Good sound at Low Cost: Philips TX1 and TX2 IEMs

The Philips TX1 is available in white and black for around $29.

Philips TX1 ($29.99) and TX2 ($39.99)
It's been about a year since I reviewed the very impressive Philips Fidelio S1 and S2 in-ear monitors. Though the earphone market has not changed radically in the past year, one area of steady improvement has been the performance of entry-level IEMs. Philips' latest budget in-ear releases, the TX1 and TX2, do not bear the Fidelio badge but still indicate a trickling down of know-how from the higher-end Fidelio products.

The TX-series earphones are already available online, priced around $29.99 for the TX1 and $39.99 for the TX2. At first glance, this seems to be about right—these earphones do not share the metal construction, fancy packaging, or nice accessories of the Fidelio S1 and S2. They stick instead to nailing the basics, which includes sound quality.

Design
Both of the TX-series earphones are built around large 13.5mm dynamic drivers—same size as the drivers in the Fidelio S1 and S2. The new models also boast a similar half in-ear form factor, which places the wide driver enclosure in the outer ear with an angled nozzle fitting into the ear canal. This encourages a relatively shallow fit that's excellent for anyone who dislikes the sensation of deep-sealing in-ear monitors.

The TX1 and TX2 are nearly identical in design—the biggest difference is that the TX1 features an all-plastic construction while the TX2 adds some metal trim with gold accents. The TX1 is available in pure black or black and white while the TX2 can be had in either black and gold or white and gold.

The earphones utilize identical flat cables with built-in headset functionality in the form of an inline microphone and single-button remote. Unlike "made for iPhone" 3-button remotes, these should have similar functionality with Apple, Android, and even Windows Phone 8 devices. I'm not normally a fan of flat cables, but the ones used here are lightweight and reduce tangling without producing much cable noise (microphonics), so they're alright by me.

Despite their plastic construction and light weight, the TX1 and TX2 are no more comfortable in the ear than the Fidelio earphones. The housings are approximately the same size and those with small outer ears may encounter soreness after wearing the earphones for a while. It also takes a bit of practice to get the nozzle angle right when inserting the earphones—I found them to work best with the strain reliefs pointed straight down.

Isolation from outside noise is average at best, and you only get the standard silicone eartips in S/M/L sizes in the way of accessories. Those who prefer foam or can't find a good seal with the included eartips will need to go aftermarket. Let's not forget that these are budget earphones, however—a meager accessory pack and mediocre isolation are not the worst concessions to make when the trade-off is great performance.

Philips_TX1TX2_Photo_TX2

The Philips TX2 is available in white and black for around $39

Sound
Budget in-ear earphones tend to be bass-heavy for a reason—it's what the average consumer of portable audio products expects. These latest releases from Philips are no exception, but they achieve good overall sound quality despite the enhanced bass response.

The quantity of bass produced by the TX-series earphones is comparable to the last sub-$50 in-ears to seriously impress me, the VSonic VSD1 and VSD1S. The bass is strong enough to shine with top-40 music, but not so heavy that it throws off the tonal balance. Compared to the Philips Fidelio in-ears, the TX-series sets are more bass-focused and a little less controlled and natural at the bottom, as can be expected from an inexpensive, consumer-oriented release. The TX1 has a little more bass presence—and bloat—than the pricier TX2.

The bass on both models does an impressive job of staying out of the way—certainly as good as the aforementioned VSonic sets. At lower volumes especially, bass bloat is nearly imperceptible and doesn't take away from the overall clarity of the sound. The low end also extends very well, recreating deep bass rumble and "slam" with authority.

The clarity of the TX1 and TX2 is impressive, though at higher volumes the bass does creep up a bit—more so on the TX1 than the TX2. The earphones don't reach the bar set by the two Fidelio models, but the difference between the $29.99 TX1 and the $149.99 Fidelio S2 is not as great as one may expect. The lower midrange on the TX-series earphones is slightly recessed, resulting in a mildly "v-shaped" sound signature, with the TX2 being a little more balanced and tonally neutral than the TX1.

