Mis à jour le 22 December 2021.
The Philips Fidelio B97 sound bar offers 7.1.2-channel sound distribution without having to use multiple speakers just as many cables. The Philips Fidelio B97 is accompanied by a wireless subwoofer and two ingenious removable battery-powered surround speakers that can be placed wherever you’d like in the room and stored as desired. The Philips Fidelio B97 sound bar is very versatile as it is compatible with DTS Play-Fi, Airplay 2, Spotify Connect and works with the vocal assistants Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for easy control. It features extensive connectivity, including HDMI eARC inputs and outputs which allow the user to connect many sources. Thanks to its IMAX Enhanced certification and Dolby Atmos as well DTS: X compatibility, this next-generation soundbar promises a complete immersion in movies, series and video games on paper. Can this type of sound bar designed for home-theater use effectively place the listener into the heart of the action on a daily basis?
Philips Fidelio B97: packaging & accessories
The Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar and its magnetic surround speakers come in a long box including the wireless subwoofer. These two elements are held in place and protected by thick polystyrene plates. The Philips Fidelio B97 comes with a quick start guide, an infrared remote control with batteries and two power cables: one for the soundbar’s power adapter and one for the subwoofer . There are also three wall brackets and all the necessary hardware for mounting the Philips Fidelio B97 and its surround speakers on the wall.
Philips Fidelio B97: presentation
The Dutch brand currently offers four models of sound bars: the Philips TAB5305 , Philips Audio TAB6305 , Philips The One TAB8505 and Philips Fidelio B97 . The latter is the most powerful and the most complete of the range, with its Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 channel compatibility and its wireless surround speakers. These removable battery-operated surround speakers are the major asset of the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar. For an even more immersive experience, you can freely place the surround speakers in the room and near the sofa, without having to connect them to the mains. At the end of the session, you can simply return the speakers to each end of the soundbar, thus avoiding letting sit around the living room and also allowing them to recharge. This ingenious and very practical system was already implemented by JBL on the JBL Bar 5.1 soundbar .
Philips does not communicate the exact battery life of the wireless speakers, but in our tests, each speaker lasted between 8 and 10 hours, depending on the listening volume. For extended use, the surround speakers can be powered using a USB adapter (not included) delivering 5W at 2A. Each surround speaker has a USB-C port located on its underside to connect the cable. To access it, however, it is necessary to remove the stand which allows the speaker to be placed on a piece of furniture. This charging method is therefore only viable when the surround speakers are mounted on the wall. A really unfortunate point that Philips could have avoided by simply placing the charging port on the back of the speakers.
Design & conception
The Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar is a relatively large model, measuring 105cm in length without the surround speakers and 131cm when the surround speakers are attached. This Philips sound bar is therefore intended mainly for large televisions. Fortunately, it only 55mm in height, which means that the bottom of the screen isn’t covered, even with latest generation televisions whose base is generally quite low.
The design quality of the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar is impeccable, with a rigid acoustic grille that covers the entire front and top. When the surround speakers are detached, the Philips Fidelio B97 sound bar has a chrome-colored cover to protect the side speakers at each end. These covers are magnetically attached to the sound bar and need to be removed to charge the surround speakers. These also have a magnetic base that must be removed before placing them on the soundbar. Handling these many parts, however, makes setting up the soundbar longer. For surround sound, remove the wireless speakers, place them on their dedicated support and replace the covers at the ends of the bar. The magnetic mounts make the process quite easy, but it involves many steps, not to mention storing the covers or brackets when not in use. However, this is the inevitable downside to this type of “à la carte” home theater surround sound system.
The design of the subwoofer that accompanies the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar, on the other hand, is more traditional. It is made of a tall and deep rectangular black MDF frame. The subwoofer is less than 410 mm high for a width of 240 mm and a depth of 400 mm. These relatively large dimensions can make it difficult to discreetly integrate the subwoofer into a living room. Fortunately, the sub is wireless, and its placement is thus more flexible. It is possible to place it wherever you want in the living room.
For efficient placement of the various effects, the Philips Fidelio B97 sound bar features no less than 10 speakers, four of which are exclusively dedicated to reproducing the center channel. Which makes for clear dialogues. To optimize the reproduction of side effects, the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar also has two speakers on the sides. Another two full-range speakers located on the top panel are dedicated to the vertical effects of the Dolby Atmos and DTS: X tracks. Finally, its active wireless subwoofer is equipped with a large 8″ driver. The entire system delivers 450 W RMS or 888 watts in peak power capable of simulating up to 7.1.2 channels.
