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4K TV ULTRA HI-DEF THRILLS FOR UNDER £500

IN-EAR HEADPHONE

SU

From £40 to £400: transform the sound of your phone and tablet

EST “…more comfy than they look…”

“…fun and bouncy…”

“…just about perfect…” “…keep things simple…”

DENON, PIONEER AND YAMAHA GREAT TV SOUND, NO CLUTTER DELIVER £250 DALI TAKES ON BOSE, SURROUNDSAMSUNG AND YAMAHA SOUND HEROES

February 2017 £4.99 www.whathifi.com

RS HIGH-END SOUNDBA


HEARING IS BELIEVING

The M3 Soundbar. We know hearing is believing when it comes to sound quality. We can tell you it will fill your living room with superbly detailed and dynamic sound from both music and movies, but you’d be taking our word for it. To hear for yourself how the M3 brings life to sound, visit one of the approved Q Acoustics retailers below. Bringing Life to Sound.

Built-In Subwoofer

aptX® Bluetooth

Search Q Acoustics M3

Ultra Wide Sound Dispersion

MoviEQ™ Enhanced Listening

#hearingisbelieving

Visit qacoustics.co.uk/hear to find out more.


W E LC O M E

What is it worth? How much will you take? Simon Lucas, editor

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas? Done. The Sound and Vision Show in (arguably less glamorous but just as invigorating) Bristol? Coming right up (all the details on p30). 2016 may have been an eventful year in many ways, but it will take more than political, geographical or financial uncertainty to deflect the hi-fi and home entertainment industries from their goals. Happily for we consumers, high among those goals is the desire to provide ever-greater performance for ever-diminishing outlay. This issue illustrates that fact perfectly: you’re just a few page-flicks away from three 4K ultra high-def 40in TVs from just £500 each (p40), three amazingly good-value surround-sound amps (p50) and eight (count ‘em!) pairs of in-ear headphones (p32). Take any one of those 14 products and examine the performance/price ratio – I guarantee it’s better than ever before. And that’s before you cast about for deals in the January sales. There’s only thing better than getting more, and that’s getting more for less.

My product of the month Devialet Gold Phantom (p16) Self-aware ludicrousness is so much more entertaining than just simple ludicrousness. Devialet knew exactly what it was doing when it gold-plated the flanks of its Phantom and upped the power of its Phantom to 4500 watts. This is the sort of dafness I can get behind.

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Experience. Heritage.

We’ve been helping the world discover the best in hi-fi and home entertainment for more than 40 years, and have more than 100 years of reviewing experience under our collective belts – so you can count on our expert opinion.

Dedicated test facilities

We test every product against its peers in our brand-new, bespoke reviewing facility at our Twickenham HQ. We test every product as a team – our opinions and conclusions are always the result of collaboration. Reference kit Naim CDS3/NDS/UnitiServe/555 PS; Clearaudio Innovation Wood; Cyrus Phono Signature/PSX-R2; GamuT D3i/D200i; ATC SCM50; Cambridge CXU; Panasonic DMP-UB900; Pioneer SC-LX59; Epson EH-TW7200; PMC Twenty23; KEF R50; Sky+ HD

NEXT MONTH Wireless speakers All shapes, sizes and prices. How do you like your absolute convenience? We have you covered TVs Two giants of Korean TV (see if you can guess who) go head-to-head CES All the news that’s fit to print. And all the other news too March 2017 issue ON SALE 8th February

whf.cm/playlist2017

whathifi.com

www.whathif.com 3


CONTENTS

CONTENTS “There’s no doubt adding 4K to a 40in TV makes all the difference with the right set” Page 49

SAVE

UP TO

54% RESPECTED VERDICTS

WHEN YOU SUBSCRIBE TO WHAT HI-FI? Page 74 4 www.whathifi.com

THE WORLD’S MOST

One of the best +++++ A serious contender ++++ Worth a look +++ Disappointing ++ Awful +


CONTENTS

THE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS MONTH WE’VE THE DEFINITIVE WORD ON THESE FINE PRODUCTS AV AMPLIFIERS Denon AVR-X1300W

52

Pioneer VSX-531

54

Yamaha RX-V381

56

GAMES CONSOLES PlayStation 4 Pro

26

HEADPHONES 1More C1002

06 FIRST TESTS

Arcam’s Solo brings music and movies to life

12 FIRST TESTS

The Brio has a new look but the same great sound

34

Beyerdynamic Byron

34

Bose SoundSport Pulse

35

Fidue A73

37

Final F7200

37

Libratone Q Adapt On-Ear

10

MEE Audio Pinnacle P1

38

Sol Republic Relays Sport

38

SoundMagic E80C

39

HI-FI SPEAKERS Piega Classic 3.0

23

HOME CINEMA SYSTEM Arcam Solo Movie 2.1

06

MICRO-SYSTEMS Yamaha CRX-N470D

20

MUSIC STREAMERS Linn Klimax DS 3

72

PHONO STAGES 16 FIRST TESTS

An “eye-catching, ear-popping speaker”

32 HEADPHONES

Scrap the bundled in-ears and get these instead

Pathos In The Groove

14

SOUNDBARS Bose SoundTouch 300

62

Dali Kubik One

63

Samsung HW-K850

64

Yamaha YSP-2700

65

SOUNDBASES Cambridge Audio TV5 v2

24

STEREO AMPLIFIERS Rega Brio

12

TELEVISIONS Panasonic TX-40DX700B

42

Philips 43PUS6401

44

Samsung UE43KS7500

46

TURNTABLES 50 AV AMPLIFIERS

They’re modestly priced but pack a lot of muscle

BUYER’S GUIDE

60 SOUNDBARS

Revitalise your home cinema with a soundbar

FINDTHE BEST KIT AROUND,FAST! Our verdict on every product worth owning, p77

McIntosh MT5

68

Elipson Omega 100 RIAA BT

20

WIRELESS SPEAKERS Audio Pro Addon T5

18

Devialet Phantom Gold

16

Steljes NS3

21

REGA BRIO “Like Toy Story 3 and Rambo, this long-awaited sequel was well worth the wait” Becky Roberts, Staff writer

www.whathifi.com 5


FIRST TESTS

FIRST TESTS

RD EXCLUSIVE, IN-DEPTH VE

The Solo Movie 2.1 is an all-in-one hi-fi and home cinema system with Blu-ray and CD playback, plus hi-res audio streaming

ICTS ON THE LATEST KIT

Arcam Solo Movie 2.1 | Home cinema system | £1500

“Big and friendly – just like the giant” FOR Powerful sound; stable picture; impressive connectivity

AGAINST No 4K Blu-ray disc replay

★★★★★

Since the experimental emergence of multi-channel surround-sound in 1952’s This is Cinerama (a documentary made to showcase a new widescreen projection format), the technology has arguably enriched movie-watching more than anything else – including popcorn. Superman no longer sounds like he’s flying in tiny circles around the telly, and soundfields can be so enveloping you duck for cover when bullets fly over your head. A 2.1-channel home cinema set-up (simply a stereo presentation with the addition of a subwoofer) may seem antiquated in the face of today's 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos configurations. But we are far from retiring the format to the Museum of Idle Technology, for it’s still

worthwhile to those without the space or desire for surround sound. If that sounds like you, and the idea of a combined hi-fi and home cinema set-up – with speakers either side of a telly – seems particularly attractive, let us introduce you to the Arcam Solo Movie 2.1: an amplified all-in-one system that features a Blu-ray and CD playback, myriad connections and hi-res audio network streaming.

It shares its 160W amplification (80W per channel), HDMI inputs and hi-res audio playback, but adds to the disc drive’s support of CD/SACD with Blu-ray and DVD, and is able to decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master HD audio formats too. It asks only a reasonable £200 more for the extra functionality. (Arcam’s recent price slash means the Movie 2.1 is down from £1800, and the Solo Music, £1500 when we reviewed it in the summer, is now £1300.) The well-equipped Solo Movie 2.1 makes the original 2008 iteration seem only partly furnished, by adding not only Blu-ray support, but also more connections than most households could probably make use of. Joining one HDMI output are four HDMI inputs, single coaxial and optical inputs that support up to 24-bit/192kHz and 24-bit/96kHz respectively, and USB (also compatible with 192kHz files), phono and 3.5mm connections. An ethernet socket caters for wired network streaming, although a supplied antenna puts wireless connectivity on the

The clue's in the name

It’s no surprise there aren’t many of the Arcam’s kind around. But we reckon that somewhat plays into its hands. If its name isn’t enough of a giveaway, the Solo Movie 2.1 caters more for AV duties than its counterpart in the range, the Solo Music.

“Multi-channel surround-sound technology has arguably enriched movie-watching more than anything else – including popcorn” 6 www.whathifi.com

KEY FEATURES

CD and Blu-ray

24-BIT/192KHZ Network Streaming

Dolby TrueHD and DTS MasterHD decoding


FIRST TESTS

“The Solo Movie 2.1 makes the original iteration seem partly furnished. It adds Blu-ray support and more connections than most could make use of” menu too. Either way, the Arcam will stream FLAC, WAV and AIFF files up to 24-bit/192kHz, AACs up to 24-bit/96kHz and the usual WMA and MP3 formats.

Bat-like talents

There’s another antenna for aptX Bluetooth, and a FM/ DAB/DAB+ tuner too. How you flick between the inputs – through the on-unit controls, remote control or mobile app – is up to you. All are pleasingly intuitive and responsive – just note that the latter is available only for Apple devices. It doesn’t play up to the 4K fad, mind you. 4K Blu-ray discs aren’t welcome, and

as the HDMI inputs are version 1.4 (not 2.0, which can carry a 4K signal) there’s no option to add Ultra HD Blu-ray playback into the system either. It’s a good job the Solo Movie 2.1 is such an impressive performer with Full HD material, then. Spielberg’s The BFG looks appealingly bright and clean, the live-action sequences crisp and detailed enough to highlight the film’s excellent production. When the giant jumps over hills, the picture doesn’t jump along with him and there’s real texture to patchwork quilts and mountainous landscapes. With bat-like talents, the Arcam proves perceptive in

night scenes and in the darkness when we enter the giant’s lair. Clarity and sharpness levels are easily on par with those of a decent standalone player – not just with Blu-ray playback, but during the upscaling of DVDs too.

Poise and precision

Not forgetting the Arcam’s sonic responsibilities, we turn our attention to the film’s John Williams score and our positive impression is instantly bolstered. The orchestra’s string section climaxes with apparent ease, power and authority in copious supply.

IN DETAIL...

There are some basic controls on the top of the Arcam Solo Movie 2.1

The display on the front of the Arcam is relatively small but clear

The supplied remote control is pleasingly intuitive and responsive

The Solo Movie 2.1 is solidly built, with a touch of quality in its buttons

www.whathifi.com 7


FIRST TESTS

IN DETAIL... 1

2

There's no shortage of inputs here. HDMIs are of the 1.4 variety, so you can connect to a 4K Blu-ray player to get around the Arcam's limitations.

3

Antennas for wi-fi connectivity and aptX Bluetooth. When it comes to wi-fi, the Arcam proves stable, but we would still stick to wired for extra security.

Just a pair of speaker outputs, just as the product name alludes to. Arcam also makes a 5.1 alternative, called the Solo Movie 5.1, for an extra £300.

2 3 1

“This is a particular product for a particular crowd – in the Arcam’s case, someone who isn’t interested in surround-sound or 4K” That’s partly down to the Solo Movie 2.1 being blessed with Class G amplification, which essentially switches between multiple power supplies to deliver a lot of output (needed for a big, powerful sound) without wasting electricity as heat or causing distortion. Like the giant, it’s big and friendly, not throwing its weight around bullishly but rather conducting itself with poise and precision. There’s muscle behind falling metal bins, creaking beds and axes being forcefully driven down onto tables, but it’s pleasingly subtle with it. Physically, the Arcam’s presentation is entirely front-heavy and thus no stand-in for a surround-sound experience. It still has the size and expanse to spread the orchestration to the corners of a room and make it sound like the giant’s stomps are landing right in front of you, though. They are full of solidity and punch, traits that extend up the frequency range.

Scrupulously fair

You wouldn’t need particularly expressive kit to instantly recognise the giant’s West Country burr, but the shrewd Arcam ensures it is well projected. Further up the spectrum, chiming town bells have more jingle than a Frank Sinatra Christmas album. Despite its name advocating a preference for movies over music, the system, like a scrupulously fair parent, really isn’t discriminatory so can be trusted as much with a collection of CDs as Blu-rays. We choose Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik album and the Solo Movie 2.1’s even balance and naturally compelling combination of power, size and insight

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SYSTEM BUILDER These will play nicely with the Solo Movie 2.1

comes to the fore in the eponymous track. There’s thrust to the opening drumbeat, impetus behind John Frusciante’s electric riffs, and clarity to Anthony Keidis’ vocals. TELEVISION Samsung UE55KS7000 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £1100 An outstanding Ultra HD television

A particular crowd

The application of Arcam’s ‘bringing music and movies to life’ maxim may be intended across the brand’s expansive portfolio of AV and hi-fi kit, but it also singularly pertains to the Solo Movie 2.1. Of course that talent doesn’t change the fact that this is a particular product for a particular crowd – someone who isn’t interested in surround-sound or 4K, and who perhaps has access to smart apps elsewhere. Those who want the former can always consider the Solo Movie 5.1, which – you guessed it – can cater for surround speakers. Or if AV duties are already covered, why not save a few bucks and go for the Awardwinning Solo Music? But those who do meet the criteria and are looking for a 2.1 channel set-up should strongly consider putting this almost-doesit-all box at the heart of it.

