As our homes become increasingly crowded with iPhones, iPads, and iPods, there's a real need for a convenient place to charge them, and maybe even crank some tunes. The Philips Fidelio DS3510 wants to be that all-purpose speaker/charger, and it has the price ($156) and features to put it in the running.
Design and features
Compared with angular, sculptural competitors such as the JBL OnBeat and the Altec Lansing Octiv Stage MP450, the Fidelio's soft, bowlike form doesn't call attention to itself. It's an understated design, and for some people that's going to be a selling point.
The speaker itself measures around 11 inches wide, making it suitable for use on a nightstand. A strip of illuminated controls runs across the front for adjusting volume, activating Bluetooth, or turning the device on and off. Above the controls you'll find the dock connector, which intentionally juts out and swivels slightly to accommodate any cases you may have wrapped around your precious Apple gadgets.
Because the Fidelio does away with any device-specific dock fittings, it can theoretically work with just about any Apple gadget from the past five years that makes use of a standard 30-pin connection. In practice, though, we had a dickens of a time trying to get the iPad 2's thinner, curved dock port to slide into place. Because of this awkward iPad 2 fit, we couldn't justify giving the Fidelio's design score anything higher than a 6. To its credit, the Fidelio fit just fine with the iPhone 4, iPod Touch, and the original iPad.
The back of the Fidelio DS3510 includes a 3.5mm aux input jack (cable included), power adapter input, and a mini-USB pass-through port for syncing to your computer (cable included). Users also have the option of going cable-free by popping four AA batteries into a panel located on the bottom.
As for extra features above and beyond our expectations for speaker docks, we're pretty happy to see that Philips included the option for Bluetooth. Pairing the speaker required a minimum of fuss, and the sound quality over Bluetooth was good, albeit a bit quieter than when we docked.
Another little bonus Philips throws in is a free Fidelio app for iOS, blessing the speaker with a modicum of EQ control as well as providing additional features, such as a clock, Internet radio channels, and links into Facebook and Twitter for sharing song recommendations. The app isn't a required download, but we found it useful.
There are a few missing features we could complain about, such as the lack of a remote control, radio, or video output capabilities. At this price, though, you're basically trading these capabilities for Bluetooth streaming, battery power, and iPad compatibility. If that trade-off isn't meaningful to you, then you're looking at the wrong speaker.
The Fidelio DS3510 has a clear sound with crisp highs and restrained lows. Sonically it's right where it should be as a speaker dock in the $150 range boasting a premium feature like Bluetooth. That said, if you could do without Bluetooth or iPad compatibility, a portable iPhone/iPod-friendly speaker like the Logitech S715i is going to sound significantly better and cost less.
Our biggest complaint about the Fidelio is that its speakers face sharply upward, directing the best sound at the ceiling and not your ears. It sounds fine when you're standing over it, but it's an unlikely listening scenario beyond the initial in-store demo. Move away from the speaker, and the sound becomes muddier, losing some of the treble fidelity.
Still, the sound is more than adequate for a kitchen or nightstand, and the Fidelio's small footprint and flexible device compatibility make it an appealing choice.
Nothing about the Philips Fidelio DS3510 is designed to stand out. It's a solid little portable speaker, with decent sound, a few notable bells and whistles, and a dock that plays nice with the first-generation iPad (but not so well with the iPad 2). If you're looking for an understated speaker dock that will work with most of your home's portable Apple gadgets, the Fidelio DS3510 is worth a try.