Philips DS9800W is an iPod dock with a difference. Whereas most of them are designed for casual background listening in the kitchen or bedroom, this is a centrepiece system aimed at more discerning listeners for whom sound quality is everything, using the company’s SoundSphere technology inside the speakers.
The big news, however, is that the DS9800W is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and AirPlay, which is sure to attract the interest of Apple fans everywhere. It means you can stream music conveniently from iPods, iPhones and iPads without cables cluttering up your lounge. The system comes with pair of speakers with all the amplification and wireless technology built in, plus a separate iPod/Pad/Phone charging dock and all the cables you need to rig it up.
Philips’ design wizards have excelled themselves yet again. The SoundSphere speakers feature stunning rounded cabinets that lean forward – kind of like two high-class biscuit barrels – and shoot sound from the speaker drivers at the top. The gleaming gloss-black finish and silver trim make us go weak at the knees, while the placement of the tweeter in a separate enclosure is an arresting visual feature. But the speakers do require a completely flat surface as the base’s surface area isn’t very big and a robust nudge makes them wobble around like Weebles.
Build quality is nothing short of incredible, brought about by bonding multiple pieces of hand-crafted wood together and slathering it in seven layers of lacquer. The use of advanced wood bending techniques gives the enclosure its distinctive curves, as well as providing the rigidity needed to keep distortion at bay. This design was seven years in the making, a product of Philips’ Innovation Lab in Leuven.
One of the speakers features a Wi-Fi receiver and a 2 x 50W digital amplifier, and as a result sports a little panel of sockets and controls. These include a 3.5mm aux input for audio devices, standby and ‘Wi-Fi setup’ buttons, a port for the mains lead and a pair of sturdy binding posts. The other speaker simply sports binding posts on the back. Also in the box is a dock that lets you charge your Apple device while it streams via Airplay (there’s no direct connection to the speakers), itself a gorgeous-looking round device that matches the speakers perfectly in its gloss black and silver styling.