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on 15 December 2011
Want an iPhone dock? Confused? So was I, until I gathered enough intelligence on the subject to open a library. Eventually, I overcame severe purchase-inertia (it's a new term I've learnt which means "stalling on a purchase due to information overload"...if you're a fellow geek, you'll understand) and thankfully, I have now resolved my oh-so First World Problem of "buying the best iPhone dock possible". Here I present my findings to fellow Amazonians, free of charge. Aren't you lucky little beans?

First, let's rewind to my pre-research iPhone dock ruminations, when I set some "purchase criteria". "An iPhone dock must sound superb", I said to myself one day reflectively. "And it must be compatible with *both* an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2 for music playback" and... "the iOS device must be clearly visible for navigation purposes when docked: that's also important."

This dismissed all average-to-good sounding speakerdocks, including some good budget choices such as the Logitech S715i and the pricier SoundFreaq SomethingOrOther. Despite the price value of these options, having listened to them at various stores including Best Buy, PC World and John Lewis (yes I really am that...thorough) I decided that they were just a disappointment in terms of sound quality: good but just not great. And by "sound quality" I'm referring to the *clarity* of the sound, not the ability to reproduce low frequency bass notes at ear crushing levels, as some other dubiously praised budget options are designed to do extremely well (see the frankly ludicrous marketing of the KitSound Boom Dock here on Amazon, for example).

These criteria led to various in-store product "auditions". (Sales people seem to love that phrase: "Would you like to 'audition' this one, Sir?" "Sure, don't mind if I do. Shall I put on a rubber Simon Cowell mask and award points in a superior, narcissistic manner as well?"). Anyway, these "auditions" led to a shortlist which included the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air, the Arcam rCube, the Philips Fidelio Primo DS9000, and the Harman Kardon Go Play 2. Of these, I dismissed the Harman because of the design. The iPhone is not visible from the front, and that is just plain disappointing. It sounds lovely, but the design is an issue. It also can't dock an iPad. It does have a baby brother called the Harman Go Play Micro, which solves the visibility problem in exchange for less punchy sound quality. I also dismissed the rCube because it can't dock an iPad, and because it really doesn't "feel" as beautiful a product as either the Fidelio Primo or the Zeppelin Air.

So then, what of the big two?

Let's be clear: they both sound utterly superb and there is very little to split them in terms of sound quality. If testing them blind, I would not be able to distinguish between them. Beware reviewers who say things like "X wiped the floor with Y". No it didn't. The audio characteristics of these excellently engineered products are too comparable for this long-time audiophile to detect any substantive differences, so consider the matter simply one of personal preference and budget. Unless of course you have superhuman hearing! :-)

The good news is that the Fidelio is significantly cheaper than the Zeppelin and looks absolutely fantastic. It's made of sheets of wood to form a beautifully carved-looking device which elicits major geekgasms each time I look at it. After hearing it, I was sold. I saw no reason to pay twice the price for a Zeppelin when the same sound quality was achievable in this phenomenal product. And if there are any brand snobs out there, I'll have you know that Philips is a Dutch company which invented the compact cassette and have a long tradition of important contributions to the history of technology. Indeed their attention to detail is quite evident in the DS9000. The dock connector, for example, has been engineered to accept any iDevice. Even my 2003 iPod works with it perfectly without the need for an annoying, fiddly adaptor.

To be sure, the Zeppelin Air has Airplay technology built in, which the Fidelio lacks. This is nice. It allows you to stream music over WiFi stright to the dock. The Fidelio lacks this feature, but it wasn't important to me because there is plenty of flexibility in streaming music wirelessly without Airplay. I use Apple's Home Sharing mode to stream my entire iTunes library from my MacBook over WiFi to both my iPad 2 and iPhone 4. It works a treat. The iDevice must be docked for this to work, but it works well and negates the need to obsess over AirPlay for music streaming. The other alternative is to buy an AirPort Express and run an Auxiliary cable from it to the 3.5mm port (it has one) at the back of the Fidelio for wireless music streaming. Still another idea would be to buy a bluetooth 3.5mm receiver for little over a tenner here on Amazon and plug it into the aux port on the Fidelio and simply stream via bluetooth from an iOS device. In short though, AirPlay was no big deal for me. Nice, but not crucial.