Says

Rating ★★★ ★★ PICTURE SOUND FEATURES

VERDICT A must-have for anyone looking for stereo hi-fi and home cinema from just one just-add-speakers box

SMARTPHONE iPhone 7 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £700 Better than before – in tems of sound too

STEREO SPEAKERS Dynaudio Emit M20 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £600 Speakers as meticulous as they are musical

4K Blu-ray discs aren’t welcome, and there’s no option to add UHD Blu-ray playback

Total build £3900


Expertly engineered to p ovide the deta ed mmers ve sound that youve been missing Your experience of TV is about to be transformed

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FIRST TESTS click here to view offer

Libratone Q Adapt On-Ear | Wireless headphones | £220

Touch of class required FOR Smooth performance; comfortable build and design

AGAINST Lack punch; touch controls are unresponsive

Libratone, Danish maker of the lovely wool-covered Zipp wireless speakers, is dipping its toes into the vast headphones market for the very first time with a pair of on-ear, portable, wireless headphones. The new Q Adapt On-Ears tick every feature you could want in headphones: portable, wireless, aptX Bluetooth, noise-cancellation, touch controls and even a smartphone app. At £220, this is a competitive and feature-packed pair of headphones.

gestures letting you control playback, answer calls, adjust volume and noisecancelling levels.

Minimalist design

The Libratone Q Adapt On-Ears’ light but firm build makes them lovely to handle and wear. The finish, whether in stormy black or cloudy grey, is minimalist and smart. They’re compact and lightweight enough to carry around or sling around your neck when not in use, though we wish you could fold them up like the AKG N60 NCs or B&W P3s to make them even more portable. The earcups are small and grip your ears firmly, with comfortable cushioning on the cups and the woven headband. You can adjust the headband to fit all head sizes, and it doesn’t weigh down on your head after listening for long hours. Wirelessness is the key feature of Libratone’s first headphones, with aptX Bluetooth giving you cable-free access to streaming services and music stored on your smartphone. Pairing with smart devices is blissfully swift and painless. Libratone claims the headphones last for 20 hours of wireless listening after a full charge. That’s impressive range (and checks out in real life use) compared with the B&W P5 Wireless clocking in only 17 hours. However, neither surpasses Beats Solo3 Wireless’s market-leading 40 hours. It’s not all wireless: there’s a 3.5mm cable in the box for those that prefer going wired (or for when the battery runs out). A microUSB cable is also included for charging, which takes roughly three hours from flat to 100 per cent. Like the Award-winning Sony MDR1000X, the controls for the Q Adapts are housed in the earcups. The left holds the power button, which you can also press to fnd out how much power remains – LEDs on the right earcup light up to show how much is left: all lights on means a full charge. The right earcup is where all the action happens, with a variety of finger-taps and

10 www.whathifi.com

Out of touch

According to Libratone’s instructions, it should all be straightforward. In reality, it’s anything but. The touch controls aren’t as intuitive as we’d like, requiring you to be extremely precise with where you tap on the earcup and how long you hold the tap for. It’s frustrating, as it takes us a couple of goes to get it right – every single time. It’s a shame, as the touch interface is a good idea, but you’ll need more patience than us if you can live without quicksilver response times. What does work smoothly is sliding your finger around the outside of the cup to adjust volume. Another neat touch is the headphones automatically pause music when you slip them off your head and start playing again when you put them back on. The headphones also feature Libratone’s CityMix adjustable noise-cancelling technology, which gives you four levels of effectiveness, allowing you to tune out or

These Q Adapts have plenty of features: aptX Bluetooth, noise-cancellation, touch controls – even a smartphone app

★★★ ★ ★ KEY FEATURES

aptX Bluetooth

Noise-cancelling

3.5mm cable included

into as much of the outside world as you wish. You can cycle through the four levels using the function button on the right ear cup, or by using the visual dial in the app. You can also cover the earcup with your hand to active Hush – a shortcut feature that pauses music playback so you can hear a train announcement or a colleague’s conversation briefly.

Tap the app

We’d highly recommend downloading the Libratone control app (free for iOS and Android) as it gives plenty more features, such as selecting three different EQs (neutral, bass or treble-heavy), checking battery status, updating firmware, adjusting the noise-control level and connecting a friend’s headphones to share your music via Bluetooth. The app is neatly designed and really handy, especially when the headphones’ touch controls give you trouble. Apple users can also summon Siri with a long tap. This feature and the app are only available when you’re connected via Bluetooth. With the What Hi-Fi? playlist on shuffle, the Libratones happily take on the eclectic mix thrown at them. From the dreamy trip-hop of Portishead to Dolly Parton’s country pop, with a detour through Spinal Tap’s none-more-heavy metal, the on-ear headphones’ open and affable presentation is an easy-going listen from the start. The Q Adapts start off a touch muffled – vocals in particular sound like they’re being sung through a funnel – so they do need a few nights’ running before they’ve cleared their throat and start singing clearly. Kate Tempest’s speak-singing comes through cleanly on Don’t Fall In, although there’s a touch of softness around the edges that damps down her razor-sharp lyrics. The outlines of notes are clean, but not as prompt as rivals such as the B&W P5 Wireless. Tempest’s rolling rhythm needs grip the Libratones simply can’t muster, leaving the song lacking in passion and verve. There’s enough detail to grasp the melody and fluidity of songs, but the headphones are vague when it comes to subtlety and deeper dynamics. They tend to skim the surface rather than reveal


FIRST TESTS

Like its Zipp wireless speakers, Libratone's Q Adapt headphones have a smart and minimalist design

meaningful detail. The grungy, sludgy tones of Alice in Chains sound too polite, piano notes sound too thin and whimsical in Amanda Palmer’s Ampersand, and there’s no solidity to the soaring horns or the deep, huge drums in any John Williams-orchestrated soundtrack.

Cursory listen

“Libratone’s warm and fuzzy balance means they’re an inoffensive and pleasant listen. But it takes more than that to make a mark in the headphone market”

On the plus side, Libratone’s warm and fuzzy balance means you don’t get any brightness or overly bloated basslines – they are a fairly inoffensive and pleasant listen. But it takes more than just pleasantness to make a mark in the headphones market, especially when you’re up against the Award-winning B&W P5 Wireless. At their new price of £230, they’re a step ahead in every way. The depth and dynamism achieved by the P5s is wonderful, with Nick Cave’s pensive, heartfelt vocals on People Ain’t No Good coming across with gravitas and texture. The Libratone headphones don’t have that satisfying punch or strict handling of rhythm that come so easily to the B&Ws. The Libratones can’t quite get our foot tapping – without a strong handle on precise rhythm or musical cohesion, they’re more a cursory listen than something truly immersive. It’s worth noting you get a touch more fluidity and subtlety when using the 3.5mm cable than when going wireless.

Packed with ideas

The headphones’ adjustable noisecancellation is decent, subduing the world outside just enough for you to still keep an ear out for train announcements. It’s serviceable, but it’s nowhere near the total silence you get with the Bose QuietComfort 35s or Sony MDR-1000Xs. Even on the highest noise-cancelling setting, you’ll still hear your colleagues’ chatter or the sound of cars whooshing by. These certainly won’t be the cans to take on long-haul flights if you want to block out the sound of the plane's engine. Libratone’s first foray into headphones is packed with great ideas, but the execution needs some refining. The build, comfort and features are all there, but fiddly touch controls and a pleasant, if unremarkable, way with sound means the Q Adapt On-Ears don’t quite reach the heights they were aiming for.

says

Rating ★★★ ★

SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT Plenty of good ideas, but these Libratones need more insightful sound and better features to compete with the best

www.whathifi.com 11


FIRST TESTS

Rega Brio | Stereo amplifier | £600

“A monoclewearing dandy”

Rega has kept the half-width size but upgraded the chassis materials

FOR Great detail, dynamics and agility; headphone out; build

AGAINST Some rivals offer more features

★★★★★

Delicate and ferocious – the Rega Brio is a mighty talented amplifier. We’ve waited six long years for the successor to one of our favourite budget amplifiers – the Awardwinning Brio-R – and Rega has come back with a redesigned Brio that is every bit as exciting as its predecessor. And more. Now in its sixth generation (the original Brio first launched in 1991), the new Brio feels both familiar and completely new. It’s been redesigned, but in a way that harks back to the retro style of the older Brios. It remains an analogue-only amplifier, but it now, finally, has a headphone socket. And, crucially, it sounds terrific.

play song after song through it. It ducks and weaves its way around tricky compositions, tying all musical strands together in a way that’s authoritative and skilful without ever losing its sense of fun. The sustained build up of tension in Arvo Pärt’s Fratres is a real test of the Rega’s talents: the strings are light but urgent, and you can hear the screechy texture of the bow scraping across them. The piano notes are pleasingly solid, and the sudden drop into silence after it ratchets up the tension is handled masterfully. The leading edges of notes are stunningly precise, and there’s a depth to the quieter moments that’s as impressive as the crescendo is controlled. You can lose yourself in the way the Rega handles whatever song you throw at it, regardless of the source. It’s not so analytical that it comes over like a clinical lecture in how music should sound, but it is revealing enough to expose the differences in recordings and the atmospheres of songs. The dreamy, melodic tones of Alt-J’s Breezeblocks comes across all fluid and delicate through our streamer, while the playing of Alice in Chain’s Unplugged album on vinyl conveys the live audience, the

much bigger scale and the deliberate roughness of the production. Listen to the same songs through the Brio's new headphone socket and you’ll find the same presentation: it’s a terrifically musical amp.

The best of the past

Everything we loved about the Brio-R is here: its incredible sense of rhythm, the punchy dynamics; the agility, detail and fun. The new Rega Brio takes all of those prime qualities and hones them even more finely. As a result the sound it produces is clearer, more detailed and more muscular. If we had one issue with the old Brio-R, it’s that its lean character meant it had an excitable treble that needed careful matching with the rest of your kit. So we're particularly delighted to report the leanness has been filled out by the new Brio, making it much more forgiving than its predecessor when it comes to pairing with speakers. It has a fuller, richer sound that also has a gorgeous solidity running through every single note.

More than enough

The same 50W per channel (into 8 ohms) runs through the amplifier’s veins and, while that may not sound like much, you only have to crank up A Perfect Circle’s Pet to feel the sheer force of wailing guitars and thunderous drums from the second you hit play. It goes loud. And it’s thrilling. But the Rega hasn’t transformed into some muscle-bound heavyweight. Despite the satisfying oomph that accompanies weighty music, it's this amp’s nimble footing and rhythmic prowess that's the true highlight and the thing that makes us

12 www.whathifi.com

A sense of balance

Thanks to its newly acquired sonic weight, the Brio is evenly balanced across the frequencies. The top end sparkles and yet there’s a sweetness to it, while basslines enjoy depth and rumbling textures. Voices are intimate and expressive: you can hear the restraint in Corey Taylor’s usually roaring vocals in From Can To Can’t, while Tom Waits’ gravelly tones are textured and full of rawness in Alice. At this price, the Brio’s main rival is the Award-winning Cambridge CXA60 (£500). While the affable Cambridge is more open and delivers a bigger scale of sound, it sounds soft around the edges compared with the Brio’s punchy, articulate sound. And we get another surprise as we jump up the price range to the Rega Elex-R (£900) and Elicit-R (£1600). The £600 Brio can’t match its bigger brothers in terms of scale, subtlety and dynamism, but it does

USE IT WITH Rega Planar 3/ Elys 2 £625 Given the brand, it’s no surprise our 2016 turntable Product of the Year, with Elys 2 cartridge, is a great match here

IN DETAIL... A strictly analogue approach makes the rear connection panel a simple (and tidy) affair


FIRST TESTS

“It’s an upgrade in every way – the kind of amplifier we want to leave on and play our entire music collection through. Again and again”

KEY FEATURES

4 x line-level inputs

N

S

Moving-magnet phono stage

6.3mm headphone output

have the crisp top end and sense of fun that holds up against its fiercer siblings. The sonic character remains the same, which is impressive for Rega’s budget amp. The new Brio has been revamped throughout, from an updated circuit board layout to the swooped front-panel design that’s reminiscent of early ’90s Brios. Every tweak to the circuits and power supply has been made to help isolation and keep the main signal path as clear as possible, leading to better overall sound quality. There are now two separate power supplies in the Brio: the bigger for the power amplifier section, the smaller for the phono stage and preamplifier.

Same size, different material The half-width design’s return is welcome – it looks smart and is ideal for those with limited space. But there’s more going on than simple cosmetics. The chassis has been redesigned: it’s now made of a two-part fully aluminium case that helps its heat-sinking and reliability. This 5kg amp is so reassuringly robust you almost get your money’s worth in heft alone. The curved front and rearranged display are minimalist and elegant. Only the volume dial, a couple of buttons and red

LEDs adorn the glossy front panel. The power button and input selector click satisfyingly, and the numbered input icons light up accordingly when chosen. The Brio’s other prominent feature is that new volume dial: a hollowed-out metal ring that makes the amp look a bit like a monocle-wearing dandy. It changes the level responsively, and has a smooth action that’s lovely to use. Selecting inputs is swift and intuitive too, whether you’re using the front-panel button or the supplied remote.

Keeping it simple

Rega continues to keep things simple and analogue-only with the Brio, including a moving-magnet phono stage that’s designed to work harmoniously with the company's own Planar turntables. Around the back you’ll find four line-level inputs, the phono-stage inputs, and a pair of outputs for recording. A single pair of speaker terminals is also present – and that’s it. We can imagine many wanting digital inputs, too. After all, the Cambridge CXA60 offers digital inputs, a high-resolution DAC and Bluetooth streaming. Though it doesn’t have a phono stage… The headphone output is the Brio’s one new addition: the 6.3mm connection has

been carefully integrated to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the main speaker signal. It still takes its signal from the output amplifier, but there’s a separate relay switch that keeps the speakers and headphones separate when not in use.

Headphone flexibility

The headphone port can drive a wide variety of headphones, across a wide range of impedances. Rega says its engineers have tested headphones from 24 ohms to 300 ohms – so the Brio should comfortably be able to drive whatever pair you have. We loved the Rega Brio-R enough to give it a Best Buy Award in 2012, and continued to look upon it fondly even as newer amplifiers stole its crown. There’s a price hike (the Brio-R was £480 when we first tested it in 2011), but the new Rega Brio more than justifies every single penny of its £600 price. It’s an upgrade in every way, from its redesigned features to its immensely engaging, precise and subtle sound. It’s the kind of amplifier we want to leave on and play our entire music collection through. Again and again. And isn’t that what all good hi-fi is meant to do?

