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Fidelio Docking Speaker DS7700
November 15th, 2011Great sound from a portable iOS device dock.
Capsule-shaped iOS stereo sound dock that has its own app to set alarms, listen to Internet radio, and more. Itís light enough to pack in a suitcase, and robust enough to handle it, but it comes at a steep price.
If you seek a sound dock for your iOS device, the Philips Fidelio 7700 Docking Speaker is an attractive and compact dock that also plays music from 7,000 Internet radio stations. It features Bluetooth and charges your iPad, iPhone or iPod when docked. It works with just about any device with a 30-pin dock connector. When not plugged in, the Fidelio runs off an internal ten-hour lithium ion battery.
The Fidelio looks like a big capsule and includes a protective cover that makes it quite sturdy and great for traveling. The small size is a mixed blessing. It weighs about a pound and a half and takes up a foot of space, which makes it easy to toss in a bag. The problem is that the small speakers do not do justice to the design of the dock. Although the sound is good, probably better than anything else in its size class, I donít feel that itís worth $200. The problem isnít that it doesnít sound good, it does. The problem is that other similar products sell for half the price.
The unit sent to me came with only a Quick Start Guide with pictures. The guide shows how to remove the protective top, flip open the stabilizing foot, and connect it to Bluetooth, but for anything more, I was on my own. The guide shows that you have to pair the dock with an iOS device using a code, but that isnít necessary with iOS 5, my iPhone 4S and iPad recognized it automatically. When connected a message appears asking if I want to download the app. I did, and spent the next hour feeling like I was in an adventure game trying to figure out how to work this thing. The Fidelio 7700 only has an on and off switch, and three buttons for Bluetooth and volume up and down. These blink to show that your device is charging.
The Fidelio App
You donít need to use the Fidelio app because iTunes works fine and various third party apps work better for Internet radio. The benefit of the Fidelio app is the ability to use the built in equalizer and Dynamic Bass Boost (DBB) feature that really does improve the sound quality. It reproduces a reasonable amount of bass regardless of the volume level. I found that the EQ and DBB only work when your device is docked and doesnít work over Bluetooth. The basic equalizer only provides settings for Flat, Pop, Rock, Jazz, and Classic (sic.), which I assume means Classical. If you have a mixed music playlist, you are limited to one setting.
Fidelio App Equalizer
The Fidelio app favors playlists. You choose between TuneIn for radio and playlist for music. Playlist gives you just that, and the only way to get to the rest of your library is to choose ďiPod Music Library,Ē which should really be named iTunes library.
Fidelio App Playlist
When playing music a Song ID button is sometimes enabled. Itís supposed to give you the lyrics by accessing the GraceNotes database, but it didnít seem to work. It did send me to the iTunes store where I could buy the song that I had already bought. Hmmm. The button was never displayed for radio.
Although this part of the interface looks like the Music app, it isnít. Albums replace Genius and tapping on More displays Compilations, Composers, and Genres. Missing are Audiobooks, iTunes U, Podcast, and Shared. If Philips wanted to copy the interface they should have gone all the way, so that the Music app is more flexible.
TuneIn provides Fidelioís worldwide Internet radio, but it doesnít give you all the stations found on the TuneIn site. My favorite station is Q104.3 in New York City and it wasnít available in the app, but it is on the site. The iheartradio app has it though, so I used that app. No custom stations can be added to the app.
Fidelio App Radio
The Fidelio app also provides a sleep timer with five-minute increments as well as local weather, with a five day forecast. You can change the clock to digital or analog and two themes are included, one graphically showing a day or night sky depending upon the time.
Fidelio App Weather Screen
The complex alarm feature was fairly useless. You can set multiple alarms along with a choice of a few built in sounds, or use a song from your library and display a picture from your iPhoto library. The problem is that when it goes off, the sound starts from zero and only goes up to half the volume of the Fidelio, which isnít enough to wake me up. Additionally there is a totally pointless Lifestyle feature that only wakes you up if activities, such as Beach or Fishing are experiencing settable fair, good, or excellent weather conditions. I could never get this to do anything and it often prevented the alarm working.
The sound is the important thing, and it is so close to being great that it is frustrating. The 14-watt amplifier puts out clear and distortion free volume, but it isnít loud enough to be acceptable. Radio is louder than music, and when the unit is plugged in it played louder than running on its battery. I think it isnít loud enough at peak volume for anything bigger than a small room.
The quality of the sound is the best of its breed, which is damning with faint praise since I donít feel that anything Iíve heard at this size is really good. The usual price point of similar units is $100 or less, which is half the price of the DS7700. When I tested the MacNN audio suite I wasnít able to hear the lowest tones in the 20Hz range, but no specs were provided for the unit and the bass response was the best Iíve heard. The sound is clean and distortion free even at the loudest volume level. On the high side, I could discern tones going up to 18,080Hz. Reproduction with the EQ seems a bit midrange heavy with mid-bass and treble tightly produced but extreme lows are lacking which is a limitation of small speakers. The Rick Wakemanís swirling synthesizer highs in Yesís ďRoundaboutĒ were understated. Peter Gabrielís bass heavy ďSledgehammerĒ is reproduced clearly with a fairly impressive amount of low end punch for such diminutive speakers. The attacks on Pink Floydís ďThe Happiest Day of Our LivesĒ are crisp and fast with admirable roll-off. The dimensionality of the stereo imaging is quite limited because the speakers are close together.
Overall, the Fidelio DS7700 speaker dock is a well-built and reasonably good sounding system for its size. It is better than anything else weighing less than two pounds. The app, which isnít critical to operate the dock, is substandard, confusing, and ill conceived. Iíd recommend this dock in a second, if they lowered the price.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor
-Clear and clean sound reproduction.
-Reasonably punchy bass for its size.
-Poorly designed iOS app.