Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9860W Docking Speakers with AirPlay Page 2

Philips_FidelioSoundSphere_Photo_Page2

Sound Quality
Once I managed to get the EQ set to flat I started first by setting the SoundSpheres on a side-table in my dining room. The SoundSpheres are rear-ported speakers, and I did find that positions within a foot or two of a wall or corner seemed to provide too much bass boost for me personally. These really don't seem like a good desktop speaker. Once I put them onto my living room speaker stands however, they really opened up...big time.

The bass response of the SoundSpheres is quite good down to about 70Hz—about what I expected from these relatively small speakers. Those looking for a little extra umph at the bottom might want to position the speakers closer to a boundary, and, of course, the EQ in the amp is available for some adjustment. The mid-range is nicely balanced and even, though just a tad boxy sounding. Treble is wonderfully well behaved delivering plenty of information without overdoing it in the least.

The truly astonishing thing about the sound of these speakers is the ENORMOUS image they create when listening from pretty much anywhere in the room. The image is nicely decoupled from the speaker location going slightly wider than the speaker positions, appearing somewhat behind the speakers, but most surprisingly seeming to fill the space nearly from floor to ceiling. No, the acoustic image is not nearly as pin-point specific as a really good high-end rig, but the sense of space-filling the SoundSpheres accomplish is quite extraordinary in my experience, and what sets this product well apart from other expensive single-unit streaming speaker solutions like the B&W Zeppelin Air, or Arcam rCube. Of course, those product would be a better choice if you think you'll be moving them from place to place over time, but if you're looking for a quick, un-cluttered, and very good looking way to fill a room with sound the SoundSpheres are a tremendous product. The wife will love the aesthetic value and ease of use, and you will be tickled pink by the way this relatively low-cost solution will deliver a sense of acoustic space normally reserved for killer high-end rigs. While I wouldn't call the SoundSphere a reference quality speaker by any stretch, it is a very audiophile friendly product.

Summary
For those of you who are Apple centric and familiar with Airplay, and have a large, nicely appointed room that needs some music, the Fidelio SoundSpheres may be an ideal solution. I find their design quite striking both in a visual sense, and in that the design is a direct result of an innovative approach to developing point-source, omni-directional speaker that will fill a room with a spacious sound...and boy does it ever!

€999 is a healthy chunk of change, but it seems to me the terrific looks, small size, and really good sound of this system make it a preferable alternative to a bulky traditional two-channel system or an effectively mono streaming speaker in situations where you want nicely reproduced music in one of the larger rooms in your home. I found it worked very well for all manner of music and T.V. listening. Strongly recommended for Apple-centric listeners with a big space to fill with sound.

Editor's Note: This article was initially published with a wrong model number "DS9800W". It has been corrected to reflect the product reviewed. The current SoundSphere product (DS9860 in wood, also DS9830 in gloss white) is not yet available in the U.S.

As is mentioned in the comments, there were some issues with the previous product and a number of poor customer reviews on the internet resulted. The revised product has addressed concerns by an updated WiFi Airplay module that includes the Easy 3-step AirPlay set-up, and also an improved antenna and power supply. The sound performance is very similar between the two generations. I've been asked to relay the message that, " Any customers of the DS9800W that do have issues should contact our support team who will do their utmost to help them."

I'm very glad Philips has responded so rapidly to these issues; I look forward to availability in the U.S. The SoundSpheres are a very cool product.

Video

Resources
Philips Fidelio home page and SoundSphere product page.
SoundSphere patent application.
Other reviews here, here, here, and here.

COMPANY INFO
Philips
1600 Summer St.
P.O. Box 120015
Stamford, CT 06912
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Hjelmevold's picture

I can't help but notice the similarity between these speakers and the Linkwitz Lab Pluto. From a technical point of view, I prefer the Plutos to the SoundSphere's more traditional implementation (the Plutos have an extremely low crossover to improve the dispersion pattern, and they have an infinite-baffle enclosure). But the SoundSpheres are of course much better looking, in addition to being wireless.

If I were to buy something like this, I'd prefer to buy just a single speaker instead of the pair, for two reasons. First of all, a single speaker avoids the cable between the speakers, further increasing wife acceptance factor since you'll only have a single power cable.

But more importantly, since such a large part of the sound of omnidirectional speakers is generated by the room acoustics, you'll get a more tidy sound scape by using one speaker only, especially when this is close to being a point-source speaker. A single speaker would be very beneficial in a living room setting when you don't necessarily sit in the sweet spot, but rather move around. With two speakers, there would have been a lot of comb filter effects when moving around in the room. With a single point source speaker, the biggest change is in the acoustics, but these change just like any other sound emitting object in the room, and therefore the speaker sounds like a completely natural and well-integrated part of your environment.

gefski's picture

Eye of the beholder I guess. My wife thought they were "IKEAish salt and pepper grinders". I was getting bad kitchen images too, reading the tech paragraphs to decide which I would put flour in and which sugar. 

Her best comment though was "...that picture of you (that I was laughing at) from last weekend's Head-Fi meet with the Stax Sigmas on your head--they almost look cool compared to those speakers...".