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT An incredibly talented amplifier in every way, this is the best Brio yet – and good value for money with it

www.whathifi.com 13


FIRST TESTS

Pathos In The Groove | Phono stage | £1250

“Up with the best at the price” FOR Insightful, entertaining sound; adjustability; fine build

What does it take to make a top-class phono stage? Great sound is a given, of course, but we also want easy cartridge matching, low levels of noise and excellent build quality. Pathos’s In The Groove delivers all these things with style. The job of a phono stage is arguably the hardest of all in amplification. These units deal with very low-level signals – in the order of millivolts – and amplify them by a factor of a thousand. Even the smallest distortion or added noise caused by the circuitry becomes obvious. Also consider that a cartridge is fussy about the electrical interface between it and the phono stage. Every model has different electrical demands too. The scale of the task is enormous.

Adjust right

Pathos has taken a sensible approach here. The In The Groove has a good spread of cartridge-loading adjustments, from resistance and capacitance to gain, and so should match most cartridges properly. The gain control is mounted on the back panel and is adjustable in four steps from 43dB (for moving magnets) all the way to 62dB (low-output moving coils). How do you find the right settings for your cartridge? The manufacturer should have the information on its website, or you could just have a listen and tune the settings to the sound you like best. You can’t damage anything doing this, so don’t worry. The engineers have tackled the noise issues by moving the power supply – invariably the most problematic part of the circuitry when it comes to electrical interference – outboard. It’s connected to the main unit by a fixed umbilical. Overall build is as good as we’ve come to expect from Pathos. While the In The Groove is one of the company’s most

AGAINST Nothing

★★★★★

More conservatively styled than the usual Pathos offering, but the finish is as classy as ever

conventional-looking designs – Pathos’s products are known for their extrovert styling – it’s still distinctive. The aluminium casework is solid and finished with care. Overall, this unit certainly feels worth the money – and then some. We plumb the Pathos into our reference set-up of Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable, Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power and ATC SCM50 speakers, sit back and enjoy. It doesn’t take long for the unit to come on song, but give it a couple of days and things become a little more transparent.

Sweet music

We recognise the Pathos family sound here. There’s a slight sweetness to the presentation coupled with a fluid, full-bodied balance that works well with a wide range of partnering kit and recordings. We start off with an old favourite, Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis, and like what we hear. This phono stage has a cohesive way with music. It doesn’t try to tear the recording apart in an attempt to dig up the tiniest detail – instead, it’s more concerned with organising the plentiful information it does unearth into a meaningful whole.

Rear panel includes XLR outputs and the four-stage gain adjustment switch

KEY FEATURES

N

S

Moving magnet/ Moving coil

Adjustable cartridge loading

Balanced outputs

USE IT WITH VPI Prime turntable £3750 An authoritative presentation and great detail make this a perfect partner

It transports you into the studio with those giants of jazz, delivering convincing shifts in intensity and pace coupled to an unswerving momentum with classics such as So What. Instruments from trumpet to piano and double bass are rendered with harmonic richness and no shortage of subtlety. The soundstage too, is drawn with skill, width and precision. Move to something with more bite, in the form of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run or Radiohead’s 15 Step, and the Pathos shifts gear seamlessly. There’s plenty of punch here and the ability to follow hardcharging rhythm tracks with determination. Class leaders such as Cyrus’s excellent Phono Signature show a little more speed, punch and low-frequency agility. But the Pathos counters with greater authority, a more organic way with vocals and a greater ability to convey large-scale dynamic shifts. Provided you have a suitably talented turntable – something around the three to four grand mark at least – we think you’ll love this phono stage. It’s right up there with the best we’ve heard at the price.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND BUILD FEATURES

VERDICT This is a fine, flexible phono stage that combines refinement with insight beautifully

14 www.whathifi.com


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FIRST TESTS

Devialet Gold Phantom | Wireless speaker | £2160

“Ballet-slipper poise with iron-fist impact” FOR Clever inside, striking outside; fulsome sound

When we reviewed Devialet’s remarkable Silver Phantom wireless speaker in 2015, we made many and various observations. One we failed to make, given the Silver Phantom is packing 3000W of power, was that it might be in any way short of grunt. So naturally enough Devialet is back with the Gold Phantom – it’s £500 more expensive than its Silver counterpart, and it’s got 50 per cent more power. That’s right, 4500W – which is good for a maximum 108dB/m sound pressure level. To put that into some sort of context, on paper at least, the Devialet Gold Phantom is capable of peak volume levels comparable to those of a modest aircraft. Which, in any domestic situation, ought to be ample.

Striking looks

From the outside, little has changed – the Gold Phantom shares the same enclosure as its Silver sibling, and for the second time in just over a year we find ourselves struggling to find comparisons for the Devialet’s striking looks. At 26cm tall and 25cm wide, it’s similarly proportioned to one of those clever Dyson vacuum cleaners but, at 11.4kg, it's not quite as easy to tow around the floor. On the showroom shelf (or on one of its extra-cost support options Tree, Treepod or wall-mounting Gecko), only the 22-karat gold-plated covers on each side of the Gold Phantom set it apart from the Silver. Well, those and an extra £500 on the price. There are some changes beneath the skin, though. The Texas Instruments DAC of lesser Phantoms has been replaced by a proprietary converter embedded in Devialet’s Analogue Digital Hybrid (ADH) technology. Branded ADHV2, the hybrid technology combines Class A and Class D amplification in an effort to maximise the inherent benefits of each, while minimising the equally inherent shortcomings. The Gold Phantom tweeter is a titanium dome, a theoretical upgrade on the aluminium alternative used lower down the range. And, of course, there’s that whopping increase in peak power.

16 www.whathifi.com

AGAINST Needs greater space and subtlety in its delivery

Despite the DAC changes, the Gold Phantom tops out at the same maximum audio file resolution of 24-bit/192kHz as the Silver. Bandwidth is increased in both directions, down to 14Hz at the bottom end (where sound is not so much audible as physical) and 27kHz at the top (where sound is of more use to a dog than you). The Gold Phantom is designed as a wireless speaker, of course, and has both Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity. But there is also a digital optical socket for legacy equipment, and an ethernet connection for those who value signal stability over decorative minimalism.

No hyperbole

And for the seriously monied, multiple Gold Phantoms can be configured to work as everything from a stereo pair to a surround-sound cinema package to as many as 24 discrete zones using the cost-option Dialog hub. Control of any or all of the Gold Phantoms in your particular set-up is via the Spark app for Android, iOS and Windows. At every turn, there are big numbers attached to the Gold Phantom experience. As well as those concerning price or power, there’s the 1.2 tons of pressure required to hermetically seal the Phantom cabinet and the 30kg of thrust force driving the lateral woofers (this configuration, whereby the hermetically sealed woofers function under tremendously high pressure, is – with no apparent sense of hyperbole by Devialet – called Heart Bass Implosion).

★★★★ ★

Using the Dialog Hub, you can connect multiple Gold Phantoms to make a surroundsound system

KEY FEATURES

Bluetooth

Wi-fi

Dimensions (hwd) 26 x 25 x 34cm

USE IT WITH LG G5 £400 A smartphone that sounds as good* as a dedicated music player? Yes please! *(with Hi-fi Plus DAC)

For all its complicated architecture and crowd-pleasing numbers, the Gold Phantom functions as a wireless speaker in the most everyday sense: it’s simple to set up and equally painless to control. Its spherical, omnidirectional nature makes positioning it pretty straightforward (within the confines of its weight and size, of course), and getting the Devialet to a state of readiness is child’s play.

Handled with nonchalance

If you think the Gold Phantom looks a little mysterious as an object, it becomes downright dramatic when it starts to do its thing. We begin with a Tidal-via-LG G5 smartphone-derived listen to Nice Up The Function by Mr Scruff and Roots Manuva and, blimey, the Devialet is a sonic and visual handful right from the off. Sonically, it’s the low-frequency speed, punch and manoeuvrability that’s initially most impressive. This is a tune with a deep, stop/start and fast-moving bassline, and the Gold Phantom handles it with a nonchalance that speaks of unarguable authority and control – the out-and-out substance of the bass it generates is more commonly associated with great big drivers and even bigger cabinets. It hits startlingly hard, offers tremendous tonal and textural variation even down at the limits of its extension, and displays ballet-slipper poise to go with the iron-fist impact. Visually, the Devialet is like no other device outside the Phantom range. Accompanying the brick-cracking bass is a hectic flurry of movement from the side-firing woofers, the sort of alarmingly visual driver extension that in any other circumstances would have us leaping forwards to reduce the volume and prevent possibly terminal damage. But this is simply what the Gold Phantom does – it flaps its wings like a creature long since evolved beyond needing to fly, yet retaining a species memory of how it’s supposed to be done. It’s a bit of visual theatre you simply don’t get with any other product.


FIRST TESTS On the outside, the Gold Phantom looks the same as the Silver – and a bit like a clever vacuum cleaner

“If you think the Gold Phantom looks mysterious, it becomes downright dramatic when it starts to do its thing. It’s a sonic and visual handful from the off” Elsewhere, it’s a similarly singular and confident story. A 24-bit/192kHz file of Leonard Cohen’s Slow shows off the Devialet’s midrange fidelity. The variable pitch of Cohen’s voice, 80 years old by the time of this recording, is reproduced with prodigious detail and fidelity that makes his approximate phrasing endearing. The midrange overall is assertive enough to hold its own despite the low-end onslaught it’s riding above, but deft enough to reveal the minutiae of a singer’s

A power output of 4500W means the Gold Phantom can reach the same level of volume as a modest aircraf

palate-noises between lines of song. It’s grippy and poised, striking a reasonable balance between attack and subtlety. The move to a titanium tweeter means the Gold Phantom has greater reach, better management of transients and an altogether crisper high-frequency presentation than that of its more affordable siblings. The relentless ride cymbal and general percussive whirlwind of Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ charge through Nick Lowe’s (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding is delivered faithfully, the Devialet’s ability to reproduce treble sounds with instant attack and equally accurate decay just adding to the overall propulsion of its presentation.

Dense fog

For all of its forcefulness, the Gold has the ability to handle the gossamer fragility of Nina Simone’s I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good) with sensitivity. Such a languidly intense recording is at odds with the Devialet’s general modus operandi, but it gives the song decent weight of emotion. The timing, and general sense of interplay between musicians, is admirable. Ultimately, though, it’s happiest when delivering a well-controlled storm of action. For all the fidelity demonstrated throughout the frequency range, there’s a lack of separation and space to the sound

that makes the Devialet sound dense in the manner of fog – everything happens at speed, with an assertion that sometimes borders on aggression, and the smallish soundstage as a consequence is not so much muddled as crowded. There’s the sense that Devialet has overachieved with the Gold Phantom’s bass response, almost to the extent the rest of the frequency range has been supercharged to match. So it’s not perfect. But then again very little in the world of consumer electronics is, and Devialet’s achievements with the Gold Phantom, in engineering and packaging terms alone, are mighty. Add eye-catching numbers, eye-popping visual impact and ear-grabbing sound, and it’s obvious this is a product that will seduce many – even at such a premium price. It’s certainly worth seeing.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT Going simply on the basis that more is more, the Devialet Gold Phantom has more of everything

www.whathifi.com 17


FIRST TESTS

Pairing the T5 with other devices is simple – just hold down the button on top of the speaker

click here to view offer

Audio Pro Addon T5 | Wireless speaker | £180

Home improvements FOR Great dynamism; clear soun

AGAINST Lack of portability

★★★★ ★

Though the T5 looks portable, it doesn’t have an in-built battery, so you won’t be taking it out and about

“The T5 has the same expressive, well-balanced and full sound of the T3, but is given more weight” Pay cheques, RAM, pizzas – all these things prove the adage that bigger is better. Audio Pro appears to have taken a similar approach to its Addon T5 wireless speaker, which looks like a beefed-up version of the Addon T3. The company’s T3 wireless speaker was a recent What Hi-Fi? Award-winner in the sub-£200 category, earning praise for its comfortable and communicative sound. It’s fair to say that expectations are high for the similarly priced T5, which is just a bit bigger but doesn’t have the T3’s portability.

Space and time

The T5 feels heftier than it looks, and the matte housing is firmly built. On its face are a couple of 20mm tweeters with 10cm woofer in the middle. Bluetooth is king right now in the world of wireless, and the T5 comes with Bluetooth 4.0. It has a plug-in-and play approach – pairing with other devices is simple – just hold down the dedicated button on the top of the speaker. If you’d prefer to stay wired, the T5 has a 3.5mm audio jack, and you can toggle between Bluetooth functionality and its auxiliary input at the touch of a button. There’s also a USB port on the back so you can plug in a Google Cast device or simply charge your phone. This USB is for power only, so you won’t be able to use it for playback. However, unlike the smaller T3 model, the T5 doesn’t have an in-built

18 www.whathifi.com

battery, so this isn’t a speaker to be taking out and about with you. The T5 has the same great character of the T3 – an expressive, well balanced, and full sound – but is given more weight. Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi flick Interstellar revolves around space and time, and Hans Zimmer’s score for the film reflects that. Playing the song Mountains, the T5 has enough heft in its wide presentation to convey the authority of the music.

Ticking along nicely

It’s also got a good sense of timing, and that’s certainly vital here. According to movie buffs, each tick in the track (there’s one every 1.25 seconds) represents how each interval astronaut Joseph Cooper spends on the ocean planet is an entire day on earth. The T5 keeps the pace nicely, never missing a beat. From deep space to deep bass, the low pulse in Drake’s Fake Love has a notably bigger punch than on the T3, tunefully reaching further down the frequencies while still sounding pretty tight. It’s immediately noticeable that there is more emphasis on the drumbeat. The T5 has a touch more insight too, revealing the multiple layers to the swooshing sound effect that punctuates each verse. On acoustic songs such as Lady

KEY FEATURES

3.5mm audio jack

USB port

Gaga’s Joanne, there’s more transparency to the soft drums and the squeak of the guitar’s chords changes. There’s the same clarity we would expect in the midrange and treble. We crank up the volume and play AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock ’n’ Roll) – the T5 takes the bagpipes and the distorted guitar in its stride, delivering a solid sound. The T5 has good kick to it, especially in the lower frequencies. Play something upbeat and you’ll find yourself nodding along within just a few seconds – but it doesn’t overstretch its boundaries by getting too aggressive as the volume rises. If you’re looking for an impressive stationary speaker, we can’t see a reason you’d shy away from the Audio Pro Addon T5. You’ll be hard pressed to get something better without dipping a lot deeper into your piggy bank.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND BUILD

Dimensions (hwd): 130 x 250 x 150mm

FEATURES

VERDICT If you’re looking for a decentsounding stay-at-home wireless speaker, you should start your search here


FIRST TESTS click here to view offer

Elipson Omega 100 RIAA BT | Turntable | £500

Elipson goes the extra mile FOR Entertaining listen; decent dynamic range; great features

While much of the rest of the world appears to be regressing to the rather unsavoury ideologies of several decades ago, it is somewhat refreshing to see Elipson acting a little more progressively by nudging the turntable firmly towards the 21st century. The Omega 100 RIAA BT – which admittedly sounds like something a dentist would witter to their assistant as they rummage around in your mouth – adds a phono stage, USB output and Bluetooth to your trusty record player without dispensing with the company’s traditional aesthetic chic.

