Philips Fidelio SoundSphere hands-on

As oddly-shaped speaker systems go, the Philips Fidelio SoundSphere pair should still stand out even in the most avant garde living room. In fact, unless your lounge looks like the egg room from the first Alien film, expect plenty of questions about the bulbous AirPlay-compatible set. On show at IFA 2011 today, the SoundSpheres dragged us in like a Facehugger's tail around the neck.

The premise is straightforward: you get an iPod/iPhone dock, into which your Apple PMP slots, recharges, and shoots over audio to the speakers. Alternatively, though, it can pick up audio streamed via AirPlay, Apple's wireless system that works with the latest iOS devices and computers like the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

As for the eye-catching speakers themselves, Philips reckons that by using a semi-spherical shape for the body and separating out the tweeters as the "eyes" suspended up above, the SoundSpheres reduce interference, make the top end more easily heard and add up to a more 360-degree audio experience.

In practice, while the mids and bass certainly held up whether we were in front or at the sides of the speakers, the treble proved more directional. We could hear the top end far clearer stood directly in the line of the tweeters, and these are really still speakers you'll want to place with an eye on where exactly you'll be listening to them.

Still, the AirPlay system works as expected. The final remaining question, naturally, is whether the Fidelio SoundSphere system will be worth its €799 ($1,154) price tag when it hits retail in May 2011. Considering that would get you a Sonos multi-room starter system we can see people being quickly drawn in by the SoundSpheres' unusual appearance, and then equally quickly propelled away by the premium figure Philips has settled upon.