Having now purchased and used the Fidelio Primo for a month, I am truly smitten. This ranks as one of the best technology purchases I have ever made, alongside the iPad 2, MacBook Air, Cowon D2 and Sennheiser HD 595. Audiophiles will truly appreciate the Fidelio's sound quality, and this is no mean feat for a speakerdock. The fact is, the Fidelio Primo doesn't just sound good "for a speakerdock". It sounds spectacular, period. It normally retails at £400, so Amazon's current price is scarcely believable. If you have the inclination, do go ahead and have your own in-store "auditions" of my shortlisted speakerdocks. I challenge you to find one that sounds better. Philips engineers, if you're reading this: I tip my hat.

EDIT (27/11/2012): Still going strong and the recent upgrade to an iPhone 5 with a lightning connector has proved irrelevant because I now use an AppleTv which streams all my music from a Mac directly to the Fidelio Primo over AirPlay. (The dock is hooked up from a HDTV's 3.5mm audio jack to the Fidelio, and sounds spectacular.)
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on 2 June 2011
Having been to high street department store to decide which speaker to purchase for my iPod I decided on the Philips Fidelio DS9000. I compared this item with the Monster Cable Beats by Dr.Dre BeatsBox / Boombox Sound Dock for iPod and the B&W Zeppelin - 2.1-channel speaker system with Apple dock for iPod - 100 Watt (Total) - black and in terms of sound quality the Philips was definitely the best. The rich bass accompanied by the great mid range and treble quality gives a flawless and all-embracing music listening experience that I cannot fault. Also, the sleek and stylish wooden backing makes these speakers look every bit as good as they sound.

The included remote control is very handy as it enables you to navigate your iPod/iPad from a distance. The control panel on the device is activated by a proximity sensor so when your hand moves near the device the controls illuminate which is quite a nice feature. Also the fact that the docking system is compatible with all types of iPod, iPhone and the iPad has proven very useful.

Overall, these speakers sound superb and look awesome. I simply cannot fault them - they are well worth the investment.
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on 10 October 2011
The DS9000/12 is the best sounding docking solution for iPad and iPod I have heard. The fact that it will actually dock an iPad should not be overlooked, a lot of the other speaker systems will only fit an iPod or iPhone. Let me get the one downside out the way - you cannot get the stereo spread that you would enjoy by having separate physical speakers distanced across your room so don't expect it to! Other than that, the DS9000 produces really rich tones - a really good, clean bass and a great mid/high frequency response. Sound quality aside, its also a nice looking unit with the wood finish.

I'm not a huge fan of the Fidelio app that comes with it, it could be a lot better so hopefully Philips will update that sometime soon. This is not a huge problem, you can just use the iPod app, or any other interface you have downloaded such as Planetary or Soundhound or use the TunedIn radio app. The Fidelio app will let you play with the EQ if you want to but in all honesty, I think the best setting is to leave it flat.

Overall, I don't think you will get a better allround unit for the price. Great work Philips!
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on 25 February 2012
Lets start with the few problems that initially occurred. First one I got had some random crackles and pops that happened constantly when playing any kind of music or sound from my iPod Touch (3G running iOs 4.1). This problem didn't happen when using the 3.5mm jack, even on the iPod. So I assumed it was something to do with the connection on the dock. Sent it back and got a new one, problem still occurred but this time there was a new one - 85% of the time, it wouldn't work at all. It would connect (but on the Fidelio app the sound bar wouldn't appear and the equaliser wasn't there) and then after a few seconds it would completely disconnect and think the iPod isn't plugged into anything, and would play out of the internal speaker. Anyway, I eventually learned that the first problem was because I had iOs 4.1, updating fixed this, and the second was faulty so the third one worked perfectly (and the first would have had I updated back then). The company I bought it off's service was absolutely brilliant.