A lucky dip

It wouldn’t be the first time a hi-fi manufacturer has tacked on a lucky dip of unnecessary extras to its product in lieu of bettering its sonic performance – short of a tin opener attached to a pair of floorstanders, we’ve seen a lot of (if not all) conceivable permutations. But these Elipson add-ons are entirely relevant to a new epoch of vinyl junkies. As well as giving you the ability to archive all your records on your computer via the USB port, a built-in phono stage means you can plug the Omega straight into your line-level amplifier, while Bluetooth connectivity means (if you have wireless speakers) you needn’t have any physical connections whatsoever. We refer to these as add-ons, however, because that’s what they are. Elipson has directed its main focus toward designing a turntable that sounds as good through your speakers as it does when a dealer reads you out the list of features. To that end, the French company claims the orbital bearing structure of the Omega 100 RIAA BT’s tonearm is ideally balanced for precision and accurate tracking – and on the nose it has attached an Ortofon OM10 cartridge, a staple in the past for many of our favourite turntables at this level. Weight and anti-skating are fully adjustable, so you’ve the freedom to customise this turntable with a different cartridge should you wish – but you don’t actually have to toy with it all from the box. Set-up is as simple as fitting the belt, plugging in and flicking the Elipson’s gloriously tactile switch to set it spinning at either 33rpm or 45rpm.

20 www.whathifi.com

AGAINST Sound could be better organised

★★★★ ★

The Omega 100 RIAA BT has features such as a USB output and Bluetooth, but keeps the traditional aesthetic We do the former and play Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. The record’s debonair smoothness is far from lost on the Omega 100 RIAA BT, which manages to combine a respectable level of detail, solidity and an even balance with a dynamic and rhythmic understanding, allowing the listener real insight into the album’s character. No, it isn’t the most analytical of performances – nor should you expect it to be at this price – but we are neither dissatisfied or bored.

KEY FEATURES

USB

Elevated timing

Glum, but not gloomy

We change records to The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave to see how those characteristics affect a vocal performance. In short: it does it very well. James Graham’s delivery is typically glum, but far from sonically gloomy. The Elipson has enough of a grasp of subtle dynamics to colour the performance with the apathy, bile and sorrowful emotion the lyrics so often describe. The main weakness this record does highlight in the deck is organisation. Some

of Andy MacFarlane’s guitar lines, for example, with their whirling, sweeping delays, are often a tad confused. They knit finely with other instruments, but the Elipson can sometimes appear overwhelmed by the effects in which the guitars themselves are drenched.

Cartridge supplied

Bluetooth

“The add-ons to the Omega 100 RIAA BT are entirely relevant to a new epoch of vinyl junkies”

We switch to Rega’s Planar 2 and those subtle organisational deficiencies are no longer present. The performance is generally more cohesive, as well as offering an elevated sense of timing and dynamics. But while in absolute terms the Planar 2 is more than £100 cheaper than the Elipson, they aren’t exactly like-for-like competitors. Once you’ve added a phono stage, you’ve pretty much arrived at the same price, and that’s forgoing the Bluetooth capabilities. Still, we’re not necessarily awarding stars for those extras – however useful they may be. If you aren’t fussed about the Elipson’s appendages, this is nevertheless a good-sounding turntable well worthy of its four-star status.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

Even without the extra benefits, this is a fine-sounding deck

VERDICT We can’t help but like Elipson’s Omega 100 RIAA BT. It’s a pleasant listen and comes with some handy extra functions


FIRST TESTS Build quality is good, connections are plentiful and there’s a choice of seven finishes

Steljes NS3 | Desktop speakers | £200

Glossy, but a bit too edgy FOR Sleek design; good connectivity; powerful bass

AGAINST Hard, bright edge; needs a bit more detail

When you think of British design, what comes to mind? Red phone boxes, the London Underground map, the Mini or Concorde, perhaps? According to Steljes Audio, you can add the NS3 desktop speakers – a “beautifully British design” – to that list. They certainly look good, but do they have the sound quality to match?

keep these speakers out of the way of anything (or anyone) that might be tempted to prod or poke at them.

Sleek yellow is just the start

If there’s one thing the NS3s have going for them, it’s that they look sleek. As well as the yellow of our test sample, they come in another six colours, including ‘Lagoon Blue’, ‘Gun Metal Grey’ and ‘Vermillion Red’. This is a hefty pair of speakers, weighing in at about 6kg, and the glossy finish on the casing makes them look more expensive than they are. On the tech side, there’s a 25mm soft-dome tweeter and a 10cm woven fibreglass driver. A word of warning: there’s no grille covering the drivers, so you should

“The NS3s sound decent. For such a small product, the low frequencies are surprisingly deep”

A simple, effective system

Considering this is a pair of low-cost desktop speakers, connections are plentiful. According to Steljes, if you’ve got it, the NS3’s will work with it. The back of the left speaker has an optical input, a 3.5mm jack and a stereo RCA connection. There’s also a handy USB port on the back for charging devices, although it doesn’t support audio playback. The NS3s can connect to devices via Bluetooth using the dedicated button on the remote, with a flashing blue light telling you when it’s in pairing mode. It’s a satisfyingly simple system. You can also use the remote to alter bass or treble, which is a nice touch.

Impressively deep lows

And on the whole, the NS3s sound decent. For such a small product, the low frequencies are surprisingly deep. Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta has a strong bassline, and the NS3s manage to dive down and bring up that force. Rhythmically, the NS3s are pretty responsive – playing Old Friends from the soundtrack of The Hobbit, these speakers

★★★ ★ ★ KEY FEATURES

45W x 2 power output

Bluetooth

USB charging

can handle the slow, smooth opening notes as well as they can the speed and adventure in the strings midway through the song. But they are let down somewhat by their treble. Kanye West’s Power has an added hard, bright edge – not only in his vocals, but also in the backing piano. The treble isn’t particularly well integrated either, sounding disconnected from the rest of the music. We might be able to overlook this in small doses, but it becomes grating over time, especially as the NS3s are billed as a pair of dedicated speakers for your TV or games console. They also need a little more subtlety and detail. Your Best American Girl by Mitski has layer upon layer of sound, with erratic noises that should come through clearly. The NS3s can’t quite deliver those fine details, the sharp bursts of feedback or crashing cymbals for example, leaving the song sounding a tad hollow. And where Mitski’s voice should cut through the background sounds as a point of stability amidst the disorder, the space the NS3s give it isn’t quite as organised as is needed to really tie the song together.

A touch too much edge

For a low-cost desktop solution, the NS3s look the part. There are enough ways to connect your players to keep them versatile, they are aesthetically pleasing, and they have some solid bass power. Unfortunately, their sound is just a bit too edgy and imprecise to leave a lasting impression. They require a few more tweaks for us to fully recommend them.

says

Rating ★★★ ★

SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT Stylish speakers with good kick to their sound, but need some refinement

www.whathifi.com 21


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The Piega Classic 3.0 speakers feature rear-firing port, whic uses the rear wall to add bass emphasis

Piega Classic 3.0 | Stereo speakers | £900

Piega’s quality is unheard of FOR Authoritative sound; excellent build and finish

Never heard of Piega? We wouldn’t blame you, particularly if you live in the UK. This Swiss speaker manufacturer was founded back in 1986, but over the decades its presence in the British market has been sporadic at best. That’s a shame, because the company makes some hugely capable designs, and has specialised in ribbon drive units from the beginning. Look at the current range and you’ll find not only in-house ribbon tweeters but also clever coaxial designs that couple tweeter and midrange in a single array – a bit like a ribbon version of Tannoy’s celebrated Dual Concentric drivers. The Classic 3.0s are the entry-level of the company’s portfolio, but that doesn’t make them any less appealing. They’re chunky boxes, standing 34cm high and 21cm wide, with a lovely finish – the deep gloss lacquer puts most rivals to shame. You have three options: piano black, piano white and the polished Macassar ebony of our review sample. There’s substance here too. That cabinet feels immensely rigid, and is made with obvious care.

Firm foundations

The technical highlight is that tweeter. Engineered in-house, it’s coupled to an 18cm mid/bass driver. As is typical, the low-end is tuned by a rear-firing port, so the sonic impact of a nearby wall is emphasised over a sealed box design. Cable connection is through a sturdy pair of binding posts. The Classic 3.0s are capable of a surprising amount of low-end output. In our test suite they sound most at home well away from the rear and side walls – we think a metre or so away from these should work well in most rooms. A pair of solid stands is essential too, if you want to hear what these speakers can really do. The same goes for partnering kit. These Piegas are insightful performers with a good balance of resolution and dynamics, but they will manage to display that only if the electronics are right. Consider partnering them with the likes of the Rega Elex-R amplifier with Naim’s CD5 si CD player or Cambridge Audio’s Azur 851N streamer as source, and we’re sure you’ll find plenty to like. Once they're given a day or so to bed in, we can’t help but warm to these speakers. They’re not perfect but there’s enough quality here to keep us listening for hours.

AGAINST Sound could do with a bit more bite

★★★★ ★ The cabinet is made with care, while the Macassar ebony and deep gloss lacquer puts rivals to shame

We start off with some large-scale classical music in the form of Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Here the Piegas impress by generating a sound full of authority and scale. They have a meaty low-end that digs surprisingly deep for a speaker of this size. That bass heft gives a firm foundation for the rest of the sound to build from. There’s a solid dynamic punch and the ability to float a pleasingly expansive sound stage populated by nicely layered instruments. Tonally, things aren’t wholly neutral – the bass is a little over-confident, while the mid and higher frequencies are happy to take a back seat. These traits don’t go too far though, and it’s pretty obvious there’s little to complain about when it comes to articulation and insight.

Cultured sonic balance

There’s fine integration between the drive units, which results in an informative and fluid midrange, something that comes to the fore with vocal-led material such as Bang Bang Bang by Tracy Chapman. The Piegas revel in the texture and nuance of Chapman’s passionate voice, while building a convincing instrumental backdrop around it. There’s a fine level of detail throughout, coupled to a firm grasp of the song’s insistent rhythm track. That ribbon tweeter is a lovely unit, delivering the sort of speed and precision even the best dome designs merely hint at.

KEY FEATURES

Ribbon tweeter

Single wire

18cm bass driver

There’s less body to treble sound than we’re used to, but the compensation is a sea of low-level detail that’s usually left unheard by most alternatives. Move to the likes of Yeezus by Kanye West and the Piegas sound a little less comfortable. They’re organised, insightful and pack a solid low-end kick, but sound a little laid-back when it comes to attack and dynamic punch at mid to high frequencies. The result is still an enjoyable sound, but one that isn’t as exciting or entertaining as rivals such as Revel’s Concerta2 M16 or ATC’s SCM11s manage. Make no mistake, these Piegas are capable speakers. They have a cultured and authoritative sonic balance that has plenty of appeal, and, even if they aren’t the last word in excitement, they are still easily worth an audition.

says USE IT WITH Rega Elex-R £925 This Award-winning amplifier delivers a combination of detail, dynamics and crisp timing no price rival can better

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND COMPATIBILITY BUILD

VERDICT The Piega Classic 3.0s are capable of some impressive sounds, but are up against some tough competition

www.whathifi.com 23


FIRST TESTS This second-gen offering has a new sound processor and an HDMI input

click here to view offer

A degree of class from Cambridge ★★★★★

FOR Tight bass; full midrange; good insight; HDMI input

AGAINST Lack of display; remote could be nicer

When the first TV5 soundbase came out, there was a lot we liked about it. It had punchy bass, powerful sound, was sensibly sized and pretty well priced – an all-around quality product. With the release of the TV5 v2, the company is looking to build on its success. This soundbase has a new digital sound processor (DSP) for converting digital signals into audio, and it's been given an HDMI input, for playing hi-res audio, alongside its conventional ports. The TV5 v2 has the same understated design as its predecessor – nice and sturdy – and should fit in to most environments (and under most televisions) discreetly. Facing you are two 6cm drivers, while underneath are a couple of 16cm subwoofers for the low frequencies. And there’s a lot you can connect up to this soundbase to make those drivers work. The TV5 v2 has a 3.5mm input jack, an RCA connection, optical input and aptX Bluetooth connectivity, as well as HDMI for 24-bit/192kHz audio.

your television, but ergonomically means you have no numerical way of telling your overall volume, subwoofer volume, or which EQ setting the soundbase is on. One thing that Cambridge has redesigned is the remote, but that’s a mixed bag overall. The input buttons can get caught under the remote’s top plate, feeling inferior to the indented, central mute button or the ridged EQ buttons. If, however, you find it’s not to your liking, the TV5 v2 does support IR learning – so you can use other remotes.

Familiar features

If you want to tweak that sound, the v2’s EQ settings are nominally similar to the original TV5: ‘Music’ is a flat EQ (and the one we use); ‘TV’ enhances vocals and the upper bass; ‘Film’ enhances vocals and lower bass frequencies for efects such as explosions; ‘Voice’ restricts the bass and treble to reinforce speech. And, like the first TV5, the v2 lacks a display – instead opting for an LED that changes colour to signify audio input. Aesthetically, this feels a little too much like Hal 9000 is staring at you from beneath

Quality where it matters

KEY FEATURES

Dimensions (hwd): 10 x 73 x 34cm

Bluetooth

Get past some of its questionable design elements and the v2 has superb sound quality. Putting it through its paces with a Blu-ray of Guardians Of The Galaxy, and connected via the optical input, we’re treated to an impressive performance. We skip to the scene in which the heroes escape the prison base, and the v2 has enough dynamism to fill our medium-sized testing room. Between the earthy clunk of Rocket Racoon loading a space-age gun, the subsequent high-octane shootout, or Gamora’s softly spoken insults, the soundbase handles each element with ease. And it keeps those elements nicely organised. While the gang is working out its plan, the TV5 v2 ensures you are aware of everything that’s happening – little aspects such as the sound of wires being pulled or Rocket’s humming as he hotwires the battery aren’t lost beneath the soundtrack. The bass is tight, too. The quick thuds as the alien Drax knocks out the security guards are responsive and punchy, and the explosions as Starlord destroys the prison’s robots are satisfyingly forceful.

