With a curved, white-plastic body and silver-fabric face, the Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500's design is in keeping with classic iPods and newer iMacs - the device feels at home amongst Apple products. The 8500 weighs 2.3kg, and measures 421mm wide, 139mm deep, and 158mm tall.
The first noteworthy feature of the Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500 is that, as we mentioned, you can actually dock your Apple iPad in the wide device. In fact, the system's dock "cradle" may even accommodate your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad complete with its case, depending on the thickness of the case - for example, we were able to dock an iPad in the Apple iPad Case. (A popular case you can't use with the Fidelio, however, is Apple's iPhone 4 Bumper; you'll need to remove the bumper before docking your iPhone.)
Rather than using Apple's Universal Dock design, the Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500 employs Philips' own dock-connector cradle, which the company says will work with any 30-pin iPod, iPhone, or iPad without the need for a plastic insert or adaptor.
Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500: Connections
On the back of the Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500 are but two connections: one for the included AC adaptor, and a 1/8in (3.5mm) stereo line-in jack. The unit comes packaged with a 12in miniplug-to-miniplug auxiliary cable, which you can use to connect devices that don't include the 30-pin dock connector.
The Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500 system's sparse on-board controls consist solely of Volume Up and Down buttons. However, even those are hidden: the Fidelio has a proximity sensor for activating what the company calls the unit's 'backlit control panel'. It's true that when this reviewer's hand got close to the volume controls, the buttons lit up, but we're not sure this feature offers any tangible benefit - with just two buttons, it's not difficult to figure out how to control the volume, even if your eyes are closed.
You may be thinking, "But of course there's a Power button, right?" Actually, no - the Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500 is on and ready to go whenever it's plugged in. The unit enters a power-saving standby mode when you remove a docked device or when there's no auxiliary input for 15 minutes.
The Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500's infrared remote offers most of the system's controls: Play/Pause, Back, Forward, Volume Up, Volume Down, Mute, a button to toggle between a docked device and the line-in jack, and buttons for navigating your device's onscreen menus. Several of the buttons on our review unit's remote felt a bit soft, and since the remote provides no visual feedback when you push a button, there were times we weren't sure if we'd successfully pressed a button at all. We also found that the required line of sight to operate the Fidelio using the remote was a bit too narrow.
When you first dock an iOS device with the Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500, you'll be prompted to download the free Philips Fidelio app from the App Store. You don't need the app to use the system, but it's worth the download. The app lets you adjust how much bass presence the Fidelio provides, and it gives you several different equaliser presets. As you'd expect, the app offers full access to your music library. Annoyingly, though, while you're prompted to get the app if it isn't already installed when you first dock your device, the app doesn't launch automatically when you re-dock thereafter. (To be fair, this is probably a limitation of iOS, not of the app or the 8500.)
Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500: Sound quality
We've reviewed many speaker docks, and the Philips Fidelio Docking speaker DS8500's sound quality rivals the best of them. The unit generates big sound, with solid performance in the treble, midrange, and bass. All that sound comes from just two 15W, 3in, full-range drivers powered by a technology Philips calls PureDigital. (Low-range performance is enhanced by a pair of bass ports on the back of the unit.) We didn't find the sound lacking in any way - quite simply, we loved listening to music with the Fidelio 8500.
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