Philips Fidelio DS9000 review

iPod docks come in all shapes and sizes, most arriving around the £100-150 mark, offering a range of features the most useful of which is the ability to get the tunes off your iPod or iPhone and into your room. Many suffer from the same problem too - sound quality. There are a few exceptions, of course, the B&W Zeppelin being one of them, attacking the "premium" iPod dock with the design and audio quality to justify its price.

The Philips Fidelio DS9000 comes in making big claims. It claims to be an audiophile iPod dock. The audiophile community might argue this point, making noises about separate component systems, reference grade headphone amplifiers and so on. But what Philips has created, like the Zeppelin, is a device that is as pleasing to your eye as it is to your ear.

As such we'll forgive the fact that it has no additional features to speak of. We'd normally ask where the radio is, or where the network music player is, but if you are spending a penny under £400 on an iPod dock, combining features in this way is perhaps an unnecessary measure. You are investing in an audio device that is an exorbitant luxury and having lived with one for a couple of weeks, we can forgive the fact that it isn't a jack of all trades.

Philips tells us that the DS9000 is created using a veneer lamination process, so the cabinet is constructed from layered wood and bent into the beautiful curved design. The choice of materials is designed to reduce unwanted vibrations and it's refreshing to find the thing isn't just a hunk of plastic like so many are. Also addressing vibrations is a large rubber foot, so it sits securely on whatever surface you place it on.

The front of the DS9000 is mesh, with a central tube plated in chrome, which spills out the back to encase the twin bass ports. The Fidelio S9000 looks good from all angles, it's almost a shame that you have to connect it to the power on the back, where you'll also find a 3.5mm aux in for your non-Apple devices.

Adding a teaspoon of cool to the die-for looks is a proximity sensor, so as your hand approaches the dock the central volume control bar illuminates. It's a nice touch, but highlights the fact that volume controls are all you get. That doesn't really matter however, because if you are at the dock, you can use the regular controls on your docked device.

The dock connector on the DS9000 has a degree of movement to cater for different models, cases and so on, with a discrete rubber backstop to stop it resting on the front mesh. Docking can take a bit of a wiggle to get it to line up, but once in place, your iPhone is neatly sitting front and centre.

Controls then fall to the included remote control. This is larger than your average iPod dock model, but doesn't quite reflect the quality of the rest of the system. A single piece chromed back would have really reflected the classy design of the speaker unit. However, the controls work well enough in navigating your device and getting to all your music.

Connect your iPod or iPhone and you'll be prompted that there is a compatible application. You don't need this, but download the Philips application and you'll get access to some of the Fidelio's settings: adjusting the sound setting presets, toggling the dynamic bass. You also get a clock display if you want one, with alarms.

  

There is a catch however. If you choose to use Philips' app when playing your tunes, the remote doesn't give you full menu access any more, so you'll find yourself stuck and unable to navigate all your music. With this in mind, we found ourselves choosing not to use their app.

The remote can also be a little slow to get through large collections of music as scrolling seemed to be a little too slow for our liking.

So what of that audiophile tag? Well the Philips Fidelio DS9000 certainly delivers when it comes to sound quality. With the dynamic bass engaged, it accurately delivers bass, giving real punch to music. Of course, you might want to turn this off if classical is on the agenda.

That rich warm bass provides a fantastic backdrop to your music, which is delivered with clarity and detail, the S9000 picking out those small details that lesser systems obscure: that lingering bass note or that background percussion that adds a little sparkle to your track.

The DS9000 features two 1-inch tweeters and two 4-inch inverted dome woofers, delivering 2x 50W RMS. Of course this isn't a small dock, coming in at 562 x 214 x 216mm. If you are thinking of a dock like the DS9000, you need space: this isn't one to add to a cluttered bedroom.

Verdict

When the Philips Fidelio DS9000 was announced we were excited by the proposal and having lived with it, that excitement is justified. The S9000 delivers both in the looks and sound department and justifies the high price: this is iPod docking par excellence.

If your music collection resides on your iPod and you want excellent room-filling delivery of that music, then the Philips Fidelio DS9000 is a great choice for those who have a little spare cash.

Whether true audiophiles will be happy is another question.