HDMI

Changing to something more down-toearth, we plug the HDMI cable into the TV5 v2 and play The Imitation Game on Blu-ray. There’s a great amount of insight in this soundbase: Hugh Alexander’s angry hurl of a glass at the Enigma machine delivers a shatter of precise crispness – the TV5 v2 digging up detail you might not otherwise hear from your television. This quality extends to the midrange as well. When John Cairncross asks Alan Turing whether he wants lunch, the croak in Turing's baffled voice is palpable and believable. While the TV5 v2 might be marginally behind in terms of midrange detail compared with the similarly priced Canton DM 55, it does have a greater sense of scale and a more potent bass than the DM 55 to make up for it.

On display

Much like the first TV5, this soundbase’s lack of display means that it’s not quite as easy to use as other, similarly priced options. If a TV5 v3 emerges, we’d like to see one added. But sonically, the TV5 v2 is a great soundbase. The bass is tight, the midrange is solid and full, and it provides a good amount of dynamism across any input. Cambridge Audio certainly knows how to make these devices sound great, and ultimately that’s what gets the TV5 v2 rated so highly.

says

Rating ★★★★★ SOUND FEATURES

A couple of 16cm subs underneath deal with the bass – and admirably

24 www.whathifi.com

BUILD

VERDICT A sonically superb soundbase from the bass to the treble – with sturdiness and style to boot


FIRST TESTS click here to view offer

Yamaha CRX-N470D | Music system | £350

“A particularly adept performer” FOR Detailed yet warm sound; times well; MusicCast

AGAINST Bettered by the class leaders in dynamics

★★★★ ★

If, as a child, you bolted toward the Woolworths pick ’n’ mix with any other mentality than that of cramming at least one of everything into a paper bag, you were doing it entirely wrong. We might have lost that High Street favourite, but there are alternative means to sate that innate human desire for variety and abundance. One such takes the shape of Yamaha’s CRX-N470D, a mini hi-fi system with more features than a Dr Dre album.

Traditional and modern

There’s a healthy abundance of the more traditional – a CD player, and FM and DAB digital radio as well as USB, RCA and 3.5mm analogue inputs – washed down with Bluetooth, AirPlay, wi-fi and DLNA, internet radio, Spotify Connect and Qobuz for all your wireless needs and wants. But the function Yamaha offers that its competitors cannot (due to it being a proprietary technology) is MusicCast. Effectively that’s shorthand for the ability to connect multiples of the company’s hi-fi and A/V products to work in unison. In the case of a micro-system such as this, it’s made particularly freeing by the fact that, in theory, you’re no longer restricted to traditional stereo speakers.

The comforting Wilderness

We do connect traditional speakers to the CRX-N470D, however – a pair of Q Acoustics 3020s – and begin playing a CD of Explosions In The Sky’s The Wilderness. There’s a comforting, analogue warmth to the synthesisers that open the record, and the Yamaha comes across as a tender, sympathetic performer. The level of detail, as other instruments join, is satisfying.

A sub output sits alongside the usual RCA and 3.5mm inputs

“We’re welcomed with a sense of the CRX-N470D’s scale as the soundstage opens at the track's crescendo. It’s reassuring that the only diminutive aspect of this system is its physical stature” We’re welcomed with a sense of the CRX-N470D’s scale as the soundstage opens at the crescendo of the first track, around three minutes in. It’s reassuring the only diminutive aspect of this system is its physical stature. The decent sense of timing and dynamics means the Yamaha is able to portray the more boisterous character of later tracks such as Tangle Formations and Logic Of A Dream. There is a vivid understanding of the atmospherics of the record, which the CRX-N470D renders without division.

Vocal appreciation

The system is bettered sonically when we switch to Denon’s Award-winning D-M40DAB – widely available for under £300 with speakers. Most noticeable when playing an album with vocal depth, in this case Savages’ Adore Life, the Denon offers a more subtle appreciation of dynamics. The Yamaha is by no means lethargic, but it doesn’t capture the momentum or the animosity in Jenny Beth’s voice quite as well. The Denon’s performance is more urgent than the Yamaha manages – forceful even. It’s perhaps not such an easy listen in absolute terms, but one more befitting the character of the record. Arrangements seem better organised with the Denon too. There’s probably more

KEY FEATURES

Bluetooth

MusicCast

Spotify Connect

space to work in the Yamaha’s soundstage, but instruments aren’t as well tethered one to another. Again, the N470D dishes out a cohesive performance, just one perhaps not quite as adept as that of its Denon rival.

Compare with care

We wouldn’t give too much consideration to the price difference between the two, because it’s somewhat offset by Yamaha’s functions. In an era of multi-room, the benefit of MusicCast can't be overlooked. But the sonic benefits of the D-M40DAB marginally outweigh the enhanced functionality of its rival. Regardless, the CRX-N470D is a particularly adept performer, with a plethora of features, that offers foundation for a hi-fi system with scope to grow.

says

Rating ★★ ★★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT Even disregarding the draws of MusicCast, the CRX-N470D is a detailed, adept performer with no startling flaws

www.whathifi.com 25


FIRST TESTS click here to view offer

Sony PS4 Pro | 4K games console | £350

A semi-Pro 4K player FOR Rich colour; crisp detail; good handling of 4K games

AGAINST No 4K Blu-ray; streaming needs HDR upgrade

★★★★ ★

If your main decision on upgrading from your PlayStation to the PS4 Pro is based on whether it will make your video games look better, then good news: it does. But those wanting to use the PS4 Pro as a gateway to putting 4K and HDR video content into their home may need to wait a bit longer. The Pro is a step in the right direction, but there are still improvements to be made. We’d expect any cutting-edge video product to support 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and the PS4 Pro does – but only up to a point. While various 4K and HDR improvements have been made to video game replay, the PS4 Pro supports 4K content only when streaming, specifically from Netflix and YouTube. These apps, however, are yet to be updated with HDR support – and Amazon Video still needs a 4K and HDR update.

On the audio side, the PS4 Pro is more complex than expected. Changing the default decoder for games soundtracks is in the main settings menu, while the setting for films is in a separate audio menu found when you press the controller’s Options button while watching a Blu-ray. It’s something to note when setting up your console, as you’ll need to change it to set your sound from the standard PCM to bitstreaming Dolby Digital or DTS. Neither does it support Dolby Atmos, instead playing encoded content only as TrueHD. Generally, making it through the menus in the PS4 Pro is a lot easier than on the Xbox One S. The screen layout is identical to that of the standard PS4, with icons ordered horizontally along the screen, and content divided into vertical subsections. Even first-time users are unlikely to get lost in the navigation screens. It’s not perfect. You are unable to move icons about, so don’t have the same level of customisation as with Microsoft. And while Sony has updated the UI so you can place icons into folders – useful if you want to put your games in one place – you can’t move apps placed into folders by default.

Sony has also made changes to the button layout, replacing the touchsensitive buttons with mechanical ones, and has moved the light bar from the top of to the front of the console. These do make it feel easier to use than the original PS4 – a little physical click goes a long way. As with the PS4, you can choose to lie the Pro horizontally, or place it upright on its stand, available for an extra £20.

No 4K Blu-ray

Sony has taken the controversial decision not to give the PS4 Pro a 4K Blu-ray drive, and thanks to what the company believes is a trend towards video streaming, it won’t be getting one any time soon. Whatever the reasoning, Sony’s decision limits how 4K content can be played, meaning the PS4 Pro falls behind its main rival the Xbox One S (which does play 4K Blu-rays). For those with poor internet speed, or who have purchased 4K Blu-ray discs, the PS4 Pro is unlikely ever to be the go-to player.

Let's get physical

While the Xbox One S is slimmer than its predecessor, the PS4 Pro is bigger than the original, measuring a few centimetres deeper and wider then the standard PS4. At 3.3kg, it’s also a little heavier.

Graphic content

The PS4 Pro has a noticeably crisp Blu-ray picture. The folds and creases in the uniform of young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game are clearly visible, and there’s enough detail in the facial expressions of Benedict Cumberbatch’s pseudo-emotionless portrayal of the mathematician – furrowed brows and distinct anger when things don’t go his way – to lend believability to the role. The colours are pleasingly rich too. The opening scene of the monster movie Pacific Rim, when the first kaiju break San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, looks bold and bright. That doesn’t change when panning across a landscape or when the camera moves underwater for the first robot versus monster battle. For PS4 games, the Sony’s upscaler is impressive, and you could be fooled into

ALSO CONSIDER Xbox One S £350 Frustrating ‘4K console‘ promises much on paper, but doesn’t quite deliver

IN DETAIL...

Video game replay gets 4K and HDR improvements, but the PS4 Pro only supports 4K content when streaming

26 www.whathifi.com

The PS4 Pro looks similar to the original PS4. USB ports on the front are used for charging the controllers

The front-loading disc drive is nicely integrated into the front panel of the PS4 Pro console

A range of connections, including the HDMIs, are located on the back panel of the PS4 Pro


FIRST TESTS The PS4 Pro will make games look better, but as a gateway to 4K and HDR video you will have to wait

“For first time console-buyers or gamers wanting to upgrade, the PS4 Pro is a solid choice. If you’re looking to integrate 4K and HDR into your home cinema set-up, this isn’t the best way” KEY FEATURES

Storage size: 1TB

Dimensions 295 × 55 × 327mm

thinking that Full HD games are actually 4K. The Pro has a unique method of tracking the objects called an ID buffer, which can more accurately account for the location of edges of in-game objects. The PS4 Pro also employs checkerboard rendering, which makes the edges of images crisper and textures more detailed in comparison to standard geometric rendering. Where developers have optimised existing 1080p video games, the result is much better-defined graphics. You will need a 4K television to see these improvements though.

Information download Weight: 3.3kg

Playing Uncharted 4: A Thief's End – one of 36 games currently optimised for the PS4 Pro – while connected to a 1080p projector, the optimisation is not obvious. However, comparing a standard PS4 and PS4 Pro on a 4K HDR television, the greater detail in the environments of the optimised game on the PS4 Pro is clear. It runs noticeably smoother, too. The PS4 Pro can play 4K games without a 4K player, because video-game discs are distinct from Blu-rays. When you insert a 4K game, the data on the disc is combined with information downloaded from the internet, which makes playing it in its 4K resolution possible. But compared with the Sony UHP-H1 Blu-ray player, which is £30 cheaper than

the PS4 Pro, the console doesn’t have the same sense of subtlety in its colours as the dedicated player. While this is to be expected – the PS4 Pro is primarily a games machine, after all – it could be a factor. The lack of HDR is also noticeable. We stream Marco Polo: One Thousand Eyes on the Samsung UE55KS9000’s Netflix app, and the show has a deeper, more insightful image than via the app on the PS4 Pro. On the Samsung there’s a clear glint to Polo’s weapons that contrasts well with his dark surroundings, but it’s absent on the console. As such, the PS4’s streaming apps are unlikely to be used much. We connect the console to our reference Yamaha RX-A3060 amp, and discover the PS4 Pro organises its audio well. Play Man of Steel on Blu-ray and there’s a clear distinction between the whirring of the helicopter and the explosions of the collapsing oil tanker.

the UHP-H1 Blu-ray player delivers a more dramatic and dynamic sound overall. The kaiju roars in Pacific Rim are much more powerful, and convey the sense of scale to these city-destroying beasts. There’s also a bit more refinement in the sound as well – the whirring of Gypsy Danger as it raises its arms in the first kaiju fight has as a more mechanical sound to it that isn’t quite as obvious on the PS4 Pro.

A solid choice

For first time console-buyers or gamers wanting to upgrade from the PS4, the PS4 Pro is a solid choice. Games have potentially more detail, making good use of the 4K and HDR updates. Menus remain smooth to navigate, and the picture when watching video is crisp and rich – by comparison to the Xbox One S, this is the better choice in many ways. However, if you’re looking to integrate 4K and HDR into your home cinema set-up, the PS4 Pro isn’t the best way. Streaming apps aren’t as good as they need to be, and the lack of 4K Blu-ray playback means the console isn’t futureproof.

Weighty booms

The bass booms are responsive and weighty, which is satisfying when playing high-octane video games like Infamous: First Light. Performing combat moves, such as the ‘neon singularity’, is executed with an enjoyable thwack. The midrange is clear too, delivering dialogue without sounding congested or thick, whether you’re listening to music, watching a film or playing a game. However,

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ PERFORMANCE FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT The PS4 Pro makes games look better, but it still needs work to be an all-in-one 4K streamer and player

www.whathifi.com 27


INSIDER

To get your 4K TV fix via satellite, cable or broadband you’ll need a set- top box from Sky, Virgin or BT

to get 4K TV?

Sky, Virgin and BT are after your cash to provide you with Ultra HD content in all its glory. But how does each service compare, and what’s the cost?

T

he battle is on between the big pay-TV providers to get you to sign up to their new, premium 4K (or Ultra HD) services. With more and more new TVs being 4K-capable, and big-budget series such as The Crown (Netflix) and The Grand Tour (Amazon) now available in 4K, the TV industry is convinced this is the ‘next big thing’. So if you got a nice big shiny 4K TV for Christmas, which TV provider should you turn to if you want to watch more than just 4K content on Netflix, Amazon and YouTube? BT Vision was first out of the gates in 2015 with its Sport Ultra HD channel, stealing a march on Sky and Virgin Media. BT’s 4K set-top box is based on the Humax DTR-T4000. But Sky hit back hard last year with its Award-winning Sky Q service – our subscription TV Product of the Year in 2016 – including its own 4K channel and wireless multiroom capability.

