Philips Quietly Killed Some Amazing Headphones

My favorite headphones for home music listening aren’t long for this world

Alex Rowe

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Philips Fidelio X2HR headphones lying on a desk mat.
Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

This article was originally about one of my favorite headphones for home-based music listening — the next overdue installment in my “These Headphones are Too Good” series.

However, it all fell apart during the research phase. Before I write about a tech product, in addition to hours and hours of testing, I go and gather official marketing assets, including links to the official page for the product. It was during this process that I discovered a sad truth:

The Philips Fidelio X2/X2HR headphones have probably been discontinued.

If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a long-held standard bearer of the open-backed headphone world. They have a slightly ungainly design with stylings that would be just as home in 1990 as the modern era — but the sound performance is simply legendary for the price. Years ago, Harman’s own Dr. Sean Olive told me that Philips did similar audio research in-house as that which produced the Harman target curve, only they didn’t publish any papers about it. This research was then used to develop all of Philips’ higher-end headphones.

The resulting X2 was one of the most enjoyable-sounding headphones you could buy. It had a wonderful blend of accuracy and fun. It was neutral and flat enough to appease audiophiles, but with some little sprinkles of extra bass detail and width that made them wonderful for casual fun listening. Their performance in the $150 price class was super impressive, standing proudly alongside other greats like the more analytical Sennheiser HD560S or the beefier HiFiMan HE400SE.

Now, the big headband design and the open nature of the headphones made them best suited to the home. Thankfully, they used a totally non-proprietary headphone jack connection, making it easy for users to plug in their own cables or even third-party boom microphones for gaming.

It’s killing me to use so many past tense words in this piece. I sat down earlier today ready to write a love letter to these headphones, not a eulogy. Philips makes all kinds of tech and industrial products, so their headphones can be a little hard to dig out of their…

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