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Philips Spotify Connects Speakers Review

    As we noted during our coverage of IFA, in Berlin last year, Spotify Connect Speakers are starting to become a big thing. We've spent some significant time with the Philips SW700M (£90) and SW750M (£130) speakers, so what are they like?

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First I think a little introduction to Spotify Connect is needed. It's a new standard which means that approved devices are able to stream music, via WiFi, from your Spotify Premium account. Don't have a Spotify Premium account? You'll need to either sign up (£10 pm).

Build

Both the SW700M and SW750M have the same sleek look. Both are solidly built, and feel well made, looking elegant, and with good quality buttons on the top. I must admit getting annoyed that it really wasn't easy to peel off the Spotify Connect stickers on the top! That's probably my own ineptitude....

Getting back to the speakers, the SW700M has two built in 2.5" full range drivers and twin bass ports in them. The SW750M also has base ports, and larger 3" drivers, with two tweeters also added. On the rear, you have two buttons for setup and a power socket, no other inputs.

Set Up

Philips claim that this is really easy to set up and get going in minutes. I must admit that my ineptitude continued, and I didn't find it as easy as promised. You need to download an app, connect the speaker to your WiFi, and then open Spotify to play your music. Watch my video to see how I got along.

As you can see, if you live within range of more than one WiFi network, things are a bit more complicated than planned. Whilst I'm having a moan, the Philips Speaker Setup app is a bit restrictive, in that there aren't many options for setting up multi-room set ups. Want to play different music in different rooms? You can't. Nor can you pair two speakers to act as left/right stereo speakers.

One other warning. A free month trial of Spotify Premium is included in the box, but if you've ever had a free trial before, and then sign on via the link given you, it charges you £10 without warning. Thank you Spotify.

Performance

Neither speaker has any physical inputs. Neither has Bluetooth either. So you can't stream music from your phone/tablet to them. You can't even attach a cable out of your headphone socket and into the speakers to play music. It is Spotify over you local WIFI network, not even via downloaded tracks in your Spotify App on your phone, or nothing.

Controlling the music is easy enough. You can either use the buttons on top of the speakers, or use your Spotify app as you would any other time.

Sound wise, I'd start off by saying it's difficult to like the SW700M. It sounds muddy. Music is muffled and there's no clear separation of sound. It reminds me of cheap kitchen radios from my childhood playing music from a long wave station. (Kids can go and look up what I mean!).

Thankfully, the SW750M restores pride to the family. It has a clear and pleasant sound, offering clarity and warmth. Both speakers play reasonably loudly without distortion, but don't do much in the way of producing a stereo sound stage.

Summary

I do find Philips decision not to include any audio inputs or other methods of streaming in these speakers baffling. These are aimed exclusively at people who want a speaker to play only Spotify, within range of your router, and nothing else. Set up isn't always as easy as you'd hope for, and your control of the speakers, if you have more than one in your home, is limited. With these things in mind, would I buy one?

It's very hard to recommend the SW700M on any front, unless it's comes with at least six months of Spotify Premium included in the price. Retro may be very cool, but being reminded of cheap radios from the 70's isn't. It simply doesn't sound very good.

The SW750M does sound good, and whilst not the last word in audio fidelity, it would please most people who just want their favourite music in the background. I do find the SW750M's lack of versatility a bit of a problem though. I can't get my head around paying £130 for a speaker which only lets you stream music you're paying £10 per month for. A drop in price may make this more attractive, but it will still need a Spotify Premium account, and so it's also not an ideal gift unless the recipient already has a Spotify Premium account.

I'll be honest and say I'm not convinced by Philips first offering of Spotify Connect speakers, and hope that their next generation is far more versatile.


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