on 9 March 2013
After um-ing and ah-ing about my Zeppelin Air and the drawbacks I've found with it, I decided to buy a set of these so I could compare and then sell/return the speakers I found the most lacking.
The problem with the air was mainly the soundstage - I know I should have known this but it's not until you have to live with it that it really starts to become obvious. The Zeppelin is smart, powerful and classy but you cant get past the fact that the left and right channels are only 8 inches apart so unless you put your face right up to it, you lose out on stereo which is a bigger loss than I'd anticipated. Also the bass doesn't go down as low as i'd like. It's warm and bassy enough in general but its lacking that silken sub-100hz deep bass due to the sub only being 5" and also only having that slender cabinet to reverberate around in.
These Philips speakers are a different proposition altogether. I took them out of the box and was struck by 2 things; how massive and heavy they are and how beautifully designed and finished they are - great first impression!
I plugged them in and got to sorting out the wifi. This took 5 minutes and was a lot easier than the zeppelin. I only had to press a few buttons use my iPhone and it was sorted. So still good.
Then I started playing music and was blown away. Obviously the big difference was the stereo separation, that stereo effect I was missing was back! Philips provide a huge cable to connect the two speakers so you can put them as far apart as you like really (15ft?) The sound was powerful (possibly more so than the Zeppelin) and the bass was noticeably deeper and more authoritative. The main reason for this I suspect is the much larger, heavier cabinets these speakers have for the bass the resonate around in and the fact that each speaker is equipped with its own 5" driver so essentially there is twice the air displacement over the Zeppelins single 5" sub. The soundSphere effect with the floating tweeter sounded great too, clear and sparkly.
Unfortunately after a couple of minutes the tweeter on the right speaker just stopped working. There was no explanation and nothing I could do to get it to work again, it came on randomly for a few more seconds then died again. It felt like the result of faulty wiring. I've read a few reports of these speakers being a bit unreliable and it unfortunately seems to be the case. A real shame considering how beautifully made and solid they appear. The Zeppelin may not sound or look as good as these but at least it has been rock solid this whole time!
So back to Amazon they go, but not for a refund. I want give these another try as I loved the way they sounded so much. Lets hope the second pair they send me actually work! Amazon customer service has been great so I should hopefully have a second pair within the week. Had these speakers worked perfectly as they should have, I would have awarded 5 stars but this was a big enough problem to knock 2 off. Disappointed.
I've now received my fully working replacements and I have to say (even as an ex Zeppelin owner) that these really have blown me away all over again. The soundstage is of course MUCH better than you can get from ANY one box solution and the size and heft of the beautiful wooden cabinets along with a powerful digital amp and 2 5" drivers combined with the uniquely aligned floating tweeters combine to create a sound that is smooth, luxurious and simply stunning to behold. I feel like I want to listen to my entire music collection all over again.
I'm also a big fan of the way this speaker set makes the dock a standalone separate piece so even though (like the Zeppelin air) this is out of date (using the older 20 pin Apple connector instead of the new thunderbolt type) it doesn't matter as you can just leave it on the box and never use it if you like. They look simply stunning and I challenge anyone not to fall in love with the sound they produce.
It feels like they are in a different class from the Zeppelin Air (and I presume the other one-box solutions out there). Where the Zeppelin feels to me like the super-convenient "iPod Dock" formula taken as far as it can go within the constraints of being a simple 'stick it in your kitchen' one-box device, these are gorgeous audiophile speakers first, that happen to connect to iOS devices. More like something you would have in your living room and sit and listen to with your eyes shut!
An easy 5 stars for me. Lets just hope they keep working!
on 22 June 2014
I am (was) a loyal Philips fan. Great products. Until I bought these speakers. Great speakers, until they just stopped working after 12 months.
I got the dreaded "flashing red light." Checked on internet and saw it was design flaw (firmware problem) -- with absolutely no way to reset the speakers manually.
I called Philips and they said I had to pay £140 to get it fixed -- despite the fact that they know they had product that has design flaw with the firmware.
Philips should be ashamed. And Amazon should also take a long hard look at themselves knowing they are selling a product that has design flaw like these speakers do.
on 10 December 2011
Having spent a long time deciding what device to buy to stream music I very nearly went for a Sonos network, however I'm very glad I didn't. I went to the Apple store in Covent Garden to see and hear these, and compare them to the B&W Zeppelin. I can tell you these win hands down. Obviously you get proper stereo seperation, which is not the case with the Zeppelin, but the sound from the Philips is sharper, richer and more mellifluous. The Fedelio App is worth downloading, as it has a 5-band equaliser, but not much else - hopefully Philips will improve it. I listened to virtually every device on the market at this pricepoint and believe me, these are the best.
