Review: Philips Fidelio HTL7180 Soundbar

You probably spent a decent chunk of change on your HDTV, so why are you settling for the tiny, tinny sound emanating from its flat, flimsy speakers? Even a cheap, low-end soundbar would greatly improve your aural experience.

Of course, there’s improvement and there’s Improvement. The Philips Fidelio HTL7180 aims to raise the soundbar bar with a combination of stylish looks, serious bass, and arguably the niftiest trick a home-audio appliance has ever pulled: detachable satellites.

Like a pre-transformation Bumblebee, the Fidelio looks like a fairly typical soundbar, — albeit a high-class one — with the sleek, rounded lines of a rear spoiler. Or maybe a jet wing. Either way, it’s a gorgeous addition to the living room, and it can sit below your TV or mount on a wall. Built-in sensors detect its positioning and orient the sound angle accordingly.

The bar connects to your TV or a home-theater receiver via analog, digital coax, or HDMI, though Philips supplies only analog stereo-RCA cables — kind of a cheap-out move given the Fidelio’s $800 price tag. Ideally, you’ll want to leverage one or both of the unit’s HDMI inputs, but you can feed audio back to your A/V receiver thanks to its ARC-compatible HDMI 1.4 output.

Most speaker slabs like this one lack bass, mostly because there’s no room for a subwoofer. The Fidelio comes with one that’s wireless, so you can position it any place that’s convenient without worrying about extra cord-clutter. An unassuming matte-black monolith, it’s about the size of a personal-pizza box that stands knee-high.

The wireless wizardry gets even better from there. Battery-powered rear speakers undock from either side of the main bar, effectively giving you on-demand 5.1-channel surround sound. It’s literally an unplug-and-play solution.

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