Philips Fidelio E2 (BTS5700) Speaker System Review

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by Phil Hinton, Feb 21, 2014.


    1. Phil Hinton

      Phil Hinton
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    2. Frits Daneils

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      Yes you right
       
    3. cmuk

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      Would you buy this over the HTL5120 Soundbar?
       
    4. davidcrofter

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      I don't think the review could be any clearer "It will put a £300 soundbar to shame". Hopefully Mark will be along to confirm but Philips gear is quite hard to get hold of in the UK.

      Personally I will be looking forward to a review of this systems big brother the E5 which adds a subwoofer and you can remove the top speakers to place them behing you for 4.1 audio:

      Philips Online Shop UK — 2.1 Home theatre - E5 Wireless surround cinema speakers - CSS7235Y/12
       
    5. pragmatic

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      Why can't philips get their act together, this looks like a great product, but it isn't possible to buy it.
      Why does this company keep doing this, getting stuff reviewed and then never releasing them to the market?

      They were forever doing it with their top end TV's the moth eye lense one comes to mind, seemed to have sorted that out for this generation, but it looks like the company doesn't have a clue what markets their selling their products into.
       
    6. davidcrofter

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      Very true, I am not sure this has been released to the general public though as it isn't even available from Philips own website - which is the only place in the UK where you can buy the Philips Fidelio E5 by the looks of things.

      They really need to get some of their well reviewed products into the mainstream channel or it is pretty pointless releasing them - I have no sympathy for the demise of a company that can't get the basics of retail right.
       
    7. Stephy23

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      I currently have the Monster Clarity HD model one speakers for music listening but they are fairly big. How do these in comparison tiny tiny speakers compare sound-quality wise?
       
    8. zenza

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      Are these released yet?
       
    9. dazwaldo

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      where can i find out the dimensions for these? there is a severe lack of info on the web.
       
    10. pragmatic

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      You'll probably struggle to buy them never mind find info about them.
       
    11. zenza

      zenza
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      Yes can't see them for sale anywhere online.
       
    12. dazwaldo

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      Philips are a shambles, do they actually WANT to sell any of these?!?
       
    13. pragmatic

      pragmatic
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      They do it all the time, get their flagship halo model reviewed, and only sell lower level models that often disappoint and are rarely reviewed.

      It is a very odd policy, like they build a few advanced prototypes with no intention of selling. Might explain why in the TV world they've pretty much pulled out and sold their brand to someone else, even when year after year they have interesting and innovative products, while pricy no more than other brands for top end models.
      Pioneer showed us there is no market in simply going for top end though, and Phillips has shown us there is nothing in effectively doing the opposite ...
       
    14. kiwijunglist

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      Hi.

      You also test ruark mr1 bluetooth speakers which are similarly priced and similar size, yet you didn't compare the sound or comment as to which sounded better.
       
    15. zenza

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      Still no sign of these being sold anywhere.

      Unbelievable.
       
    16. Karma

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      The HTL5120 are available from Philips, but I know the frustration you feel. I've had a similar problem with their big brother - the 4.1 E5. No one stocks it - not even their UK distributor.

      However I've bought the E5 direct from Philips (currently in transit). I've got 28 days to live with them and, if not happy, can return them for a full refund AND got a 10% discount for ordering direct.
       
    17. ptkbr

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      Hi Karma,
      Has your E5 arrived? A review would be greatly appreciated! Not many reviews of it available online.

      Cheers!
       
    18. Karma

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      Yes they have. However due to a problematic weekend last weekend I haven't had the chance to inbox them. However I plan a tetchy weekend this weekend and I'll let you know how I got on.
       
    19. plasman

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      It will be nice to hear a review of this system, I really want something like this without cables, it certainly looks stylish but will it perform?
       
    20. Karma

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      Part one


      Brief background.


      I moved house (always an error) and this had ramifications on the Hi FI. Do I wire it up fully, or just the stereo part. It’s a big job (and not one to undertake twice) so I took some time sorting locations. This has generated a problem. Stone floors, open plan, spilt level living room means the cabling is difficult at best and pretty much impossible for the rear speakers. So, the Denon processor has remained off and the rest of the hi fi has been silent for a good while.


      There the status quo remained. The only movement was an upgrade to the Panasonic GT50 panel last year. It has a nice picture but films just didn’t seem involving enough due to the weakness of sound and lack of surround. Then I discovered the Philips HTL 9100 and the good reviews it garnered. I’d decided that any surround was better than nothing (and any improvement on sound would be better than the standard Panasonic speakers). I was almost convinced to buy, but placement of the centre speaker was going to be a slight problem and I remained a little unconvinced about a sound bar (albeit stereo) as given the width of the unit is, in reality, a centre speaker.


