Speakers Guide

Philips Fidelio Soundsphere Docking Speaker with AirPlay DS9800W review

Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800W Docking Speakers - High Fidelity At A High Price

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Overall rating 8.5/10
Design:
9
Performance:
9
Features:
8
Value:
7.5
THE GOOD
Attractive design
Detailed and punchy sound
Balanced delivery
THE BAD
Finicky AirPlay setup
Dock is only for charging purposes


Performance & Scores

Performance Run

Before you get to stream songs via AirPlay, you're required to pair your mobile device with the Fidelio SoundSphere first. What we've done on the previous page was to add the Fidelio to your home network; so don't be confused between the two configuration process. Fortunately, enabling AirPlay at this stage is less fastidious. To do so, hit the Music icon on your phone and select the track you'd like to stream to the DS9800W. Tap on the AirPlay icon and enable the "Philips Fidelio" device (see image below). It'll take a couple of seconds before the two devices are synced. Now you're ready to stream. In addition, you may also download the DockStudio app from Apple's iTunes store which comes with a couple of enhancements. For example, the app provides playback controls, EQ adjustments, and an alarm clock. For our audio tests, we'll be using a mixture of highly compressed MP3 clips as well as a handful of songs with higher bit-rates. And for the record, we've setup a router situated in the same room as the Fidelio SoundSphere solely for testing purposes.

Here are some observations based on our experience with the DS9800W Fidelio SoundSphere:

  • There is a noticeable lag of two to three seconds whilst toggling between tracks. 
  • The same latency applies to volume adjustments made using the mobile device.
  • The speakers require approximately 20 seconds to initialize. A beep would sound off once it has synced with the network.
  • Quirk: The Fidelio isn't intuitive enough to detect a streaming source upon powering up. In other words, you'll need to press the remote's 'mobile device button' to enable streams after powering on the DS9800W.
  • For optimal stereo imaging, we'd recommend placing the speakers no less than one meter apart.



MP3 Tracks Evaluation

We aren't entirely convinced if Philips' FullSound technology enhanced the fidelity of the compressed audio tracks beyond a reasonable doubt. But we do know that the DS9800W is a soundstaging maestro capable of creating expansive widths and depths during playback. This characteristic was apparent on all the tracks we've thrown at the piano black speakers. On Imelda May's Mayhem, we enjoyed the full-bodied bass and plump mid-range levels. The horns really came alive on the Fidelio SoundSphere although the higher frequency ranges sounded a little less defined than desired. Other than that, presentation was smooth with a solid amount of bass presence. Idol's Eyes Without A Face ballad was coolly rendered with Steve Stevens' power riffs carrying just enough bite. 

Similarly, Adele's voice took center stage on Set Fire To The Rain as well, unadulterated by the drums and lush instrumentation. But there are exceptions, of course. Treble production could be cleaner, plus a distinct hiss was apparent throughout the track although we'll put that down as an inherent flaw from the recording itself. It's not easy to recreate a live performance on dual channels, but the DS9800W was able to pull it off by filling the room with a convincing acoustic presence. On Hotel California, for instance, the combined pluckings of classical guitars and Henley's raspy croons had just the right quality and timbre to make the Eagles' performance a visceral experience on the Fidelio SoundSphere. If anything, the DS9800W was right at home when it came to presenting classical music ("String Quartet No. 13 in A minor") in all their stringed splendor.  

Philips DS9800W Fidelio SoundSphere - Audio Performance Report Card
MP3 Tracks Bit-rate Format Score
Mayhem - Imelda May  320kbps M4A 8.5
Hotel California - Eagles 320kbps M4A 9.0
Set Fire To The Rain - Adele 192kbps M4A 8.5 
Leisure Suite - Feist 128kbps M4A 9.0 
Eyes Without A Face - Billy Idol 128kbps M4A 9.0
String Quartet No. 13 in A minor (Schubert) - Kodaly Quartet 128kbps M4A 9.0


 

High Bit-rate Tracks Evaluation

Philips' swanky black pods were given a chance to flaunt their acoustic muscle with these higher bit-rate soundtracks. Let's start with the Pod Racing sequence. We were impressed by the reverberating quality of the announcer's voice peppered throughout the clip, plus the Fidelio was also able to recreate a spacious soundscape as depicted in the film. More impressive were the engine hums which resonated with heart-stopping vibrations; credit to the speakers' roomy cabinets and proficient bass drivers with the volume kicked up. Panning whirs of the pod racers speeding by from left to right channels were also nicely delivered. On The Lost World, these speakers had no qualms when handling wind and string instruments on this lush symphonic track. Percussive instruments, like the timpani, were dramatically rendered with minimal distortion by its mid-bass drivers. Overall presentation was also less flawed compared to busier pop or rock pieces. 

Cutthroat Island's soundtrack calls the horn section up to the fore, especially during the opening sequence. More importantly, the Fidelio SoundSphere was able to match the track's grandiosity. Every rise and fall of each movement were coherently produced. Clarity was also retained for there were little signs of muffling or attenuation as the music soared. There was discernible strain on the speakers during Apollo 13's liftoff sequence, but the drivers managed to emerge unscathed among the crackle and pops (present in the recording). So far, so good. But can the DS9800W handle a dinosaur? On the T-Rex sound effects clip, we were pleased with how realistic the crackling branches and T-Rex's roar sounded. Similarly, we also noticed that the speakers were able to sustain the same impressive soundscape with minimal distortion when the volume's kicked up.

One point to note throughout our testing was that the speakers only performed well when set at mid to high volumes. This could mean disturbing your neighbors if your room is adjacent to the next flat when residing in a high-rise apartment. At low volumes, a fair bit of clarity and delivery is lost and you might think this is an under-performing speaker set.

Philips DS9800W Fidelio SoundSphere - Audio Performance Report Card
High Bit-rate Tracks Bit-rate  Format Score
Phantom Menace - Pod Race Scene 831kbps M4A 9.5
Cutthroat Island 798kbps M4A 9.0
The Lost World 710kbps M4A 9.0
T-Rex Sound Effects 588kbps M4A 9.0
Apollo 13 SFX 605kbps M4A 8.5