Anyway I'm glad they do so well sonically. Keep up the fun and informative work Tyll, and I'll keep reading!

 

praveen's picture

Thought of picking this up but the reviews of long-term reliability (check amazon) for this baby are atrocious with lots of users complaining high failure rates until they gave up. Anyone else used these puppies and found them to last for at least a year?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I did contact Philips and it looks like I've reviewed a subsequent model (DS9860W) that took care of the problems with the first. I've modified my article based on information I received from Philips. I'll reprint my Editor's Note here:

Editor's Note: This article was initially published with a wrong model number "DS9800W". It has been corrected to reflect the product reviewed. The current SoundSphere product (DS9860 in wood, also DS9830 in gloss white) is not yet available in the U.S.

As is mentioned in the comments, there were some issues with the previous product and a number of poor customer reviews on the internet resulted. The revised product has addressed concerns by an updated WiFi Airplay module that includes the Easy 3-step AirPlay set-up, and also an improved antenna and power supply. The sound performance is very similar between the two generations. I've been asked to relay the message that, " Any customers of the DS9800W that do have issues should contact our support team who will do their utmost to help them."

I'm very glad Philips has responded so rapidly to these issues; I look forward to availability in the U.S. The SoundSpheres are a very cool product.

oluv's picture

yes, 1 year is what you can expect, than they will fail. if you have warranty they should fixed it, as was the case with my own set. since then they have worked flawlessly (apart from airplay-stability issues).
sound is really good, much better than what B&W is offering for an even higher price!

ultrabike's picture

My living room uber-mini 5.1 setup consists of a Mirage nano-sat set. They are not exactly the same technology. As mentioned above, these seem closer to the Pluto since the Mirage also use an up-firing tweeter with a small diffuser.

My wife does believe these type of speakers look nice.

The nice thing about these besides the expansive sound, is that placement is not as critical. In the Mirage's case it's even less critical given the lack of a port. This may be important for some if locating the speakers out of curious little hands is a consideration.

The trade off for the lack of port is that the Mirage's do not extend very low, which is something that for a while had me salivating for the Soundspheres. In fact, in the case of the nanosats, there is a sizeable frequency response hole before the sub kicks in which IMO is a severe design flaw in the Mirage's package.

A portless Soundsphere alternative, w/o the reliability scare (if there are indeed reliability issues) would have been the Mirage OMD-5 which, like the nanosats, is also portless but uses a 5 1/2" woofer (instead of a 2.75"). Still, the Soundsphere might be able to give more low end extension.

I think the OMD-5's go for ~$450 a pair @ eBay (these are passive though). The nanosats IMO have a warm tilt, and going from memory, I think the OMD-5's have this too... They used to be available at Best Buy (Magnolia deal)...

Will continue salivating for the Soundspheres.

oluv's picture

i am an owner of the original black DS9800, which has been on the market for more than 2 years now.
there have been definitely reliability-issues with the first generation. mine got broken after one year (the famous blinking red LED) but could be fixed due to warranty.
another problem is the unreliable airplay-connection, the speakers rename themselves repeatedly, or they continue to log into the network on their own. philips was never able to provide any solution for that!
the new DS9860 doesn't seem to be that different, if the sound remained the same, for the better, as the DS9800 is really not bad, it is just heavy bassnotes that produce lots of port noise, despite the port being quite large.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Did you get the app for it and check to see if the EQ is set? If not, I'd recommend getting the app and set the speakers for flat...they sound much better and get rid of a bit of tht wolly bass.
oluv's picture

yes, i have set the EQ flat or even turned down the 300hz band one notch to make them sound less boomy.

i preferred them with "fullsound" option on, which disabled the EQ completely, but the latest soundstudio app doesn't even have this option anymore. fortunately i still have an old version of the previous dockstudio-app on my ipad, so i can set "fullsound" if i want to. dunno why philips took away this feature although they still promote "fullsound" on the product-website...

branon's picture

Do they have any plans of releasing this in the US?

Arly Borges's picture

Hi Tyll, sorry if this comes across as a silly question. Could you lay out what your exact setup was for these speakers and what was the sweet spot for you when trying to find good positioning away from the wall to get decent bass? Also, is there a way I could possibly bypass the amp and use my own external amp. I'm wondering if maybe better results could possibly be attained with an external amp?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Mostly it was resetting the EQ to flat to get rid of the factory set bass boost. Then I liked them at least 3 feet from a wall, not because of bass boost, but mainly to give them room to breath and develop a big image. The image wasn't specific enough to need critical positioning---it's big, but not pin-point in its imaging.

I don't think you can by-pass the internal amps.

oluv's picture

only the right speaker is active, the left one is a passive speaker that you could indeed attach to any amp, but i wouldn't recommend this, because i also wanted to know how it sounded for real, and it is a very tinny lifeless sound.
i guess there is lots of EQ and other DSP processing in the built in amp.

Sheep's picture

I can get my hands on a new pair of these wooden fidelios . DS9860W But i'm still concerned about these bad reports about the wifi. Did i read correctly in your article that philips fixed this problem? Their beauty keeps pulling me towards bying but.....

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