      As part of these investigations I discovered the E5. To my mind it made more sense. Proper individual stereo speakers, surrounds and sub woofer - a 4.1 system. No centre speaker, but the speakers aren’t going to be THAT far apart. Finding anywhere to demo it proved problematic, but I was interested enough that I bought it direct from the Philips website (and that included a 10% discount meaning a purchase price of £540) and a 28 day money back guarantee if dissatisfied in any way.


      The units look fine. Two, almost square, rounded cornered, cloth covered “base” (Philips description) speakers. Let’s be more obvious and call them the main front left and right speakers. On top of these sit the left and right surround speakers – metallic covered and making up about a quarter of the overall height. When on top of the main speakers the surrounds charge themselves up. These are truly wireless, rechargeable, Bluetooth speakers. They have a wooden cap (which matches the wooden cap of the sub woofer) and a small leather carrying handle so that they can be easily moved from the charging station for placement in the surround sound position. In total five speakers.


      The previously mentioned sub woofer with downward firing speaker is twice the size of the main speakers again cloth covered and square with rounded corners. No speakers are truly wireless; they have to be connected to something, somewhere. Consequently the subwoofer needs plugging into the mains to drive the internal amplifier but that is it. The subwoofer, like the surround sound speakers connects wirelessly to the main speakers. The right hand, main speaker is plugged into the A/C using a standard figure of eight cable. A 4 metre cable terminated with DIN plugs connectes the right hand main speaker to the left hand main. The left hand main speaker has two HDMI inputs (plus an HDMI ARC input / output), and an optical, coaxial and 3.5mm stereo input. For good measure you can connect a tablet, phone and computer to the system to pay music. There is also NFC connectivity. Tap a compatible phone against a little panel on one of the speakers and an audio connection is made.


      Having bought it direct from Philips at Eindhoven it came with European plugs, though they had thoughtfully included two adaptors (momentary panic when I thought I’d been sent a used item as he box had been opened – but the state of the packaging inside soon demonstrated that it was new and untouched.


      The surrounds are genuinely, fully wireless (the reason for purchase) and take three hours to charge initially before they can be used. This is where I have got to now, and it will be overnight before I can do anything with them as a surround speaker – and then work gets in the way, so it may be a few days before I can give you a full report on their surround capabilities.


      However I have fired them up, using my iPhone as a source for music, to get a feel of what they sound like as a stereo pair as they can be used for music – or, of course, more typically for non surround re-enforcement of stereo TV.


      There are various lights, on the front left main speaker, the sub woofer and on both the surround speakers that let you know the status of the speaker – charging, various operational modes etc. I won’t bore you with all the different colours / states of these lights but don’t let them put you off. They are hidden behind the cloth grills. In fact they are so well hidden that they are quite difficult to see. I had to be standing directly in front of the speaker to see them at all, and then they are very dim which is a good thing in a darkened home cinema room but a less good a solution if you are in daylight and trying to find out what they mean. In fact it took a good five minutes to work out that the subwoofer was switched on and communicating with the main pair as the light is that unobtrusive.


      Of course once you know where to look ……………


      The remote control has buttons to switch inputs (HDMIs and other connectors) and controls surround on or off, volume, bass and treble, audio sync and also has a reset button which sets the bass and treble back to factory settings. This is useful as there are no indicators anywhere to show what the current setting are.. There is also a button for auto volume which I think can be ignored as it is only the equivalent of the old “loudness” button found on 70s / 80s amplifiers to “improve” the sound at low listening levels. NB it is NOT possible to vary the volume of the surround speakers separately. All the speakers are in “balance” with one another and the volume control increases or decreases the volume to all equally.


      I suspect positioning is all important when it comes to the sub woofer and the surrounds – which will need to be placed with varying proximity to the listener to get the balance right as there is no separate way to change the surround speaker volume. When I do set it up I shall use a THX test disc and meter to get the volume / distance correct – but I will have to report on that experiment in part 2.


      They are very easy to plug together, two mains plugs – one for the main pair and one for the subwoofer - and a connecting DIN cable between the two Main front L & R speakers and away you go. All the speakers talk to each other and pair up automatically. Connecting to my iPhone was exceedingly simple. Press Bluetooth on the remote control, wait for the flashing blue light, switch on the iPhone and the Philips is already there waiting to be paired. If you have multiple sources it is easy to change from one to another by pressing the Bluetooth button on the remote for three seconds. This disconnected the current device and allows another to be paired. I successfully and easily swapped between iPhone, iPad and computer at will.


