Philips Fidelio E6 5.1 Surround System at CES 2016

Normally, I would stay miles away from anything that could be described as a “home theater in a box,” especially when it comes to speaker systems. Nevertheless, the Philips Fidelio E6 5.1 system somehow managed to win me over with its generous bag of neat tricks.

It was the last hour of the last day of the show, and the Gibson Brands tent sat between me and the Las Vegas Monorail. I stepped inside to take a quick look and listen to a new, Atmos-capable Philips Fidelio soundbar. Unfortunately, that soundbar was not set up for a demonstration, so I have no idea how it performs. Sensing my disappointment, the rep suggested I check out a novel 5.1 system that was available to demo—the Fidelio E6.

First things first—this is not a system for performance junkies. It’s a lifestyle surround-sound system and should not be mistaken for something it is not. But, what makes it cool as compared to a typical HTiB is the design of the speakers. Namely, the surrounds are truly cordless and wireless.

The E6 consists of four speakers and a sub. The front speakers—which are connected by a single cable—serve three purposes. Of course they act as the front left and right speakers, but they also sport discrete tweeters that are mounted at an angle to deliver center-channel audio information, for an enhanced 5.1 experience. Both of the front speakers have detachable wireless speakers sitting on top and serve as charging bases for these two additional speakers.

Here comes the cool part—the detachable surrounds contain microphones that allow the system to quickly auto-calibrate no matter where you place them. The idea here is you can have surround-sound on a whim. However, these surround speakers can also serve as stand-alone Bluetooth speakers, or they can form their own stereo pair.

As far as inputs go, the E6 system covers all the bases. There’s HDMI with ARC and 4K/2K pass-through, optical digital input, analog stereo input, support for Dolby Digital and Pro Logic II surround, NFC Bluetooth pairing, compatibility with Google Cast and Spotify Connect—the list goes on.

I watched a clip from a Dolby demo disc, something to do with Red Bull and racecars. The system did a decent job of creating surround sound, especially given the circumstances. Given its expected price tag of $800, I thought it offered quite a lot and was worthy of a mention. Philips expects to ship the E6 system in late spring of 2016. Overall, it seems like a nice system to bring to a beach house or put in a family room for casual use.