HANDS ON REVIEW: Removable wireless satellites let you turn Philips' Fidelio E5 2.1 system into a full surround sound setup
Philips has continued to expand its high-end Fidelio speaker range at this year’s IFA show, moving from speaker docks to home cinema systems. The E5 kit might appear to be little more than a pair of stereo speakers, but it could in fact be one of the slickest surround sound systems we’ve seen.
Each speaker is split into two parts; a lower front satellite containing a mid-range driver and tweeter, and an upper detachable satellite containing a second main driver. You leave them stacked when listening to music, but lift them off for films and place them anywhere in a room to create surround sound.
Each detachable satellite has an internal battery, good for ten hours of playback, which charges when docked to the front speakers. They use a lossless wireless connection, which is synchronized to avoid any audio hiccups, and are built from a combination of leather, wood and aluminium, giving the entire system a premium appearance.
They also have the “Philips signature sound” we’re told every Fidelio product gets tested for. During our short time with the system we experienced authentic surround sound effects in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, with accurate positional audio that sounded rich and detailed, although we can’t make a final judgment on sound quality until we get one into our labs. It’s also worth pointing out that the center channel is created virtually by combining the output of the two front speakers – home cinema enthusiasts might prefer a physical fifth speaker.
A separate subwoofer adds plenty of bass to the mix. It’s wireless, so you can plug it in anywhere in a room, and matches the front speakers with a combination of wood and dark fabric that should blend comfortably into the background rather than grab your attention.
Power and inputs are split between the two front speakers – the right connects to the mains and the left has twin HDMI inputs, digital optical, coaxial and 3.5mm audio inputs and a single HDMI output. A final cable connects the two speakers together.
The system supports Audio Return Channel (ARC), letting you control volume through your TV, and also includes NFC and high-quality aptX Bluetooth for simple music streaming from a smartphone or tablet.
The Fidelio E5 is set to cost €699 when it goes on sale in Europe in the next few months. We can’t wait to put it through its paces, as it could be the ideal home cinema system for anyone with little space, or renters that can’t channel cables or drill holes for satellite speakers.