There is plenty of presence through the upper midrange and treble, mimicking the tuning of the Fidelio sets. At low to moderate volumes, the TX-series earphones sound fairly smooth—the TX2 a little more so than the TX1. However, those who are sensitive in the 4-6k Hz region will not want to crank up the volume as both models can get harsh. In this regard they lose out to the higher-end sets I've reviewed recently, such as the Onkyo IE-HF300 and RHA MA750, but are still on-par with the sub-$50 VSonics.

Soundstaging is very similar between the TX1 and TX2, offering good width and an airy presentation not normally associated with IEMs in the lower price brackets. In fact, the new Philips are superior even to the very capable VSonics in this regard.

Efficiency is also impressive, and the one area where the TX1 and TX2 actually improve on the Fidelio models. Philips must have recognized that not being able to reach volumes higher than those of stock earbuds is fine for audiophiles purchasing the $100+ Fidelios, but may be an issue for buyers of budget-oriented sets.

There is an additional consideration with the TX-series earphones, as with many others of this size and shape—it's especially easy to get an insufficient seal between ear and earphone. The enhanced bass does provide a little room for error but the treble tends to sound splashy and overbearing with a poor seal, and the presentation loses some of its depth. It's very much worth it to zero in on the perfect fit with these earphones.

Wrap-up
The Philips TX1 and TX2 yet again raise the bar for audio performance on a tight budget. While they aren't better than my sub-$50 reference, the VSonic VSD1S, the Philips offer similar performance at an even lower price and boast built-in headset functionality to boot. There are a few caveats—the 13.5mm drivers mean that these earphones may not comfortable in small ears, and the noise isolation is average at best. However, for the price, the sonic performance alone is enough to recommend the TX in-ears.

Although last time I recommended the less expensive Fidelio S1 over the S2 due to near-identical sound and insignificant differences in design, this time I'll suggest paying the extra $10 to get the TX2 for its more natural tonal balance and polished appearance. The TX1 is a good recommendation, but the TX2 goes up on the Wall of Fame as a superb low-cost IEM.

COMPANY INFO
Philips
1600 Summer St.
P.O. Box 120015
Stamford, CT 06912
888-744-5477
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COMMENTS
Bennyboy's picture

Don't you ever get utterly bored and depressed with reviewing earphone after earphone after earphone?

Type35's picture

One of my favorite budget IEM is the Sony MH1C. Do you know how they compare with the Philips TX2 and Vsonic VSD1S?

ljokerl's picture
The MH1C is one of my favorites, too. In fact, it's my go-to recommendation when someone asks for a smooth-sounding earphone with enhanced bass under $100 or so. The TX2 and VSD1S are both more v-shaped than the MH1C, meaning the upper mids (more so in the case of the TX2) and lower treble are boosted more or less to match the enhanced bass. This creates a more energetic sound and makes the low end seem less dominant, but also makes them more prone to harshness and sibilance compared to something like the MH1C. The MH1C might sound a little recessed from the mids onward, but it always remains very smooth. In the end it will come down to preference - I'm glad both exist out there as options. Just wish there was an MH1C version with a less annoying cable (aside from the Bluetooth one, the SBH80).
TurbinePro's picture

for the average consumer! Still waiting for the Turbine Pro review though. Keep it up Tyler!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
This review was writen by lJokerl. He'd have to make the call whether or not to review the Turbine, but I find them somewhat strident.
TurbinePro's picture

I have been waiting for the Turbine Pro's ever since he did the reviews on the beats solo and mentioned it..... I have been looking forward to it mainly because it was my first high end stuff. xD

tom22's picture

joker already reviewed the turbine pros A WHILE back now (he did all the turbines except the pearls)

ultrabike's picture
Got their SHE3590. Solid cans for the $. Glad to see Philips putting out affordable sound quality in the stands.
ljokerl's picture
The 3580 and 3590 are fantastic for $10. Hoping the TX1 and TX2 end up in retail stores worldwide, Philips being a big electronics brand and all.
tom22's picture

i love my philips 3590 as well i recently purchased a new pair from walmart. but apparently on amazon it said the their being discontinued! WHY?! their so cheap, most people would probably be buying them just on price alone!

so its time to stock up =) btw joker do you eq your 3590s or do you leave em stock? i might grab a pair of these TX2 when they come to canada ! the white and gold design definitely looks more expensive then it actually is.

ljokerl's picture

It's a shame about the 3580 and 3590. Hopefully Philips has a replacement in the works based on these models.