      I played various songs from my collection to get a feel of how it sounded and was quite impressed. It won’t make your Quad Electrostatics, Bowers and Wilkins, Krell combinations to be forced into retirement. However what it does, it does do well. The music was open with good central imaging (which will be important when pressed into cinema duties as there is no centre speaker). Overall sound quality I would say was pretty good. It certainly isn’t unpleasant and I was surprised to find myself listening to quite a lot of music over the evening. I think the Philps E5 will be pressed into service more often to provide music when I don’t want a big listening session and the hassle of firing up the main Hi Fi. For those that remember such things audio quality is up there with a reasonably expensive separates system from Pioneer, Trio/Kenwood, Sony etc from the 80’s / 90’s (say £400 - £500) when these things were in vogue (and my only frame of reference - as I used to sell them).


      For most listening duties they will be fine. Initial thoughts were that they are a little bass heavy – though this can be controlled by judicious placement of the sub / altering the bass volume. I have yet to play with the final siting of the speakers. Though in its temporary position I had it rocking to some great older tracks from my collection (Dire Straits / ELO / Queen / Supertramp, (just to age me). That is the point, though. It does go loud – louder than I was expecting without distortion in my big listening room (40’ or 16m x 19’ or 5.8m) and with pretty decent – certainly not shabby – sound. Certainly loud enough to hold a party – though of course we wouldn’t be that irresponsible to the neighbours, would we?


      And this is the thing. It isn’t supposed to be a high end Hi Fi replacement (though it doesn’t do a bad job) it is supposed to replace the speakers on the TV. From what I have heard it do to music, it will do that – and in spades. Far and away superior to the TV speakers, and better than many sound bars I have had the (mis)fortune to have heard whichI have been put off buying because of their lacklustre, lowest common denominator, performance and lack of stereo separation, something that can’t be levelled at the Philips. It has a bright and clear midrange, which will is good for dialogue. I tried it on a few Radio Four podcasts and voices were open, clear and easy to understand, even when several voices are speaking at the same time. I put some soundtrack albums on from the delicacy of the Piano to the bombast of James Bond and they Philips didn’t disgrace itself on the big orchestral / brass pieces of music and let’s face it a bit of bass weight isn’t gong to go amiss when you want to watch Godzilla.


      My only inkling of doubt will be on the surrounds. As previously mentioned they can’t be adjusted separately so positioning will be all. The manual shows placing them very close to the listening position so whether this is because of a lack of power I can’t say (they are battery operated, after all).


      But I haven’t tried them yet and will report back when I’ve had the chance to shake them down when all is set up correctly and for the purpose for which they were designed – to improve the sound (and provide proper surround sound) to a television. Time to dust off some DVDs.
       
    21. plasman

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      Very good review karma, thanks for your input, will look forward to hearing how the portable surround speakers behave as I will use it for films etc, hope they have the power.
       
    22. ptkbr

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      Thanks, Karma! Great review!
       
    23. George Pearce

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      That's a superb review thank you ,could be the answer to my problems as I too have trouble getting a centre speaker into my setup .
      Waiting eagerly for part 2 sir .
       
    24. Karma

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      Part Two


      Short version:-


      I left part one with a conundrum. Would battery operated, active speakers be loud enough for surround duties and will they give the excitement that a Dolby Digital soundtrack can give to a film?

      Yes they are and yes they do.

      Long version:-
      Sorry for the delay in the “how did it perform part” of my thoughts on the Philips Fidelio E5. It hasn’t been the easy set up I initially envisioned and was mildly frustrating considering the "simple" connections involved (only the smallest part of which can be blamed on the E5)

      To recap, set up of the E5 itself was straight forward when I quickly put it together and played music via Bluetooth. So I approached the wiring into the TV with confidence. I was going the “simple” route as described in the user guide. HDMI ARC from TV to E5 with SkyHD and the Blu Ray left connected to the TV via HDMI. An Apple TV unit would be connected by optical cable to the E5 and via HDMI to the TV.

      The idea was it would be family friendly so when the E5 was switched on the volume would be controlled by existing TV / Satellite remotes and when it was switched off the TV would behave as it always did. I wanted the simplest way of hooking it up so it would get used by everyone. I was always criticised previously with comments like “so I have to turn the TV on, then the player, then the processor, set the main pre amp volume to half way and select aux, turn on the power amps, select DVD on the……….” you get my drift. I really wanted this to be plug and play.