28 www.whathifi.com

Now Virgin TV is getting in on the act with its new TiVo-powered V6 box, also 4K capable, which replaces the ageing first-gen TiVo box introduced in 2011. Choices, choices. Here we provide a breakdown of what each service currently offers (see panel right). It pays to read the small print – the real cost will depend on which package you subscribe to, whether you take broadband from the same company and in some cases there are additional installation or set-up costs to consider. One thing’s for sure: 4K TV doesn’t come cheap.

Content

Not surprisingly, when it comes to content it’s sport that’s been one of the big drivers behind 4K TV. BT Vision has the rights to show some Premier League, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup matches, Aviva Premiership Rugby and the occasional NBA basketball match in

4K. It’s also shown MotoGP in UHD, and says it will “double the number of sports events broadcast in UHD this season”. Sky shares the Premier League rights with BT and has the rights to 126 matches, while BT has 42, so clearly has the edge as far as football is concerned. It also offers a selection of movies, natural history programmes and popular series such as Fortitude on Sky Atlantic in 4K. Virgin TV includes Netflix 4K, but has no dedicated 4K channel. There’s an increasing amount of 4K content (of varying quality) on YouTube, Amazon and Netflix of course. Virgin and BT have the advantage here as Netflix is built into their platforms, but you don’t get Netflix on Sky. That said, if your 4K TV includes Netflix and Amazon apps, you’ll be fine. What about the BBC, you ask? Well, it doesn’t have any firm plans to launch a 4K broadcast channel at the moment.


INSIDER

"The BBC is running 4K TV trials on the iPlayer, including a four-minute clip from Planet Earth II, but has no plans yet for a dedicated 4K channel” Instead, it has been running a limited 4K trial on iPlayer, the first being a fourminute clip of Planet Earth II.

High Dynamic Range

One interesting thing about the BBC trial is that it is using a specific form of HDR (High Dynamic Range) called Hybrid-Log Gamma (HLG). At the moment it’s compatible only with certain Panasonic TVs, although the Corporation says it is working with other TV manufacturers to make it viable with their sets too. As for HDR generally, none of the set-top boxes have it yet but Virgin says there will be an update to bring HDR to its V6 box next year – and it will be BBC/ HLG compatible. BT says HDR will be included on its new G5 box, with BBC/ HLG support coming via a future firmware update.

Multi-room

The other big feature being promoted by Sky is the Multiscreen capability of its Q service (an extra £12/month), with the Q Silver full-size box able to connect wirelessly to up to four Q Mini boxes in other rooms. Sky Q uses its own wireless mesh system like Sonos, so doesn’t depend on your home network’s speed. The Multiscreen deal gives you one Q Mini box at no extra cost, and you can add more Q Mini boxes to your set-up for £99 each. And if you have Sky broadband, each Mini box works as a

wi-fi booster too. With Sky Multiscreen, you can watch programmes on up to two extra TVs at the same time. Virgin’s approach to multi-room is not quite so elegant. Yes, you can connect one V6 to another wirelessly over your home network, but Virgin recommends only having two boxes connected this way, with the main one hooked up via an ethernet cable to the Superhub. If you want to add more set-top boxes, including, say, a first-generation TiVo box, then Virgin recommends using powerline ethernet sockets as a more robust way to connect them. That way you could have up to six TiVo boxes around the house. BT Vision says it offers a multi-room option, but not for 4K content. It’s also adding Dolby Atmos sound from 2017. It’s also worth remembering your TV will need to accept the 4K signal via an HDMI 2.0 connection that supports HDCP 2.2 content protection - some older sets don’t support it, so it’s worth checking your TV’s specs first.

Fluid viewing

You may have seen the phrase ‘Fluid viewing’ banded about when talking about Sky Q. This basically means you can start watching a programme on one screen, then pause it and pick it up on another should you so desire. Both Sky and Virgin offer this facility. Alternatively, you can stream certain

shows and download recordings to a tablet to watch at home or elsewhere. BT Vision will add this functionality in early 2017 through its new BT TV app. In addition, Virgin is offering its own so-called TellyTablet, running Android Marshmallow OS, as a portable 14in Full HD screen with rechargeable battery to use around the home. It’s available for an upfront cost of £299 or as part of Virgin’s Freestyle mobile bundle that spreads the cost over 24 months. One other area where Virgin claims superiority over Sky Q is in its recording capability: the V6 box has six tuners, so you can record six shows simultaneously and watch a seventh, while Sky Q ‘only’ has four tuners, so you can watch four shows and record a fifth. Whether that matters or not is up to you. We’ve already tested the BT Vision UHD YouView box, and awarded it four stars, while Sky Q got the full five stars and our 2016 Award for set-top box Product of the Year. We are still waiting for Virgin to install our V6 box, so our official verdict on that will have to wait until we’ve had the chance to test it sometime in the New Year. Until then, Sky Q is our provider of choice for 4K TV with its dedicated UHD channel and multi-room capability. The good news is that if you have invested in a 4K TV, the amount of content and services available is growing steadily, provided you are prepared to pay for it.

BRISTOL SHOW 2017 Turn the page for our Bristol Sound and Vision Show 2017 preview...

HOW THEY MEASURE UP

BT Vision UHD YouView

Sky Q

Virgin V6

4K compatible

Yes

Yes

Yes

Dedicated 4K channel

BT Sport 4K UHD

Sky Ultra HD

No

Netflix 4K

Yes

No

Yes Yes (wi-fi & Powerline)

Multi-room

Yes, but not 4K

Yes (wi-fi)

HDR

Yes, on new G5 box

No

Not yet, upgrade due 2017

BBC HLG compatible

On G5 box pending firmware update

No

Yes (with HDR upgrade)

Tuners

2

4

6

Storage

1TB

2TB (Q Silver box)

1TB

Stream/download to tablet

Yes (from 2017)

Yes

Yes

Sound

Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Atmos

Dolby Digital 5.1

Dolby Digital 5.1

iPlayer

Yes

Yes

Yes

Broadband speed required

44mbps

na

100mbps

Subscription cost

from £15/month

from £54/month

Inc with Mix package upwards

Set-top box

£50 (free for new customers)

Installation from £99

£100

www.whathifi.com 29


INSIDER

In association with

COME AND SEE US! The full What Hi-Fi? team will be out in force at Bristol, running our legendary demo room in the Bristol Suite and on hand all weekend to answer your queries

Join us at the Bristol Sound and Vision Show 2017! The legendary Bristol Show celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and it promises to be the biggest and best yet, with 172 exhibitors already confirmed. It's a chance to check out some of the hottest new hi-fi and AV products, many arriving straight from the their launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Here are some of the highlights: ■ Rega will demo its new Brio amplifier, featuring a second power supply and an improved circuitboard layout. 2nd Floor: 224

Continuum cone, plus a new subwoofer designed to partner with them. Lower Ground: Wallace ■ Convert Technologies will be revealing its new all-in-one home entertainment system, an upgrade from the £4000 Plato Class A amplifier. ■ Harbeth will be launching limited edition 40th anniversary editions of its SuperHL5plus speaker and flagship M40.2 with a walnut veneer finish.

■ Naim will be exhibiting its revamped Uniti range of audio streaming products. Terrace/Conservatory

■ The NuVista 600 and NuVista 600 CD will be on show from Musical Fidelity, as well as its Encore Connect all-in-one music player with built-in hard drive.

■ Bowers & Wilkins will be showing off its 800 Series Diamond speakers with Diamond dome tweeters and a

■ Plus we'll have £10,000 worth of Award-winning kit up for grabs in our exclusive show competition!

30 www.whathifi.com

ESSENTIAL INFO Adults One day £12.50 on the door I £12 online Two days £21.25 online only Three days £32 online only Students/Senior Citizens (over 65): One day £11 on the door I £10.45 online Two days £18.25 online only Three days £27.50 online only Accompanied children under 16: FREE When? 24th-26th February 2017, 10am-5pm each day Where? Marriott City Centre Hotel, Lower Castle Street, Bristol BS1 3AD Go to www.whathifi.com for further details


[soo-prem-us] 1. highest in rank or authority; sovereign. 2. of the highest quality, importance.

QED Supremus loudspeaker cable is the ultimate expression of sound born of pure science. Over 40 years in the making. To register your interest visit www.qed.co.uk/supremus


IN-EAR HEADPHONES

ALL T UPG YOU’ EVER Bundled buds are all well and good, but the discerning listener – that’s you – wants something better. We’ve plugged in to eight in-ear options across the price spectrum to help you choose

W

hether you’re looking for something better t the free pair bundled in with your smartphon want to splash some cash for the best possible sound quality, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the numbe variety of in-ear headphones on the market. That’s why we’ve put together a considered selection of brand-new in-ears at various prices – ranging from £40 to – to help you decide which is the right pair for you.

All the information you need

Not entirely sure whether you want wired, wireless or spo designs? Can’t decide how much to spend? You’re in luck, the eight pairs of in-ears we’ve tested here show you what can expect for every style, type and price. And most sound good, too, with a couple even sounding great – possibly ne contenders for our coveted Best Buy accolades. So sit back and read on to find which in-ear headphone should be taking with you on your commute, to the gym o your next holiday to listen to your favourite podcast or tu

32 www.whathifi.com


IN-EAR HEADPHONES

Join us on Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz whf.cm/playlist2017

Listen to our favourite tracks every month!

WHAT’S ON TEST? 1More C1002 Beyerdynamic Byron Bose SoundSport Pulse Fidue A73 Final F7200 MEE Audio Pinnacle P1 Sol Republic Relays Sport SoundMagic E80C

www.whathifi.com 33


IN-EAR HEADPHONES

1More C1002

Beyerdynamic Byron

Ready for one more review? Bad puns out of the way, the 1More C1002s are interesting because they come from a company we’re not too familiar with. That, and their unusual look. The C1002 structure is like an earphone aperture glued into a giant medicine pill. It’s designed to fill the far side of your ear cartilage but makes the 1More C1002s an unusual fit. As with most earphones though, pick the right tip and you’ll be fine.

Beyerdynamic has a long and illustrious history when it comes to headphones (see panel), its budget and high-end pairs collecting numerous Best Buy accolades over the years. A brand new line of in-ears – the Byrons – has emerged, and these sleek black-and-metal range-starters, complete with soft-pouch carry-case, are tasked with making a good first impression. At £50, the Byrons have a formidable opponent in the Award-winning SoundMagic E10Cs. Question is: are the Byrons worth the extra £10? In a word: yes. For a start, they’re comfortable to wear, and there’s a level of heft and control to the sound you don’t tend to hear with budget in-ears. It’s the way they deliver the deep, sludgy guitars in Stone Temple Pilot’s Big Empty, the way they gather the complex musical strands in Radiohead’s 15 Step, the way they handle the stop and start of notes with precision and clarity. It’s a mature presentation for just £50. The midrange and treble are the highlights. There’s plenty of headroom for the top end to soar, giving the clear, passionate vocals and tinkling piano notes in The Bed Song space to flourish. There are no hard or bright edges here, but we’d still recommend a day or two’s running in to get the best results.

£90

Inside the capsule

1More calls the pill shape a capsule, and it’s home to the C1002’s dual drivers, which comprise one balanced armature and one dynamic driver working in tandem. There’s a threebutton in-line remote designed for iPhones and Androids, but no active noise cancellation or wirelessness. One neat touch is the earpieces cling together thanks to magnets in each capsule, so you can hang them round your neck when they’re not in use. We’re not entirely convinced by the sound. The treble is very pronounced, creating an imbalance in the sound. Lots of people like bright headphones, but the extent of the emphasis here is incongruous and leaves male baritone vocals sounding unnaturally treble-led. While the treble clarity is obvious and doesn’t suffer from sibilance or outright harshness, it’s also short of what could justly be called refined or well-integrated. Roll back that treble and there are some admirable aspects here. The bass is fairly punchy, if lacking a little power in the lowest reaches, and the mids are clear. The 1More C1002s are unusual earphones, and a dual driver earphone for under £90 seems like a good deal. It’s just a shame the treble is so enthusiastic, making the C1002s sound less balanced and natural than they should.

says

Rating ★★★ ★

VERDICT A distinctive pair of earphones with some neat design touches, but too much treble makes for an unnatural sound balance

34 www.whathifi.com

£50

Smooth and easy

Along with the crisp detail, there’s a smoothness to the Byrons that makes them easy to listen to over long hours. The SoundMagic E10Cs have an appealing upbeat presentation, but they aren’t as punctual or as revealing as the Beyerdynamics. The E10Cs have been our favourite budget in-ears for the past five years, but the authority, precision and subtlety of these Beyerdynamics might shift them from their perch.

says

Rating ★★★★★ VERDICT Beyerdynamic has made a spectacular return to the budget arena; these Byrons could set the standard at this price


IN-EAR HEADPHONES

The headphones timeline 1881 The genesis of the headphone had nothing to do with music – the frst devices were used by telephone operators and consisted of a heavy single earpiece that rested on the user’s shoulder.

1910 Mormon inventor Nathaniel Baldwin is the frst to begin manufacture of the frst ‘modern’ headphones. They were originally handmade in Baldwin’s kitchen and sold to the US Navy.

1937 Beyerdynamic, which was founded in 1924, develops and markets the frst pair of dynamic headphones, the DT-48. Dynamic cans are still the most popular kind of ’phones on sale today.

1949 Film-equipment manufacturer AKG gets in on the act with its frst

Bose SoundSport Pulse

pair of headphones, the K120s. They are so successful the frm decides to concentrate its future eforts on audio appliances.

£170

And now for something a little different. It’s not just that the SoundSport Pulses are wireless, either (the cable links the two earpieces). There’s no active noise cancellation here and you can’t use them wired, but there is a heart-rate sensor built in. The Bose Connect app displays your current heart rate and the information can be sent to many fitness apps, including Strava, Endomondo and MapMyRun. At times the set failed to pick up on our heart rhythm but it’s easier to use than a chest-strap. These in-ears use soft silicone in-ear hooks, and are surprisingly comfortable. Hook them up to your phone using Bluetooth – they also have NFC to make connection easier. Wireless performance is excellent, with great stability and real-world range bang on the claimed 9m. The downside of a tech-packed approach is modest battery life – around five hours.

