The television industry, which faced a bit of flux recently, seems to be picking up the pace yet again, and with smart TVs now dominating homes around the world, it seems that the market is all set to play host new television sets and technology for years to come. Along with these new TVs, another peripheral device that is gaining popularity worldwide is the Soundbar.
Sometimes, the audio output of the TV itself, may not be enough or immersive enough for your liking, in this case, a Soundbar helps enhance the output and experience and deliver some serious cinematic feels to everyone in the room. A brand that has been making big strides in this real is Philips, and fortunately, we were able to get our hands on the new Philips Fidelio B97 Soundbar.
We have reviewed a few soundbar devices in the past, so when we got hold of this, we were actually expecting much more of the same, with a few additions on the cosmetic front, but we were pleasantly sur- prised to see that the Fidelio B97 Soundbar, was actually everything we expected in a soundbar device, and then some.
In this review, we will take a closer look at the new Philips Fidelio B97 7.1.2 Channel Soundbar Soundbar and its pros and cons, so that you can ultimately decide whether it is the right fit for you or not.
We always love well-designed packaging and Philips, who is one of the best when it comes to creating some truly cool packaging material, has pulled off a masterclass here as well. The black base color with the product image on top truly displays the beauty of the B97 Soundbar. The critical specifications of the devices are carefully and aesthetically arranged across the entire packaging in a way that doesn’t take away the absolute pleasure of even viewing the packaging as a whole.
As seen on the box, the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR is compatible with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
This is useful if you are streaming high-quality content that has been shot using these standards. Along with these, the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR is also compatible with Blue- tooth, HDMI, DTS Play-Fi, Chromecast, Apple TV among others.
On opening the packaging, the first thing that we saw was the soundbar itself. Be careful while taking it out of the box as it is quite tightly packed in. Along with that, we also have the Subwoofer device in its own box. Next, we got hold of the power cable and power adapters, the quick start guide, and a very sleek remote. Philips has also bundled in an AIC cable, in case you feel the need for it at any given point in time. The PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR peaks at 888 watts power & 240 watts of that are given over to the subwoofer. The guarantee card is also included along with the paperwork, so make sure you go through the packaging and retain the guarantee card.
Now, with all the components out of the box, let’s get into the review.
Design and Build
If there is one thing that Philips always seems to get right, it’s the design and builds. Every little and big product that comes from the house of Philips is a work of art and the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR is no different. Yes, the sheer width of the soundbar with the speakers connected, may throw you off, and it may even overshadow the width of the television that is above it, but when you look at the 5.6cm of height, you will be compelled to marvel at how they have managed to fit everything in such a slim package. You do get fittings that allow you to mount the B97 to a wall, and it looks rather neat, but when you see that the depth of the soundbar measures in at 12cm, you may get weird ideas like using it as a shelf as well. Make sure you don’t do anything like that.
The build itself is very impressive. The rather long soundbar meant that the designers at Philips had to work with a lot of perforated metal, but they have done an incredible job. What stands out the most, is the smoked aluminum accents around the magnetic unions with the detachable modules, the endcaps of the modules themselves, and the little stands they sit in when being used as rear surround-sound speakers, give an up-market appearance, too.
Coming to the subwoofer, Philips seems to have gone for a sleek yet more utility-based design language. The result is a neat extension to the soundbar, but to be honest, they could probably give done a bit better. This may be because Philips assumed that the subwoofer is something that is not kept in public view, but in case you need to place it in view of the public, it is not going to look out of place for sure.
Coming back to the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR, the total driver count is as high as 16, and while not all of them are used all together at the same time, they are there all the same, and when the time comes for the B97 to go all in, the drivers go in and the output and absolutely magical.
A pair of full-range drivers handle center channel duties. They’re joined by two pairs of 3.5-inch race-track drivers left and right, plus two full-range up fires. Side-mounted soft-domed tweeters add width to the soundstage. The detachable rear modules feature matching full-range drivers and tweeters.
Something that is not immediately visible is the extra set of side-mounted 19mm soft dome tweeters which come into play when the side speakers are detached. These tweeters are actually angled in order to reflect audio from surrounding walls to strengthen the sense of immersion
Finally, we have the magnetic speaker modules that de-couple when you slightly pull them and pushing them back into the soundbar requires a little bit of pressure but the connection is absolutely secured. These modular speakers pair with the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR via WiFi and on trying this a few times, we can confidently say that the connection was secure and stable all the time.