      Dead easy to connect then? Eventually yes but initially SO frustrating. I confess I nearly gave up on it all after a day of plugging, unplugging and phone calls to Sky, Philips and Panasonic. The E5 worked, after a fashion, but it didn’t sound very good at all. A very false surround sound with occasional flashes of rear speaker action but mostly an enveloping “guestimate” of what it should sound like. Rather reminiscent of how Dolby Pro Logic 2 would attempt to create a surround sound signal from a stereo source. I was aware that Pro Logic 2 was one of the capabilities of the E5 so a quick hunt through the settings on the SkyHD box confirmed it was in “normal” i.e. stereo mode and the E5 was "Pro Logic-ing" it. I changed that to Dolby Digital and back to the film and ….. nothing, total silence. I played with the settings a few more time and then contacted Sky who assured me there was no other setting that should be altered.

      After a little research on the ‘net and a somewhat confusing, unsatisfactory, call to Panasonic I confirmed what I thought would be a deal breaker. Connecting the E5 to the Panasonic TV in the Philips recommended way, using HDMI ARC was going to be a non starter as the Panasonic TV (TXP42 GT50) only passes Freeview DD signals using the HDMI ARC. Anything connected to the TV using the other HDMI inputs and then sent down the HDMI ARC is either stripped of the DD and down converted to stereo or not passed at all (as in the case of the SkyHD box).

      While not an insurmountable problem, the brief was to make film watching user friendly. So I sat in front of it all and after a little head scratching came up with the following. I would leave the SkyHD box connected to the HDMI it was currently plugged into on the TV (HDMI 1) - and also the Blu Ray player (HDMI 3). The Apple TV would be connected to the E5 using the E5’s HDMI 1 input and the E5 would be connected to the Panasonic TV via the HDMI ARC (HDMI 2)

      Dolby Digital duties would be handled by the coaxial digital out from the SkyHD box and via optical from the Blu Ray (for DD / DTS) connected direct to the E5. This means the TV and the peripheries behave as they always did for casual TV watching merely requiring the E5 to be switched on and the coax / optical / HDMI channels selected on the remote as required and then using the E5 volume in that instance. There is still the HDMI 2 input free on the E5 for my old DVD HDR, whether I’ll bother is a moot point as DVD’s and Blu Rays are more or less exclusively played on the Blu Ray.

      I needed to bore you with this so you can be aware that, depending on the TV you have, the obvious HDMI ARC connection may not work. I understand that Panasonic TVs do not fully utilise the function, though some Samsungs do, as do Philips - you’ll need to check with your supplier (or get a demo from a dealer if buying new). This shouldn't be construed as a criticism of the E5.

      Although I did mention the E5 had a small role in this frustration, that is because the only indications on the front of the speakers are, as mentioned in part one, some unobtrusive lights. Depending on their colour or by the way they flash they indicate status - no on screen help here at all - and when looking at these lights (and you have to be directly in front of the speaker to see them) you are left wondering what that white flashing light is indicating. It blinks twice to register it is decoding a Dolby DD input, three times when it is in DTS mode, slowly flashes if the volume control has been turned all the way to zero or steadily flashes if no signal is present or an incompatible audio format is sent. Which doesn’t help if you are trying to work out why there is no sound which could be one or more combinations of the above. A minor gripe, but during the Panasonic input / output frustration it didn’t improve the mood.

      Right, now the satisfactory connections have been made, how did it sound? The short answer is it is really very good and, in using DD, instantly distinguishing itself apart from the previous Pro Logic effect. I did check both the optical and coaxial connections from the SkyHD, the box having both outputs active simultaneously and I could change between them at will using the E5 remote. They both sound very similar, with the coaxial connection providing a SLIGHTLY quieter surround volume level - but still impressively loud.

      Careful speaker placement for the rears is going to be essential, as I mentioned previously there is no separate rear surround volume and they are quite loud. However this can be controlled by distance or the angle in which they point at you.

      In my circumstances I want this to be a “pack away” system as far as the rear speakers are concerned. When charging they dock onto the main parent front left and right speakers so are out of the way anyway. For proper Dolby Digital listening I have an old pair of tall (1 metre) speaker stands that have lived in the cupboard under the stairs, and are now pressed into service as a stand for the E5 surrounds when wanting the full glory of DD / DTS for film evenings. If you do similar, you’ll need a speaker stand with a top plate dimension of at least 95mm x 95mm for them to sit on as the speakers stand on a raised rubber base that also acts as a docking guide when putting them away for charging.

