Don't feel like dropping thousands of dollars on potentially unnecessary sound gear but still want a decent surround sound experience? The Philips Fidelio HTL9100 soundbar is for you.
What Is It?
The Philips HTL9100 Soundbar is a 2.1-channel soundbar with two detachable right- and left-channel speakers at either end for a virtual surround sound experience, as well as a separate, wireless floor-standing subwoofer.
The soundbar packs two 2.5-inch mid-range tweeters as well as two 1-inchers, with each detachable speaker packing a 2.5-inch speaker. They connect back to the main soundbar on a 5.8MHz frequency, so your neighbour isn't about to interrupt your sound experience by firing up the microwave, for example.
The Fidelio soundbar will set you back $1200.
The Fidelio is incredibly simple to set up. Plug it in, pass the HDMI through the soundbar and back into your TV and voila! Instant sound. It's also beautiful and sleek to look at so that it blends in to your existing home theatre set-up without being an ostentatious mess.
Most importantly, the sound is great. It's got nothing on your big, chunky 5.1-sound systems, but it tops your TV speakers any day of the week, and the detachable speakers which give you virtual surround sound without pressing a single button are a master-stroke.
The detachable speakers instantly sync up to the soundbar once they're disconnected, and start firing great audio at you from all around the room. When you're done, just re-attach them to the soundbar and they recharge, ready for you to use next time. It's the most innovative idea in soundbar technology right now, and Philips deserve a medal, or at least a big hug for implementing it.
It also has loads of inputs, including compatibility with Bluetooth audio streaming and AirPlay so you can throw sound to it from just about anywhere.
The Best Part
Look, we know that not all of you acquire your content through legal channels. A certain bay of pirates may be a frequent hangout for you. If that's the case: stop doing that, but if you have a bunch of content that's out of sync, the Fidelio allows you to adjust the audio delay to sync it back up to the image.
It's like the best feature of VLC now in your home-theatre hardware.
The Fidelio is great, but the customisability of the sound experience is lacking. The equaliser on the soundbar and the external speakers is preset, which means you can't tweak it to your liking if you're not getting the most out of the listening experience. You just have to grin and bear it.
That can become particularly annoying if you're streaming a few different genres of music in your playlist and can't change the EQ from say, dance music to rock music between tracks. You can toggle the treble and bass almost infinitely up the scale, but the customisation options stop there.
We've also noticed in our tests that the battery on the speaker isn't exactly what it should be. Philips say that you'll get 10 hours out of the wireless speakers, but on more than one occasion, the speakers started crying for battery by the end of a three-hour movie. Admittedly, you can always reattach and recharge them, but it's weird to get drastically less than quoted life like that.
The Fidelio is also lacking in a third HDMI-in port. You only get the option of two HDMI inputs before you pass them out back to your TV. That means if you have an Xbox, PlayStation and Apple TV/FOXTEL/Roku/whatever, you're going to have to choose only two of them. The other one you'll have to switch in and out all the time, which is annoying. I'm not sure what the average amount of HDMI devices is in the Australian household, but I guarantee if you're thinking about premium sound purchases, you'll have more HDMI inputs than this thing can support at once.
Should You Buy It?
This is the perfect soundbar for people who want maximum sound with minimum fuss. Sure, you can get a 5.1-channel surround sound system and string it up around your house to turn the living room into the IMAX experience, but some people just can't be bothered.
A soundbar is for people who want better quality sound than their TV speakers can offer, and the Fidelio is for people who want customisation on top of that. It's the perfect soundbar package.