Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800 with AirPlay hands-on

We first heard about the Philips Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800 with its Apple AirPlay music streaming fun back in March but, despite the promised May release date, this home music system is now just about ready for sale. And, in case you were looking to splash out £699 on such a thing, Pocket-lint spent a little time getting some hands-on experience with it ahead of a full review.

The SoundSphere speaker setup consists of two separate units that boast free flowing tweeters in an antenna-like position. The idea is that it provides a less directional sound experience meaning that you can appreciate how well its tuned no matter how badly you position it once you set it up at home. Having a good listen, we'd have to agree. Stand right to the side of one of the speakers and you still get a decent impression of the stereo impact.

The other advantage, and the main reason why those tweeters are lifted, is that the sound from the two drivers on each unit are supposed to interfere less with one another when it comes to frequencies in their range that cross over. Naturally, this isn't the easiest claim to judge from a 20-minute play but there was a definite appreciation of the individual tracks of song recordings that certainly made for an enjoyable experience.

The majority of your music fun will come beamed over your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or Mac, without the bother of having to mess around with pesky wires, courtesy of AirPlay. It is slightly odd to see what appears to be a pair of lone speakers blaring music with no central unit between them and looking not unlike a couple of large aubergines with the tops cut off, as one journalist put it. Actually, what it really looks like is the future or, more probably, the present. With Wi-Fi around, who really needs to mess around with separate media sources for all their gadgets anyway?

All the same, Philips has included a small charging dock for your iThing which can sit between the speakers if you really need a focal point for you music. Better still is to keep your device next to you and enjoy the Philips iOS app that offers pretty much full remote and playlist access just in case you drop the one provided somewhere into the eternal depths of your sofa cavities.

Head round to the back of the aubergines and you'll discover a 3.5mm audio-in jack for those on Android et al as well as a thick cable that connects the two speakers. This is due to the fact that only one of them contains all the wireless intelligence while the other is simply a speaker. It's a bit of shame that the two have to be chained together like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier but it would all get rather expensive otherwise according to Philips who, interestingly enough, also have some ideas about providing wireless power in the form of a battery that you recharge about once a month; all pie in the sky stuff for now but perhaps something for the future if the consumer would be interested and could afford it.

Ultimately, none of this really matters. The SoundSphere looks sexy, sounds exciting and you can just imagine it having some serious retro chic once design has moved on in 20 years time - provided it still works by the, of course. We're very much looking forward to living with it to find out how it performs.