Philips DS8500 Fidelio Dock review:

Philips DS8500 Fidelio Dock

Aside from volume adjustment on the front and an aux input located on the back, there really aren't many hardware features to speak of on the Fidelio speaker. If you're looking for an FM radio, Bluetooth, an alarm clock, or a rechargeable battery, the Fidelio isn't the right product for you.

As we mentioned earlier, a remote control is included that provides an impressive number of options for menu navigation, volume, mute, and playback controls. We're glad to see that the remote is large enough that you're unlikely to lose it between your sofa cushions. On the downside, the range of the IR remote is limited to around 15 to 20 feet, which doesn't get you too far.

The Fidelio's most notable feature, surprisingly, is an app. Upon docking your iPod Touch or iPhone in the Fidelio for the first time, a message will pop on your screen urging you to download Philips' free Fidelio app. For better or worse, the only way to get rid of these prompts is to download the app, and we're glad we did.

Unlike the utilitarian alarm clock apps that have recently cropped up on many new bedside speaker docks, the Fidelio app offers a truly unique and integrated connection between the speaker and your iPhone or iPod Touch. Its main purpose is to act as an attractive alternative to the iPod music player, allowing you to access, sort, and play songs in your music collection using a familiar, though slightly more dramatic interface. Scratch beneath the surface by hitting the info icon in the lower left corner, and you'll find a number of sound enhancement controls not typically found on the iPod or iPhone, such as a custom five-band EQ and an adjustable dynamic bass boost control. We can't be sure if these adjustments directly control DSP settings in the Fidelio hardware, or process sound locally before passing it through to the hardware--but the end result is an unmistakable sweetening of the audio quality that we preferred over the standard iPod playback experience.

That said, it is by no means required that you use the Fidelio app. You'll be pestered into downloading it, sure, but the Fidelio works with any audio source you throw at it--from Pandora to Angry Birds.

The first thing we noticed about the Fidelio is that it can be surprisingly loud for a system that is only rated at 30 watts. Chalk it up to the pair of tuned bass ports on the back, the 2-inch neodymium drivers used on the front, or the speaker's unusual heft, but the Fidelio has a big, full sound that could raise the dead. We noticed no deficiencies in bass, mids, or treble fidelity, and the Fidelio held its balanced mix of frequencies across the entire volume range, without breaking up at high levels.

Overall, the Fidelio is a remarkably powerful speaker dock that offers design details and app-based controls we haven't seen in this price range. If you're looking for a simple, attractive, stationary speaker to set on a bookshelf or table, the Fidelio is tough to beat for less than $200. For a more portable solution, we recommend the Logitech S715i.

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