Philips Fidelio Soundsphere DS9800 - Sound Quality

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

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.

Fidelio Soundsphere

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.

Kiljoy616

June 24, 2011, 3:41 am

Can't wait to see if they go on sale here in the States, the price is about right for the kind of speakers that they are. I like a little different look and will go great in looks with my Polk LSiM and Apple TV 2 for flawless Airplay.

scott1961

July 6, 2011, 4:05 pm

i cant see the point if you are going to do something half way like phillips have done again for the price point.i would only market these speakers at maybe £449. and that would be at the top price,the reason why i say this is as follows,1,they only have one amp for the two speakers,master and slave,and so they are connected with a cable.2,only use apple air-play.3,only has one other way to connect a source of audio.so not as far as im concerned anything speciale when you can spent another £300 on top and get yourself a set of zikmu parrot speakers that are far more advanced in technology,are amplified in a mono-block set up,come in 5 colours and most of all they has less wires so that means they will be allowed into the house.so sorry phillips but no thanks.

oluv

July 8, 2011, 7:21 pm

i have to agree with scott. it is a pity both speakers need to be connected together.
i am not sure how good the philips system sounds, but unfortunately the mentioned zikmu speakers from parrot don't sound that good to justify their price tag. i had the zikmus at home for several days, and although quite stylish, the finishing was everything else than high-quality. the body was simple plastic unlike the philips speakers which are made of wood and have a high quality paint.
the other problem i had with the zikmus was stability. they froze again and again, and even streaming was not without problems as parrot uses some proprietary sound driver to push the sound output from your pc to the speakers. i sometimes had stuttering sound or crackles and other noise when streaming from pc. streaming from ipod or ipad was only possible through bluetooth, but this compromised the sound quality even more as AD2P has quite a rough sounding lossy compression.

if not the high price tag i would have bought the zikmus and would still hope for some updates to improve stability. but overall the sound quality was just not good enough. the NXT-driver didn't manage to produce any convincing treble, even with the built-in EQ cranked all the way up the treble was muffled while already sounding artificial.

i am still looking for some nice wireless speaker setup either airplay or something different, but please with as few cables as possible.

i even welcome the idea of a built in battery if they really manage it!

steve cullum

August 18, 2011, 2:51 pm

Any idea when we can expect to see a review of these on TR?

I'm looking for a high quality audio solution that will allow me to stream lossless audio from a NAS, and control from my phone would be awesome

Would prefer a DNLA based solution but options seem rather limited

I really don't want to get into bed with apple - hate itunes - but if it works I'm going to struggle to fight against it!
Regards
Steve

Andrew_TR

August 18, 2011, 4:20 pm

Soon hopefully. Review models should be available within the next couple of weeks, fingers crossed. It's a lovely setup, this.

Written

March 12, 2012, 5:47 pm

Since I have the Zikmus I can bring a little information about this subject and say that yes: The Zikmus are cool, but they're from Parrot, something that will give you: A lot of bugs, no support ever, ever, and hardly any fixes. In addition to that, and here's the huge caveat: Since they talk bluetooth to each other, you get a slight latency, even if you use cabels to connect to the speaker. This is fine when listening to music, but connecting them to watch a movie just doesn't work that well.

This is of course unfortunate and since many of the cool features, such as a web interface to remote control then, simply stop working after a while until you reset them, I really can't recommend them to anyone.

That being said: Why does Philip insist on just a 3.5 mm analogue plug instead of a hybrid with toslink?

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