Per­fect for small spa­ces

HWM (Singapore) - - FRONT PAGE - by Mar­cus Wong

At first glance, the Philips Fide­lio E5 seems like any reg­u­lar 2.1 sys­tem. Two sleek tow­ers; the bot­tom halves wrapped in lux­u­ri­ous black wool speaker cloth while the top halves sport a sleek stain­less steel grill con­trasted by warm cedar ac­cents. Also clad in the same speaker cloth, is the wire­less sub­woofer – slightly taller and a lit­tle more stout.

Then you no­tice the leather han­dles on top of the tow­ers, and re­al­ize that each tower is ac­tu­ally two speak­ers com­bined, al­low­ing the Fide­lio E5 to go from stereo to sur­round. Sim­ply de­tach the top speak­ers (Philips calls them Sur­round Speak­ers), place them in the rear cor­ners of your room, and you have in­stant sur­round. The Sur­round Speak­ers are wire­less, so they’re ex­cel­lent for small spa­ces as you can sim­ply lift and move them around to get the best sound for your movie, then place them back on when the film is over. The satel­lite base also charges the Sur­round Speak­ers when at­tached.

With about 15-20 me­ters range, the Fide­lio E5 should cover most liv­ing rooms com­fort­ably. The speak­ers use a pro­pri­etary wire­less con­nec­tion that, ac­cord­ing to Philips is loss­less and syn­chro­nized. Sur­round sound mode kicks in au­to­mat­i­cally once the Sur­round Speak­ers de­tect that they’ve been re­moved from their bases, so there re­ally is noth­ing to set up. You can pair Blue­tooth- en­abled smart de­vices for a cus­tomiz­able lis­ten­ing space with aptX and AAC stream­ing.

Quick NFC pair­ing and play­back is sup­ported, and dis­crete con­trols on the left tower al­low for your ba­sic con­trols. Also on the left satel­lite, are your stan­dard in­puts – two HDMI, dig­i­tal op­ti­cal, coax­ial and 3.5mm au­dio in­puts (one each) with a sin­gle HDMI out­put. There’s also a port for the ca­ble that con­nects the speak­ers to­gether, and this is also what pow­ers the left tower as the right tower is the one that con­nects to your mains.

Over­all, we must say we were quite im­pressed with the qual­ity com­ing out of these lit­tle speak­ers. Guitar and piano pieces in par­tic­u­lar were nicely

ren­dered, re­flect­ing a slightly bright sound that fa­vors mid to high fre­quen­cies. Rated at 20150Hz, the sub­woofer fills in the bass spec­trum for the Fide­lio E5 nicely, bring­ing warmth and im­pact to per­for­mances.

There’s a slight bit of sibi­lance, as we found on Adele’s Melt My Heart To Stone, but vo­cals are warm and clear, and the Fide­lio E5 con­sis­tently man­ages to main­tain sep­a­ra­tion be­tween vo­cal tracks and the sup­port­ing mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. On faster paced tracks like Tiesto’s El­e­ments of Life, the sub­woofer matched the at­tack quite de­cently, though we did no­tice a touch of bloom­ing at higher vol­ume lev­els.

To test the Fide­lio E5’s per­for­mance with movies, we shifted it to the 4.1 con­fig­u­ra­tion be­fore start­ing our DVD test­ing. On that note, we found that we got bet­ter per­for­mance from the Sur­round Speak­ers by plac­ing them near to us (at about ear level) rather than in the tra­di­tional po­si­tion of the cor­ners of the rooms. Again, the porta­bil­ity of the speak­ers make it easy to ex­per­i­ment and find what works best for you.

Vo­cals were han­dled very well by the Fide­lio E5; speech was clear and well-enun­ci­ated, with depth and clar­ity. We could eas­ily pick out what John Tra­volta was say­ing as he goes into his lengthy monolog in Sword­fish, but above that we lit­tle de­tails like the clinks of an ash­tray as it’s moved across the ta­ble was also au­di­ble.

Then there are the sur­round sound ef­fects – which is re­ally the point of hav­ing ex­tra speak­ers. This was ex­cel­lent given how minute the Sur­round Speak­ers are. The bat­tle scene in Lord of the Rings (Bridge to Khazad-Dum) pro­vided a great sense of stereo imag­ing, with the swish of ar­rows pass­ing from the front to the rear speak­ers even as the ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­sic builtup all around us.

All in, we’d say the Fide­lio E5 is an ex­cel­lent sys­tem that of­fers for an en­joy­able lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly in ren­der­ing vo­cals and de­tailed sound ef­fects. Purists may be­moan the lack of a true cen­ter chan­nel – that’s split be­tween the front two speak­ers – but that’s a small price to pay for the con­ve­nience of its mo­bile set-up.

If any­thing, we’d say the $1,299 price tag is what would give you pause, given you can get 5.1 home theatre set-ups from the likes of Onkyo and Marantz Bos­ton for about the same price. That said, you’re pay­ing for some ad­vanced wire­less tech, and for peo­ple with small spa­ces, you’ll love the con­ve­nience and porta­bil­ity that the Philips Fide­lio E5 pro­vides.

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