Philips Fidelio B5 review

Surround sound or portable Bluetooth – the choice is yours

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The Philips Fidelio B5 is a seriously smart bit of kit, straddling the line between straight soundbar and home cinema surround, and doing it all with ease and style.

For those who don't want to mess up the feng shui of their living room with a permanent surround sound system, it's a great alternative.

The soundbar market is an incredibly crowded one right now, and it's very refreshing to see Philips doing something different with the Fidelio range.

Philips Fidelio B5

We liked

The big thing about the B5 is the simplicity with which you can switch between using it as a standard 2.1 system and a broader 4.1 surround sound array.

There's literally no catch – the connection is a simple dock that manages a secure connection without feeling like it's jealously holding onto the speakers when you try to remove them.

And simply by plugging them back in you'll start the speakers' batteries charging, which is handy if you've left them out overnight and they've run down.

The Fidelio B5 is also rather good looking as soundbars go. It's curved design works whether it's sat on your media centre or attached to the wall, and the otherwise-hidden LED display only appears when something's being adjusted, keeping things relatively understated.

I really like the ability to switch between music and movie modes too, rather than having to jam the speakers back into their housings to avoid the effects surround sound can have on standard stereo music.

And the use of the satellites when rocking out to your favourite tracks helps create a room-filling musical experience that belies the lack of serious output power behind the B5 itself.

We disliked

When the satellite speakers are in place the Fidelio B5 is a hulking behemoth of a bar. Its length means that if you place it under a 32-inch TV your wee screen is going to look rather dwarfed.

This is a soundbar that's designed to be paired with the larger displays – which, considering its £600 price tag, isn't much of a surprise.

Then there's that certain lack of oomph (technical term) behind the B5 – for the money you might expect a little more output power than the 210W in total you get.

Thankfully the extra spatial sound delivered by the satellites can help to make up the difference, giving the sound a bit more presence – and we are talking about powering a home cinema here, not a three-day free party in the shadows of Stonehenge.

Final verdict

The Philips Fidelio B5 is an impressive bit of kit, and it's almost the perfect soundbar for someone like me, who appreciates good cinema sound but has no interest in tearing up their living room to install a 5.1 surround sound system which they'll only use every now and then.

The B5 enables you to pick and choose your movie moments, and do it on a whim. And it creates a pretty decent surround sound experience too, using both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround decoding.

The combination of convenience and good audio – the raison d'etre of the soundbar – with its transformative surround sound capabilities makes the Fidelio B5 a great option for the movie fan who can't face all the aggravation of a proper 5.1 installation.