More and more consumers choose soundbars to extend their TV's audio experience. Why? Because it's cheaper, it doesn't require a lot of space, you don’t have to connect 4-5 speakers with a bunch of cables throughout the room and more and more soundbars seem to have wireless connection options. Coming across a good surround system in living rooms is scarce these days. Philips invented a new concept in between both audio solutions. A soundbar with two independent portable speakers that can be removed from both sides of the soundbar. Both can be used as rear speakers or used independently as portable bluetooth speakers. The system includes a column styled sub-woofer which completes the dynamic surround feeling when you're watching TV. Philips fidelio shows confidence in creating innovation while using more than 50 years of experience in acoustics, audio precision and design. This is what fidelio stands for, an obsession for sound resulting in a new generation audio without compromises.
Packaging, Design & Features
Beautifully designed box with simple structure to hold the different components. What comes with the package is rather extensive as it does include mounting kits for both rear speakers. The thing is, they need to be recharged after +-5 hours of audio playback. What they did not include is a cable (there are many options) used to connect a TV speakerset to your actual TV, for some consumer this could lead to some discomfort if they don’t have the right cables available at home. Other things included to the package are the manual, quick start guide, warranty info and a remote for the speaker with quite some buttons.
In terms of design, we want to congratulate Philips first and foremost for the column styled sub-woofer which is magnificent to say the least. I’m used to see subwoofers in an ordinary cubic fashion, that’s why I was positively impressed unpacking something more unique. The soundbar on its own is pretty big and maybe even too long for some TV cabinets when both rear speakers are attached. With sleek curves, a black speaker cloth and an aluminum centerpiece, the speaker has an elegant and classy look with luxury touch. LEDs incorporated in the black grill cloth indicate which channel is selected and are also used to display a change in settings like volume, treble, rear volume, … Those LEDs can be turned off if needed.
Taking the speakers off is pretty straightforward and can be done without much of a hassle. Once detached from the main speaker, it’ll activate the surround connect which will stream the selected music simultaneously on all 4 devices. With the calibration button on the remote, the surround set-up can be calibrated for optimal cinema experience so you don’t have to place them manually in a symmetric way.
Inputs in abundance; while we prefer the HDMI ARC to connect your TV (so you have volume control through your TV remote), you can also use the optical digital cable if you want to. Two other HDMI inputs can be used to connect Blue-ray players and consoles. A coaxial connector and an auxiliary input with a 3.5 mm jack are also available for use. Also Bluetooth is extensively supported on this speaker. Both detachable speakers can also be used independently as Bluetooth speakers, so you get 3 different audio solutions which can play 3 different tracks at once. With 8 Watt audio output, they’re not the greatest performers, but they certainly are a nice addition. The speakers offer 4 to 5 hours of playback-time, but they do need to be recharged with the special connection on the main unit, so you’re unable to take them with you on holiday.
There are two different sound options on the remote; ‘music’ and ‘movie’; Movie mode definitely improves voice clarity and surround experience, while the music mode is more straightforward in audio output.
Feature-wise there’s nothing to complain about.
Both surround and solo mode are pretty impressive in terms of audio performance. Voice clarity in each configuration performs excellent in the most diverse tracks. When movie mode is selected, this particular aspect gets a boost so you'll never miss any dialogue even in more noisy scenes. The set does a great job in movie scenes, but hi-res music on the other hand doesn't yield less astonishing sound as the wireless subwoofer is able to bring enough depth to every situation. If you're more of a bass lover, just turn the bass up a notch. In combination with Philip's Crystal Clear Sound processing and soft dome tweeters, the balance between depth and precision is marvelous. Also the spatial impact is leaves nothing but a good impression.
Transforming the set from 2.1 to 4.1 channel audio is quite easy and efficient. While the rear speakers deliver precise mids and highs which will give you goosebumps, the sub is able to bring a thrilling experience to every heavy bass scene in your most beloved action movies. Another pro is While the fidelio B5 does deliver a close approximation to cinema experience, it's still not the same as a real 5.1/7.1 surround installation with wired satellite speakers in the back and maybe some downfiring mid-speakers in the ceiling. Still, this is what most of us are looking for; simplicity, the reason why detach and play is so convenient.
The portable speakers have a limited audio output and certainly need to be adjusted before using them in your surround setup. For me for example, they needed to be max 2m from my ears on standard volume to perform as a decent surround, but turning it up a notch, gave me the option to place it a little further away, which was more practical in my situation. Due to their limited bass response, the balance of the rear speakers bend a little to mid-range and treble, but they're able to produce a very clear and accurate sound, perfect for the listener to hear all refined details.
This is easily the most exciting thing I reviewed in a while. A shape-shifter delivering most impressive, dynamic sound in traditional soundbar mode. When shifted to surround mode, it easily transcends other soundbars in terms of immersive surround sound. Approaching a cinema-like experience by just taking the two sides off makes the b5 the king of versatility; there's absolutely no need for any clutter of cables througout the room. Being a stylish and unbelievably smart piece of audio with stunning audio experience, it certainly is a hit in purpose.
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