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Soundbars

The Philips Fidelio FB1 is a new soundbar, which the brand hopes will continue a successful trend of delivering build quality, features and performance in excess of the price. Philips also plans to take the bass capabilities of a one-box soundbar to new levels using a pair of 3.5in woofers.

The Fidelio FB1 supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced, all of which it delivers using a 5.1.2-channel speaker layout and processing that can expand this to 7.1.2 virtual channels. There is extensive connectivity, along with a host of features including DTS Play-Fi and Apple AirPlay 2.

An attractive design that includes ring lights around the upfiring drivers helps the FB1 stand out from the crowd, but the question is – does it sound as good as it looks? Let’s find out…

SOUND QUALITY

The Philips Fidelio FB1 is a soundbar composed of a 5.1.2-channel system, with front left, right and centre channels, side-firing width channels, and a pair of up-firing overhead channels. These full range speakers are composed of a total of 13 drivers and tweeters, all backed up by a pair of 3.5in woofers for low-end extension down to an impressive 40Hz.

All these speakers are driven by a total of 310W of amplification, with peaks up to 620W when needed, which allows the entire system to go loud without ever feeling strained or running out of steam. There’s a wonderful sense of cohesion to the overall soundstage, while the built-in subwoofers integrate seamlessly with all the other speakers.

With music, the Fidelio FB1 produces an accomplished delivery that remains tight and detailed. The treble is rendered with flair, remaining clear and well-defined, while the midrange is free of congestion. The deep bass is also properly generated, with precise transients and a degree of poise that gives drums and other low-end effects speed, depth and attack.

The lack of a separate subwoofer is rarely apparent, even when watching modern blockbusters with seismic amounts of bass. The twin woofers certainly don’t disgrace themselves, and while not as powerful as a large separate subwoofer, they certainly dig deep, and do an excellent job of laying a solid foundation of bass that supports all the other channels.

The Fidelio FB1 is impressive with 5.1 soundtracks, generating an expansive front soundstage that handles TV shows and films with energy and verve. The side-firing drivers add greater width than already provided by the size of the cabinet itself, while the dedicated centre speaker handles dialogue with skill, ensuring it remains clear and focused on the screen.

When it comes to Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced the Fidelio FB1 really comes into its own, with the upfiring drivers producing excellent overhead effects, and helping to create a three-dimensional presence that fills the front third of the room. There’s no real surround envelopment at the back, but that’s too be expected given the lack of rear speakers.

It’s an impressive performance, with the Fidelio FB1 producing a balanced and enjoyable immersive experience that picks out subtle details and specific audio objects with a nuanced precision. The Movie preset is probably the best bet, especially for movies obviously, but the Surround AI setting tends to boost the height/surround effects at the expense of the cohesion.

Theoretically you could use DTS Play-Fi to add compatible wireless rear speakers and even a separate wireless subwoofer, but this obviously adds to the cost and detracts from the main appeal of the Fidelio FB1: it’s ability to deliver a top drawer sonic performance in a convenient fashion, while also keeping the costs down compared to a multi-component system.

LIVING WITH THE PHILIPS FIDELIO FB1

The first thing you’ll notice about the Philips Fidelio FB1 is that it’s fairly large at 1.2m, but thanks to an elegant design aesthetic and black finish it won’t dominate the front of your room. However, its size means you can partner it with some fairly large screens, and it’s also extremely well made.

The Fidelio FB1 is surprisingly attractive for a soundbar with rounded corners on the cabinet and a Muirhead leather trim that separates the top, front, and side panels. This lends the soundbar a degree of class, while the mesh metal grilles add a robust element to the overall construction. 

There’s a display on the front right, but because this is behind the metal grille, at times it can be hard to read. There are ring lights around the upfiring drivers that illuminate when the FB1 is decoding an object-based audio format, although you can switch them off if you find the lighting annoying.

In terms of control, there are some basic touch-sensitive buttons on the top, and a remote which offers all the main features but uses a very minimalist approach. A bit too minimalist to be honest, as most buttons just use icons, and the volume controls aren’t even labelled.

