Philips Unveils World’s First IMAX Enhanced Soundbars

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Not content with taking the wraps off a gorgeous new range of premium OLED TVs today, Philips (Europe) has today also announced a pair of new soundbars with IMAX Enhanced certification.

This means that both the Fidelio B95 and B97 soundbars have passed the stringent performance tests IMAX puts products through before they’re granted IMAX Enhanced status. Also, presumably (though I am still waiting for Philips to confirm this), both soundbars are capable of decoding and playing the special DTS:X-based sound mix that’s part of the IMAX Enhanced ‘specification’.

The B95 and B97 are the first soundbars to answer the question of whether IMAX Enhanced Certification (which declares a product capable of getting the best from content mastered using IMAX’s proprietary video and audio approach) was only going to be reserved for fairly high-end AV receivers. It remains to be seen, though, if we’ll now see IMAX Enhanced certification turning up on many other soundbars, too – or on Philips’ next generation of TVs, come to that. Currently Sony and TCL (US) are the only TV brands with IMAX Enhanced sets in their ranges.

Looking at other features of the flagship Fidelio B97, it fits a 7.1.2-channel configuration into its slimline chassis, which includes two upfiring Dolby Atmos ‘Elevation’ drivers and Philips’ so-called Surround-on-Demand technology. 

Surround-on-Demand sees the B97 sporting two detachable speakers that can either function as part of the left/right channel configuration when attached to the bar, or become wireless rears if you remove them and place them at the back of your room. 

Driving the 7.1.2-channel set up are no less than 17 drivers in total, including eight ported race-track shaped bass and mid-range units and six 19mm soft-dome tweeters. Of the latter, two fire forward, one fires sideways in each of the detachable speakers, and two angled, side-firing tweeters are hidden in the main body, only becoming active when the detachable speakers are removed.

The two Elevation speakers are both 2.5-inch affairs, while bass duties are provided by an external wireless subwoofer with a meaty 8-inch driver capable of hitting frequencies as low as 35Hz.

The B97 provides 500W of total power for the main soundbar/detachable surrounds, and 240W for the subwoofer. 

There’s decoding support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and it’s great to see eARC support via the HDMI output, meaning it can take lossless Dolby Atmos/DTS:X passed through by compatible TVs. There are two HDMI inputs, too, as well as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Apple AirPlay support. Plus the soundbar can form part of a Philips Wireless Home multiroom system via Play-Fi technology.

The Fidelio B95 drops the channel count to 5.1.2, and loses the Surround On Demand technology. It uses 14 drivers rather than 17, including five 19mm soft done units, three pairs of ported mid/bass ‘racetrack’ drivers, and two angled up-firing Dolby Atmos units.

The B95’s wireless subwoofer appears to be the same as the one you get with B97, with the same specs, though power for the main soundbar drops to 450W.

Both of these innovative soundbars will be arriving in Europe in the final quarter of 2020, but pricing has yet to be confirmed.

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