The SoundSphere design is a key feature of these speakers, and was born of a desire to deliver an ‘uncoloured and accurate’ sound with wider dispersion than conventional box speakers.
To achieve this, Philips has mounted the 25mm tweeter in its own thick aluminium enclosure, held above the 5in mid-bass driver by a rigid arm. Philips says this frees the tweeter from interaction with the mid-bass driver and ‘limits refraction caused by sound waves reaching the edge of a box or baffle edge’.
The odd forward-leaning design helps to aid projection while the tweeter and mid-bass driver are positioned to ensure that sounds are ‘time aligned’, reaching your ears at the same time.
Elsewhere AirPlay is the highlight, but FullSound technology restores detail and depth to compressed music and there’s also a free Fidelio app that affords you greater control over the DS9800W’s sonic performance, offering a five-band equaliser (with various presets), plus alarms, playback modes and a clock.
Installing the speakers is simple enough – simply connect the two speakers’ binding posts with the supplied (and pleasingly thick) cable, position as necessary and plug in the power lead. It’s only when you begin network setup that things start getting more complicated.
This is not the sort of system where you can throw away the manual and configure on instinct alone. The esoteric nature of the speakers and lack of display panel means you have to rely on flashing lights, buttons and the browser on your PC or Apple device to get it to talk to your home network.
Unfortunately this isn’t an easy process. You hold down the ‘Wi-Fi Setup’ button for five seconds and the DS9800W creates a temporary network connection in your list of available routers. Connect to it, and visit the DS9800W’s setup page by entering its IP address into your browser. Here, you’ll find a drop-down menu containing all available routers. Select yours, and the Philips is supposed to start talking to your network within two minutes.
Sadly it refused to connect properly – all we got was a flashing green light on the back of the unit indicating that it hadn’t worked and no confirmation beep. We tried several times to no avail. Thankfully we were still able to check out the Airplay performance using the temporary Fidelio network connection and had no trouble streaming audio from our laptop, although we couldn’t use the internet.
The system comes with a chic and dinky remote, sporting just a few buttons to control iPod playback, input selection, mute and power. It’s very well made and sits comfortably in the palm of your hand.