To see if the Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800 speakers are really worth nearly £700, we tested them out with a range of tracks, ranging from woofer-worrying dubstep to Classical. Their performance was, at times, breathtaking. While we drummed-on about the virtues of last year’s DS9000 dock, this dual-speaker setup proves the benefits of a proper 2-speaker setup.
First we fed SoundSphere the ridiculously low frequencies of James Blake’s take on Feist’s Limit to Your Love. A tune that can trip up bass-heavy systems, causing bass parps and distortion, we were impressed with the Fidelio’s well-controlled rendition. The low-end wasn’t as giant as you’d see in a 2.1 speaker (packing a dedicated sub) but the measured bass response helped to keep the musicality of Blake’s voice intact.
It sounds even better with lighter tracks. The gorgeous, full-bodied high-end made Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 sound glorious, bringing a wonderful dynamism and emotion to the piece’s rolling string crescendos. This is a tasteful setup that thoroughly outclasses the vast majority of iPod docks – it does kinda make us wish Philips had included a proper phono input as well as the 3.5mm jack. The SoundSphere is keen for you to get with the times, though. Although a little docking station is included as part of the package, it only charges your device - it doesn't transmit music.
The design of the speakers seemed to work its wonders too, giving a full, uncompromised sound even when you're far off to the side of the units.
This is a system that wants to replace your hi-fi – and let’s face it the concept of the traditional hi-fi is further being chipped-away at through the proliferation of the (mostly) audiophile-friendly Airplay. Yes, 99 percent of tracks destined to be played through the Fidelio SoundSphere won’t be lossless but this is a device that fits so well into the notion of an Apple lifestyle that it’s hard not to be impressed. You can arrange the speakers based on aesthetics rather than traditional sonic principles and not suffer too much, and the materials and design are beyond reproach.
That price tag deserves some consideration though – and that’s what we’ll be giving the Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800 more of in our full review. Is it really worth £200 more than the Arcam rCube, B&W Zeppelin and Philips’s own DS9010? Feel free to drop your two pence in the comments, but we’re keeping it zipped until our review units arrive.