Dolby, DTS and IMAX Enhanced
The Philips Fidelio B97 audio processor supports the majority of audio formats, including the different versions of Dolby and DTS: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital EX, DTS, DTS 96/24 , DTS Digital Surround (5.1ch), DTS: X, DTS-ES, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, DTS-HD Master Audio and LPCM. It’s really rare that a sound bar is compatible with so many formats. The Philips Fidelio B97 therefore has a major advantage over its competitors by ensuring optimal support for the majority of content, from the most recent to the oldest, the effects of which it can simulate on all its channels. Better yet, the Philips Fidelio B97 is also IMAX Enhanced certified, which means that it can reproduce the full dynamic range of compatible sound mixes as closely as possible, taking into account the intentions of filmmakers and sound teams.
UHD 4K HDR
The Philips Fidelio B97 features a comprehensive range of connectors, with two inputs and one HDMI output, all UHD 4K, Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10 + and HLG compatible. The HDMI output is also eARC / ARC compatible to play the sound track (up to Dolby Atmos or DTS: X) of the program viewed on a TV. There are also an optical and a mini-jack input to facilitate the connection of an older generation television or a source without HDMI output.
Thanks to the DTS Play-Fi compatibility, it is possible to stream music in AIFF, FLAC, MP3, WAV or even MPEG4 on this Philips sound bar. It also makes it possible to integrate the soundbar into an audio system consisting of DTS Play-Fi compatible components. This makes it possible to easily set up a multiroom sound system throughout a house. In addition, music streaming is possible via Bluetooth from a smartphone, tablet or computer. However, broadcasting is limited to the SBC codec, which isn’t the best quality for wireless transmission. Therefore, it is preferable to stream music in AirPlay 2 or Chromecast to enjoy CD quality.
Remote control and voice assistants
The soundbar incorporates four control keys on its upper face to turn it on, select the source, adjust the volume or even pause playback. Remote control can be carried out from the remote control of the associated television set via HDMI eARC / ARC or from the remote control supplied with the sound bar. The latter, however, is relatively basic, with an all-plastic design and quite loud and bulky buttons. However, this is not prohibitive, which is good because it is essential to access the many settings including the volume of the subwoofer, the equalizer, spatialization, the level of Atmos effects or the selection of DSP mode. most suited to the program viewed.
Finally, the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar can also be controlled by associating it with a connected speaker equipped with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Siri. These voice assistants then make it possible to turn the volume up and down, or to change the track by symply asking.
Philips Fidelio B97: key specifications
- 7.1.2 channels
- Surround speakers on battery
- Dolby Atmos and DTS: X
- IMAX Enhanced Certification
- UHD 4K HDR compatible
- Wireless subwoofer
- 450 W RMS
- 2 HDMI inputs + eARC / ARC output
Philips Fidelio B97: setup
The hilips Fidelio B97 is very easy to install. Once the different sources are connected and the soundbar is powered on, it automatically pairs with the subwoofer. The same goes for the surround speakers which are connected automatically once detached from the bar and switched on. From that point on, the Philips Fidelio B97 is immediately operational. For music listening, it is necessary to continue with the configuration from the Philips Sound app. The app allows you to quickly connect to the WiFi network to enjoy AirPlay 2, Chromecast or even DTS Play-Fi multiroom functions.
To simplify its control, the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar can also be paired with a smart speaker equipped with a compatible voice assistant. For this review, we paired it with a Google Home speaker. To pair the soundbar with a Google Home speaker, simply go to the Google Home mobile application which will automatically detects the soundbar. It is then possible to rename it and select the room in which it is installed. Activating Google Assistant also expands the capabilities of this Philips soundbar by granting access to countless online music services. For example, by asking Google to listen to music on the sound bar, we can directly access Apple Music tracks, even though it is not natively compatible with this service.
For this test of the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar, we connected a Zappiti One SE 4K HDR network player to its HDMI inputs, as well as a Panasonic DP-UB820 Blu-ray player. We connected an LG OLED65CX television to the soundbar’s HDMI eARC port. We were thus able to enjoy the audio tracks of programs streaming from Netflix, Disney + and Amazon Prime Video, but also from DTV and satellite channels.
Philips Fidelio B97: listening impressions
Godless – Dolby Atmos
We first tested the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar without detaching its surround speakers. On the Godless miniseries available in Dolby Atmos on Netflix, the special atmosphere of this western was sublimated, with a great ability to bring out the smallest details. The speakers dedicated to Atmos effects delivered great performance with thunder and rain. We first heard the showers falling from the ceiling, approximately in the center of our room, then each drop bouncing on the floor or on the hats and jackets of the actors. The effect was particularly realistic, just like the gallops of the horses which benefited from a beautiful clarity and a great presence. Thrills guaranteed!