Sound quality is brilliant. Bass is good quality, not boomy at all and can be powerful, non existent or balanced depending on how you have the equaliser set up. The treble is also wonderfully defined and not blurred out in the mix, as are the mids. I also find this thing has an uncanny way of filling my room even at low volumes, but that could be just because the room isn't huge.

asthetics again are brilliant. The dock looks great and I love the smoothness of everything. The wood on the back definitely looks real (no idea if it is) and the whole thing feels very well built. only problem i've had here is a small part of the 'PHILIPS' sticker in between the volume buttons has come off, as it is actually a sticker not metal as you would think when you first see it. I also like the proximity sensor, it probably saves a tiny amount of energy when the lights are turned off on the volume buttons, but its cool anyway. The iPod connector is the best I've seen. I had another one before this which disconnected with a slight breeze right out of the box, and two of my friends' docks also disconnect when touched, one has to spend 983274 minutes to get it to connect and prop it on something to get it to stay connected. This works, and has done since bought perfectly, probably because it is resting on the dock itself when attached.

All in all, the only faults I can think of are that a bit of the sticker came off and if you want more connectivity options, you are stuck with the iPod connector and the audio jack, meaning no video playback or preferred connections. But I don't really care about that, so I think its probably the best Apple dock out there, at least of all the ones I've tested.

Completely forgot the handset - It feels well built in the hand, but I'm not sure whether it is. The buttons don't feel that good to press and after dropping a couple of times from heights that wouldn't affect my old phone with no case on have left a few dents (one rather deep) which make it look quite battered from the back. Having said that, the handset works as it should and battery hasn't had to be replaced yet, it looks good (before being damaged).

EDIT: The crackling problem I mentioned earlier has returned with iOs 5.1., but after doing a hard reset of the iPod, it has now gone again.
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Philips Fidelio Primo DS9000 Docking Speaker is a very high quality 'Docking Station' for use with your iPod, iPhone, iPad, MP3 Player or similar such device. The basic idea behind the piece of audio equipment is to provide a clear and pure sound to your electronically stored music with a mind-blowing warmth and depth to the notes.

The Docking Speaker is certainly elegant and stylish in its design. At just over 56cm in length, the Docking Speaker isn't exactly small or compact, but will fit in well with most modern and contemporary décor styles, or can be positioned away from your usual eye-level (such as on top of a dressing unit) if this modern style doesn't fit in with more traditional and rustic interiors. For our home, we decided to position the Docking Speaker up high so that it wasn't too obtrusive with our more traditional taste - and to be honest, after a day or two you barely notice it! Its front-facing side is simple and subtle; not imposing on the room or the furniture it is housed upon. We were very pleasantly surprised with this.

The exterior of the unit consists of an incredibly smooth and solid matt dark-walnut wood back, a highly polished and equally as sturdy inner-steel section and a taut cloth front. The underside has a very durable rubber base for the Docking Speaker to sit upon, so that there is absolutely no movement from the unit when in use (from thumping bass), and so that the unit doesn't damage or get damaged from where it is placed. A final point on the properties of the Docking Speaker is its reasonably hefty weight, at a good 6.5kgs. This is obviously down to the good-sized twin speakers housed inside the unit, but be warned, if you're planning on putting this onto a freestanding shelf, then the shelf will need to be pretty darn solid.

Sound quality wise - this Docking Speaker performs amazingly. The mid sections and complex layers are rich, warm and clear on their own. The depth of bass on the other hand is quite simply breath-taking. Sling on some music that you know is particularly bass-heavy and you'll be grinning from ear to ear! For those with a taste for death or black metal, you'll find the double-bass drum thumping through your insides with the Docking Speaker set to just a moderately high volume. With classical or opera, the complexities of the percussion is crystal clear, with such a delicate distinction to the various intricacies of the instruments played.

At the higher end of the tone spectrum, the clarity of the speakers once again comes into its own. With guitar solos, the notes just sing out from the speakers; with acoustic tracks the crispness of the six-strings is magnificent - with warmth but clarity to the sound throughout.

Mid-tone wise, I noticed that on particularly bass-heavy tracks, some of this mid-ranging sound became a little dwarfed in comparison to the almost overwhelming gut-vibrating bass. Simple solution - adjust your bass levels on your iPod (or similar device). But this really is being perhaps a little too picky about the reproduction of the sound!

Usability wise, what can I say?...it's perhaps the most simple and user-friendly system on the market. Just slip your iPod in and away you go. The remote control is just as simple, with Play, Pause, Fast Forward / Rewind, Menu and Up & Down selecting controllers. That's pretty much it! As simple as you need it to be...and no heavy reading of a turgid instruction manual required.

