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Philips Fidelio E6 review – hands on

Philips Fidelio E6 1

Virtual centre channel thanks to clever speaker placement won’t break the clean design

Philips has gradually expanded its Surround on Demand range of sound bars and speakers over the past few years, adding new ways to upgrade your TV with a front-facing audio boost, which then break apart for wireless surround sound. The Fidelio E6 is the latest in the series, an evolution of last year’s Fidelio E5 that gains extended Bluetooth capabilities and a virtual centre channel to create a 5.1 sound without actually needing a physical speaker in front of your TV.

For everyday TV watching and music listening, the Fidelio E6 acts as a pair of stereo speakers, but when you’re ready to watch a film in surround sound, the top part of each speaker lifts off and activates an internal battery. You can then place them anywhere in the room to get convincing surround sound, thanks to a proprietary wireless connection to the main system. As before, the main speakers charge the wireless component when you dock them together, using a set of contact terminals. You should get between six and eight hours of battery life out of each satellite.

So far, so similar to the outgoing Fidelio E5, but the E6 goes a step further. Each wireless speaker can be used as its own Bluetooth speaker, or you can pair both together for stereo playback from a smartphone, tablet or other Bluetooth-equipped device. The main speakers now also act as their own Bluetooth pair, meaning the one system could play three music sources at once, in different rooms. The main system has the benefit of using the wireless subwoofer to add some extra bass to your music; the wireless satellites have to do without.

Philips Fidelio E6 4

When it’s time to watch a film, the main speakers hide another secret. An angled driver inside each stack points outward to create a cone of sound focused between the pair, effectively forming a fifth virtual audio channel. This means you can watch 5.1 films without needing a physical fifth speaker underneath your TV. The effect is genuinely impressive, with clear separation between left and right channels and the centre when you’re sat directly in the sweet spot between each speaker. Move to the sides and the effect is less convincing, but it will work perfectly if your TV is directly facing your sofa. The surround sound effect is helped by automatic room calibration, meaning sounds appear to be coming from the correct direction even if you can’t place the wireless satellites in a perfect square. 

Other new additions include Spotify Connect and Google Cast, meaning you can control playback directly from within the respective apps. Otherwise, the exterior design remains the same, with a mix of fabric, real wood, aluminium and genuine leather simply oozing class. At only 40cm tall when stacked, they don’t detract from your TV’s picture when placed nearby.

Philips Fidelio E6 3

Whether stacked together or used separately, it’s clear the Fidelio E6 is a premium sound system. It’s also future-proof, with full 4K passthrough on its HDMI inputs to ensure you can use it with UHD Blu-ray discs when they arrive en masse next year. 

The Fidelio E6 is expected to launch in October this year throughout Europe, but with an RRP of €899 it certainly won’t be cheap. However, if  permanent 5.1 surround sound system simply isn’t an option where you live, this definitely looks like being the next best thing. We’ll find out exactly how well the Fidelio E6 performs when we give it a full review a little closer to launch.

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