Feb, 14 2012

When it comes to Android accessories, I’ve always been all about the wireless speakers. I love ’em. For me, they’re the greatest things since sliced bread. In my quest for finding the best wireless speakers money (on a tight budget) can buy, I came across the Philips Fidelio line of Bluetooth wireless speakers, tailored made specifically for Android devices.

Before I even opened the speakers, I thought I’d walk you guys through my first time — from start to finish —  taking you through the unboxing, software, initial impressions and at the end, some areas of improvement, in my review of the Fidelio wireless speakers from Philips.

I actually received 2 versions of the speakers; a smaller bedside clock/dock (AS111), and the medium sized AS351. Not reviewed was the larger sized AS851. Both the AS111 and AS351 feature an adjustable micro USB dock that can be moved and fined tuned to dock a variety of Android devices, be it a phone or tablet. The dock really acts as nothing more than a charger for when listening to tunes and the audio connection is all done via Bluetooth. Both speakers had solid construction with a high-quality feel to them — something important form any electronics device. Although, technically, all these speakers are compatible with any Bluetooth device and even non-Android devices with micro USB ports (BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, etc.), the speakers gain added functionality when used with the optional Fidelio Android app.

Software

Philips has an Android application in the Market that when installed to your device, brings hassle-free plug-and-play functionality that will auto-launch the application, activate Bluetooth and pair the device with the speaker simply by doing nothing more than docking it. This is great for older folks or girl-friends who don’t exactly know how to jump into their device’s settings configure their Bluetooth. The application also features a few custom alarm clock functions, internet radio stations, and (after downloading another application) music player all in one easy to find place. Firmware updates for the speakers will provided using the Fidelio application as well. While the Fidelio app sounds great in theory, in my experience with it, I found it a little too buggy to keep on my device, turning on Bluetooth (and not turning if off) even when I was away from the speakers and plugged my phone into a standard charger. While minor, it was a nuisance and hopefully something Philips will address in a future update.

AS111

The smaller AS111 bedside dock packed a surprising amount of features with it’s LED clock and mood lighting along the bottom. This made it seem like the better value of the two, especially when you factor in the surprising audio quality and volume output from this little guy. The video may not demonstrate this very well (thanks to my camera’s auto-volume leveling), but the AS111 was able to push out enough volume to where it could actually become uncomfortable for the listener and to me — that’s a very good thing. Definitely more than your standard squawk-box, the AS111 exceeding my expectations from a bedside clock/dock.

AS351

The AS351 has 2 goals in mind: to deliver more power than the bedside dock — which it fully accomplishes this thanks to 10W of output, and improve sound quality — which is vastly improved thanks to its “dynamic bass boost” for deeper “wub wubs on teh dubstepz.” The AS351 also offers a wider variety of connections in the back, in case you wanted to plug in a non-micro USB device using the included AUX cable (sound freaks will tell you this will drastically improve sound quality). If you’ve ever put your device near a speaker, I’m sure you’ve heard your phone’s data transmissions picking up on the speakers but that was never a problem with the AS351’s “special shielding technology” keeping the speaker interference free.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d give Philips high marks when it comes to their Fidelio line of wireless speakers. I’ll admit, when I went into this review, I really wasn’t expecting much (long time lover of the Jawbone Jambox) but was pleasantly (as you can see from the video) surprised. It’s not everyday you’ll find speaker docks suited specifically with the Android user in mind and even if you decided to forgo the dock altogether, just as a stand-alone Bluetooth speaker for any device, the Fidelio line shines with excellent sound quality and a compact design. As I mentioned in the video review, my only complaint was the lack of rechargeable battery for taking on-the-go, but I guess they had to leave room for improvement in future models. If you’ve got a family of Android devices, or need something for the work place, I’d say look no further. Both the AS111 and AS351 are an instant buys.

[Amazon: $66 Philips Fidelio AS111 Clock/Dock | $108 Philips Fidelio AS351 Medium Speaker Dock]