Philips Fidelio E5 (wireless surround) CSS7235Y

Karma

Active Member
I was in the market for a truly wireless surround sound system and after much searching was intrigued by the Philips HT9100 mentioned in these pages. The only obstacle was I wasn't sure about a soundbar. Then I discovered the Philps Fidelio E5. A cross between the soundbar HT9100 (rechargeble battery operated speakers and the E2 – whivh has no surround sound funtion at all.


I read Mark Hodgkinsons review of the Philips Fidelio E2 speakers Philips Fidelio E2 (BTS5700) Speaker System Review | AVForums
with interest and given his good review of that speaker (The Philips Fidelio E5 has the same front speakers, I took the plunge and bought some. I mentioned this on the forum amd was asked what they were like, so I replied within that forum. Although not a professional writer (or writer of any kind, actually) I gave it my best shot. However, it is tucked away in a reply to another comment. Having lived with the speakers for several weeks now, I feel that they deserve a bit more attention and I reproduce the comments exactly as I originally posted in the hope it may help others in a similar quandary to mine.

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 be 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.


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 Samsung's 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 the same speaker units as the E2 - but to my mind should have better stereo separation over the the sound bar like HTL9100 as it has two front main speakers 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 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 very similar E2 and slightly different HTL9100 reviews suggest they should. 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's mettle. 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 - at a later date and 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".

Thankfully that day has, finally, come.
 

spyder viewer

Distinguished Member
Thanks for a very interesting and comprehensive review! Obviously, the really interesting point I suspect for most of our readers will be the robustness (in every way) of the wireless, rechargeable speakers.

You say the rears will run for 10 hours on a single charge and that the initial charge was 3 hours. Is this the normal charge time? Also, is there any indication on the speakers as to how many hours of charge left (wouldn't like to run out during Harry Potter!).

It's interesting that Philips haven't included a centre speaker. They always seem to go their own way!

Is it possible that people walking around in the room can disturb the connection between the base station and the rears?

I'm sorry if the answer is in your lengthy review, but do you have any indication of the power output of the fronts and rears? How loud do they go?

Can you give use some indication of your usual seated distance from the screen?
 

Karma

Active Member
I hope this additional info helps (and thanks to Spyder for pointing the omission in my original post, but also his encouragement)

The rear speakers are not cloth wrapped (like the main front speakers and the sub woofer) but encased in a hard, mesh like metalic coloured - I suspect plastic – grill and topped with a wooden end cap, to match the sub woofer and a leather handle to carry them from rear placement to chrging dock on top pf the main speakers.

If a picture paints a thousand words etc.
Buy the Fidelio E5 Wireless surround cinema speakers CSS7235Y_12 E5 Wireless surround cinema speakers
The signal seems robust enough and in the time that I have used it I have experienced no drop outs, despite a very large sofa between the main units and the rears. I was walking around the room to do final set up and the signal to the rears / subwoofer did not drop as I was doing so.

They do have a failsafe to ensure maximum length from the battery powered rear speakers, if no signal is detected being received into the main unit for a period of half an hour, it all goes into standby. Philips claim a proprietary wireless frequency to operate the system that will neither interfere (or suffer from interference) from Bluetooth or WiFi signals.

All the speakers have telltales on them, but with with specific regard to the rear speakers, the LED's are a little brighter and more obvious – so shouldn't matter as they are behind you – a white LED shows that the speaker is on, receiving signal and has between 30% & 100% charge. A red LED shows 10% - 30% charge and a flashing red LED less that 10%.

An orange LED shows the speakers are charging and an alternating flashing red and orange LED indictes the speaker is on, but receiving no signal.

Charge time should be a problem ans the reason d'etre on these speakers is that the portable rear speakers are designed to be docked on top of the main speakers (and charging / charged) when not in surround mode.

If I take the “sweet spot” watching position – i.e directly in front of the centre point of the TV screen, my head is three metres away from the screen and the main front speakers were 1.5 metres apart (about five feet) - centred to the screen which is as far as I could practicably get them apart. The rears were also centred on the watching positiion but about four metres apart and just over a metre behind.

Subjectively they go loud. Loud enough for me to be excited and my wife simultaneously to put her fingers in her ears and shout at me “does it have to be that loud”

Objectively, if I interpret the figure correctly (and Philips seem to quote different specs) the main / rear speakers are about 40w and 60w for the sub. But I'll let you pick the holes in the official figures.


Sound System: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Digital Surround

  • Subwoofer output power: 90

  • Total Power RMS @ 30% THD: 210 W

  • Satellite speaker output power: 120
If there are people interested, and if I can answer the questions – I'll do my best to help. As Spyder has said, Philips seem to be an odd company. They have an award winning product (according to the website) yet haven't made it easy for people to audition.
 

Richdog

Member
Awesome review, thanks!

Is the lack of adjustable volume on the rears proving a problem? I would probably have the rears a metre or less away from me on each side in my bedroom, and am wondering if this would cause any issues? :)
 

Karma

Active Member
Awesome review, thanks!