On the unit itself you can adjust the volume via the two + and - buttons located on the front. These indicators illuminate when the user comes close to the unit via crafty proximity sensors (nice!). So you can have your Docking Speaker quietly playing in an atmospherically-dark room without having the unwanted glow of the controls on show, until you decide to approach the unit to adjust the volume. Such a thoughtful little detail.

Another equally thoughtful addition is the moveable connecting plug for the iPod, which allows the user to easily push in their iPod, and if the unit is housed higher than eye-level (such as on top of a dresser like we have), then you can simply tilt the iPod downwards (during use as well) to be able to see the iPod's menu screen better.

The inclusion of an additional two-pin lead is also a good little idea, allowing the user to plug the Docking Speaker into a bathroom fitting if you want it to be kept in your bathroom (obviously kept well away from any water or steam etc).

One final point which is probably worth mentioning is that whilst the iPod is plugged into the unit, it will automatically recharge itself. This is pretty standard for Docking Stations, but still worth mentioning!

All in all I was quite frankly overwhelmed with the quality of the sound (particularly the bass) and the solid build of the system. It's a high-quality device, with an excellent volume range and a very stylish overall design. Expect nothing but top-notch sound reproduction from this unit. Relying purely from digital media (via an iPod or similar device) it really does deliver possibly the best sound possible. An excellent job there Philips!
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VINE VOICEon 24 May 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I tested the Philips DS9000/12 Fidelio Docking Speaker with the iPod Classic 120gb, iPod Touch 3rd gen, iPhone 3GS and original iPad.

The unit is quite stylish, with very little to mar the nicely curved lines. The wood effect finish is serviceable, but doesn't appear to be real wood. The speaker grills are covered in a stretchy woven material. The whole feel of the thing is solid and reliable.

The only moving part is the 30 pin connector itself, which tilts to allow easy access. There's an aux/line input around the back just next to where the power cable attaches, and that's about it for physical appearance.

Handling the Fidelio is a little bit problematic, and unlike many of its direct competitors it does not have any easy means of carrying. Once sited, you will not relish moving this beastie on a regular basis, as it's smoothness makes getting a good grip a bit chancy.

The 30 pin connector is all that holds your iDevice in place, so you will need to be careful if using the iPad.

Whereas the other devices I tried rested happily on the little rubber cushion you can see in the photos, the back of the iPad sat against the black fabric, and it was not at all stable. This became something of a worry when accessing the iPad to change tracks etc. It was quite wobbly, and a couple more rubber cushions further up the casing would have been better.

There's a Philips app available, which will install to any iOS device, and it allows you to access the on board EQ. I'm not sure what sonic advantage (if any) this gives over using the EQ of your iDevice. But it does mean that you can set a global EQ that will affect all devices equally, meaning you don't have to change whatever settings you'd normally use.

The app was easy enough to use, especially on the iPad, but of course you won't be able to use it if you are using only the iPod classic.

The remote was very neat, giving access to volume and allowing a degree of menu navigation, although the latter never felt quite right, with the up and down cursor buttons appearing to have no effect.

The volume controls on the front of the Fidelio remain unlit until you approach the unit. There is something in the documentation about a proximity sensor that makes the + and - buttons light up, but I really don't see the point or the advantage of that. A simple timer to allow the light to fade after use would have been sufficient.

Sound is always a subjective thing, but this unit does appear to share a characteristic that I've found with other expensive iPod docks, which is massively over reaching bass. OK, it's something of a miracle that they can squeeze out this amount of bass from units of this size, but really one has to wonder if it is at the expense of some degree of mid range clarity.

The upper mids and highs are undistorted and clear, and the thing is LOUD enough to annoy any but the most understanding of neighbours, but there is still something missing (for me) in that crucial zone between the upper low end and the lower mid range. It's there, but it's just not articulated effectively. I found guitar based rock to be particularly weakly represented, whereas electronic dance material sounded much better.

The on board EQ helps, but can't overcome the design limitations.

The crucial thing is the price.

This is not a portable device. You won't be going from party to party with this thing in the back of your car. This is a device that will find a home in a second room or a study, and as such it provides a neat solution in a nice looking box without wires or fuss.

