Top positive review
13 of 13 people found this helpful
Hats off Philips!
on 3 January 2014
I have been searching for the ideal headphone for years. Recently I sold my HD800 after trying to live with it for a long time. Before it I had T1, GS1000, D5000, Ed.8, HD650, Z1000, K701/702 etc. I tried them all, I sold them all (apart from Ultrasone Signature Pro and Ed.8). They're all great headphones but they all have flaws.
Enter X1 from Philips. Comfortable, not GS1000 (my favourite comfort-wise) or HD800 comfortable but comfortable enough, large cups, no contact points with your ears, no bumps or pressure points in the headband. As usual it will fit better smaller to average heads but larger heads can find a comfortable fit as well with a bit of bending.
X1 looks amazing in the flesh, probably better than any of the headphones on the list above (although Ed.8 might take the crown if bling is your thing, otherwise X1 is definitely the best looking headphone in my collection, HD800 included).
It's an open headphone so it leaks a lot of sound and vice-versa, you need a quiet environment to enjoy it. Don't even think about taking it out. Not only it will fail to block any outside noise but it will look ridiculous on your head because it is big. Bigger than GS1000, bigger than T1, big.
X1 runs alright from an iPhone but in Philips tradition it's not the most efficient headphone on the planet so while you might not need a Phonitor to make it sing it can certainly do better than a notebook / phone output. The source is, needless to say, equally important so lossless recordings will sound better than mp3 and a proper dac / player better still than the odd sound card / phone output. I first tried it on a friend's iPhone with some low bitrate metal and I thought "blah, wasted money". So do not judge it until you give it the best signal you have at home.
We are of course getting to the most important part of this review: how does it sound? And considering the rating you will probably expect another (boring) FOTM rave review. Well, not quite. X1 is actually nothing special. K701 is more transparent and has a better soundstage. HD800 furthers the distance with a breathtaking transparency and detail. T1 has a lush, pleasing sound, D5000 has an amazing bass and the most natural timbre reproduction of all the headphones I have had so far, HD650 has a very refined and easy presentation - there is so much to like and so many areas where each of these headphones shines and betters X1. But then K701 is uncomfortable and lean on bass. HD800 is cold, analytical and bass light as well, T1 is nothing special, D5000 has a mediocre treble and poor soundstage, HD650 doesn't rock etc.
So back to X1. It can rock but it can do classical or acoustic as well. It is open and transparent, with a good soundstage but, unlike most open headphones, it has the bass heft and impact of a closed headphone. It is neither bright nor veiled, neither artificially exciting nor boring. It is a fun headphone (Kraftwerk for instance is a pleasure) but with a hi-fi pedigree. It does a wonderful job with films as well where the hefty bass, transparency and good soundstage work wonders and in fact if there is an application where I prefer it hands down over any of the others, HD800 included, it is movie watching. I would expect gaming as well since it's more or less the same thing. For critical listening of critical HDTracks recordings X1 could never match the surgical precision and transparency of a HD800 however it is always enjoyable, it has no major flaws, it delivers whatever the genre.
Money no issue, I would strongly advise an audition of HD800 first although as good as it is, it isn't an enjoyable headphone at all in my experience. Every time I try it, I am amazed. Five minutes later I have to put it down whatever the source (think Naim NDS, Weiss DAC202 etc) or amplifier (SPL Phonitor, Ray Samuels The Raptor, Violectric V200 etc) because something is invariably missing. I never thought much of T1 and never understood its fans. Ed.8 is also a fun headphone, by far the best performer with an iPhone, but at a price. GS1000, like all the other Grados before (I had 60, 80, 225, 325) is not my cup of tea although maybe the best headphone of the group for low level listening. D5000 would certainly appeal to a basshead, it has a lot to offer but ultimately has some serious sonic flaws as well.
Down to a more comparable and relevant price range, I would certainly recommend X1 as a universal headphone, particularly for gaming / movie watching / electronic / acoustic music listening. For classical the refinement of a Sennheiser HD6XX or the transparency and huge soundstage of an AKG K7XX might appeal more to some ears but none of the two will be as good at so many things or as universally fun to listen to.
Considering the latest price drops (to about 150£ and even less on several occasions) where HD650 sells for over 300£, X1 is in my opinion a no brainer. Even if it won't impress, it certainly won't disappoint. It does almost everything right, just not as well as headphones costing 4 times more.
Distorsion and all the other stories mentioned in other reviews? Nonsense. Use a decent source and good recordings and you will get very respectable results. Experts also recommend using it with a lower impedance cable rather than the very nicely made but flawed factory cable for better transparency / detail retrieval at the cost of a slightly brighter sound. I didn't try this myself yet but considering it's a detachable cable with a standard mini jack I probably will do in the future. Meanwhile I am enjoying it every day. Less can be more indeed.