Is the lack of adjustable volume on the rears proving a problem? I would probably have the rears a metre or less away from me on each side in my bedroom, and am wondering if this would cause any issues? :)
Hi Richdog

Sorry for the delay, as explained in my original post I'm taken away with work occasional so things "stutter".

I suspect, as with all these things, that it will depend on exactly how far away both the front and rears are away from you. Certainly the rears are quite powerful (which was my original worry that they wouldn't be). And within reason will be in balance with the front spreaders. As a guide to my set up the rears were about a third as far away as the main front speakers and sounded fine. I did experiment with them FURTHER away, and they still sounded good. If you have to get then closer than this you can always experiment by turning them away from you. (I did this when I first set it up and the diagrams seemed to show the best placement was pretty much balanced on the back of the sofa you sit on to listen) In fairness they were little too loud in that position - but a bit of judicious angling sorted it. That was when I went down the route of putting them on stands to get them a little further away.

Can't be much more help than that I'm afraid. However if you can get them within the rule of thirds you won't go far wrong. In my case 3 metres from the front - 1 metre from the rear. (though still sound fine at 2 metres away from the rear). They work fine when they are on the same plane as your ears, but to my ears I like the impression of stuff well behind me so Am lucky that I can get them to the side and rear of the listening position.
 

Benwhite89

Novice Member
Hi, I am thinking of buying the E5 but one of the things I would like to use it for is listening to spotify, is there any way this can be done, I know it doesn't have spotify connect, but thought I'd see if anyone has any experience using it with these speakers? Thanks
 

JonnyO

Active Member
Thanks George, I actually found a different one for 30% off making this £420, so I ordered this morning :)
 

JonnyO

Active Member
Yep and unfortunately it has been returned.
Sound quality was good and it looked great. However, it just wasn't family friendly with my set up.
The main issue was that my TV pre-dates ARC. As such in order to get surround sound the TV, sky box and Apple TV had to be directly connected to the speakers.
The HDMI-CEC turned the speakers off ok when the TV turned off. However they did not get turned on when the TV was turned on. That meant no signal to the TV from connected devices until you turned on the speakers which needed to be done from its own remote. Just too messy I'm afraid for my wife and kids.
As such I'm going to wait until I get a new TV and then buy something that works well with ARC or some manufacturer specific system that 'just works'.
 
For future info I have a panasonic tv and a yamaha soundbar ,both support arc .the cec works fantastically well ,soundbar gets turned on and off and volume controlled with tv remote ,the soundbar also recognises which connected devices are being turned on and off as well . Not all tv's will work like this with all soundbars ,some are good ,some not so good ,if it's very important to you then you'll need to do some research through the forums
 

badsoden

Active Member
I think I will probably have the same issue then. My Philips TV has CEC but not ARC. Shame I liked the look of this.
 

Azalia

Standard Member
I just want to share my experience with the Fidelio E5 system.

In short, I love it. So much so that it has replaced my 'proper' 5.1 system consisting of Monitor Audio Silver series speakers and a Marantz amp. Does the Fidelio sound as good as that system? No but the drawbacks are more than outweighed by the benefits. The drawbacks being: a relative reduction in sound quality and lack of 'tweakability'. The benefits being: they still sound really good; the far superior simplicity of the whole system in terms of ease of use (my TV has ARC); gorgeous industrial design (even my girlfriend commented on this!); better stereo music performance (in my view); lack of cables; and flexibility (stereo with surround on demand).

Karma's review is very comprehensive and I agree with most of his observations. I would add:

1) I absolutely agree that being able to individually control the volume of the detachable surround speakers would be have been really nice. If the next version of this system has that functionality I will upgrade immediately.

2) The surrounds are loud enough for most rooms I'd say. However, I do find Philips' press images to be revealing. Note that they often show the surround speakers being placed quite close to the listener's head (and usually behind him/her). I do believe that this is how Philips envisage the system being used - in modern European houses/apartments with modest sized rooms). I live in an old Victorian townhouse with has quite a large, wide living room with very high ceilings. At normal viewing volumes (in terms of the volume from the main speakers), the surrounds aren't quite loud enough to create a convincing sound field that envelopes the whole room. They can get loud enough at those distances if you turn up the system volume but then volume from the main speakers is antisocially/uncomfortably loud in my view. In this case I'm talking about them being about four to five metres away from the TV and about the same from each other. I suspect most people won't be in that situation though. I get around this limitation by placing the speakers far closer to me (and by extension each other) when I'm just watching movies by myself.

3) The units are actually a bit larger than they look in press photos. I'd say that, with the surrounds on the top, they're about half the height of my Monitor Audio RX6 floor standing speakers and about the same width and depth as your average bookshelf speaker. Long story short, unless you have a very wide TV table/stand you may not be able to place them at the sides of your TV. I could barely squeeze them to mine. It didn't look very good so I bought speaker stands for them. Again, look at Philips' press shots. They're always shown on very wide, modern looking TV units.

4) The whole concept of wireless surround on demand really is a winner. Almost Apple-like in its simplicity. I am convinced that, over the next few years, most speaker manufacturers will move towards active speakers that communicate wirelessly. Super high end manufacturers will probably stick with wired for the time being but those targeting the consumer/prosumer space won't.

