The XS has got the looks but can it deliver a decent soundstage?
What is the Philips Fidelio XS1?The Philips Fidelio XS1 is a soundstage, or commonly a soundbase, with a matching wireless active subwoofer. It's the latest product from a firm that has been releasing a number of interesting sound solutions over the last few years. These days Philips audio forms part of the Gibson group and the combination of the two companies has resulted in products that have combined design flair with quality performance. The XS1 is no exception with an attractive design, great build quality and a host of useful features.
As you'd expect from any modern device there's built-in Bluetooth, along with One-Touch connection using NFC and HDMI input and output; with the latter supporting ARC. The XS1 uses a three-channel design with a dedicated centre channel for clearer dialogue and two side channels for a wider sound field. There's also a slimline subwoofer that can be installed vertically or horizontally. The XS1 retails for £399 as at the time of writing (January 2016) but does it offer enough performance for that price or is it excessive?
DesignThe Philips Fidelio XS1 uses a lovely minimalist design with an elegant glass top and a black finish. The build quality is excellent and the soundbase is sure to look attractive wherever you decide to use it. There's a dark grey aluminium grille that wraps around the front and sides, along with a simple dot-matrix display in the middle. The soundbase itself is very slimline, measuring just 730 x 40 x 330mm (WxHxD), but it weighs 5.3kg, which gives you an idea of the XS1's solid construction. Which is just as well because the soundbase is designed to support TVs from 40 to 65 inches in screen size and with a maximum weight of 44kg.
The XS1 includes a wireless active subwoofer that is intended to compliment the main unit. This sub uses an unusual slimline shape and actually looks a lot like the soundbar itself, with similar dimensions. It has a matte black finish with a cloth grille on one side and glossy ports at either end. The sub is designed to be positioned either horizontally or vertically and if you decide to go for the latter, there's a special stand included. Just how flexible the sub is in terms of positioning will depend on your environment but it measures 730 x 90 x 330mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 7.5kg.
The XS1 has a lovely minimalist design, with an attractive finish and very solid construction.
Connections & ControlThe XS1 includes Bluetooth with apt-X and if you have a device that supports near-field communication, there's an NFC tag on the top right hand corner for a One-Touch connection. The soundbase also connects wirelessly with the subwoofer and they're paired in the factory, making setup very easy; although you'll still need to find a handy wall socket to plug in the subwoofer. The rest of the connections are physical and, on the right hand side towards the rear, you'll find a USB port and a 3.5mm audio input. The remainder of the connections are at the rear, where you'll find an optical digital input, a coaxial digital input and stereo analogue input using RCA connectors. There's also an HDMI 1.4 input and an HDMI 1.4 output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel); along with a two-pin connector for the power cable.
In terms of controls, on the right hand side as you face the soundbase there are some basic buttons for on/off, source and volume up/down. However the primary method of controlling the XS1 is the provided remote, which is small, comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. The brushed metal finish is attractive and the button layout is intuitive with everything you'll need, allowing you to select from the various inputs - HDMI In, HDMI ARC, Coaxial, Optical, Audio In, USB, Aux and Bluetooth. You can also adjust the volume, treble and bass; as well as mute the soundbar. There's a power on/off button, an option to dim or switch off the display and some basic controls for playback. Finally there are buttons for selecting the Voice enhancement feature, the Music mode, the Movie mode, Night mode, Auto Vol and adjusting the Audio Sync.
Features & SpecsAs already mentioned the XS1 includes HDMI 1.4 inputs and outputs, along with support for ARC and CEC. There's an attractively designed and effective remote control, although if you use the HDMI connections then you can take advantage of your TV's CEC functionality and control the XS1 with your TV remote. The soundbase also includes Bluetooth with apt-X for wireless music streaming, along with One-Touch connect with NFC. The Philips has a number of sound enhancement features, including treble and bass controls, audio sync and an auto volume leveller which is handy during advert breaks. There's also a virtual surround sound feature, along with a Movie mode, a Music mode, a Night mode that reduces the dynamic range when you don't want to disturb other people and a Voice mode that emphasises the mid-range frequencies to enhance dialogue.
In terms of what's actually inside the soundbase, the XS1 uses six racetrack drivers in a three channel configuration. There is a driver either side of the dot-matrix display for the centre channel and then a driver at each end and edge for the left and right channels. The idea is that the drivers in the middle handle dialogue, those at the ends provide stereo separation and the ones at the edges add a greater sense of immersion. There is 20W of amplification for each driver, giving a total of 120W of amplification built in to the soundbase itself. The wireless active subwoofer can be positioned either horizontally or vertically and the design is intended to reflect this. On one side there is a cloth grille behind which there are two 6.5-inch woofers with 200W of built-in amplification. On the other side there is a two-pin power connector and there are bass ports at either end.
The XS1 includes plenty of useful features, it's easy to set up and simple to operate.
SetupThe Fidelio XS1 proved very easy to set up and use, especially if you connect your TV to the soundbase via HDMI. If you choose that approach and your TV supports ARC, then you can connect all your devices to your TV and send the audio to the Philips via the HDMI connection. You still have a spare HDMI input on the soundbase itself but theoretically you shouldn't need it unless you have a lot of HDMI sources or your TV has limited HDMI inputs. Using an HDMI connection will also allow you to take advantage of the CEC functionality and control the XS1 using your TV's remote control.