I personally leave mine stock - figure if I EQ an already good-sounding $10 earphone that's just ungrateful :)

tom22's picture

that's true, i really like em but up here in canada its 16$ (we got scammed!). how would say the 3580s stake up to the tx1s. i find on the 3580s is more enjoyable with a dip at 5k and 7k. their still good stock just a bit excitable there for me. maybe a bit more flushed out midrange?

maybe i'm asking too much =p (sounds like i'm hoping the tx1/2 would be an all around improvement over their little brother 3580s

ljokerl's picture

The TX-sets are a little warmer and more filled-in in the midrange, and yet clearer. I wouldn't call them an all-around upgrade, though. You'll still have to equalize the 5-7k region as there's some emphasis there with both of the TX sets and bass control is no better than with the 3580s.

tom22's picture

why these philips in ears (TXs, fidelio, she3580) are not getting more well known, i'll never know! but i'll definitely be a returning customer if philips continue to churn out these little gems

GN-0015's picture

Received my pair of these yesterday, and I wasn't really impressed with it's sibilant-prone sound on the vocal side. Words that start with J and C (like "just" and "chase") can be very unpleasant to listen to, especially with poorly mastered/ripped files. Probably I should burn them in for a few more days or it could be eartips issues, but for now my LG QB3 is beating these quite easily with it's lower price.

bugmenot's picture

I personally want to thank you for the awesome review as always.
i just bought a pair of the TX2 and they are incredible, the dynamic range on these is just incredible, you can hear everything!
one thing is that i found them too big and not that comfortable, but you can as for everything under 50$

skris88's picture

Is audio very subjective? Or not?

Allow me this....

We can stand in front of a band and all agree it's Great Sound.

In front of a set of loudspeakers in a room? Less so. The system would never be 100% and we'd have different responses to it's coloration.

Less so, perhaps, with headphones. There are no room modes to make the result more complex (where one is in a room will affect the sound).

Which is why the vernrable Sennheiser HD-600 and it's later 'replacement' - the HD-650s - become Gold Reference Standards (of sorts) for many audiophiles in spite of its ever so slightly wooly bass, and recessed but super-smooth treble. So they became my reference standard. I use them to judge other headphones, speaker systems even.

Then there are the reviews in this web site. I digest them eagerly. So "must have" value buys (unfortunately my bank balance does not have any chance for me to indulge in the headphones with stratospheric pricing) are a delicious treat whenever a new review or article is written.

These articles have caused me to purchase headphones I would not have even considered without listening to them. I got both the Superlux HD668B and HD681 and actually - with EQ - enjoy them more than I enjoy my HD-650s!

When it comes to IEMs - never mind IEMs, just "earphones" is enough, it's a different story altogether. I purchased a pair of Bose SoundTru Ultras after hearing them. They were the 1st every pair of earphones where I heard bass! In my opinion the Bose Ultras need a -6dB cut at 4kHz as I find them too strident, but once EQed for that, are very pleasant indeed.

Then there are these Philips TX2s. I purchase them because they were on Innerfidelity's Wall Of Fame graded. Okay, and also because I got an unused pair dirt cheap. I'd have little to lose, right? But I'd forgotten why I had never found any earphones to my liking (until the Ultras).

Perhaps the Bose Ultras are bass heavy. But mostly I think it is because they sit well WITHIN my ear canal.

The TX2 not so. There is hardly any bass from the TX2 unless I push them hard into my ear. Of course I cannot keep that up, so they are a "fail".

I'm not upset, nor do I feel cheated.

But I think now I have come across a discovery that will apply to earphones but not to headphones. That of the depth of our ear canals.

I am quite sure my ear drums are further away (perhaps I have a smaller brain! :-)) from my outer ear - and so there is less coupling between it and the transducer of a earphone. Hence the less bass.

Thoughts, anyone?

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