On to set up - but firstly a word for the packaging - it is superb, each speaker gets its own hessian carry bag. There is ample cable between the speakers and set up took me, from start to finish, no more than 10 minutes. Easy peasy. Love them love them love them and will be looking at another set very soon. Only small complaint it that the charging dock for the iPod / iPhone comes with a two pin wall plug rather than three. The speakers don't so i'm going to assume that this was a slight oversight by Philips. No big deal - a fiver on Amazon and a converter is on the way. If you are considering at this price point, these are the speakers to buy.
I have tried everything from Metallica to Sinatra, Ella to Kid Rock, Classical to Motown and these sounded superb every time.
on 5 January 2015
I have had these speakers since Jan 2013 and over the Christmas period they develop a fault that has stopped them working both through airplay and cabled attachment.
The 'Red Light' error costs £128 to repair through their service 3rd party company and as many others have stated is not a permanent fix to the fix.
I love the design and sound of the speakers and have had numerous Philips products in the passed but for a £600 product to break after under 2 years and to be told by the service team that it has such a high repair cost is unacceptable, especially from a company such as Philips that sells itself on it quality of product.
I can't see myself buying Philips products in the future and given these now seem to be discontinued by Philips as well as requiring firmware updates since iOS8 I would warn any upcoming purchasers to buy only if aware of the above.
on 24 November 2012
The good news is these speakers sound absolutely fantastic. They have crisp clear top end, tight base response and really do create an impression of being surrounded by the sound. From a sound perspective I couldn't fault them.
But now for the bad news. They are very very unreliable. The first pair lasted 4 months and then died with a red flashing light. This seems to be a common problem on the Philips support forum. The second pair also lasted about 4 months and then started hissing and then completely died with no lights. During the period they were working the airplay was also quite unreliable and required frequent resets. This also seems to be a common problem looking at the support forums. Thankfully the Amazon return service was excellent and I returned the second one for a full refund.
It is a great regret that these are so unreliable as the sound quality does make me want to order again. However, at the moment I don't feel this is a viable product, especially given the high price. I suspect these speakers may have thermal problems due to a lot of electronics, power supply, airplay server, audio power amps all being crammed into a small enclosure with no ventilation. Whatever the problem I do hope Philips create a more reliable version soon.
If you fancy giving them a try to see how they sound then it may be worth it but you may be returning them to Amazon before too long.
Update June 2014.
Tempted by lower price and the sound quality from these I bought a another pair. Number 3 did better in lasting a year and a half and then died like the first two. As this was out of warranty I decided to look inside and this confirmed my original suspicions of poor thermal design. The power supply and airplay electronics are mounted on a plastic central structure surrounded by very insulating sound dampening wool and the wooden case. The electronics is essentially in a kind of oven and this likely explains the short life of this product. So all in all the DS9800 is a concept product undermined by simple laws of physics.
So are these worth buying at all? My answer is yes for the simple reason these are actually very good speakers. Having lifted the lid I found it was easy to remove the airplay electronics and rewire the back terminals to the crossover. Obviously this requires some technical knowledge and skills but is simple to do. Then you are left with a pair of high quality and cool looking speakers and price wise they are still competitive with equivalent quality speakers from other manufacturers.
To finish my system I purchased an AVA Meastro 50 amplifier and an Apple Airport Express. These connect together via an optical TOSLINK cable effectively replicating the electronics removed from the speaker. The direct digital amplifier in the Meastro 50 seems to be better on a number of fronts than that built into the DS9800. The final part of the DS9800 sound is the surround sound processing built into the unit. To replicate this I downloaded the free "ConcertPlay" app to my ipod, though other 3D sound player apps should also work. The use of a direct digital amp is important in this system as it allows very accurate reproduction of the effects added in the surround sound processing to give a realistic 3D spatial effect. The unique design of these speakers may also play an important part in the final reproduction of the surround sound effects.
The result is just astonishing.I think this system sounds significantly better than the original plus I now have reliable airplay. So if you do buy one of these and the airplay dies then there is an option to end up with something even better. However, I think Philips should relaunch this product as a pair of speakers and a separate airplay unit with improved thermal design.
on 19 March 2014
At the price I paid, which was equivalent to €370, they are a steal. However, I must admit to being extremely cautious based on the experiences of other reviewers regarding reliability and durability. I won't bang on too much about the sound, just to say that they are far superior to any one box airplay speakers. Far far superior. They look impressive too and are a nice addition to the front room. I'm a fan of the Philips Fidelio range. I also own their top end Primo Speaker dock for my IPad 3 which is a tremendous sounding one box solution for the kitchen. And I own the X1/00 Headphones. For me Philips are producing excellent sounding products at very reasonable price points. I have deducted a star because my IPad and IPhone struggle to connect via Airplay. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong but I don't think so as I use my MacBook Pro which connects perfectly. It could be the IPad or the internet connection. I haven't really tried pairing them recently as I just use the MacBook anyway.
on 7 June 2012
Update rev2:0. July 2014
Well after 2years and 3 months the speakers died. Red light if death as reported by many many others. I was lucky they lasted as long! I liked these so much I forked out the £169 to have them repaired by the authorised Philips repairer. Chatting to them on the phone it was clearly a known issue and it sounded as if they replace and upgrade some capacitors. So hopefully they will last longer.