Depending on your preference, you can also connect sources to the soundbase using the optical or coaxial digital inputs or the analogue input. There's also the option of connecting any mobile devices via the 3.5mm audio input or using the USB port. Of course you're more likely to use the built-in Bluetooth and that is equally as simple, just select the Bluetooth source on the remote and pair your device with the XS1.
In terms of positioning the Philips itself, that will very much depend on what kind of stand is on your TV. The soundbase is designed to sit under a more traditional TV stand but, these days, many of the more expensive models use stands with feet at either end. As it happens we were testing the XS1 with the Philips 55PUS8601 Ultra HD TV which uses just such a stand but the soundbase fitted perfectly under the TV and between the feet.
Whether that was intentional or just a lucky coincidence remains to be seen because Philips TV is owned by a different company (TP Vision) but it might be an option with other TVs as well. The subwoofer can be positioned vertically, perhaps at the front, or horizontally, maybe under the sofa. Where you ultimately decide to position the subwoofer will undoubtedly depend on the layout of your room and the location of the nearest wall socket but we'd recommend at the front.
Philips Fidelio XS1 Video Review
Sound QualityWe tested the XS1 with a number of different sources including a Blu-ray player which we connected using the HDMI input and TV audio via ARC using the HDMI output. We also connected an Apple TV using the optical digital input and used the Bluetooth connection and 3.5mm jack in conjunction with our iPhone 6. We also used various content for testing including broadcast TV, Blu-rays and streaming video and music services.
As soon as we fired up the XS1 we noticed that it's capable of delivering a really big sound, that filled the room and had plenty of bass energy. The subwoofer is fairly large and, depending on how you orientate and position it, can certainly deliver all the low frequency response that you'll need. We had the sub at the front of the room in a vertical configuration and it merged seamlessly with the soundbase to create a cohesive audio experience.
The design of the soundbase itself meant that dialogue always remained clear and centred, whilst the front soundstage was open and immersive. The mid-range was very well represented, as were the higher frequencies, whilst the subwoofer did all the work at the lower end. As a result voices and music retained a nice sense of clarity, whilst effects were steered across the front soundstage and had plenty of impact. If we had any criticism it was that the soundbar's design sometimes lost a sense of stereo separation and the sub could get a little heavy handed at higher volumes.
However overall it was a very pleasing combination of factors that resulted in TV programmes sounding balanced and movies delivering plenty of presence. We watched Jurassic World and the XS1 did a marvellous job of replicating the sound of an Indominous Rex in your front room. The sounds of the dinosaurs had a real guttural growl with plenty of bass energy but dialogue remained clear and focused. The score and the more atmospheric effects filled out the front soundstage and the XS1 proved capable of a degree of subtlety amongst all the action. In general we found that unprocessed audio was best and would recommend leaving the various audio modes alone unless you're watching something late at night and don't want to disturb anyone else.
When it came to listening to music the XS1 was reasonably good but not quite as impressive as it was with TV and film soundtracks. This is undoubtedly due to the design of the Philips and the reality is that anyone buying a soundbase probably won't be using it as their primary method of listening to music. When listening to Suede's new album Night Thoughts we found the XS1 did a great job of delivering the epic sweep of many of the tracks on the album but lost some of the stereo imaging in the process. The vocals were clear and the strings were nicely rendered, whilst the subwoofer handled the bass effectively but ultimately the XS1 is better suited to TV and movies than it is to pure music.
The XS1 delivered an open front soundstage with plenty of bass but also managed to retain a sense of clarity with dialogue.
- Open and detailed sound
- Well defined dialogue
- Loads of bass energy
- Plenty of features
- Attractive design
- Great build quality
- Can lose sense of stereo separation
- Can be a little heavy handed
Philips Fidelio XS1 SoundStage Review
Should I buy one?
That very much depends on what kind of stand your TV uses but assuming the Philips Fidelio XS1 SoundStage fits then it should certainly be on short list of potential soundbases. The design of the main unit is gorgeous and the build quality excellent, so it should be able to support your TV - no matter how heavy. There are plenty of useful features and connections; whilst the remote control is well designed and effective. The configuration of the soundbase itself uses six drivers with plenty of amplification and the wireless active subwoofer can be positioned either horizontally or vertically.
The XS1 was easy to set up and intuitive to use and overall we were very impressed with its performance. The soundbase delivered an open front soundstage whilst managing to keep dialogue clear and coherent. It rendered the mid-range and higher frequencies well; whilst the subwoofer handled the low-end with great aplomb. The result was a performance that worked well with TV and movies but could on occasion lose its sense of stereo separation with pure music. The soundbase and subwoofer combination could also get a little heavy handed at higher volumes but overall the Philips Fidelio XS1 is a solid performer.
What are my alternatives?
There's no shortage of options in the sub-£400 price bracket but if it's a soundbase that you're looking for then the Yamaha SRT-1000 would make an interesting alternative. It's slightly cheaper but still has the looks and the sound quality. It doesn't have any HDMI connections though, so bear that in mind. Another alternative would be the Cambridge Audio TV5 Speaker Base, it doesn't quite have the looks of the XS1 and it's also missing HDMI connections but it does sound good and it's quite cheap. If HDMI connections are important to you then the LG LAP340 SoundPlate and the Samsung HW-J600 SoundStand would also be good alternatives. The LG in particular has a similar design to the XS1; whilst both the LG and the Samsung include HDMI and can deliver a decent audio performance.
Ease of use9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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