely produced with a perfect amount of detail. The resolution was nearly perfect across the range, as it picked up practically everything and anything in a quality encoded track. If you think you know your music, listen to the tracks all over again with the Philips Fidelio X3, and you will simply find it a totally new experience as you may discover things you have never noticed before.

Deriving from this, the frequency separation was excellent. Again, every detail was almost perfectly reproduced, thanks to its clear, high definition, and clean separation. At the same time, the entire spectrum was cohesive with no transition effects, making it sound exactly as it should. I was also very impressed by how clean the sound comes out to be. It is hard to get much better than this.

Overall, the Philips Fidelio X3 are incredible audiophile headphones for those who want to enjoy music at home without bothering the entire family. If you find its sound signature acceptable, which I understand is not everybody's preference, these headphones are very appealing in many ways. Do keep in mind these are open back headphones, so those in close proximity to you will still be able to hear what you are playing and are intrinsically not designed to block out external sound.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion