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Philips MCi900 - Wrap-up and Verdict

By Hugo Jobling


  • Recommended by TR
Philips MCi900


Our Score


Review Price £900.05

Although primarily geared towards streaming audio, the MCi900 does come with a 160GB hard drive. Unlike previous models this isn't built-in, but instead is provided in a small caddy, along with a stand which works about as well as a marshmallow syringe. While we liked previous Streamium systems' ability to rip CDs to the internal storage, we're also quite keen on the provision of a portable hard drive as it makes transferring files to the MCi900 a much simpler affair. Drag and drop transfer over USB is much easier than pulling files from a server onto the MCi900 would have been.

Although Philips supplies a copy of (and licence key for) Twonky Media Server, for both Windows and Mac OS, with the MCi900 it's not necessary to use it. Any uPnP compatible server will do fine, although Twonky does have the advantage of letting you control the system from your computer and integration with iTunes - from which the MCi900 can't stream.

Despite its DivX-capable certification the MCi900 can't stream videos, nor can it play such files from an attached hard drive. But really the disc drive is primarily there for playing CDs - that on-disc DivX videos and normal DVDs can be played back is an added bonus, not the system's raison d'être.

Audio playback, however, is, so it's unsurprising that the MCi900 has support for MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG and FLAC files. 24-bit FLAC is off the menu, but anyone seriously interested in listening to such high-quality audio wants to be spending more than £900 on a set-up to do justice to it anyway. We'd have liked to see Apple Lossless supported, as rival streaming systems including the Logitech Squeezebox range and, of course, Sonos do, but the omission shouldn't be a deal-breaker.

Where the MCi900 really loses out to Squeezebox, Sonos, and their ilk of such devices is in its Internet-based streaming. Or, more accurately: its lack thereof. While the MCi900 can play Internet radio stations, there's no Napster or Spotify streaming, no Last.fm scrobbling and no podcast support to speak off. Although we can see the argument against such functionality, there are always going to be times when you don't have the music you want to listen to available and it's far more practical to use Spotify to sate a sudden craving for a bit of Jimi Hendrix than it is to root around in an attic for a CD which you know is there somewhere.

There's also the fact that if you are only interested in local streaming audio system, and don't care about disc playback or Internet-based streaming, then a Squeezebox Touch paired to a set of high-quality speakers such as the awesomely stylish and great-sounding Ferguson Hill FH007 won't cost you any more than the MCi900. Whether a different system set-up would sound better than the MCi900 is verging into the subjective - one man's delicate and transparent in another man's flat and lifeless - but the point stands that you'd be getting more, if not outright better, options.

Philips' MCi900 does have that it's devilishly stylish design in its favour, though, and the convenience of an all-in-one set-up can't be dismissed. So while the Philips MCi900 may not comprehensively best its rivals, it makes a damn compelling alternative.


The Philips MCi900 looks fantastic and sounds it as well. It may not be as expansible as a Sonos set-up or a Squeezebox, or offer as comprehensive a range of music sources, but it does everything it can excellently. If its particular set of abilities lines up with your requirements, and you're looking for a stylish all-in-one solution, we've no reason not to recommend the MCi900.

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Paul 7

August 12, 2010, 4:20 pm

How about comparing some second hand high-end gear with the same-priced new stuff? I can't be the only person who reads reviews of equipment like this and the Onkyo and Teufel kit and wonders whether I'd be better off spending the same on a Naim pre/power, or some older Linn/Rega kit. You 'd hope newer transistors etc. would mean cheaper equipment could match the quality of more expensive older stuff by now.


August 12, 2010, 10:34 pm

I think you've been conned here. At least this article doesn't have the information that makes for an informative audio review. I'd take this on board because TR has really high standards usually.

There are no measurements. Nothing about frequency response, distortion, noise floor. Just subjective opinions. Therefore the idea that by using a stylish and unconventional design, obviously chosen for visual appeal, they have a better approach to audio engineering than standard ones is not supported. The subjective claim that they sound good, without objective backing, could as easily reflect the price tag or the design as actual fidelity of sound.

There is also no recognition that sources and speakers are separate and should be treated separately. Here there is a source/amplifier combination that does some nice things and no doubt a good choice for some people. And some unusual speakers. Imagine if instead of desktop PC reviews and monitor reviews sites only treated whole systems: the usefulness of the information would be much lower. Same here.

For this price you can get excellent systems. I would generally recommend professional active speakers. Easy to find good ones for any budget between 200GBP and 3000GBP. The consumer and audiophile markets are filled with snake oil, marketing, placebo effects, and reviews like this one.


August 12, 2010, 11:51 pm

The design remembers me the MirageSpeakers...


Andy Vandervell

August 13, 2010, 2:08 am

@CSMR: Please bear in mind we are not a high-end audio review site. We try to keep things accessible, while also offering a depth of insight into the quality of the product. Could you get better quality out of a separates system, most probably, but that's not what everyone wants. Likewise, we could spend 10 pages exploring the frequency response scientifically, and measuring using pro-equipment, but not a lot of people want to actually read that.


August 13, 2010, 10:12 am


I agree, nothing really good in consumer and "audiophile" (big laughs) section.

This is a design for 10/10? Philips design? More suitable for 5/10.

As Andy Vandervell said, TR is a CEs site. Many people like to read such reviews.


August 13, 2010, 3:28 pm

CSMR - I'm at a complete loss as to understanding what your point is. I suppose all of your food is bought based purely based on its price versus its nutritional value? Perish the thought that anything so subjective as personal preference should colour the decision.

Reviews are inherently subjective; there is no such thing as an objective opinion. And of course, assuming you've never heard this system yourself, you're dismissal is based on an even greater lack of objectivity.

stranded - Philips has plenty of well-designed products. For instance just about every TV made by the company in the last 5 years.


August 13, 2010, 10:23 pm

@Andy Vandervell:

I'm not advocating anything more physically separate, just separating speakers and source in reviews. I'm not suggesting extra boxes. Or spending more money; you can certainly get a very good system at under half this budget.

You don't need 10 pages to do a technical review. A frequency response graph, a distortion figure at a couple of power levels and a noise floor measurement are enough. Good manufacturers will provide these measurements or they will be available on forums where people in audio production discuss these things.

If you don't want to do this, I'd recommend you stay within the scope of your expertise and not make judgments about say audio quality or technical design without some backing (if not measurements then expert opinion found somewhere else). Otherwise you will just get mislead by marketing.


Certainly how good the speakers look is subjective. It's the sound reproduction that is not. I did not dismiss these speakers, although passive designs are not ideal (they save a couple of power cables though).


August 15, 2011, 3:16 pm

I was wondering if it would be possible to replace the speakers with the bose acoustimass 5 (subwoof + 2 double speakers). I prefer the sound of Bose but I like the system with harddisk like MCI900 of Philips, however I can't find anything on using other speakers with this.

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