This new sound bar from Philips puts the convenience in surround sound

Philips is on a roll with its Fidelio sound bar system. At CES 2014, the company introduced the first sound bar with truly wireless surround speakers, and it was a hit, earning Digital Trends’ Best of CES award in the Home Theater Audio category. This year, Philips is back with the Fidelio B5, and it’s a wonderful improvement on the original. New for this year is an auto calibration system and added Bluetooth functionality.

Philips achieves truly wireless surround sound by powering the sound bar’s detachable surround speakers with rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries, making it the most convenient surround sound solution available in the sound bar category. The B5 takes convenience to a new level by adding an automatic calibration system that senses where the speakers have been placed, then adjusts each speaker’s gain and delay to accommodate myriad placement options — a serious advantage for those who aren’t able to plunk down surround speakers in geometrically symmetrical positions.

In addition, all speakers in the system — the main bar, and each detachable surround speaker — is independently Bluetooth enabled, allowing the surrounds to be used as portable Bluetooth speakers in separate rooms, pairable with separate devices. One could place one surround speaker in the kitchen, and another on the patio, for instance.

All that convenience and flexibility wouldn’t mean much, though, if the B5 didn’t sound good. And, fortunately, it does. The four channel system with wireless subwoofer lacks a dedicated center channel, but still manages a convincing center image, with solid fidelity all the way around — certainly the best blend of performance and functionality we’ve seen in the sound bar genre so far.

The Philips Fidelio B5 is expected to become available in late Spring for $899.

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