“Hard to jus­tify the price”

FOR Wide spread of sound; goes loud; com­pact de­sign AGAINST Lacks de­tail and rhyth­mic abil­ity; too pricey

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

We had high hopes for the Philips Fide­lio B1. This sound­bar-with-wire­less-sub­woofer is de­signed for small rooms and small TVS, and seems the per­fect an­ti­dote to the bulkier al­ter­na­tives tak­ing up space both in the mar­ket and in front of our TVS.

But at £450 the sound qual­ity re­ally has to jus­tify that price, not least be­cause it must beat the Award-win­ning Q Acous­tics Me­dia 4 (£330) and be bet­ter value than the £200 Acous­tic En­ergy Aego Sound­bar, which is also de­signed for small spa­ces.

Philips is off to a good start with the B1’s de­sign. The main unit is solidly built and en­cased in a rather smart me­tal grille. Philips calls it the 'nano cin­ema speaker' and it’s cer­tainly slim and com­pact, the ideal size for plac­ing in front of your TV – es­pe­cially if you have lim­ited shelf space.

Of course, you can’t ex­pect a huge amount of bass to come out of such a small unit, which is why Philips pro­vides a sep­a­rate sub­woofer. It’s slim and dis­creet, and con­nects to the main bar wire­lessly, so you can place it any­where in your room. A stand is in­cluded to keep the sub­woofer up­right when po­si­tioned ver­ti­cally, but we find it stays sta­ble on its own too.

The me­tal but­tons on the sound­bar are lovely to use when switch­ing in­puts or chang­ing the vol­ume, but you do get a re­mote con­trol for all those func­tions, too. You can ad­just the tre­ble and bass of the B1, as well as switch be­tween mu­sic and movie sound modes us­ing the re­mote.

Wooden de­liv­ery

We’re amazed Philips has man­aged to pack such a gen­er­ous num­ber of con­nec­tions into this lit­tle unit. Hid­den away on the back of the bar are HDMI and op­ti­cal in­puts, and a 3.5mm aux­il­iary socket for plug­ging in mu­sic play­ers.

There’s even an HDMI ARC (au­dio re­turn chan­nel) con­nec­tion for your TV. A sim­ple LED dis­play glows be­hind the me­tal grilles of the main bar, with big letters in­di­cat­ing which source is se­lected.

You’ll no­tice a USB port as well, into which you can plug a mem­ory stick full of songs. The Fide­lio B1 doesn’t sup­port any hi-res mu­sic, but stan­dard-res­o­lu­tion WAV or MP3 files are fine. If you’re play­ing mu­sic through the B1, Blue­tooth is quick to con­nect to your smart­phone, and you can stream any song stored on your de­vice.

The B1 de­liv­ers a sur­pris­ingly wide spread of sound for its size. There are two driv­ers placed at ei­ther end of the main bar, with two more in the mid­dle. Philips uses ‘mi­crobeam’ tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce a wide arc of sound, and a sur­round am­pli­fier to power all chan­nels (in­clud­ing the sub).

For such a small unit it goes loud too, and, cou­pled with the wide sound­stage, you’ll feel im­me­di­ately drawn into the film. There’s a de­cent amount of de­tail – you can fol­low the ping­ing gun­shots in the John

Wick Blu-ray, get a sense of the at­mos­phere in­side the el­e­gant Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel, and fol­low the dead­pan di­a­logue.

But that’s where the good news ends. There’s not a whole lot of solid weight un­der­pin­ning the B1’s sound and, as a re­sult, sound ef­fects don’t make a satisfying im­pact or have strength of con­vic­tion when whizzing around the screen.

The Philips has a lean pre­sen­ta­tion, with a coarse­ness at the edge of the midrange that’s dif­fi­cult to smooth out even af­ter run­ning-in. Voices sound hol­low, and our five-star Sam­sung UE55KS9000 TV does a bet­ter job at de­liv­er­ing solid, nu­anced voices that sound nat­u­ral and ex­pres­sive. It can even make Keanu Reeves’s wooden de­liv­ery sound rea­son­ably ex­pres­sive.

Do­ing a proper job

We were ex­pect­ing a huge leap in sound qual­ity, but the B1's lan­guid pre­sen­ta­tion comes to the fore when play­ing movies or mu­sic. If the TV sounds bet­ter on its own, you know the sound­bar isn’t do­ing its job.

Play Talk­ing Heads’ Stop Mak­ing Sense con­cert on DVD, and the Philips strug­gles to keep tabs on the driv­ing rhythm of

Girl­friend Is Bet­ter. There’s an at­tempt to keep pace: bass notes are al­luded to, but they don’t reach too deep or rum­ble with tex­ture. The edges of notes lack the ac­cu­racy and clar­ity of ri­vals such as the Q Acous­tics Me­dia 4, which spoils the Philips’ abil­ity to ren­der taut, fast-mov­ing rhythms.

We’d rec­om­mend stay­ing in Mu­sic mode, as 'Movie' thins the sound out – which, in the Fide­lio B1’s case, is not a good thing. The lean, coarse edge is em­pha­sised and takes away any so­lid­ity that ex­ists.

The Philips Fide­lio B1 draws us in with its big, open and wide sound, but does lit­tle to keep us cap­ti­vated. The lack of rhyth­mic pre­ci­sion, in­sight and a poor way with voices mean it’s hard to jus­tify at the price.

For £450, we ex­pect a per­for­mance we pre­fer far more than the TV’S own speak­ers. The Fide­lio B1 is a great idea, but we hope Philips can ex­e­cute it bet­ter next time. And charge less for it.

“Us­ing Philips’s ‘mi­crobeam’ tech­nol­ogy, the B1 de­liv­ers a sur­pris­ingly wide spread of sound for its size”

The Philips Fide­lio B1 looks like an an­ti­dote to bulky sound­bars, but does sound qual­ity match its price tag?

A neat re­mote con­trol lets you ad­just the tre­ble and bass, and switch be­tween the sound modes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.