Not only are the detachable speakers an exciting feature to behold, but there are times where detaching them actually reduces the overall footprint of the soundbar, and that in turn, makes it easier to place it in tight spaces with a lot more ease. Just ensure that you place the two speakers within range in order to enjoy seamless coverage.
Overall, Philips seems to have hit the design and build right out of the park. It’s really good to see a soundbar that perfectly complements the interiors of almost any home. The footprint is not obnoxiously big and it all just sits right into your space and the experience after that is glorious.
Features and Performance
Now, when you are splashing the cash for a soundbar that costs
Around $979 USD, then it is to be taken for granted that you are expecting some exciting features, top-notch connectivity options, and some awe-inspiring performance.
Thankfully, the designers at Philips also seem to have given these factors some thought, which is why this section of the review will probably be the longest.
Let’s first talk about the connectivity options. The PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR comes with the following connectivity options – The physical sockets run to a couple of HDMI in- puts and an eARC-enabled output – and there’s 4K HDR passthrough capability here too – plus a digital optical input and a 3.5mm analog socket. Where wireless is concerned, the Philips has Bluetooth 4.2, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Play-Fi, and Spotify Connect all covered rest assured, no matter the kind of content you enjoy, the Fidelio
Philips has made it a point to highlight the feature set of the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR and for good reason. Starting off, we have the DTS Play-Fi compatibility. For those of you who are new to this, DTS Play-Fi is basically an interoperability standard that allows you to perform multiroom streaming and high-res audio playback. At the time of writing this review, the DTS Play-Fi standard has great traction with US-based services, but support for other services should be expected in due time. An interesting thing to note here is that TP Vision, the organization that owns the Philips brand, has put a lot of weight on this DTS Play-Fi standard in their television lineup, so it remains to be seen how relevant they wish to make it in devices like this soundbar.
Next, we have the fact that the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR is IMAX enhanced. This means that whenever you play some content that is in an IMAX version, the soundbar will correctly reproduce the audio so that you will get the full IMAX-rich experience. We feel that this feature has been put in to make the B97 future-proof. This is because, not a lot of content right now is available in IMAX format, which means there are not a lot of data points that can be used to properly quantify how good this feature actually is. That said, when the market starts getting populated with IMAX enhanced content, the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR will have no problems playing them to the best possible outcome.
We now move to the NET feature, and that is the support for Dolby Atmos and Dolby Standard. There are many audio and video streaming services that are showcasing content that has been shot or recorded using the Dolby Atmos and/or Dolby Surround standards. To fully experience such content, you need speakers that are compatible with these standards. We decided to put the Fidelio B97 to the test here by streaming a few episodes of the popular Netflix show ‘F1 – Drive to Survive’, which has been shot in Dobly Atmos, and the soundbar had us immersed the whole time. The audio output is impeccable and we literally found ourselves in the paddock, experiencing each moment.
The beauty of this feature is that if you are watching content that has not been shot in Dolby Atmos, the B97 soundbar automatically switches to the Dolby Surround profile.
One of the things that are really picking up traction is the inclusion of voice assistants in devices. Smart TVs today, typically feature the Google Assistant or even Amazon’s Alexa. Apple TV users have ac- cess to the popular Siri voice assistant. Philips has recognized this and as a result, the Fidelio B97 soundbar is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant. You can use either of them to control the media streaming through the soundbar. Now, if you are an Apple user and you simply prefer Siri for voice assistance, then do not fear, the B97 soundbar also supports Apple Airplay 2. So, no matter which of these voice assistants you prefer, they all work perfectly with the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar. We actually put this to the test and so far everything has checked out just fine.
For music, Spotify Connect lets you stream Spotify’s best-quality signal over Wi-Fi. You can also stream hi-res playlists from your mobile device via Apple AirPlay 2 or Bluetooth. For movies and gaming, a 4K pass-through lets you connect 4K HDR video sources with no loss of resolution.
When it comes to soundbars that come with a hefty price tag, the expectations are sky-high. We are absolutely pleased with the performance and features that come bundled in the PHILIPS FIDELIO B977.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR. The design is modern and very sleek, the build is robust, and definitely deserves special credit. When it comes to the connectivity options, we are really spoilt for choice. The inclusion of new standards like the DTS Play-Fi and IMAX enhanced to ensure that the soundbar stays relevant for years to come, which is critical in a device that costs as much as this.
So, if you love streaming content or listening to music at the highest level possible, and you want that theatre-like experience in the comfort of your home, then the PHILIPS FIDELIO B97 7.1.2 CHANNEL SOUNDBAR is the soundbar that you absolutely need to have.