Interstellar – 5.1
Although we used a 5.1 track, the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar was able to simulate the various effects quite effectively on all of its channels, including Atmos channels. The separation of the different front channels was very clear, which resulted in a great spatial reproduction of the sound effects which weren’t jumbled. The two speakers arranged on the sides of the soundbar made the effects located on the to sides tangible: they really seemed to come from the left and right ends of the room.
The dialogues stood out from the scene and were delivered with conviction and naturalness. They were clearly noticeable, even when the soundtrack was at its peak. The wireless subwoofer brought a great depth and managed to reproduce the biggest explosions with phenomenal power, while it also brought more substance to the actors’ voice. The subwoofer hits hard and with a lot of energy. The lows were so powerful that we had to drastically reduce the level of the subwoofer in our 25 m2 room.
With the wireless surround speakers, the Philips Fidelio B97 sound bar is even more immersive. Even when the surround speaker are not detached from the soundbar, it is possible to enjoy some convincing sound effects. However, surround effect are much more tangible with the surround speakers on either side of the listener. The different effects then surge on both sides of the room for maximum sound immersion. On the other hand, it is essential to place the surround speakers as close as possible to the listening position in order to fully perceive the various surround effects. By placing them on a cabinet about two meters behind the sofa, the speakers were almost imperceptible and it was impossible to adjust the level to correct this. The best places turned out to be the armrests on the sofa, which is far from practical when there are several people watching the film. In addition, we noticed some bothersome background emitted by the surround speakers during certain scenes.
The Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar is also very effective in delivering the sound of sporting events, especially when its sport mode is activated. We watched several games of tennis, the sport mode did very well and displayed great capacity to bring scale and height to the sound. Each hit of the ball was reproduced with a precision and a naturalness far superior to the TV. Even the smallest bounces stood out clearly, without the need to crank up the volume. The voices of the commentators always remained tangible and distinct, while the applause of the spectators seemed to be coming from all around us, without even detaching the surround speakers.
Philips Fidelio B97: compared to….
Sonos Arc: this Sonos soundbar is a 5.0.2 channel model sold at €899. It has the advantage of being able to combine with the Sonos Sub subwoofer and the Sonos One SL speakers for surround effects. These are clearly more powerful than those of the Philips soundbar and can be placed further from the sofa, while still effectively perceiving each effect, even the most subtle. The Philips Fidelio B97, however, offers a slightly wider soundstage and more tangible surround effects. The Atmos effects are comparable on these two systems.
Samsung HW-Q950T: marketed at €999, the Samsung HW-Q950T is capable of delivering sound on 9.1.4 channels thanks to its vertical and side speakers, its wireless subwoofer and its two surround speakers with integrated Atmos speakers. The immersion is therefore even greater with Atmos effects that really come from the front and the back of the ceiling, unlike the Fidelio B97 where they are more centered in the middle of the room. This Samsung soundbar, on the other hand, is higher and deeper and may not fit on all TV stands or may hide the bottom of some TVs. The Philips Fidelio B97 therefore has the edge over the Samsung in terms of integration, despite its fairly large subwoofer.
Philips Fidelio B97: who is it for?
The Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar is for anyone who wants to optimize the sound of a large TV to enjoy better dialogue delivery and increased immersion, without having to use an AV receiver and place speakers all around the room. Its user-friendly design makes it a good choice for a beginner who will only have to plug in the Philips Fidelio B97 for it to work and unclip the surround speakers from an even more immersive experience. The more experienced user will also find satisfaction, in particular by expanding the possibilities with DTS Play-Fi and voice assistants.
Philips Fidelio B97: conclusion
With the Philips Fidelio B97, the Dutch brand offers a unique modular sound bar with removable wireless speakers. The battery operated surround speakers a very simple to use and can be placed freely in the room, without being limited by cables. The limited power of the surround speakers, however, means that it is necessary to place them as close as possible to the listening area to correctly perceive the surround effects. In addition, the Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar manages to reproduce many channels on its own and offers a very wide soundstage, both in width and height. The Atmos effect is very realistic, while the side surround effects seem to be coming from the sides of our room. Finally, the subwoofer brings lively and very powerful lows. In conclusion, the Philips Fidelio B97 is a user friendly, intuitive and very efficient all-in-one device delivering 7.1.2 sound. All it needs is more powerful surround speakers to compete with a more conventional home theater system.
What we liked
- The ease of use
- The efficient spatialization of the sound effects
- The battery operated surround speakers
What we would have liked
- A more stylish and compact subwoofer
- A remote control with a better finish
- More powerful surround speakers