Philips has stepped up its assault on the audio market with the launch of a wireless hi-fi system to rival the current leader in the home audio streaming space, Sonos.
The Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi set-up hits the shelves in August 2012 with five different components to choose from, the idea being that you can use your smartphone, computer, tablet or any connected music source you care to mention to stream music to them - so long as they're placed within range of your home network. Like Sonos, the Philips Fidelio wireless audio system also supports both the Napster and Spotify services as well as Tunein, and all of it can be controlled through dedicated mobile apps.
At the top of the line is what Philips is referring to as the audiophile level powered wireless speakers. These are the AW9000 speakers with the pair bringing 100W of stereo sound power through a total of eight driver units housed in a tasty walnut finish and complete with digital inputs for your home cinema. A set of those will set you back an actually quite reasonable sounding £499.99.
Next down on the is AW5000, which is essentially the Sonos Play:5-type device. For £299.99 you get a single 60W-powered speaker with a pair of 19-inch tweeters and 4 x 4.5-inch woofers. If you'd like to spend a little more modestly, there's also the equivalent of the Sonos Play:3 this time called the AW3000. Just 2 x 3.5-inch woofers to go with the tweeters this time but still designed with the same rhomboid-type shape promised to create a better 3D image of the sound. Supposedly. Just £199.99 for one of those.
As in all good wireless audio systems, Philips has come up with a couple of boxes to link in the sound systems already dotted about your abode. The Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi Link is an unamped box which essentially Wi-Fi enables your stereo. That means you can fling all sorts of beats to it from your phone, tablet, NAS box or whatever you have. The powered version of that is the Hi-Fi Receiver which has 2 x 80W behind it and therefore can connect direct to any old set of speakers have without the need for a separate amplifier. All very nice.
If that lot doesn't float your boat, then there's also a limited-edition set of Philips Fidelio SoundSpheres to consider. Identical in function to the AirPlay-supporting DS9800 units, the DS9860W are the same thing only finished in a rather beautiful natural wood. There are only 500 of them out there, which is why they'll sell for a distinctly chilly £999.99.
In a similar way, 2011's Philips Fidelio DS9100 dock has been spruced up a touch for the latest season. The bass port has had a redesign but, more importantly, the whole thing is now AirPlay savvy, meaning it's fully connected to your home network too.
Finally, we now also have a second set of Fidelio headphones from the Royal Dutch engineers. Following the success of the L1, there's now a more-portable on-ear pair known as the Philips Fidelio M1. Until we've tried them, there's not an awful lot to say. There's plenty of leather involved and some nice textures on the outer of the cups but the proof of the pudding with these things is always in the listening. Fortunately, the M1s are nice and light and should make a comfy ride even if you have to pay £179.99 for the privilege.