Philips Fidelio B97 Soundbar Review

hcc_recommendedPhilips' transforming Fidelio soundbar offers old-school home cinema thrills, says Steve May

The Philips Fidelio B97 soundbar drops deeper than James Cameron chasing the Titanic. You might think the fancy detachable speaker modules that double as wireless rears would be the star of this high-end soundbar, but it's actually the subwoofer in this twin set that's the pearl. It delivers profound, subterranean bass, the kind that slams you in the chest. Even The Rock would stagger under the weight of its output.

In the Love, Death & Robots episode 'Automated Customer Service' (Netflix, Dolby Atmos), a robot vacuum decides to purge a house of all living things, including its elderly resident. The animation style may be goofy, but the deep thrum the Vacubot makes as it hunts its prey is chilling; I began to fear this smart bar might have similarly malicious intent. Death by infrasonics? I can think of worse ways to go.

Back In Business
The B97 is the new king of Philips' soundbar range, and the first to carry 'Fidelio' branding since that premium product class was resurrected in 2020.

It's a 7.1.2 design with category redefining functionality. Philips calls its detachable speaker enclosures 'surround sound on demand', and that's precisely what they offer. A light tug removes them from the main 'bar, so you can position them to the side of, or behind, your hot seat.

When set free, these enclosures pair with the soundbar automatically over Wi-Fi. They'll run for upwards of ten hours, and recharge their batteries when reconnected to the main hardware (there's also a USB-C option if you need it).


The enclosures charge when reattached to the main 'bar

With the surrounds and 'bar combined, the complete chassis measures a substantial 1.3m, and is best partnered with 65in screens – you can wall mount if you don't want to park the thing in front of your screen. It looks decidedly premium too, with a nice smoky mirrored finish to the endcaps and the top and front wrapped in a metal mesh driver grille that's apparently tuned for transparent transmission of mid-to-high frequencies. The partnering subwoofer is equally well dressed, although the matte grey finish isn't quite an aesthetic match. It's a rear-ported design, with an 8in down-firing woofer.

Status info is relayed via a bright and legible LED text display on the soundbar. Control is via a simplified remote, but there are also on-body buttons for volume, input selection and power.

The B97's overall specification is impressive, with no obvious missed opportunity. For example, not only is it Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compliant, it's also DTS Play-Fi- enabled and IMAX Enhanced certified.

Play-Fi is an interoperable wireless standard supported by a variety of (primarily North American) hi-fi brands. Once networked, Play-Fi speakers link to create a whole home or specified zone playback. It's similar to – but offers a bigger ecosystem than – Yamaha's MusicCast and Denon's HEOS systems.

There's wide-ranging codec support, including AIFF, FLAC, MP3, WAV, MPEG-4 and AAC in addition to various DTS flavours, and Play-Fi does high-resolution audio too. You can opt for higher quality streams from a connected smartphone, using the Philips Sound app, but you do sacrifice the option of multiroom audio.

The B97 has Chromecast built-in and comes with Google Assistant; there's also Amazon Alexa and Siri onboard, with Apple AirPlay 2 support for iOS enthusiasts.