- Elegant design and robust build quality
- Big soundstage with lots of bass and detail
- Attractive feature list
- Slightly brash at high volumes
- Awkwardly shaped sub
Key Features: 320W power output; Bluetooth with apt-X; Wireless subwoofer; Dolby Digital and DTS decoding; HDMI input and ARC output
What is the Philips Fidelio XS1?
The XS1 is a soundbase from Philips’ Fidelio range, which also includes such stunning soundbars as the HTL9100 and E5. This time round the speaker sits under your TV, working in tandem with a wireless subwoofer to deliver room-filling sound – without taking up lots of living room space.
Design and Connections
Typically for a Philips product, the Fidelio XS1 is a thing of beauty. Not only is it one of the slimmest soundbases we’ve come across – measuring 40mm high – but it’s also styled with real panache.
The glass top surface is elegant and sturdy, while the grey aluminium mesh running around the edge adds to the sense of luxury. It’s a beautifully made product, worth every penny of the asking price, and the slim dimensions mean you’ll barely notice it’s there. It’s designed to support TVs between 40 and 65in and can hold a maximum weight of 44kg.
Look closely and you’ll notice other details, such as the XS1 logo and NFC touch point beneath the glass panel. A cluster of controls sit on the side, including power, source selection and volume. Their placement towards the back makes them tricky to access, however.
Just behind the buttons are a USB port for MP3 and WMA playback and a 3.5mm mini-jack input. The dot-matrix display on the front is a welcome addition, clearly showing inputs, sound modes and volume levels.
The slender rear panel sports a superb array of sockets, including a single HDMI input and ARC-compatible output, optical and coaxial digital inputs and analogue RCA input. That gives you a great deal of choice over how you connect your external kit; there should be enough ports here to plug everything directly into the soundbase. Alternatively, you can connect everything to your TV and pipe audio to the Philips through the optical or ARC connection.
The XS1’s wireless subwoofer is one of the more unusual examples of the genre – it’s a large, flat rectangular slab that looks more like a soundbase than a sub. It can be laid flat or stood vertically on the supplied stand, which gives you plenty of flexibility when installing it. You can slide it under your sofa, for example, or stand it vertically alongside your sofa or TV stand.
It’s a neat idea, but we found it awkward to accommodate. Placed vertically next to our TV, it poked out past the stand and turned into a bit of a trip hazard, plus it was too thick to slip under our sofa. Luckily, its solid matte-black enclosure isn’t a complete eyesore.
The XS1 offers a wide range of features, as you’d expect at this price. There’s apt-X Bluetooth, NFC and on-board decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS.
The 3.1-channel soundbase uses six racetrack drivers, four along the front and one on each side. Two of the front drivers are dedicated centre speakers that aim to bring extra clarity to dialogue, while the side-firing speakers add width to the soundstage. Each driver is supplied with 20W of amplification, while the subwoofer’s dual 6.5in woofers kick out 200W.
Elsewhere there are Movie and Music modes, the former introducing a virtual surround effect. The Voice mode emphasises the mid-range frequencies, and Night mode reduces the dynamic range of Dolby Digital soundtracks when listening with the volume down.
As expected, the XS1 is easy to set up – particularly if you’re hooking up your TV via ARC or optical. For ARC, however, remember to activate your TV’s CEC functionality. Once linked you can control the XS1 using your TV’s remote. It all worked seamlessly with our Samsung set.
The subwoofer pairs with the soundbase automatically, but you can pair them manually using the Connect button on the back of the sub.
Once installed, day-to-day use is also hassle-free thanks to the well-designed remote. Its brushed-metal finish is stylish and the round black buttons are firm. The layout is exemplary: volume controls are placed bang in the middle with bass and treble either side, and Bluetooth controls are within easy reach. We also like the fact that each input and sound mode has its own button, while the sound functions such as audio sync are helpfully grouped at the bottom.
The XS1 is a fabulous performer. It kicks out the sort of big, expansive soundstage that’s way beyond what you’d expect from such a slim and unassuming unit.
Given its limited cabinet volume, it comes as no surprise that the subwoofer does much of the low-frequency heavy lifting, but bass is integrated so seamlessly that it sounds like a cohesive whole, not two separate speakers.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on Blu-ray shows off its talents perfectly. As Smaug desolates Lake Town, his booming voice sounds unbelievably deep and imposing, and there’s a rich rumble as he blasts buildings with fire – all of which provides a convincing idea of the beast’s sheer scale. When it crashes into the lake – crushing Stephen Fry in the process – the thump is remarkably weighty but not overbearing.
Not only does the subwoofer add weight to the bangs and crashes, but it’s also a dab hand with smaller, subtler effects. Footsteps hit wooden floors with a solid, textured thud and Howard Shore’s silky score has a rich underbelly.
It’s not all about the subwoofer, however. The soundbase’s tone is crisp and incisive, lending a sense of excitement to the crackling flames and shattering buildings. You get a nice dynamic sound without having to push the volume too high and there’s plenty of detail, demonstrated by the jangle of gold on the Master’s boat and the eerie creaks and whispers at Dol Guldur.
Dialogue is clear and authoritative through the dedicated centre channel, making it easy to hear Tauriel’s lines as the fire rages, although we’d leave the Voice mode alone for movies since it strips away much of the bass. We found it more useful for TV viewing at low volumes. The side drivers add subtle width to the soundstage.
Any problems? Well, the soundbase can sound a little brash when you push the volume towards maximum – but otherwise, we think it’s right up there with the best bases.
Even music sounds impressive, which is a rarity among soundbases. “Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay is reproduced with wonderful energy – guitars sound crisp and precise, tambourines sparkle and Chris Martin’s euphoric vocal is handled with composure. What’s more, there’s a satisfying depth to the bassline and the sound easily fills the room.
Should I buy the Philips Fidelio XS1?
With gorgeous looks, luxurious build quality and room-filling sound, the XS1 earns its place among the soundbase elite. The slim cabinet slips virtually unnoticed under your TV, while the versatile subwoofer gives you a choice of installation options. It’s crammed with features, easy to use and – best of all – delivers a riotously entertaining audio performance that’s detailed, attacking and weighty.
There are some minor issues to consider – the big, awkwardly shaped sub might not suit your layout, and it isn’t entirely comfortable at loud volumes. And then there’s the price, which isn’t cheap at more than £400/$600, but with so many positives it’s well worth the expense.
The XS1’s luxurious looks, plentiful features and dazzling sound make it one of the best soundbases on the market – but certainly not one of the most affordable
Scores In Detail
- Design : 9/10
- Features : 9/10
- Performance : 9/10
- Sound Quality : 9/10
- Value : 8/10