But at this price (£340 at the time of writing) a good budget amp and speakers might be a better investment. The Fidelio doesn't by any means sound horrible. It's flaws may go unnoticed by some, who may justifiably celebrate its strengths. If it was £100 cheaper it would be a bargain, but I'm afraid at this price I expect a lot more.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 December 2011
I already own a B&W Zeppelin Air which has great sound and looks. I was looking for another iThing dock for a different room and didn't really want to fork out another £499 for a second zeppelin...however i also didn't want crap sound. A day going round various retailers to listen to around 20 different docks was dispiriting. So many mediocre docks out there.

Finally had a listen to the newer model Fidelio 9000 - the one with the brushed aluminium back and was amazed, sound quality much nearer the Zeppelin than anything else I'd listened to. I came home and had a scout round the net for more info and found that the old model with he wood rear was replaced by the new model, however that was the only difference, apart from that, they're sonically the same.

I did read that the older model will play, but not charge the iPad 2, however mine does, so I'm guessing that a software update of some kind was done on the last few models that were going out. So if you have an iPad as well as an iPhone, it's good to have the option of using either.

Also tested with an iPhone 4S and a second generation iTouch and all work great. I have plugged in a 3.5mm cable to the aux port, which is connected to an Airport Express station, so it streams from my main computer via iTunes with no issues.

It's also worth mentioning that the remote that comes with the unit is far superior to the cheap feeling B&W unit, though compact, it has a nice weight to it that feels good in the hand.

The Fidelio App is available in the App store as a free download and works well, I have set my iPhone with it and am now using the dock for multiple alarms. It also has an equaliser control setting page, for those that want to play with it.

Overall the 100 watts RMS fills the room nicely with well balanced sound and looks great too.

Well recommended at the sub £300 price - even if you want Airplay - just buy an Airport Express.
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love this docking speaker - the quality of sound is amazing, it looks great, it has a lot of useful functions and couldn't be easier to use.

The most important thing of course is the sound quality - it's flawless ... nothing like you'd expect from an iPod dock. It processes sound digitally which leads to clear and pure audio performance.

The design is very well thought out - smooth lines, minimal display - a perfect complement to the iPod, iPhone or iPad (even the remote control is aesthetically pleasing!) The backlit control display is activated by a proximity sensor - it lights up when you come close to the speaker and dims when you move away. You can dock your device even if it's still in the case which I feel is a major plus point - no faffing around taking cases off and then mislaying them later (or is that just me?!)

When you first dock your device you are prompted to download the complementary Fidelio app. This gives added features such as customised alarms - displaying your choice of images or music - and a nice navigation interface. On the Philips website it states that the app also gives you access to a 5-band equalizer ... I don't know if that has been taken off or if I'm just being dim, but I can't find that feature on the app and would like to! If anyone has found that feature please leave me a comment.

This is a high-quality item in every way - from the audio performance to the quality of design and finish. It's simply a beautiful object that will look good in your home and deliver music to delight you.
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on 2 August 2011
Very nice unit. Lovely materials used throughout. I especially like the way the metal in the central tunnel is brushed at the front and fades to polished chrome at the back. Lovely! The remote is equally impressive.

The sound is superb: Crisp details with silky, rich bass.

Downsides are few, but significant. It's tricky to dock an iPad. There's a knack required. There's no Bluetooth or internal battery, unlike the DS9000's cheaper siblings. The remote can struggle to operate an iPad at a distance, despite operating an iPhone at the same range. That's annoying.

Overall, this is the sort of device to have in your lounge. Very elegant, and with terrific audio quality. It won't put your collection to shame.
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on 8 August 2011
I am not an expert on audio equipment, but even I am impressed by the clarity and purity of the sound this produces, across all frequencies. The sound has an excellent 'depth' and is not 'tinny' or weak. I like the fact that this not only sounds good, but it looks good (using wood, not some plastic alternative) with a classic design. I like its versatility in docking all types of iPods (except shuffle), an iPad and an iPhone. I like the ease of use and small, but helpful features like a tilting dock and sensor that lights up the display. I am really, really pleased that I bought this and I would recommend it to anybody.
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