5) The lack of a dedicated centre channel makes little difference in my view. Dialogue etc comes through nice and clearly. Besides, I suspect that, even with a very good 5.1 setup, the dimensions of and furniture arrangements in most people's living rooms will preclude them from placing the L and R speakers far enough apart to get really good separation/imaging from the front three speakers so they won't loose much by just ditching the centre channel.

6) Music sounds excellent, especially on Bluetooth if you're music device supports AptX. Most Apple laptops made in the last two or three years do. I use this to listen to Spotify from my MacBook Air. Having done comparisons, this sounds noticeably better than listening to music via Airplay and my Apple TV.

7) One gripe is that these speakers do seem to easily forget which Bluetooth devices they've previously been paired with. I'll listen to music one day only to come back the next to find that I need to re-pair my speakers to my laptop. Not sure if that's Philips' or Apple's fault though. Also, they can only be paired with one Bluetooth device at a time, so you can't switch quickly between your laptop and your mobile phone without going through a pairing process. Inconvenient but hardly a deal breaker.

7) You'll get the most of out these speakers if your TV supports ARC. Not only does it cut down on cable clutter (which, as you can probably tell is a big bug bear of mine) but you won't be able to get 5.1 from DTS movies if you use the SPDIF optical connection because the SPDIF standard does not have sufficient bandwidth to accommodate a DTS bitstream, only Dolby Digital.

Hope this helps.
 

badsoden

Active Member
Not only does it cut down on cable clutter (which, as you can probably tell is a big bug bear of mine) but you won't be able to get 5.1 from DTS movies if you use the SPDIF optical connection because the SPDIF standard does not have sufficient bandwidth to accommodate a DTS bitstream, only Dolby Digital.

Can the coax port handle DTS bitstream?
 

DikAlex777

Member
I just bought the Fidelio E5 system and have troubles connecting it to my Samsung TV UE65HU7505T. The TV does have an HDMI marked as ARC and detects the system as external receiver. HDMI-CEC is working fine. But, I hear no sound. I tried to play some music via Bluetooth from my iPhone and it did work, so speakers are functional.
What could be the reason?
 

JerrySmith

Novice Member
I was in the market for a truly wireless surround sound system and after much searching was intrigued by the Philips HT9100 mentioned in these pages. The only obstacle was I wasn't sure about a soundbar. Then I discovered the Philps Fidelio E5. A cross between the soundbar HT9100 (rechargeble battery operated speakers and the E2 – whivh has no surround sound funtion at all.


I read Mark Hodgkinsons review of the Philips Fidelio E2 speakers Philips Fidelio E2 (BTS5700) Speaker System Review | AVForums
with interest and given his good review of that speaker (The Philips Fidelio E5 has the same front speakers, I took the plunge and bought some. I mentioned this on the forum amd was asked what they were like, so I replied within that forum. Although not a professional writer (or writer of any kind, actually) I gave it my best shot. However, it is tucked away in a reply to another comment. Having lived with the speakers for several weeks now, I feel that they deserve a bit more attention and I reproduce the comments exactly as I originally posted in the hope it may help others in a similar quandary to mine.

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 be 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.


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 Samsung's 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 the same speaker units as the E2 - but to my mind should have better stereo separation over the the sound bar like HTL9100 as it has two front main speakers 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 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 very similar E2 and slightly different HTL9100 reviews suggest they should. 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's mettle. 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 - at a later date and 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".

Thankfully that day has, finally, come.


Superb review Karma - thanks for that. I'm about to press the buy button but the killer for me is whether or not you can use one or both of the Surround Sound speakers as Bluetooth battery powered speakers (e.g. for BBQs) without having to use the Front Facing speakers? Do you know if that is possible at all?
 

mathieu1425

Novice Member
Hi all,

Thank you for the detailed reviews on the E5 system.

I have a quick question. Does the system automatically switch between sources or do I need to use the remote everytime?

Example, I have audio from a source connected via the optical input, and an Apple TV in HDMI 1. Let's say I am listening to my audio source, I stop the source and I want to watch my Apple. Do I need to switch the source to HDMI 1 or is the system smart enough to automatically switch?

Thank you!

Mathieu
 

Azalia

Standard Member
I think it depends on whether your source device is connected via HDMI and supports HDMI CEC. For example, I had my PS4 connected to the E5 system which was in turn connected to my Sony TV. All three devices supported CEC and so the PS4 would appear as an input device on my TV, even though it was not connected to it directly. I was then able to use my TV's remote to select the PS4 directly. All inputs on both TV and E5 would change appropriately.

Sadly, the Apple TV isn't a good example because it doesn't support HDMI CEC. Hopefully the new version rumoured to be announced later in the year will.

Incidentally, I'm selling my E5 system if you're interested.
 

Azalia

Standard Member
Taking your specific example, no I don't think the system does intelligent switching between the optical input and other sources. I believe this is because the SPDIF standard does not support control changes messages, only bit-streamed audio data.
 

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