This is a headphone that has seen quite the hype train of late. And with them being in the Black Friday sales I decided to pick up a pair to see if the hype train is justified. These are the Philips X2HR and they are a Hi-Res audio certified, open-backed headphone with a 50mm, 32 Ohm and 100 dB sensitivity dynamic driver that retails for around £140 in the UK and $125 US. I paid £100 for these during the Black Friday sales to find out if they are any good, so let’s get into it.
Before we get too deep into this I just want to say that this is just my opinion. I am probably going to get quite critical about these headphones and part of the reason why is that the normal retail price for these headphones is quite high (on launch they were close to ~£300 iirc) and also because these headphones have been incredibly hyped. I do think that this headphone requires a critical look. Also, I should say that whilst I do have some serious reservations about these headphones, there have been grumblings online regarding inconsistencies related to both build and sound quality with these headphones. That in itself is enough to cause for concern, however, I can only report my experience. Now, no matter how harsh I get during this review I do have some mixed feelings about this headphone and will try and present a balanced opinion. Once again this is just my opinion about the X2HR, if you like or hate these headphones that’s fine, this is just how I feel.
Straight off the bat, it’s fair to say that the Philips X2HR are a large headphone. Its weight is a chunky 380g however it is reasonably comfortable despite this.
The suspension headband is very soft and comfortable. However, they certainly feel a little heavy on the head, perhaps due to both the weight and the high spring tension of the suspension headband. The main part of the headband is a pleather coated metal rail that extends above the head giving them a rather large and somewhat quirky look. This look is going to be polarising for a lot of people, and frankly, I find they look utterly ridiculous.
The ear cups are very large but that does allow for large and spacious ear pads which are really quite comfortable. The pads themselves are covered in a soft velour material, padding is deep and soft and feels like memory foam. The pads are held on with some pins and magnets and require quite a lot of force to remove. However, it is unlikely that you will find any aftermarket replacements that would fit these. I would normally say to stay away from aftermarket replacements as they would affect the sound negatively, however, if Philips does not readily make replacement earpads available then what is the point in making them removable? As I write this these pads are unavailable on Amazon and I can’t find another source for genuine replacements either. I have heard from other sources that they too have found it extremely difficult/impossible to find replacement earpads. How then, when these earpads wear out, are we meant to replace them?
The headphone is supplied with just one cable, a 3m long braided affair with a 3.5mm connector at both ends. The cable is also supplied with a rather cheap-feeling 6.35mm adapter and a cable tidy clip that whilst is a nice inclusion doesn’t seem particularly useful. The cable is long and stiff and frankly form over function. Rather than waste money on braiding this cable, it would have been better they supply a shorter cable for those who don’t need such a long and unwieldy cable. Wheres the love for coiled cables?
On to sound, well this is where I’m either going to get negative comments and thumbs down or praise for calling it as I see it, that this is an incredibly flawed headphone.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Soundstage is actually not bad, its not superwide but it’s not intimate either. Imaging, however, is rather poor, I did not notice much going on to the corners at all. For that reason, they are going to make a poor gaming headphone, at least for competitive gaming.
Bass is the party piece of this headphone, for an open-back, this is actually able to put out a decent performance in the bass. It’s big and full and has plenty of authority. However it’s not particularly articulate, is a little muddy and lacks detail.
Mids are, well, interesting to say the least. They have this weird little peak between 250-300Hz. However, remain mostly flat between 300 Hz – ~1.2kHz. Upper mids are rather shouty. Vocals are quite forwards and present, distorted guitars are harsh and piercing. Male vocals are good and forwards however, Female vocals have a tendency to sound quite shouty, sibilant and piercing.
Treble is rather peaky, grainy and unresolving. In fact, it’s fair to say the treble is the weakest point of the X2HR. On many tracks it is simply harsh, piercing and rather fatiguing to listen to. Many times I found myself reaching for the volume control out of necessity, finding the treble too harsh and having to turn down the volume. The big issue here is not that this is a bright headphone. Bright I can deal with, but this is just peaky, grainy, harsh, piercing, unresolving, lacking in detail, unrefined and not at all enjoyable. As much as I have several other complaints about this headphone, many of them are forgivable, but this rather poor treble performance is the real deal-breaker for me.
The Philips X2HR is an exercise in contradiction. The excellent looks off-the-head are offset by the quirky looks on the head. The sturdy build is offset by the rather heavy and bulky feel. The removable earpads are offset by the lack of replacements. The premium quality cable is offset by its stiff feel and microphonic qualities. The rather decent bass is offset by the peaky, grainy and harsh treble.
I wanted so much to like this headphone, but I come away from this review feeling so very disappointed.
In conclusion, I do not feel that the Philips X2HR is worth it for anything close to its normal retail price. However, for its Black Friday sale price, I can see them being a consideration for lovers of bass-heavy music such as electronic dance music and hip hop. However, even then I find it hard to recommend this headphone for its many other flaws.