Philips Fidelio FB1 Soundbar Review Page 2

Once this has been used to get the FB1 on your network, a second app, Philips Fine Tune, enables smartphone control of master volume; EQ selection (including a custom mode with sliders for seven frequency bands from 150Hz to 10kHz); surround mode choice (upmix, standard or Surround AI); and level tweaks of the bar's 5.1 channels. Again, this is a nice addition to the soundbar user experience, particularly as managing some of these settings using the supplied remote and LCD display is tricksy.

On the subject of the FB1's handset, this is an exercise in minimalism, with the volume control not even labelled as such, and just a smattering of icon buttons.

The soundbar is supplied with a small stand-up mic that connects via 3.5mm. This is for an auto calibration routine that wasn't tested as it hadn't yet been enabled by firmware update. It will be ready now, though.

The Price Is Right
Even without room optimisation, the FB1 surprised me with just how good it sounded considering the price. Underpinning everything is a bass performance I don't remember ever hearing from a single-box speaker selling for less than a grand.

The 'bar's two dedicated bass drivers and array of full-range units don't create the genuinely deep lows you'd get from an external subwoofer, but sound absolutely spot on with everything else. Bass is well integrated with the rest of the soundfield, has a pure tone and plenty of detail, and is brilliantly speedy too. The rapid-fire sound design of Sonic The Hedgehog (Sky Cinema) is full of tight, thumpy effects and rich extended swells. Switch to music and the enjoyment remains; drum 'n' bass track Chubrub, by Ed Rush and Optical (Tidal) snaps and slams from the FB1, while the kick drums of Rush's Tom Sawyer (Tidal Master) have resonance and a full-bodied feel.

Illumination around height drivers can be set to On, Off or Auto – the latter activating it for ten seconds when an Atmos signal is detected

According to the accompanying Fine Tune app, the soundbar's height drivers are at their max output by default, so I wasn't able to pump them up. I can imagine some wanting a more aggressive Atmos experience from this once piece, but Philips seem happy to trade overt effects delivery for a more considered, surprisingly nuanced surround sound performance.

Sky One comedy Breeders (highly recommended) doesn't seem like a natural bedfellow for object audio, being primarily dialogue-based. But taking its Atmos bitstream over ARC, the FB1 unearths plenty of subtle ambience in its locations, resulting in a thoroughly immersive listen. Meanwhile, the native Atmos of Venom: Let There Be Carnage (4K BD) lets the 'bar show off a lot more, providing convincing panning effects, a wide front soundstage and a general feeling of scale as Venom jumps and climbs building in pursuit of human brains.

The scene later in the movie where Venom and Carnage have a ding dong in the church was thrilling. That excellent bass handling and sprightly mid and treble presentation made for a dramatic, cinematic listen – with notably rich, smooth handling of the musical score – that fit the onscreen action perfectly. The Movie preset works as advertised – it's tuned to impress. There's also the Surround AI setting, which tangibly boosts the bar's surround/height dispersion, but at the expense of that lovely cohesive sound performance.

Light Up Your Life
There are only minor niggles to report. Streaming music from the Sounds app was sometimes glitchy, the handset, as said, is a bit unintuitive, and the bar's claimed '7.1.2' soundfield never (obviously) approaches that of a genuine separates system – for that you would need to add the FS1 speakers.

I don't think many will want to, though. Like its Sonos Arc and B&W Panorama 3 rivals (which this 'bar undercuts in price), I'd consider the Fidelio FB1 to be first and foremost a single-box solution. It certainly has the performance chops for it, while the design is sultry and the two apps are genuinely useful.

Plus it has light-up drivers!

HCC Verdict

Philips Fidelio FB1

Price: £699

We say: This soundbar is a genuine head-turner from Philips. Audio performance is exceptional, and it's well-featured too. At this price, it becomes the one to beat.

Overall: 5/5


DRIVE UNITS: 2 x full-range upfirers; 2 x full-range side-firing surrounds; 6 x mid-range (L/C/R); 3 x tweeter (L/C/R); 2 x 3.5in woofers ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED): 310W (RMS, 1% THD) CONNECTIONS: 1 x HDMI input; 1 x HDMI eARC connection; optical digital audio input; USB Dolby Atmos/DTS:X: Yes/Yes Separate subwoofer: No. Optional REMOTE CONTROL: Yes DIMENSIONS: 1,200(w) x 73(h) x 120(d)mm WEIGHT: 7.2kg

FEATURES: Bluetooth v5.0; dual-band Wi-Fi; DTS Play-Fi; Chromecast; Spotify Connect; Works with Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant; USB file playback; 40Hz-20kHz claimed frequency response; IMAX Enhanced; auto-calibration; lip-sync adjustment; 4K/60, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision passthrough; Upmix and AI surround modes; Movie, Music, Voice, Stadium and Custom presets; Fine Tune app