The Philips Sound app, which integrates with DTS Play-Fi, add streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Qobuz, Deezer and internet radio. There’s also playback of music stored on a network, including Hi-Res Audio, along with multiroom capabilities via other Play-Fi devices.

A second app called Philips Fine Tune offers control of the volume, EQ selection (including a custom mode), surround modes (Upmix, Standard or Surround AI), and levels for the surround channels. This app makes setup easier, and is preferable to the remote and hard-to-read display.

The Fidelio FB1 comes with a calibration microphone that connects to the soundbar using a 3.5mm jack, and when plugged in the room correction feature runs automatically. A series of tones are measured using the microphone, and the overall sound is optimised for your room.

There’s an HDMI input, and an output that supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel). Both also pass 4K/60p, and every version of HDR (HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision). There’s  also an optical digital audio input, and a USB port that supports MP3, WAV, and FLAC files.

In terms of wireless connectivity there’s dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and Apple AirPlay 2. There’s also built-in Chromecast, Spotify Connect, and DTS Play-Fi. AirPlay provides access to Siri, but the Fidelio FB1 also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for added smarts.

CONCLUSION

The Philips Fidelio FB1 achieves exactly what the brand set out to do, create a one-box soundbar that’s capable of creating an expansive front soundstage, precise overhead effects, and deep bass without needing a separate subwoofer. It achieves all these goals, and while it doesn’t have any surround channels, aside from virtual ones, it manages to generate a solid soundstage.

The speakers built into the soundbar use high-quality drivers, and thanks to 310W of amplification the system has power to spare. The Philips decodes Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced very effectively, steering audio objects with precision and skill. The automated room calibration feature also plays its part, optimising the sound by combining the drivers into a cohesive whole.

The Fidelio FB1 looks classy, with an elegant design, solid build quality, and groovy light-up drivers. There’s a host of control options including a brace of apps, extensive connectivity, and added smarts via the ability to work with Alexa and Google Assistant. Finally, the inclusion of DTS Play-Fi adds multiroom features to a soundbar that delivers the goods without breaking the bank.

LISTENING NOTES

Tenet (4K Blu-ray)

Christopher Nolan’s time-twisting thriller boasts a 5.1-channel soundtrack that delivers the cerebral action with an epic sense of scale. The climatic temporal battle uses all the channels to create the gunfire and explosions, but also delivers subterranean bass. Given Nolan’s penchant for muffled dialogue, any centre channel also needs to be at the top of its game.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (4K Blu-ray)

This blockbusting third entry in Marvel’s web-slinging film trilogy boasts plenty of wall-crawling action, and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that makes full use of the overhead channels and lower frequencies. The battle on the Statue of Liberty is a sonic tour-de-force, with unique sound designs for each villain, while a trio of Spideys battle to defeat them

Jurassic World: Dominion (4K Blu-ray)

The latest entry in the blockbusting dino-franchise brings back the leads of the original Jurassic Park for an adventure that delivers epic globe-trotting and paleontological action. The superb DTS:X soundtrack produces immersion through extensive use of the overheads, especially when a dinosaur attacks a plane, and suitably monstrous bass.

If you’re looking for a single-box soundbar that skilfully adds Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced audio to your big screen TV, the Philips Fidelio FB1 is right up your street. It’s easy to install, offers extensive features, and delivers fantastic immersive audio. It has serious amounts of power too, and even manages to generate deep bass without resorting to a separate subwoofer. It does everything it needs to, and it does it well, while still managing to remain affordable.

What the press say

Why you should buy it

If you’re looking for a single-box soundbar that skilfully adds Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced audio to your big screen TV, the Philips Fidelio FB1 is right up your street. It’s easy to install, offers extensive features, and delivers fantastic immersive audio. It has serious amounts of power too, and even manages to generate deep bass without resorting to a separate subwoofer. It does everything it needs to, and it does it well, while still managing to remain affordable

Video review

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