It’s rare when a sound system warms your cockles and is so delicious that you want to give it a hug and never let go. That is exactly what the Philips DS8500 Fidelio Tabletop Speaker Dock did to me. When Philips launched their Obsessed with Sound campaign along with the Fidelio line of Speaker Dock’s, I scoffed at their assumption that their speakers now sound any better than the thousands of other leading companies out there, let’s just say, we’ve heard those claims before. Well it turns out that Philips not only proved their obsession with sound, but with the DS8500 they also delivered a promise to deliver your chintzy iPod/iPhone MP3 songs in a new and better sounding way than before.
The design of the DS8500 is exquisite with clean curves. It will sit on your table, nightstand or just anywhere while taking up a small footprint but still exemplifying a clean and apple-esque design that would make any room feel even more luxurious with it in it. There is not a boxy-looking dock, and it only weighs about 5 pounds – so if you wanted to take it with you to a party you could easily. It’s curvy features with a white finish also includes a white remote to match, making it look like a cousin to the Apple remote. A convenient aspect of the Fidelio DS8500’s design is the fact that the docking section lacks the need to use cradles for different iPods, you know – those pieces of plastic that you typically end up losing after some time. The DS8500 supports all generations of the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Classic, and iPod Nano 3rd gen through 5th. To dock your device all you need to do is pull the dock portion towards you and just slip the iPod onto it. You can even dock your device with its case still on, since there is no cradle that it needs to sit in.
Once you dock your iPod/iPhone, a screen will pop up indicating that you need to download the Philips Fidelio App from the iTunes store. What this app does is control your Fidelio system, because there are no dedicated controls on the speaker dock itself except for volume buttons that light-up by a proximity sensor – which are very cool by the way. The dock turns on automatically when connected to power, so there isn’t even a dedicated power button or any basic controls on the dock for you to scroll through your music. Everything is controlled via the app. The Philips Fidelio App is obviously free. Once the app is launched you can change the equalizer settings, enable shuffle, skip songs, make the system louder or lower, or mute it altogether. By using the app, you can also set an alarm and turn your DS8500 into an alarm clock – albeit a very loud one! The app somehow utilizes iTunes as well as the Alarm feature. So that means you can also choose to listen to your music via iTunes and bypass the Philips App altogether – the remote will work just the same. However, the remote did leave me a bit frustrated. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t depending on how far or close I was to the machine. I found myself getting up a lot and manually changing songs a lot via the Philips App, whereas through the native iTunes App the remote seemed to operate more fluidly. Also the Philips Fidelio App will work in the background if you choose to do something else on your iPhone or iPod while its docked.
Another nice touch is the inclusion of an AUX IN which means you can attach an external music player that can’t fit on the dock port. So we choose to stick in the Nexus One to play via the DS8500 and while the music sounded almost as good…the lack of controls was frustrating since there is no Android App for the Philips Fidelio, especially since there are no dedicated control buttons on the dock.
Now lets talk about the system’s sound. Philips has utilized a new technology for their range of Fidelio systems which takes the music from your device and delivers it in rich velvety tones called PureDigital Sound Processing Technology. Basically this technology takes the digital music and processes it bit by bit in order to deliver unsurpassed sound clarity. Honestly you would think a 2×15 watt stereo wouldn’t impress all that much, but alas it does. I put it up against a Bose SoundDock II and iHome iP1 Studio Series and while all performed almost equally, there were definitely slight differences between all three in sound reproduction. The iHome certainly didn’t sound as rich as the either the Bose or Philips Fidelio, and in order to make it even come close you had to practically max out the sound. The Bose gave me a more difficult challenge in testing the sound quality, because I’ll be honest they sounded almost identical, only on certain music did the Philips shine a bit more with its full embodiment and liquidity of the music. I also felt the bass was more intense on the DS8500 in comparison to the Bose as well. But where the DS8500 tipped the scales for me, was the newer more modern design, whereas the Bose is pretty dated, and it also uses a dedicated cradle which means no device will fit in it with a case on, and I do like my iPhone/iPod cases. But notwithstanding, we think it’s a huge achievement that a device could even come close to the Bose in terms of sound, but still have some design touches that make it stand out.
The Philips DS8500 Fidelio Speaker Dock is the first dock to come around in a long time that has really impressed me with not only its great sound, but its good looks too. It’s a stylized dock that includes lots of details that shine like the back-lit volume buttons, the custom App, and Apple-like design, down to the remote control. The Philips DS8500 Fidelio Speaker Dock has touches that any Apple fan will appreciate as well as music aficionados, and it puts up a good fight with the Bose system but for a much cheaper price tag at $199. Overall, the Philips DS8500 Fidelio Speaker Dock is a great investment for those looking for a speaker dock that has great personality as well as sound quality.
The Good: Great Apple’esque design aesthetic. Rich velvety sound equally compares to that of the Bose SoundDock II. There is an App for it! Neat back-lit proximity sensor for the volume buttons.
The Bad: Lack of actual buttons may be frustrating when using the AUX IN for other music devices. Remote control didn’t always work easily and required me to often get up and manually skip a song etc… Since there is no ‘power button’, there is no way in knowing how much vampire power the Fidelio may use when not in use. Does not have an option to run on batteries.