1979 Sony’s Walkman redraws the landscape for headphones – suddenly they have to be portable. Consequently, the ‘on ear’ is born, as engineers set about creating radically smaller, lighter designs.

1980 onwards The frst in-ears were hardly the last word in comfort but they paved the way for more sophisticated designs, known as earbuds, later on. One key catalyst for their popularity was a certain Steven Paul Jobs.

Sound judgement

1 More C1002

Twin drivers

Bose SoundSport Pulse

-

In-line remote

Beyerdynamic Byron +

-

says

Key features

+

The sound is enjoyable – rich and smooth, with powerful bass that’s particularly handy if you’re running in a noisy environment (which can cut down the perceived bass level). Perhaps more than anything else, this is a fun sound, one that’s going to be easy to listen to for hours on end. A focus on enjoyment rather than insight or ultra-precise detail won’t please everyone, but it’s a perfect fit for this style of earphone. There’s some mid-bass padding that makes the Boses a little less clear and nimble-sounding than most £170 earphones, but we reckon that’s a small price to pay for all the tech benefits. Alternatives such as the Audio Technica ATH-ANC40BT have better battery life, but few sporty wireless sets like this have a more consistent, cohesive sound. The sound is fun and the comfort level better than you’d guess by looking at them.

In-line remote

Wireless

Android and IOS compatible

Bluetooth

Extra eartips

Heart-rate sensor

Rating ★★★★★ VERDICT Not quite perfect, but these Boses are still the bestsounding pair of wireless in-ears we’ve tested

N

S

Magnetic bodies

www.whathifi.com 35


Connect your home to a deeper music experience

Experience at John Lewis, selected Apple stores and our network of specialist audio retailers.

AirPlay is a trademark of Apple Inc.

naimaudio.com

Channelling forty years of audio engineering, we present Mu-so. A range of compact, yet commanding wireless music systems, that will unleash you music wherever it’s stored, in breathtaking quality. Advanced connectivity includes AirPlay, Bluetooth®, Spotify Connect®, TIDAL, iRadio and multiroom streaming.


AR HEADPHONES

Fidue A73

Key features

Multi-driver earphones rarely land at this price, so we’re keen to see how the Fidues fair. Larger than most classic dual-driver earphones, they use a hybrid driver array rather than a pair of tiny balanced armatures. There’s a balanced armature to handle the higher frequencies and a 10mm dynamic driver to fill in the lower registers. One part sure to put a few of you off is that the A73s are meant to be worn over your ears. A pair of ear hooks is included, or you can just trail the cable over your ears without them if you prefer. Wearing them with the cable dangling down doesn’t work too well in our experience – they tend to wiggle their way out of your ears after a while. Fidue has kept things simple with the cable, which has a single-button remote with mic. You can really hear the workings of the two drivers here. The balanced armature delivers solid midrange and treble detail, with greater definition than you tend to hear from a typical midrange dynamic driver. The 10mm driver adds a slight boost to the bass, a little above neutral, and a reassuring thickness to the mids that makes the Fidue A73s sound full, if not quite as clean and transparent as the best at the price.

Final Audio makes some bizarre earphones, a lot of which aren’t really made for western ears. As £400 in-ears that appear to be made of miniaturised bits of plumber’s pipework, the F7200s don’t exactly hurtle into the mainstream. But they don’t half sound good. These are among the smallest high-end pairs in the world. They use just a single balanced armature driver. If you don’t like an invasive fit you may not get on well with the F7200s, but we had no issues with fit, comfort or stability. The section housing the driver separates from the cable using an MMCX connector, and the ’phones come with ear hooks that trail the cable over your ears to dull any cable-on-clothing rustle.

The bottom lifed up

The bass doesn’t stomp over the higher frequencies and the chunkier tone competes well with noisy environments. That said, while the lower-frequency lift is sure to be a crowdpleaser, it does reduce the Fidue A73s’ insight, which is commendable but less than spectacular. These are good rather than truly great earphones. They’re solid enough to justify the price but don’t excel in any particular area quite enough to get us really excited.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★

VERDICT A solid pair of dual-driver earphones for people who don’t want to spend more than £100

Fidue A73

-

£400

+

£100

In-line remote & mic

Twin drivers

Single-minded purpose

The F7200s have no remote-control housing, a clue that they care really only about sound quality. This focus pays off, because these earphones deliver exceptional detail across the entire frequency range, with beautifully clean treble and mids integrating seamlessly to give the pair a reference-like quality. Vocals sound superb, the F7200s able to bring out fine midrange texture like few others. The scale of the sound is modest though, and grand orchestral arrangements lack the power of the best high-end multi-driver earphones, coming across a little polite and reserved. Some might be left wishing for more bass power too. The low-end is taut, but these are not ear-rocking party types. We don’t love all of Final Audio’s headphones, but the F7200s are impressive, offering stunning detail and clarity. If you’re looking to dig deep into the tiniest crevices of highquality recordings, these need to be on your audition list.

says

Over-ear hooks

Final F7200

Balanced armature driver

No remote

Rating ★★★★ ★

VERDICT Despite the gimmicky ultra-slim construction, the F7200s are impressive – thanks not least to their stunning detail and clarity

Over-ear hooks

www.whathifi.com 37


IN-EA

Mee Audio Pinnacle P1

Sol Republic Relays Sport

Right at the top of Mee Audio’s earphone range sit the Pinnacle P1s, with all-metal shells and enough accessories for two pairs. The Mee Pinnacle P1s have large earpieces and a comprehensive array of tips is included to ensure a good fit. There are three standard silicone sets, three double-flanged silicone pairs and three Comply foam pairs. As usual, the foam tends to provide the best seal and isolation. Mee Audio also includes two cables with the Pinnacle P1. One is a ‘standard’ cable with a black finish and a one-button mobile phone remote, the other a chunkier translucent cable with no remote housing but a silver-plated oxygen-free copper wire. This one is the ‘audiophile’ choice. The cables pop off the earpieces using standard MMCX connectors.

The sporty-looking Sol Republic Relays Sport separate themselves from bog-standard cheap buds with an off-kilter design and a variety a funky of colour choices. They sound surprisingly good for the price too, with a cleaner, if less smooth, sound than the budget favourite SoundMagic E10s.

£180

Single dynamic driver

The Mee Pinnacle P1s use a single 10mm dynamic driver to produce a very smooth midrange that can deliver vocals with a natural and musical sensibility. There’s some extra warmth that stops them seeming over-clinical, but insight is what this pair are really about, as evidenced by the neatly rendered staccato percussion on Nitin Sawhney’s Nadia. Low frequencies are solid, but only down to a point, as the same track’s plunging synth bass shows – these are not buds to deliver the earphone equivalent of a chest-rattling bass. The sound is also slightly narrow, making the general scale appear a little limited. Thankfully, high levels of detail and texture are there to save the day. An earphone of slow-burn appeal and subtle musicality, the P1s are sure to grow on you. They just made picking high-end in-ears that bit trickier.

says

38 www.whathifi.com

£50

Special challenges

The challenges of a sport earphone include finding a way to make them stay in your ears when you move about a lot, and to withstand a bit of sweat without conking out. To deal with this, Sol Republic has come up with what it calls the FreeFlex wheel – a disc of rubber that sits around the end of the earpiece to help secure it in your ear canal. In practice this wheel doesn’t do a great deal, but with the right tip the Relays Sport are fairly stable anyway – and sweat-resistant. Android-friendly Relays have a one-button remote, used to play/pause your music and take calls. Lucky iPhone types get a 3-button remote that can also alter volume. Considering the low price, these are very nice-sounding earphones. They are remarkably clean and clear sounding, with good soundstage width and solid stereo imaging. Importantly, the solid bass thump that’s always a bonus when you’re running is clearly audible. It isn’t terrifically fast, but it has a pleasant, plummy tone and is separated enough from the rest of the frequency range to avoid spoiling articulation. There are weaknesses though. The midrange has a slightly cool tone and the edges of vocals can sound a little hard. We also find ourselves listening in vain for the rich smoothness SoundMagic and Sennheiser offer from their entry-level pairs. But the Relays remain a solid buy, with much to commend them.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★

Rating ★★★★ ★

VERDICT A detailed but smooth midrange is offset by a slight weakness in the bass, but these are earphones with subtle charms

VERDICT A clear and articulate sound with fun, bouncy bass means these are great-value earphones for those on a tight budget


IN-EAR HEADPHONES

System builder

SoundMagic E80C £80

Following on from the success of the Award-winning SoundMagic E10Cs, it’s the turn of the elegant E80Cs to make their mark in the overpopulated headphones market. Clear, solid and open – those are our first impressions of the E80Cs. Play Semisonic’s Closing Time and the vocals, guitar strums and keyboards all come through loud and clear. A decent amount of detail keeps you listening, and the outlines of notes and instruments are cleanly defined. The headphones are organised enough to handle the sweeping orchestral compositions of Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek Beyond soundtrack, with horns blaring cleanly above the thump of big drums. There’s a good deal of solidity in the sound, although we’d like a more timely and articulate approach. At this price, the Award-winning Sennheiser Momentum M2 in-ears best the SoundMagics with a richer, more nuanced and dynamic performance that’s more engaging to listen to. As well as being small, these buds are light, and have half a dozen eartip choices included in the box to make sure you get the perfect fit, and corresponding maximised bass performance – while also staying secure in your ears.

Compatible and responsive

PREMIUM For in-ears costing

£50

£100

£200

LG G5 + Hi-Fi Plus

Astell & Kern A70

Apple Macbook

£550

£500

Air £890

An innovative

Our favourite

A light, easy-to-

phone with a fne

portable music

use laptop with

B&O add-on DAC

player in 2016

musical fair

Spotify

Tidal

Chord Mojo

From £free

£10/month

£400

The great all-

An extensive

Superbly refned

rounder of music-

catalogue of

– our 2016 Best

streaming services

CD-quality music

DAC under 500

Choose system components based on the price of your in-ears

Tidal £10/month Our favourite higher-quality streaming service

Key features MEE Audio Pinnacle P1

Soundmagic E80C

+ -

10mm driver

-

Two cables provided,

Sol Republic Relays Sport +

-

says

MIDRANGE For in-ears costing

+

The E80Cs are also now fully compatible with all smartphones, and the remote works intuitively too, not missing a beat whenever you need to pause, skip tracks, change the volume or answer a call. The SoundMagic E80Cs don’t quite reach the same heights as the budget E10Cs, and would be hard-pressed to beat the formidable Sennheiser M2 at this price. They hold their own, though, thanks to a clean, organised, rewarding presentation.

BUDGET For in-ears costing

In-line remote

Three-button in-line remote and mic

Cable clip

Optional ear tips

Sweat resistant

iOS &Android compatible

Rating ★★★★ ★ VERDICT They have a clear, organised sound and they’re easy to live with, but the E80Cs don’t quite beat the best at this price Cable clip

www.whathifi.com 39


40-43IN TELEVISIONS

4K OR NOT 4K? THAT IS THE 40IN QUESTION Designed to produce pin-sharp pictures on large screens, 4K is now common on smaller TVs too. At this size, does UHD make a difference? We put three 40-43in 4K TVs to the test...

L

et’s be realistic, when the concept of 4K technology was just a scribble on a bit of paper, 40in-or-so tellies weren’t exactly the first in line for the technology. However, since the resolution has become more ubiquitous across TV ranges and is no longer exclusive to tellies bigger than some living-room windows, it has now filtered down. You won’t hear us complaining – not when it makes the pixel-packing technology even more accessible. 4K television for £400? But the burning question is this: is it really worth having the higher resolution in screens so small? Samsung, Panasonic and Philips (as well as the smartphone brands readying 4K screens for their 5in screen devices) are among those who think it is. After this small(er)-screen television shootout, we’ll no doubt be ready to add our twopenn’orth on the matter too.

WHAT’S ON TEST? Panasonic TX-40DX700B Philips 43PUS6401 Samsung UE43KS7500

40 www.whathifi.com

Join us at whathifi.com for all the tech news


IONS

www.whathiямБ.com 41


40-43IN TELEVISIONS

A SHARP AND DETAILE

D PICTURE

Panasonic TX-40DX700B £550 FOR Detailed picture; HDR support; smart design

AGAINST HDR could be more convincing; screen is too dark

★★★★ ★

The Panasonic TX-40DX700B’s little sibling, the DX600, first convinced us that 4K on a 40in screen makes sense with the right set. In fact, so convinced were we that, despite its four-star verdict, we gave it an Award at its screen size. This set has a few added extras up its sleeve to tempt the upgrade though, not least HDR support. Can this addition give it the bump it needs for that fifth star? The TX-40DX700 offers a decent enough build – sturdy, with a slim silver bezel, even though it doesn’t have the slimmest of profiles. Two metal feet sit at either edge and unlike the larger screen sizes in this range, don’t offer the “Switch Design” flexibility that allow you to move them to a more central position. They face inwards which seems odd – so much so it makes us think we’ve fitted them wrongly at first – but they let you squeeze the DX700 on to a smaller rack. Around the back you’ll find three HDMI inputs, two of which are HDCP 2.2 certified, three USBs, an optical input and a shared composite/component video input.

With Netflix and Amazon among others available here – and support for both in 4K HDR - Panasonic’s on-demand service is one of the most complete currently available. We particularly enjoy the ability to pin various bits of content – whether it’s in an app, web page or favourite channel – to the home screen for easy access. There’s one remote control included in the box. It’s Pana’s standard remote rather than anything flashier, but it’s responsive and easy enough to navigate. Unlike the Samsung UE43KS7500 there’s no UHD Premium badge here, owing to the DX700’s lack of brightness. Similarly to the Philips PUS6401, it’s capable of only 350 nits, missing the 1000-nit benchmark by some margin. The picture is equally as subdued as the Philips when compared with the super-bright Samsung, but there is still enough here to encourage you to take a closer look.

IN DETAIL...

