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Philips Fidelio SoundRing review: Philips Fidelio SoundRing

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The Good The Philips Fidelio SoundRing DS3881W is a strikingly designed wireless AirPlay speaker that offers superior sound. It also has a built-in rechargeable battery and a USB port for charging smartphones.

The Bad The speaker was a little tricky to set up for AirPlay use and the manual could be more clearly written. The speaker's also fairly pricey.

The Bottom Line While it's a bit overpriced, Philips Fidelio SoundRing is one of the better compact AirPlay speakers we've tested -- and it has a battery-powered option to boot.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Pity the poor Philips Fidelio SoundRing with AirPlay. It's one of those decent products that's gotten lost in the shuffle and hasn't quite gotten the respect it probably deserves.

The SoundRing DS3881W is part of Philips' small but growing line of AirPlay speakers, which includes the more expensive $700 Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800W and more affordable Fidelio SoundAvia AD7000W/37 Wireless Speaker with AirPlay ($200). The SoundRing has perhaps the most striking design of the bunch; it's shaped like a doughnut, is portable (yes, it has a rechargeable battery), and features what the company calls a "360-degree surround-sound effect."

I liked it, though I did have a little bit of trouble setting up AirPlay streaming with my iPhone. That may be due to the fact that we have several competing Wi-Fi networks in the office. I've had some problems setting up other AirPlay speakers in the past, but for some reason this Philips seemed a little more finicky.

In case you don't know what AirPlay is, it's a wireless-streaming feature found on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or any Mac or Windows PC running iTunes (see "10 things you need to know about AirPlay" for more information). Right now you can only stream video to your TV using an Apple TV, but lots of AirPlay-enabled speakers are available for streaming audio.

The Philips Fidelio SoundRing in its charging dock Sarah Tew/CNET

What surprised me most was that the 16-watt SoundRing delivered better sound than I expected. Yes, one should expect good sound from a $300 speaker, but AirPlay speakers tend to have inflated price tags, so I was ready to be disappointed.

I wasn't. The speaker offered good clarity and put out more bass than I thought it would. It wasn't huge bass, but it was punchy enough, and you should be able to fill a small to medium-size room with sound.

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