Philips Fidelio DS9
Dock de luxe?
Review Philips' audio engineers must be feeling rather pleased with themselves these days.
Their Fidelio series of iDevice-friendly speakers - now augmented with Android-oriented models - deliver the kind of sound quality you get from top-of-the-line rivals like B&W and Bose, are very stylishly kitted out and reasonably priced too.
The DS9 will hold an iPad, but it's happier with something smaller
They are, in short, the business, and, a few minor niggles aside, the DS9 maintains the Fidelio tradition admirably.
Philips has given the DS9 a convex design - previous models have curved inwards at the front - but the line's signature styling is present and correct. There's the customary cut-out area that runs right through the lozenge-shaped unit - and makes for a useful carry handle.
The dock connector is spring-loaded for easy device attachment and removal
The dock connector is mounted on a pivot to make it easier to dock and disconnect your iPod, iPhone or iPad. It's also spring-loaded to hold the iDevice back against the body of the speaker - there's a rubber pad to prevent the fabric that covers the front of the DS9 from being chafed.
As I say, the DS9 will happily take an iPad, but Philips still hasn't built in the supports needed to stop the tablet rocking sideways as you use it
The mock wood veneer makes for a classy look
The back is covered in a dark wood-look veneer; the rear bass ports - vents for a three-litre sound chamber - and the cut-out bordered in silver plastic. Together the dark brown back and the black front make the DS9 look more up-market than it actually is.
Below the dock sit the DS9's single control: an elongated volume rocker switch. There's not much in the way of ports, either. Beyond the dock there's a 3.5mm analogue jack for hooking up other sound sources, and that's it.
Unlike the Fidelio DS8550 speaker I reviewed almost a year ago, the DS9 has no wireless pick-up. That's disappointing, especially now Apple's AirPlay streaming tech is appearing all over the shop and, now that iOS 5 is out, is set to become even more in demand among iDevice owners.
On-board controls are limited to one volume rocker
But the quid pro quo is the low price of £249 - £100 less than the similarly AirPlay-less DS9000, though this is on the verge of being replaced by the DS9010.
Behind the fabric face sit a pair of 19mm tweeters mounted at each end. Between them and the cut-out area sit two 88mm woofers. Feeding these four is an amp that pumps 25W through each channel.
Philips' Fidelio app now has internet radio playback (left) and a five-band EQ (right)
The result is plenty of welly to get the party started and to annoy the neighbours. The Fidelio trademark rich, bassy sound is here to enjoy and there's no loss of detail among the high notes. In short, it's a very nice sound.
A benefit the DS9 and other Fidelios share with B&W's Zeppelins - but which few if any other speakers do - is a direct digital connection for the sound, bypassing the iDevice's digital-to-analogue converter and using the DS9's own.
The remote's well made but doesn't fully control the iOS app
If the DS9 itself lacks functionality, there is Philips' free Fidelio app, which now incorporates not only a five-band equaliser if you want to tinker with the sound, but also the internet radio engine from TuneIn to give you access to 7000-odd stations from around the globe. That's in addition to the alarm clock functionality the app has always offered along with its ability to tap into the iDevice's music database directly.
The Fidelio DS9 delivers, yet again, a rich, appealing sound and a decent array of features through an app running on the playback device itself. Since that is almost certainly going to be an iOS product, that doesn't matter too much. Only iPod Nano owners and folk using the aux input will miss out.
The only real omission here is wireless connectivity, and if that's a must there are similarly priced but less beefy members of the Fidelio family to enjoy. Me, I'm happy to trade wireless for the DS9's and stylish looks and gorgeous sound. ®
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