Philips Fidelio FB1 – Review 2023


Soundbars are increasingly becoming a viable way to add spatial audio to your TV without scattering satellites throughout your living room. For example, the Philips Fidelio FB1 ($699.99) has Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and 7.1.2 channels built into its low-profile form factor. The spatial imaging performance doesn’t quite match the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 ($499.99), though it delivers much better bass. That said, the Sonos Arc remains our Editors’ Choice winner for high-end all-in-one soundbars. While it costs more at $899, it offers a more balanced sound signature than the Fidelio FB1 and the ability to double as a smart speaker via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Simple and capable

The FB1 is a large but modest soundbar. It’s a simple 2.9-by-47.2-by-4.9-inch (HWD) black shelf covered in a matte black metal grille on the front, sides, and top. An indicator LED and a white alphanumeric LED are located behind the front grille. A rubber rectangle in the center of the top panel contains input, play/pause, power, volume up, and volume down buttons. The two upward-firing drivers under the top grille are surrounded by LED rings, which can be turned on or off with the remote control.

The back of the soundbar features a bass port, a small cutout with a connector for the power cable, and a larger cutout with the rest of the wired connections. There’s HDMI for connecting to the TV via eARC, HDMI pass-through, optical audio, USB, a 2.5mm port (for IR blaster), a 3.5mm port (for microphone probe) and a Wi-Fi pairing button.

The included remote control is a rectangular black plastic bar with a matte, brushed finish and a trapezoidal profile. A large, square pad sits at the top and controls volume and navigates the soundbar’s settings. The Power, Input and Mute buttons are above the pad, while the Dolby Atmos, EQ, settings and sound mode buttons are below it.

Connecting via the HDMI eARC port provides the best sound, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X spatial audio, but the FB1 also has a wide selection of wireless options. There’s Bluetooth with support for the SBC and AAC codecs, plus Apple AirPlay 2, but no Google Cast. The soundbar also features DTS Play-Fi, DTS’ proprietary wireless speaker ecosystem that easily integrates with AirPlay on iOS devices and has dedicated Android, iOS and Windows apps. iOS, iPadOS and Windows users can stream audio wirelessly to the FB1. Android users will find a more limited in-app experience, with support for Amazon Music, SiriusXM, Spotify, and Tidal, but not Apple Music or YouTube Music. Play-Fi also enables multi-room audio systems with other Play-Fi compatible speakers.

The FB1 is a one piece 7.1.2 channel soundbar system. The left, right and center channels each have two full-range drivers and a tweeter, while the two side-firing and two height channels have single full-range drivers. The 3.5-inch subwoofer is integrated into the chassis; it’s larger than typical full-range soundbar drivers, but smaller than the generally 8- to 10-inch drivers found in standalone subwoofers.

Sculpted sound with big bass

Even without a subwoofer, the FB1 can produce impressive sub-bass. The kick drum hits in our bass test track, “Silent Shout” by The Knife, pack a serious punch, delivering a palpable thump that shook my entertainment center at higher volume levels. It may not rattle the walls like a full-size subwoofer, but it’s sure to annoy the neighbors if you live in an apartment building. Oddly enough, the bass synth notes at the beginning of the song aren’t nearly as strong and sound a bit distant compared to the drum hits. It indicates a frequency crossover between the full-range drivers and the woofer, or perhaps an atypical low-end response curve.

Phillips Fidelio FB1

Yes’ “Roundabout” sounds excellent on the FB1. The acoustic guitar’s opening strums get plenty of low-end resonance, and the delicate string textures come through clearly in the higher frequencies. When the song gets off to a good start, the bass line sounds full of strong attack that gives it a punchy edge. The drums and guitar strums also stand out, though the vocals nestle just slightly behind them rather than sharing the spotlight. It’s a purposefully sculpted sound that focuses on the extremes rather than balancing the low-mids and high-mids. It is a pleasant, clean and powerful sound.

Spatial audio, but buggy calibration

The FB1 should help you tailor the spatial audio features to your room by running a calibration test that processes each channel to determine the best level. I had no problem running the calibration test itself, but each time the test was over, the FB1 stopped delivering sound altogether and had to be reset. Philips confirmed to PCMag that this is a known issue and a planned firmware update will hopefully fix it. Until Philips releases the patch, the FB1’s auto-calibration feature probably won’t work. That’s not a good start.

Without calibration, the FB1 still delivers solid spatial images. The Dolby Atmos audio input Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness is full and detailed, with the opening car chase and fight scenes pushing out a lot of low-frequency rumble that made my floor vibrate. Higher frequencies are crisp as debris flies around, and dialogue is clear throughout the action. The audio profile still sounds a little hollowed out, but it gives a big, bombastic sound field.

Directional imaging is accurate, if a little modest. I can hear the general direction of rocks and cars smashing through the soundbar, and the stereo panning is excellent. The height channels create a greater sense of dimension with the movie, although specific objects flying over aren’t as clear as with the Bose Smart Soundbar 600.

Philips Fidelio FB1 top buttons

The 5.1 channel audio from Glass onion sounds full and clear too, with voices oozing with presence and detail. The sound of a knife tapping against a whiskey glass resonates with a sharp, punchy ring followed by a round, sustained note. The soundtrack easily fills a room and keeps every element present.

A one-piece system that has a lot to offer

The Philips Fidelio FB1 is a capable one-piece soundbar that’s packed with features and can pump out some serious bass without a separate subwoofer. The spatial audio reproduction isn’t quite as accurate as some competitors, such as the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 or the much more expensive Samsung Q990B ($1,899.99) with its height-equipped rear surrounds, but it offers a good mix of performance for the price. It’s similar to the Sonos Arc in terms of sound quality, but with more aggressively crafted audio. Ultimately, we like the Arc more for its overall audio balance and its ability to double as an Amazon or Google smart speaker.

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