      I had them placed two metres each side of the listening position (so 4 metres apart in total) and 1 metre back (i’ll let you work out the diagonal). They sounded fine though and, in full use and after more experimenting, I may move them back even further.

      The film I had to hand was Die Another Day and after getting the lip sync just right, which can be done from the E5 remote, though I would suggest doing it from the source unit if possible in case there are differences between different sources. In my set up a delay of 80ms was sufficient.

      It was all very impressive. The opening, traditional, image of Bond walking into the view of the rifled gun barrel is enhanced as when Bond turns, points his gun and shoots at you, you watch the bullet come towards you on screen then hear it fly over your head and thwack against the wall at the back of the room behind you with a satisfyingly loud crunch. These battery driven speakers are loud enough to make you jump and are good for 10 hours on one charge before requiring to be docked onto their parent for re-charging - which as has been said is good enough for the whole of the Lord Of The Rings in one sitting.

      The stereo spread is also good with effects moving from front left to right yet retaining a solid central dialogue sound locked to the screen - even when sitting slightly off axis. This was where I think the E5 and the HTL9100 will differ. You can get the E5 speakers further apart - up to the distance of the connecting cable - than the the somewhat narrower than a TV screen, sound bar nature of the HTL9100 when its surrounds are undocked. Though, of course I’m happy for any owners of the latter to refute that. But, to my mind, the wider stereo placement means that when something is designed to circle the room, it does that, rather than circling in a triangle from the TV to the wider place rears, if you get my drift.

      The bass is powerful too. Impressively rumbly - especially on the opening of Die Another Day when the surfers are heading to shore. Lots of water effects every where, including the rears accompanied by this low, menacing, thunderous boom (and living by the sea can attest to its veracity) yet all the while leaving the music locked in stereo from the front speakers. Even during “busy” effects laden sequences - of which there are many at the start of Die Another Day - the dialogue remains crisp, clear and in no danger of attracting “what did he say” comments. Though whether this applies to improving the audibility of Poldark, I’ll leave others to find out.

      In conclusion, and to these ears, the Philips E5 performs very well as a Dolby Digital / DTS decoder and is infinitely superior to the Panasonic TV speakers, that it also works nicely as a stereo system is a bonus, though I’m less convinced that the bass, for music use, isn’t a touch overblown - though I suspect sub woofer placement may help here. There have been glowing reports of the E5’s smaller brother the E2 (which sparked this review) and its sibling, the slightly more expensive HTL9100, on this forum and across the ‘net. When I embarked on this process I suspected that the E5 should live up to those reviews - it uses similar speaker units - but to my mind should have better stereo separation as it has two front main speakers (rather than the sound bar like HTL9100) and adds surround sound which the E2 doesn't have. You can therefore chose the amount of separation by the placement of the speakers which also comes in handy when listening to casual music.

      My suspicions appear to be well founded. The E5 works very well in the context for which it has been designed, I have absolutely no doubt that it will sound as good as the similar HTL9100 reviews suggest it should, though perhaps in not as neat a design. The choice boils down to looks and stereo width and personally I think it looks fine, it certainly passed the “better half” taste / decor test. You can find plenty of pictures of both units around the internet if you are considering these as a surround sound choice.

      I’m glad I chose the E5 and will not be taking Philips up on their 28 day money back offer. A measure of how enjoyable a system is demonstrated by how much you want to listen to it. I started by wanting a demo (or two or three) to test the E5 metal. Instead I got drawn into the film I started using as a demo and ended up watching it from start to finish. Job done. I did say I may hook up a THX test disc to get the balance just right - but it is easily, and highly satisfactorily, done by ear - just for fun I may calibrate the distances properly using a test disc, but I'm currently enjoying it too much too worry.

      I only have one problem now, where to find the time to watch all the other films I’ve bought over the last few years with the intention of watching them properly "one day".

      That day has, finally, come.
       
      Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
    25. George Pearce

      George Pearce
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      A great informative review ,thank you
       
    26. Jota180

      Jota180
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      Philips are a weird company. Their soundbar, the little brother version of the one that has detachable ends, could I find it in the UK? No. Had to buy it abroad with a daft Euro plug. Some friends were looking for the version with the sub, also not sold in the UK.

      What are these muppets up to?
       
    27. zenza

      zenza
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      And still no sign of the E2.

      Only Philips.
       
    28. plasman

      plasman
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      If anyone is thinking of buying the E5, use this code for 25% off!!

      ASPERITY25
       

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