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Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800

Andrew Williams

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Reviewed:

Summary

Key Features

  • Airplay compatible
  • 5in bass drivers
  • 25mm tweeters
  • 100 watt RMS amplifier
  • 3.5mm auxiliary input
  • Manufacturer: Philips
  • Review Price: £699.00

The Philips Fidelio range, which has won multiple TrustedReviews awards, has found a new leader. The Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800 is the first Airplay-compatible model in the range, and will launch in July with a cool £699 price tag. Ahead of its release, we gave the impressive-looking lifestyle system an ears-on preview. Find out what we thought.

If you were to draw a simple sketch of the Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800, you’d end up with something that looks like a bongo with an alien eye stalk popping out of the top. In person, the units look much more suitable for a classy lounge or living room. Finished in glossy black and shiny metal – the real deal too, no plastic substitute here – the speakers have a designer vibe that should eke a few coos out of house guests.

Fidelio Soundsphere

As out-there as the B&W Zeppelin but without that device’s (relative) ubiquity, they impress. Consider too that the £699 price tag is fairly low compared with the sky-high price you had to pay for a kooky-looking designer system just a few years ago.

The main bulk of each speaker is made of highly lacquered wood, covered in seamless glossy black. Where the finish changes three quarters up the housing, the SoundSphere switches to metal – first finished in brushed black, before embracing the standard metallic shine for the top rim.

This rim surrounds a 5in woofer driver, which is angled to supply the stereo effect without demanding too much regard for positioning or toe-in. Although a quick glance may make you assume they’re open to the elements, there’s a subtle grille that sits atop these drivers. Adding a subtle-but-sensible protective layer, this disc is held in place with magnets.

Of course, the most attention-grabbing aspect of the Fidelio SoundSphere’s design is the tweeter stalk. Although a bold aesthetic statement for what’s a mainstream audio product, it does have a sonic reason to exist. The separate tweeter housing allows for greater dispersion of the sound the 25mm driver pumps-out, not constrained by the front wall of traditional floorstanding or bookshelf speakers. Just like the up-facing woofer, it’s designed so that you don’t have to bother too much about positioning. Let’s face it, tech’s making us lazier by the year.

Fidelio tweeter

Always thinking of the average careless punter, the speakers can even be hoiked about by these stalks. They’re made of steel and have been constructed to hold the weight of the speaker, and the solid wood and metal bodies ensure they’re not lightweights.

Unlike previous Fidelio docks, the SoundSphere DS9800 doesn’t offer a dock port to plug your iPhone or iPod into. Instead, it relies primarily on Airplay, Apple’s streaming standard. There’s little point dwelling on this feature too much as, like most of Apple’s features, it just works. It losslessly streams music from your computer or iOS device to the speaker over Wi-Fi.

There’s also an auxiliary 3.5mm input on the back of the main left speaker, which houses the SoundSphere’s electronic gubbins – the amplifier et al. This is very much a secondary input though, looking rather pauper-like against the proper ports that connect the two speakers. The right speaker is the dummy of the pair. It’s powered by its brother, as a standard passive hi-fi speaker. Both units feature a bass port at the back, releasing the air created by the low-end thuds of the main driver.

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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