Philips Fidelio SoundCurve

Tech Test Lab

Product: Philips Fidelio SoundCurve Airplay Speaker
Price: $399.99
Rating: *Recommend

"It sure would be nice to have an outdoor speaker." If that thought crossed your mind during the Memorial Day holiday this past weekend, then fret no more. Today's Test Lab gives the lowdown on one of the likely contenders with the Philips Fidelio SoundCurve AirPlay speaker. We open it up, put it through the paces, and let you know if it's worthy of being added to your gadget list. We're starting to see a larger variety of AirPlay speakers come to market as iOS devices continue to gain in popularity. AirPlay is a great technology that enables you to stream sound from your iOS device to a speaker wirelessly through an established Wi-Fi network. Some of the benefits Airplay provides over Bluetooth are improvements in overall sound quality, longer wireless range, ability to stream to multiple devices at once, and a persistent paired connection that doesn't require jumbling through menus and settings. However, due to the hardware required to enable Wi-Fi streaming the speakers tend to be a bit pricier than Bluetooth alternatives as well. The Philips Fidelio SoundCurve speaker we review today is in the Mid-to-High end of the price spectrum. Let's take a look and see if it's worth your hard-earned cash.

Unboxing

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Opening the box unveils a large, futuristic looking oval that would fit into the decor of more modern style homes. The backing is made of a high-gloss plastic, with a unique aluminum bass port that runs through the middle and also serves as a stand. It's pretty hefty at 8.2lbs and I like the solid feel of it when gripping it by the metal port.

What's Inside:
  • Speaker
  • Remote control
  • AC power cord with external brick
  • Auxiliary cable
  • User manual
  • World-record contender for biggest fold-out Quick-start guide (it seriously could probably take up your whole living room wall).
Speaker Specifications:
  • 30 Watts (RMS)
  • USB in (for charging)
  • Aux in (for audio on other devices)
  • DC in

Pairing and Setup

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Setup for Airplay devices can range from slightly involved to complicated and cumbersome (some requiring manual connection to your router with an ethernet cable). The setup for the Fidelio SoundCurve was on the easier side. You press the Wi-Fi setup button on the back of the device for a few seconds, then put your iOS device on a temporary network. You then navigate to a setup page on Safari where you select your home network and enter its SSID before applying the changes to the speaker's memory. I didn't have any issues with the setup and overall it took less than five minutes. The good thing about Airplay is that once it's paired you don't have to bother with pairing again — even after an intermittent loss in power.
"Another benefit of Airplay is that once the device is put onto the network there isn't a need to pair it with other iOS devices."
The speaker will just show up in the Airplay list automatically. So I was able to stream sound to it from my Mac Mini, iPad, and iPhone all without any extra hassle.

Use

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A wireless portable speaker has a lot of uses throughout the home that you could really get used to. Set it on your nightstand and listen to tunes at an improved volume and clarity over your iOS device, or take it outside for ambiance or entertainment during the weekend cookout as we mentioned at the top of this review. I mainly used it for streaming my favorite music apps like Spotify and Pandora during the day, but it proved handy for watching an occasional tv show or movie clip in bed, or providing music while sanding some cabinet doors outside.

Place it in an area with good Wi-Fi reception and you'll be able to tune it throughout your home at the range of your Wi-Fi network (which is typically at least 120ft).

"The SoundCurve does lack an internal battery though and that's a bit disappointing."
The battery would be appreciated for a true wireless experience when we could just grab it and take it outside or in another room without having to hassle with the cord and external power brick.

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Philips offers a companion app (DockStudio) for their Airplay speakers. It has some useful features like an equalizer and access to streaming internet radio channels. Other items it offers such as a clock, alarm, and weather status however seem to be an afterthought and don't provide anything useful beyond your phone's native built-in apps. I used the app once to try out the features but then it was out-of-sight and out-of-mind. I'd wager that you'll treat it with similar repose.

Because the speaker is Airplay, the included remote also has limited usefulness - since you'll likely manage the sound streaming from the iOS device itself. You'd really only use it to control a device tethered to the auxiliar cable, and even then the remote only works to control the volume. No skipping tracks on an Android phone or MP3 player, for instance. One final quirk to note is the rather long 30 seconds it takes for the speaker to turn on. I know that's not a lot of time, but it is a bit annoying when you're standing around waiting for it so you can play a track.

Sound Quality

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There's probably three things you'll consider when purchasing an Airplay speaker. "How does it look?" "How much does it cost?" and "How does it sound?" Well, if you're still tuned-in after getting answers to the first two questions then you won't be disappointed in how the SoundCurve answers the final, perhaps most important one.

We subjected the SoundCurve to our Audio Quality playlist with the following lossless tracks:

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"The Fidelio SoundCurve delivers room-filling clear and separated sound across a wide sound spectrum."
Vocals and highs don't distort at their peak and sound doesn't get muffled or cacophonous at its most intense. The SoundCurve has an impressive bass response for a speaker of this size, only losing that punchy resonance at extreme lows found in some popular hip-pop tunes such as "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black-Eyed Peas. Though a little flat on the extreme lows, the speaker never emitted the hollow knocking sound I experienced with the Bose Soundlink. Bass on the mid-to-high end of the spectrum, those that you might typically find in bass chords for rock, jazz, or classical tracks sounded superb — with a strong yet balanced resonance that'll satisfy most consumers.

Highs were equally as impressive. A lot of speakers have issue with the Imogen Heap track — vocals are robotic, synthesized, and hit some extreme notes — but the SoundCurve delivered it smoothly with no hiccups. Playing through the set of tracks, the speaker performed at a level on par with its pricepoint - with noticeable detail and range beyond a $200 Logitech Squeezebox. I particulary enjoyed the crisp liveliness of the vocals on the Joan Baez and Norah Jones tracks.

"The Fidelio SoundCurve handles a wide spectrum of audio pretty dang flawlessly and it should impress just about everyone for an all-in-one speaker system."

Summary

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The Philips Fidelio SoundCurve is an impressive portable speaker that deserves a look on your list of Airplay options. You'll get the great sound quality you expect for a speaker priced at $400 — as it's able to offer range and dimension beyond lower priced speakers. The SoundCurve does get knocked a bit for not having a built-in battery to make it truly wireless and more portable. You'll likely leave it where you set it because of this omission, so it loses that pick-up and go functionality a speaker such as the B&O Beolit 12 (twice the price) or Bose Soundlink (Bluetooth only) offers. We give it our *Recommend rating, and think it will impress the prosumer who's comfortable with spending $400 for extra sound quality and performance.

Pros:

  • Great Sound quality
  • AirPlay
  • Easy connect and setup
  • Aux cable for wired connection with non-compatible Airplay devices

Cons:

  • No built-in battery
  • Pricey
  • Slow to power-on

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend
Recommend*
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.

(Images: Chris Perez)

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