Philips Fidelio B97 Soundbar Review Page 2

Rightly for a premium soundbar, there's more than just the minimum when it comes to connectivity. In addition to an HDMI output with eARC, you get two HDMI inputs, useful for quickly connecting source gear. Compatibility covers Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and HLG, but all HDMIs are v2.0 so don't try to run your 4K/120Hz games console through them. The soundbar also has digital optical audio and 3.5mm analogue line inputs, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (v4.2) wireless options.

Spread Your Wings
I suspect most buyers will plan to run the B97 in both of its configurations, detaching the wings only for multichannel movies or sports, even though upmixing is available.

In full surround mode, it offers three channels across the front (in a standard LCR arrangement), delivered by a mix of 3.5in racetrack drivers and 19mm soft dome tweeters, while height is proffered by two angled 2.5in drivers. Adding spatial air are single soft dome tweeters located at either end of the bar. These emphasise width and create a more expansive stereo spread.

As befits its transforming nature, driver usage changes depending on whether the surround speakers are attached. When they're docked with the main 'bar, the modules utilise a front-mounted, single race-track driver, timbre-matched to the main left and right. They also have tweeters to replace the drivers they're covering. When removed from the 'bar, these side-mounted tweeters are no longer active.


If wall-mounting the surround enclosures, use their USB-C input to recharge

Incidentally, be careful you don't accidentally turn off the rears when placing them in position, as the power button falls all too readily to hand.

The width offered by the B97 is brought home during Spider-Man: Homecoming's Staten Island Ferry sequence (4K BD). When the transport is literally ripped apart by The Vulture, the ship rents left and right while the villain's blasts scorch in from the rear. The B97 excites with authority across the front soundstage.

Officially rated at a cumulative 450W, with 240W going to the wireless sub, this system isn't short of power. I'd rate it more than suitable for larger rooms.

As a two-piece, the B97 behaves much like any other aspirational soundbar. It's particularly good when it comes to mid-range and dialogue clarity, and the crossover with the sub is more seamless than most 2.1 packages.

It offers copious volume and width, but strangely for a soundbar with dedicated height drivers, doesn't really throw sound up. There's extra ambience, but not the exaggerated vertical staging you might imagine. When the surround speakers are detached its performance becomes a lot more dramatic. A run of system-testing demos confirms the wraparound effect. Dolby's Atmos Amaze clip steers objects a full 360 degrees.

However this is actually quite an old-school home theatre performance, with a very flatbed sound.

The classic Mad Max: Fury Road opener (4K BD) has Max's pursuers fly reassuringly in from the rear, giving chase across the sand dunes before the Road Warrior's car flips with a stonking LFE thump.

This is the first soundbar we've seen to boast IMAX Enhanced status. For a soundbar to get the certification, we're told it should be at least one metre wide, which the B97 achieves with its two rear speakers detached. Bass response is also expected to reach down to at least 35Hz.

The B97 is primarily designed for TVs 55in and up

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (IMAX Enhanced DTS:X), in which rhinos batter Dwayne Johnson's helicopter as it tries to escape the valley floor, is a dizzying soup of sound. The soundstage is large and complicated. A stampeding low-end underscores the clatter of damage. Does it sound any different to Dolby Atmos? On this system (where discs are correctly flagged as IMAX DTS:X), not really.

Fine-Sounding Fidelio
Thanks to the provision of detachable surrounds, the Philips Fidelio B97 is one of the most convincingly cinematic soundbars we've heard for less than a grand. The soundstage is fittingly huge, and that glorious subwoofer puts in a seismic performance.

That said, as a Dolby Atmos solution it really doesn't hit the heights many cinephiles will be expecting, and usability could be slicker. Play-Fi control is offered via the Philips Sound and DTS Play-Fi apps, but you'll need a separate PS Fine Tune app to further fettle performance.

Still, it looks and sounds premium, and Play-Fi could be a big bonus if you invest in other compatible speakers.

HCC Verdict

Philips Fidelio B97

Price: £1,000

We say: With detachable rear speakers, this premium soundbar offers a genuinely cinematic surround sound experience, but don't expect high Atmos...

Overall: 4/5


DRIVE UNITS (Soundbar): 2 x full-range (centre); 4 x full-range plus 2 x tweeters (left & right); 2 x full-range upfirers; 2 x side-firing tweeters DRIVE UNITS (Surrounds): 2 full-range plus 2 x tweeters ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED): 450W total (240W subwoofer) CONNECTIONS: 2 x HDMI inputs; 1 x HDMI output with eARC; digital optical audio input; 3.5mm analogue input Dolby Atmos/DTS:X: Yes/Yes SEPARATE SUB: Yes. 8in driver REMOTE CONTROL: Yes Dimensions (surrounds attached): 1,312(w) x 55.6(h) x 120(d)mm WEIGHT: 6kg

FEATURES: Chromecast built-in, Bluetooth v4.2; wall-mounting option; rechargable wireless rear speakers; HDR passthrough (HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG); IMAX Enhanced; DTS Play-Fi; PS Fine Tune app; Works with Alexa; Apple AirPlay