Philips Izzy BM5

Score

Pros

  • Fairly affordable
  • Cute design
  • Simple multiroom skills

Cons

  • Lifeless, undynamic mids
  • Nuts ’n’ bolts multiroom won’t appeal to all
  • Not portable
  • Harsh edge to sound at higher volumes

Key Features

  • Review Price: £99.00
  • 2 x 2.5-inch drivers
  • Bluetooth with Wi-Fi Direct infrastructure
  • aux input

What is the Philips Izzy BM5?

The Philips Izzy BM5 is the latest

attempt to make multiroom audio accessible. The BM5 is the first among a

whole range of “Izzylink” speakers to appear in 2016, which will use

the same system.  

Costing only £99.99, the Philips Izzy is an

unintimidating purchase with which to begin your journey into setting up

a multiroom system. However, a far cry from the Sonos Play:1, that journey might be halted no sooner than it begins because, quite simply, it doesn’t sound very good.

If

you’re put off by the closed style of Sonos and the complexity of some

other rivals then the Philips Izzy’s system is worth some investigation.

But in pure speaker terms, this is far from a stand-out.

Related: Best Portable Speakers 2015

Philips Izzy 11

Philips Izzy BM5 – Design

Let’s

forget that last point for a minute, though. The Philips Izzy BM5 is a

cute-looking unit. A squat, curvy block of plastic with a fabric-covered

grille, it’ll easily slot into a number of places pretty innocuously.

Bedside table? Windowsill? No problem.

Given its relatively

dinky size and use of Bluetooth, you may be surprised to hear that the

Philips Izzy BM5 doesn’t have a battery – it’s mains-powered only.

However, the main idea behind this speaker isn’t one of portability.

Philips Izzy 9

The

whole point of the Izzylink family is that it gets you multiroom action

quickly and easily, without blocking off any services. Although I did

have to crack out the instruction manual to set up a few of the more

advanced features, on the whole, the Philips Izzy BM5 was fairly simple

to get-going.

Don’t expect an easy setup route via an app,

though – when it comes to interaction with the Philips Izzy BM5, this is

one of the few multiroom systems that relies solely on Bluetooth.

Hook

up to it just as you would with any other Bluetooth speaker, then a few

button presses will enable you to group together other Izzy speakers. I

was sent two speakers by Philips, and without the instructions in-hand,

I did manage to get a basic pair-up (there’s a dedicated group button)

within around 30 seconds. For anything more complicated, such as

changing which unit is the master and which is the slave, I had to crack

out the manual however.

The speakers actually communicate over Wi-Fi Direct, but you don’t have to worry about that side of things.

Philips Izzy 5

The

Izzylink system lets you set up groups, with a master speaker and up to

four “slave” units. This helps to circumvent the app-based faff of most

other multiroom systems.

I’m not convinced I’d necessarily want such a system over rivals, though. Currently, it’s far from perfect.

First,

you can’t yet stereo-pair Philips Izzy BM5s. On a multi-speaker setup,

volume levels need to be altered per speaker, since their amp levels

aren’t linked. When in group mode, there’s also a significant delay

between making a command on your phone and it being taken on-board by

the system. It feels sluggish.

Philips Izzy 13

You

also miss out features such buttons that let you get back to a Spotify

playlist with a single press. All instructions are via a phone.

However, Philips is probably hoping that, even if you remain unconvinced by its mulitroom credentials, you’ll still be able to appreciate the Izzy BM5 as an affordable Bluetooth speaker.

Philips Izzy BM5 – Sound Quality

However,

the Philips Izzy BM5 doesn’t make a great case for itself with its

sound. Let’s begin with the positives, however.

The

Philips Izzy BM5 is able to achieve reasonably loud volumes, and has a decent amount of

low-end power for a speaker that has only two 2.5-inch drivers and a

bass reflex port. I expected, and hoped, it’d use a bass radiator, but

it doesn’t feel as though it really needs one at mid-level volumes. It

doesn’t sound thin.

However, there are several areas in which this speaker falls down. First, there’s zero sense of sophistication, no touch

of that “hi-fi” vibe, with a flat and dead-sounding mid-range. This

leaves vocals sitting on the mix, with none of the “3D” separation you’re likely to hear with a decent speaker. It’s a very undynamic sound, even compared

with some smaller, lower-cost Bluetooth speakers such as the Jam Heavy

Metal and Pure Voca.

Philips Izzy 3

The

higher you turn up the volume, the more problems emerge. Upper-mids display a harsh edge, and with more complex arrangements you’ll

notice an odd form of studio compression as the volume or certain

parts/frequency ranges of the mix go up and down in volume as other

elements fade in and out.

This is probably down to the lack of a dedicated bass driver or radiator to take on some of the responsibility of providing much of the lower-end volume.

I could live with all of the above,

though, if it weren’t for the Philips Izzy BM5’s unmistakably “basic”

sound. If such sound were from a DAB radio for the kitchen, then I’d be okay. However, despite its wireless credentials, this is “just” a

speaker, and therefore relies heavily on its sound quality.

The biggest problem for the Philips Izzy BM5 is that many rival speakers around this price sound better. The Jam Heavy

Metal has greater finesse, and it’s absolutely trampled by the £150 Ministry of Sound Audio M.

Philips Izzy 15

Should you buy the Philips Izzy BM5?

The Philips Izzy BM5 is the very first Izzylink

speaker, so while I’d like to have viewed it in the wider context of the

family of speakers it’ll eventually be a part of, I don’t yet know what

that family will contain.

Its infrastructure does offer a

neat, low-fuss approach to multiroom. Although it doesn’t provide the functionality to flick

between rooms in a second using your phone, or send different content to

each speaker, you can at least set up the whole system without using an app at all,

and play the same audio through up to five Izzy speakers within a house.

It’s not perfect – and is really a little lo-fi among its multiroom

peers –but its almost mechanical approach has a distinct appeal.

While the Izzy BM5 has “beef” to its sound, the similarly priced (and also not amazing) Pure Jongo S3

is significantly more refined. I imagine that the Izzy is housing similar

drivers to the Philips SW700M “Spotify” speaker ,

which has already tumbled down to under £35 online (granted, it is an end-of-life product). Audio fans might

want to wait until the Izzy drops further below £100 before investing.

Verdict

Philips’ faff-free multiroom system is let down by pretty uninspiring sound quality.

Overall Score

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