Can we talk high-end audio for a sec?
See, here’s the deal: The speakers in your HDTV totally suck. I don’t mean they’re weak and tinny and facing the wrong the way (which they are); I mean they’re just terrible. It’s like owning a Ferrari that tops out at 15 mph.
In other words, your eyes have it made, but your ears are getting robbed. That’s why I always advise HDTV owners to invest in a sound bar, which will vastly improve your TV audio. Of course, as a massive cheapskate, I usually recommend a low-end, sub-$100 model.
Not today. Amazon has the Philips Fidelio HTL7180/F7 sound bar for $439.99 shipped, which may strike you as expensive–until you realize it lists for $800. (For the record, Costco is currently selling it for the same price, though you’ll definitely be on the hook for sales tax. Some Amazon customers can still dodge it.)
Needless to say, this is a high-end piece of audio gear, one that’s not only powerful, but also capable of some cool tricks. I’ll start with the basics: unlike a lot of sound bars, which are boxy and rectangular, the Fidelio has the sleek, rounded lines of a jet wing. It’s pretty, something I can’t say about most of its kin.
What’s more, most sound bars fall short in the bass department. The Fidelio does not, because it comes with a big ol’ subwoofer. Better still, it’s wireless, meaning you can stick it in whatever hidden, out-of-the-way corner you want. Decor: saved!
But here’s where it really gets interesting: a pair of wireless, battery-powered rear speakers can undock from the main bar for fast and easy surround sound. Suddenly you’ve got yourself a true 5.1-channel home theater audio system, not some simulated digital equivalent.
That is insanely cool. I’ll admit it can be a hassle at times, as the rear speakers have to return to the dock for recharging after every 8-10 hours of use. And after that initial uncoupling, you have to manually turn each one back on, which is a pain.
As you may have guessed, I had the opportunity to test the Fidelio. Verdict? It sounds spectacular. I especially liked the center-channel speaker, which greatly improved dialogue volume. But overall volume levels were lower than I would have liked; this is not the best choice for a medium-to-large-size room.
For a smaller one, though, it’s awesome. And now you can get it without spending a small fortune. At this price, I think anyone seeking a TV-audio upgrade will be mighty pleased.