The design is bad - the electronics have no way of venting heat other than through the metal of the speakers
If it had been less than 2years I would have challenged Philips under the EU sale of goods acts that protect the consumer for product that is not of merchantable quality. Don't worry about it only having a one year guarantee ....your rights last longer than that. Even at2+ I could have had a go! but frankly didn't want the hassle.
UPDATE : I now use the speakers with the line input connected directly to my Apple Express and i seldom loose connection, even when microwave on. (fidelios AirPlay struggled with the microwave! ) To me this suggests strongly its not an issue with AirPlay but the fidelio design itself. I see the price has dropped a lot, a good buy if you don't need to use the Fidelio's dodgy wireless capabilities.
Looks, physical quality - 10/10. Speakers that you must not hide away and make any decor look great.
Sound quality 10/10 especially when the power is turned up! I have them on the floor and you can feel the base. I cannot say enough good things about the sound quality ...superb.
Installation - 5/10 , these are NOT plug and play. If you are OK with setting up wireless then it's straightforward , otherwise you might take a few attempts. And future firmware upgrades will be just as tricky for non techies.
Wireless - 5/10 when using using apple AirPlay. I have apple wireless kit and I suffer from intermittent connections, even though the speakers are a couple of meters from the transmitter. It will play for a few hours then just stops, losing connection and then after fiddling with the iPod or iPhone settings, somehow magically the connection starts up again. Im beginning to think fiddling is a waste if time and best just to wait! . On the Philips forums there are lots of complaints. Latest firmware has improved but not eradicated the issue. Whether its philips or AirPlay who knows or cares.
A premium product like this should just plug in, play and keep playing. That said, given the choice would I buy again.....probably!
PS the fidelio app is not any great shakes. Download it try it, but it doesn't improve or add value over the built in iTunes controls etc.
on 15 December 2014
This is a faulty system by design. Read the people on Philips's own site who keep having the same fault
The fault can happen at any time, may be 2 days after your one year and they charge £128 to fix it. I am throwing mine away!!
on 28 September 2013
i didnt buy from Amazon but thought i might share my experience with these speakers. They look and sound great, quite easy to setup with wifi. The 1st set i had worked perfectly for 11 months then the power failed, just wouldnt switch on, i sent them back to my retailer who said they couldnt repair them so sent me a shiny brand new set. Set up was easy again and was a happy chappy again, until last week when the 2nd set developed exactly the same fault, the warranty has now expired so ive tried a few local audio specialists who have tried and cant repair them. Now left with a pair of speakers which will get stripped down, have electronics removed, tweak internal wires and then connect them to a normal amp.
on 20 January 2014
I'm not usually a review writer, but these speakers have motivated me to highlight some concerns to other potential buyers.
Firstly, the positives. They look beautiful, and in the hand, are exquisitely made and are quite unique. Secondly, the sound quality is above peers, in my opinion. I did pretty extensive listening research prior to purchase, and B&W, Loewe, B&O etc. can't compare, either from a sound or aesthetic perspective.
However, and this is a really big "HOWEVER"; they are deelpy flawed from an electronic perspective. Put quite simply, they die, very very easily. I'm on my second pair, and they are on their way back to Philips. The first pair suffered from the notorious red light of death, which if you do any research, you will see is a common flaw. Yes, they built these with no reset button. Interestingly, even though this flaw is widely reported, Philips client services claimed they had never heard of such a problem. Thankfully a purchase from John Lewis allowed an exchange & refund. They lasted, by the way, 7 or so months.
But their beauty called me back, and I tried a second set, purchased over Amazon, in August of 2013. Sadly, these too, have died. In this case, airplay dropped, and the remote control couldn't turn off the speakers with the objective of resetting. Neither could the button on the back. So, I unplugged. When I replugged the speakers, they ceased to turn back on.... So they sit there, visually beautiful, sonically useless.
Philips will be sending a courier to collect, and perhaps they will re-invigorate them. But whether they do, or not, sadly, the verdict is as above - one star. You cannot make something so fundamentally flawed, no matter how beautiful it is during its periods of operation. If anything, it just heightens the loss when they break.