It's inevitable that the Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi system is going to draw comparisons with Sonos, but that's no bad thing. There aren't many in the market right now offering complete wireless audio solutions for the home and the first thing to note about the Philips way of doing things is that it's that little bit cheaper at around £50 less on the ticket value per item. Whether that equates to £50 less in style and performance was something Pocket-lint went to take a look at when we went hands-on with the system.
The good news is that it's certainly not a matter of class. The Fidelio Wi-Fi Hi-Fi looks great. The top-end units, the AW9000 speakers, are finished in a very tasteful dark wood and even though the slightly less top-notch AW5000 and AW3000 are not, all three of these powered boxes have been sculpted with a diamond cross section to make them not only distinctive and apparently easier to place about the home but also better at producing a wider 3D stereo sound image with the drivers for the left and right angled further apart than normal.
Unlike the Sonos system, the Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi uses your home Wi-Fi network to stream the tunes rather than creating a dedicated loop of its own. Now, it's debatable as to whether that's good or bad. On the plus side, there's no need for expensive Zone Bridge boxes or anything like that and the set up itself is going to be a lot easier with the Philips. Where it might fall down - and we'll have to wait for the full review on this one - is if it messes with all the other traffic on your network or is itself affected by other devices in any way. Indeed, a quick play in a room packed full of smartphones and tablets blaring out the signals did seem to cause some confusion but rarely does a tech demo go as smoothly as it should.
There is no dedicated remote control device for the system. Instead, it's all done through apps - one for iOS and another for Android with a possible Windows Phone in the future. Powered by Twonky's DLNA system, the app is fairly neat and shows you, on one half of the screen, a line up of possible source devices for your beats and, on the other, a queue of probable speakers to play them on. Drag your finger from one line to another and the music starts playing automatically. Sever that cord that you've just drawn and the music stops.
There are three main places to get your materials - local music stored on the tablet or phone where the controller app is coming from; music stored elsewhere on your home network, your NAS box or computer or such; or music from a cloud service. There's nothing absolutely official yet but, with the Spotify logo plastered all over the advertising and marketing materials we can expect the link up within a few weeks. In the meantime, the focus is on Napster.
Aside from the three speaker types priced at £499.99, £299.99 and £199.99 for the AW9000, AW5000 and AW3000 set ups respectively, there are a couple of units coming out in the late summer to bring any audio devices you might already have into the fold. The Philips Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi Link is an unamped box which essentially Wi-Fi-enables your stereo. The larger, powered version of that with the big knob on the front is the Hi-Fi Receiver which has 2 x 80W behind it and therefore can connect direct to any old set of speakers without the need for a separate amplifier.
Whatever you choose, Philips is certainly offering an good way doings. We look forward to getting the Fidelio Wireless Hi-Fi system in for full review and we'll let you know if all that talk can walk the walk.