The Philips Fidelio SoundSphere is one of the best-looking Airplay speaker systems we've ever seen – and, we're extremely happy to report, its beauty is far from skin-deep.
Comprising two forward-leaning cylindrical speakers clad in a classy gloss black, it's accompanied by a simple iPod/iPhone/iPad charging dock, remote control and all the cables you need to get it up and running quickly and simply.
Inside one of the speakers you'll find a 2x 50W RMS amplifier, while each speaker also includes a 127mm woofer for mid-range/deep bass, and a 25mm tweeter, which arcs out of the top on a hefty chrome arm that can also be used to help you move them around.
Setting up the SoundSphere is pretty straightforward. On the back of the active speaker you'll find a power socket, along with a pair of binding posts that are connected to the accompanying passive speaker using the speaker cable provided. You'll also find a 3.5mm input jack, along with controls for the SoundSphere's Wi-Fi transceiver connection so you can connect to it using AirPlay.
If you want to use your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch make sure you also download the free Fidelio app, available from the iTunes App Store. This app handily enables you to tweak the speaker's EQ settings, adjust the SoundSphere's volume and stream thousands of internet radio stations, among other things.
Using the Philips Fidelio SoundSphere with your Mac couldn't be simpler. Once its Wi-Fi connection is on, it magically appears as an AirPlay speaker in iTunes 10.
Philips says the aim of the Fidelio SoundSphere is to recreate the experience of listening to live music – and it truly does a magnificent job. Whatever genre of music you throw at it from opera to r'n'b, folk, thrash metal and panpipes, the Fidelio SoundSphere will deliver it with wonderfully believable vocals, lashings of melodic bass and crystal-clear treble.
The criticisms we have about the SoundSphere are really quite minor. Having to lash up a cable between the two speakers ensures it's not quite as wireless as you might like.
Another tiny niggle concerns the high frequency tweeters. While the woofers are sensibly covered by magnetic grilles, the tweeters are open to the elements and to little inquisitive fingers. We suggest you position the speakers out of reach on a shelf or sideboard if you don't want them to be damaged, because we've discovered that kids are rightly fascinated by these speakers.
So should you buy the Fidelio SoundSphere? If you love music, the answer is definitely.
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