Philips Fidelio E2 review

4 out of 5
£300

For

Bigger sound than some similar-priced Bluetooth speaker standalones, wood top control, proper stereo sound, classic design aesthetic

Against

Cheap looking remote, can sound a little flat in the mids, low-end frequency limitations, short power cable, loose 13 pin connecting cable

We've seen boat loads of Bluetooth speakers in recent times, with the trend for portable single units being a more common trend. Philips, on the other hand, has delivered a more classic stereo bookshelf speaker system: the Fidelio E2, codenamed BTS5700.

By skipping the need for an amplifier the E2 speakers cut back on the amount of space you'll need to occupy in the home. Is it the ideal Bluetooth solution for those seeking a bit of classic charm or a sound bar alternative?

Design

We appreciate a good looking speaker and the Fidelio E2 ticks all the right boxes.

Each speaker is of an ample size, measuring 307mm high and 162mm in diameter. They're not cylindrical in shape, but have a smoothed off square appearance that's cloaked in a black cloth material. To the front of each is a silver-coloured "Philips Fidelio" brand stamp tucked inside a square of plastic.

To the top of each speaker is a wooden panel integrated into the design. In the case of the left speaker this doubles up as a giant four-way control - there are volume up, volume down, on/off and Bluetooth buttons that see the whole panel tilt when pressed. It's rather cool.

Minimal elegance is order of the day as the only extra visual to the front is a small light on the left speaker which glows white when seeking a connection, blue when Bluetooth is connected and red when off. It's so small that it's barely a distraction and certainly useful to know when Bluetooth pairing is being attempted.

Also in the box is a palm-sized remote control. To look at it's pretty darn ugly and the plastic finish looks cheap, but it's a useful implement to switch between sources, adjust bass and treble balance and even shift the audio sync.

Connections

On the back of the main E2 unit is a 3.5mm input, optical input, HDMI Arc, Coaxial and 13 pin connector used for wiring left and right speakers together.

Included in the box is a 2.5m 13 pin cable but the first issue is that this cannot lock into position on the speakers. The fit is fine when stationary, but if you have the speakers on a desk and move them then we've had the cable slip out a couple of times as.

At least 2.5m cable is of a workable length, which is more than can be said for the provided 1m power cable. This has to plug into the right speaker unit, meaning that speaker must live rather close to a plug socket. You could change it out for a longer figure 8 mains lead, but that's besides the point.

Otherwise the provided connections are ample to wire up whatever you see fit. Our preference was Bluetooth via our MacBook Air, but a hard-wired 3.5mm cable from an MP3 player and even optical out from a TV was no issue. It's a versatile solution.

Sound quality

Prior to using the Fidelio E2 Bluetooth speakers we had been listening to various standalone Bluetooth speaker units. With the Philips wired up the first thing that's apparent is true stereo. And we love proper stereo sound. That might sound odd, but it's balanced stereo is something not to be ignored. The soundscape is more open than when headphones are stuck to your cranium.

Overall we like how the Philips E2 speakers sounds. The mid section can be a touch hollow and flat, but the top-end frequencies have plenty of bite to them. That's probably on account of the 1-inch tweeter in each speaker.

Bass is also ample, although for those 4-inch drivers to deliver stacks of low-end clout you'll need to push the volume higher. And there's plenty of volume to be had, make no bones about that. However, we have seen other units - such as the HK Aura or Libratone Loop - that are able to deliver far more distinctive low-end bass due to larger enclosures and drivers that the Philips units lack.

As a general point of comparison we switched between listening to the Philips and an older pair of Mordaunt-Short 902i bookshelf speakers wired up to a Cambridge Audio amp. The 902i delivered a more rounded sound with extra bass, but then they can't compete with the wired and wireless connectivity of the Philips - it's amp or nothing.

The wireless aspect is a big sell, with aptX Bluetooth ensuring high quality over those invisible airwaves. We didn't get any cut-out of sound from any source during tests either.

At £300 the Fidelio E2 speakers aren't budget, but they do offer plenty for the cash. We would rather fork out the extra £50 compared to a premium standalone Bluetooth speaker, as the Philips gives that much more. However, it's a ladder system as we would also rather spend some more to get more bass from the Libratone Loop, but that comes at the expense of proper stereo. Swings and roundabouts, isn't it?

Verdict

The Philips Fidelio E2 Bluetooth speakers deliver loud, clear audio in a classic bookshelf design that bucks the current mono trend of single singular Bluetooth units currently flooding the market. This is all about stereo sound in a classic design with all the wireless mod cons.

It's only the small things that are a letdown: a physically short power cable, relatively loose fitting 13-pin left-right connector and a cheap feeling remote control. Scrub up on these small issues and the overall package would be that much more appealing. And if you're a sucker for big bass then you might want to spend some extra on a more complete system for true chest-shaking low-end output.

Fidelio is a sign of audio excellence and the E2 Bluetooth speakers go some way to show why. If you want to scrap the separate amplifier, modernise your audio setup and yet don't want to lose that classic design aesthetic then the E2 speakers get plenty right.