When is a soundbar not a soundbar? When you can undock two speakers from the mothership and put them behind you for true surround-sound. Or Bluetooth streaming…

There’s always been a pretty stark choice to be made when buying a home-cinema system: discreet speakers that sit around the room for surround-sound, or a soundbar, which sits under your TV. Speakers are great because, well, surround sound. Soundbars are great because they beef up your TV’s audio without the need to trail cables all around the room. But, of course, they don’t do true surround.

Until now.

The Philips Fidelio B5 has two detachable, battery-powered wireless speakers that you can put behind you, so you can convert your system from stereo to surround whenever you feel like it. Let’s take a look at what you get…

What’s in the box?

There’s the soundbar and detachable speakers, of course, plus a remote control, batteries, power cords for the bar and wireless subwoofer, a cable cover, and brackets for putting the main unit on the wall. And, along with the standard documentation, there’s also a stick-on mounting template to make drilling those holes a little less daunting.

More after the break

Connections

The physical connections are hidden underneath the main soundbar, at the back. There are two HDMI inputs for your sources, plus one HDMI output with ARC (audio return channel). This means your TV can send sound back down the same cable to the B5 when you’re using its internal tuner or a source connected directly to it. Less cable clutter that way.

Other socketry includes digital coaxial and optical inputs, a 3.5mm audio input and a USB socket for servicing and updates (it can’t be used for media playback).

Philips has printed all the labelling upside down, too – so when you’re peering down the back of your kit-rack to plug everything in, it’s all easier to see from the unnatural vantage point.

Then there’s the wireless aspect: the B5 can connect to Bluetooth devices for audio streaming via aptX and AAC. The pairing can be made either wirelessly or via NFC (near-field communication) by tapping the mobile device against the little NFC tag to the right of the brushed-metal central stripe. You can connect up to three devices to each of the B5’s three components.

Plugged in

Undocking the two 8W rear speakers is as simple as unplucking them from the main unit. The connections are magnetic, so you don’t have to worry about breaking latches or lugs. They have two modes: Bluetooth (where they act as stand-alone wireless speakers for music streaming; you can bring music to up to three places at one time) and Surround on Demand (where they become wireless channels to create a true surround-sound system).

If you can’t put the rear channels symmetrically behind you the Fidelio B5 can help to take this into account with its auto-calibration system, which aims to adjust gain and delay to give you the best sound possible when placement is less than ideal. There’s also a built-in Dolby Digital decoder for true Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound.

The two rears are battery powered, giving you up to 10 hours of listening when used in Surround on Demand mode and up to five hours of Bluetooth streaming. Plug them back in to the main unit for two hours to charge them fully.

Under the black speaker cloth in the main unit you’ll find two 3in drivers and two 1in soft-dome tweeters, while each satellite contains one 3in full-range driver.

The 90W subwoofer is wireless (apart from its power lead). Press the ‘Connect’ button to pair it with the B5’s main unit and away you go; its level is controlled from the remote control.

For more information about the Philips Fidelio B5, visit www.philips.co.uk. Philips also launched a variety of other products at this year’s massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Find out more here.