PHILIPS FIDELIO E5
Perfect for small spaces
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.