No premium badge

There’s ethernet or wi-fi to get you online, which will unlock Panasonic’s wildcard in the shape of Freeview Play – a single hub that offers BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 catch-up services as well as a seven-day scrollback TV guide similar to YouView. For its main interface, Panasonic continues its collaboration with Mozilla Firefox OS, which remains one of the more intuitive systems we’ve come across, and also the most simple. Unlike on Panasonic’s larger screens, there’s no ‘Switch Design’ flexibility to move the feet to the centre

A gloomy outlook

For a start, there’s more detail and sharpness to this picture than in the Philips, with outlines finely etched and more insight to faces and landscapes. Colours are pretty accurate too – they may not always have the same impressive punch as the Samsung, but they’re subtle enough to show off differing shades that give a better sense of depth. As you’d expect, 4K material fares best here. We watch Marco Polo in 4K HDR on Netflix and the extra detail available compared with Full HD is undeniable even at this screen size. Bright, outdoor scenes show the best of the Panasonic’s capabilities, with colours balanced and well judged. However, despite this set taking the step up to HDR, it’s really not this TV’s strong suit. Where colours zing on the Samsung, the same are lost on the Panasonic – it simply doesn’t have the peak brightness to make colours jump out of the screen with as much impact. This affects darker scenes too. Inside Khan’s court, the fire lamps don’t punch through the shadows with the intensity we’d like, though there is a decent level of detail to them compared with SDR. Dark scenes also struggle to deliver the shadow detail we need to keep things

Panasonic’s standard remote is pretty responsive and easy enough to navigate

really engaging. Blacks will go decently black – deeper than the Philips, if not as inky as the Samsung – but they’re a little flat and lacking in insight. Watching in a darker room helps, or switching from Cinema (our preferred mode) to Standard – just be aware this brightens the whole picture and you’ll lose out on black level as a trade off. Contrast could be better too, particularly when the extremes of light and dark are in the same scene together. For example, the flicker of firelight on faces in a gloomy setting doesn’t throw up the same warm glow as we see on the Samsung – the DX700 appears to opt to keep things darker rather than having the know-how to maintain an even hand. We put the upscaler to the test with a look at a handful of HD TV channels, which it manages convincingly, offering a solid, noise-free picture with sharp


40-43IN TELEVISIONS Despite making the step up to HDR, it isn’t the Panasonic’s strong suit. It lacks the peak brightness to make colours jump

“There’s plenty to like about the TX-40DX700B, not least its sharp, detailed picture. 4K pictures give it an insight boost from Full HD at this size” edges and plenty of detail. Colours are equally well-balanced here too, and even standard definition TV is watchable (if a little noisier and softer around the edges). Motion can occasionally fluster it though – both here and on Blu-ray – so we opt for some minimal motionprocessing help to keep things stable. The sound the DX700 has to offer isn’t bad at all. There’s decent balance and enough body to allow you to crank up the volume if you need to without it making you wince.

Hiding in the shadows

Voices are clear and direct, but dynamics are understandably lacking for bigger, busier scenes. For a second TV sound it’s passable, but if this is your main set you

may consider investing in a soundbar to make the most of it. There’s plenty to like about the Panasonic TX-40DX700B, not least its sharp, detailed picture and excellent operating system. Freeview Play gives it a real upper hand for on-demand fiends and there’s no doubt its 4K pictures give it an insight boost from the Full HD options at this size. However, its brightness issues mean HDR fails to create as much impact as it should, and dark scenes could do with better contrast and shadow detail to really impress. There are fewer compromises to make here than on a cheaper 4K set at this size, but there are still too many to earn the full five stars. In particular, if you want to see what HDR can really do, you should consider

KEY FEATURES

spending a touch more for moreconvincing performance. But for a sharp 4K picture on a small screen and budget, the Panasonic TX-40DX700B is certainly worth a look.

40in screen

says HDMI inputs: 3

Rating ★★★★ ★ PICTURE SOUND FEATURES

Freeview Play

VERDICT The Panasonic produces sharp 4K images from a small screen, but a lack of brightness scuppers its HDR capabilities

www.whathifi.com 43


40-43 INCH TELEVISIONS

COMPR BE PREPARED TO MAKE

OMISES

Philips 43PUS6401 £400 FOR Decent 4K image; HDR support; Ambilight; price

AGAINST Lacks brightness; poor sound; lacks black depth

★★★ ★ ★

Not all 4K TVs are created equal, so when considering a 43in 4K HDR set for less than £400, you have to be prepared to make some compromises. The Philips 43PUS6401 embodies the word, delivering exactly what you might expect at its price. But is that enough to make it worth your cash? It certainly doesn’t waste too much of your money on a flashy design – opting for a simple but stylish slim silver bezel and two aluminium feet. There is a somewhat hidden trick up the PUS6401’s sleeve. It packs two-sided Ambilight, shining a little added light on proceedings. It’s easily toggled on or off from a dedicated menu button, but we enjoy it when watching movies (setting it to follow the on-screen picture works best for us). The solid white light option also proves handy for softer bias lighting, which is particularly useful because we find the PUS6401’s panel to be quite reflective. Watching TV in our well-lit testing room, we are able to see our own reflection quite clearly, which is distracting to say the least, especially during darker scenes. Turning the light down helps, as does positioning the set away from direct light. There’s one remote control in the box, a regular Philips handset, with no QWERTY keyboard. It’s well laid out, but it’s not the most responsive – it needs to be pointed directly at the TV and the buttons pressed with conviction for your command to be registered on first try. Philips also has one of our least favourite menu systems, so this can make the rather unintuitive lists of menus and options even more of a headache to navigate. In particular, be

aware of the unconventional wording of things – for example, there are several different “contrast” options, each buried in a different section of the menu, which is confusing to say the least. For this reason, setting up the Philips isn’t as straightforward as we might like, but you’ll certainly want to dive into the picture settings to get things looking better than they do out of the box. A good first step is turning off all of the processing so you’re working with the raw picture. Eco settings tend to default to on, so you’ll want to ensure they’re turned off for the best results.

IN DETAIL...

Your money hasn’t been spent on a flashy design – there’s a simple but stylish slim silver bezel and two aluminium feet

Not enough nits

The Philips 43PUS6401 doesn’t carry the UHD Premium badge the Samsung does, not least because it has a maximum brightness of only 350 nits (a UHD Premium set needs at least 1000 nits). HDR is still technically possible on this set, but you’ll need to make sure you have the most recent firmware update. Once you do, the PUS6401 will recognise an HDR source automatically and tweak its settings to suit, though annoyingly Philips TVs still don’t support HDR on Netflix or Amazon content. Connectivity wise you’re fairly well covered, with four HDMIs (two support HDCP2.2), three USBs and single component and analogue ins. There’s even a SCART for older connections and a single optical out for outputting your TVs sound to a soundbar. There’s wi-fi or ethernet for hooking up to your home network, and once you’re online, you’ll be able to access the TV’s on-board Android TV system. It’s not our favourite user-interface by a long shot (it’s a hybrid alongside Philips’ own menus and EPG, so feels a little disjointed), but it is slowly improving. With apps for Netflix, Amazon and iPlayer, it ticks many boxes, but we’d like to see more UK catch-up services. The ability to cast from portable devices helps, but Android TV is still behind its rivals when it comes to choice. Once set up, the Philips’ lack of brightness compared to the Samsung is noticeable in its more subdued picture performance and colour palette. On the whole, colours lack the same level of accuracy, with reds looking a

The remote control with the Philips is well laid out, but it’s not the most responsive

touch orangey while blues and greens are overly bold. It’s not unexpected at this level, but something we weren’t able to balance out with the regular settings.

Murky scenes

The PUS6401 is at its best in brighter scenes. Even then with standard definition material (including broadcast programmes) there is a noticeable drop in detail from the Panasonic TX40DX700B, and a much smoother overall picture that lacks the same clarity and detail you see in better sets. It’s not unwatchable, but it shows the upscaler is not a strong point here and means the picture lacks the same sense of depth. With a 4K Blu-ray signal this improves by some stretch, but the picture is still not as insightful as those from either the Panasonic or Samsung sets. HDR pictures lack the punch in colour and brightness to really get the usual benefits of the technology across. You’ll see a touch more subtlety and sparkle in highlights compared with regular SDR


40-43 INCH TELEVISIONS The 43PUS6401 has a maximum brightness of 350 nits, meaning it doesn’t qualify for a UHD Premium badge

“When considering a 43in 4K HDR set for under £400, be prepared to make some compromises. The Philips 43PUS6401 embodies the word” content, but it isn’t capable of hitting home with the same intensity. It’s in dark scenes where the picture is most lacking, with the set not capable of deep enough blacks, nor shadow detail, to give a murky scene much impact.

Missing some sparkle

Watching in a darkened room helps, but emphasises the rather poor backlight uniformity that can become noticeable in darker scenes. The set ultimately lacks a good grip on contrast – introduce a bright element to a dark scene and it will struggle to balance out the two. And outlines could be better etched. With no motion processing employed, fast-moving pans look a little unnatural. Setting the Philips Natural Motion

settings to minimum (any more will worsen the picture elsewhere) helps. You’ll want to consider investing in a soundbar or external speakers, as the internal speakers aren’t up to much. It’s a small, enclosed sound that lacks detail, and can be quite hard to listen to for longer periods of time. We would hope for more, even at this price. So can you really get a decent 4K HDR TV for £400? There’s no doubt it’s a tempting proposition, but overall we’re not sure you will see the benefits of 4K on this set, and certainly not of HDR. 4K Blu-ray pictures will benefit the most from the capabilities of this set, but it struggles with darker scenes and, even with its price tag in mind, the overall lack of brightness takes the sparkle off a little.

KEY FEATURES

Two-sided ambilight

‘Compromise’ is the word here, and there’s plenty of those to be made with this set. You may find saving up a touch more means fewer compromises where it really matters.

says

Rating ★★★ ★ ★ PICTURE SOUND

HDMI inputs: 4

FEATURES

VERDICT Even taking the price tag into account, this is a 4K HDR set with one too many compromises to be made 43in screen www.whathifi.com 45


40-43IN TELEVISIONS

RE WIT A CONVINCING PICTU

H PUNCH

Samsung UE43KS7500 £800 FOR Bright picture; subtle colour palette; good HDR

AGAINST At this size, a curved display seems unnecessary

★★ ★ ★★

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a range of TVs as consistent as Samsung’s 2016 UHD line up. No matter the screen size, in both curved and flat designs, it impresses us time and time again with a picture that ticks all the boxes. Even as one of its entry-level UHD sets, the UE43KS7500 shows how well 4K can be done on a smaller, more affordable screen. It’s certainly not the cheapest 4K option at this size, but its performance proves spending that little bit extra really can make all the difference.

until you compare it to a cheaper screen without it and see how distracting your own reflection can be. Samsung’s One Connect box handles most of the set’s connections and includes four 4K-ready HDMIs and three USBs for Freeview HD recordings and media playback. There is also an optical out, and the option of getting online via wi-fi or hardwiring using ethernet. Hooking your TV up to your home network of course opens up its full range of smart features, which are based on Samsung’s own Tizen interface. It’s a cleaner, more intuitive set-up than in previous years, and we find it easy to use and navigate. Menus are clear and accessible, and we like the personalised content suggestions the home menu offers from any on-demand services you’re logged in to, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon, ITV Player and Demand 5. To get the best from the UE43KS7500, we find ourselves playing around with the settings, and while we are sometimes able to use one group of settings across sources, this set benefits from individual source set-up. Overall, we find the ‘Cinema’ picture mode with ‘Warm1’ colour temperature to be the best balance; you may want to try it on ‘Standard’ for a slightly brighter picture. Not that this set has any brightness issues to worry about. Its UHD Premium logo means there is plenty of power behind its backlighting, which the competition just can’t keep up with. Even with regular TV it makes for a more striking picture, but it’s most important with HDR content, where bright elements are allowed to punch through with much more intensity. It’s hugely convincing, particularly in how it holds on to depth and detail in highlights, but it’s credit to Samsung that black levels aren’t afected in the process.

IN DETAIL...

Not behind the curve

With its 43in screen, the KS7500 is the smallest 4K set in Samsung’s armoury, and it looks even smaller still due to its curved screen. We’re still not completely sold on curved designs, and at this size it seems even more unnecessary, but at least its reduced footprint will take up less space for those short on it. It looks good too, of course, and follows the rest of Samsung’s 2016 TV design language – well built with a barely there bezel, neat aluminium legs and a smooth, uncluttered back panel design. It comes with two remotes, a standard wand and the smaller smart option. Both are decently laid out and easy to use, but we find ourselves using the regular one for access to a fuller range of options. Like the rest of Samsung’s UHD range, the UE43KS7500 uses Quantum Dot technology to deliver a wider, more accurate colour gamut, and employs an edge lit panel with local dimming too. It also conforms to the UHD Premium specification, meaning it offers at least 1000 nits of peak brightness for displaying HDR content at its best – something its rivals can’t provide. A further benefit is Samsung’s moth-eye technology, which really helps to keep unwanted reflections at bay. It’s something you might take for granted,

Samsung’s One Connect box handles most of the set’s connections and keeps wires hidden

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The Samsung comes with a standard remote and a smaller ‘smart’ option

They go impressively deep but remain subtle and nuanced, so you don’t get dark details that blend into one and become hard to make out. Even better, when you get a scene that combines the two extremes, the KS7500 handles them both without issue. It’s here where a cheaper set like the Philips 43PUS6401 struggles and can compromise on both.

I’m a believer

Bolstering this performance is the UE43KS7500’s excellent handling of colour, delivering just enough punch to colours without compromising on believability. HDR content benefits from this too, the red colour of Mars in The Martian glowing with an intensity that lesser sets struggle to deliver. It’s subtle with shading too, giving depth and texture. Combine this with the levels of fine detail, clarity and edge sharpness that this set is capable of and you get a real believability to the layering of objects in a scene. You won’t find as convincing a picture in


40-43IN TELEVISIONS The curved screen may be unnecessary, but the Samsung is well built with a tiny bezel and neat aluminium legs

“The picture is hugely convincing, particularly in how it holds on to depth and detail. It’s credit to Samsung that black levels aren’t affected” either the Philips 43PU6401 or the Panasonic TX-40DX700. We wouldn’t take a screen much smaller than 43in to get the most of 4K images, but the benefits are maximised on this Samsung screen. Samsung’s upscaler does itself proud too, working well to deliver clean and stable Freeview HD images, and not doing a bad job with standard definition either. We don’t notice many motion issues – we turn off motion processing to start with, then add in if we feel the need – and for the most part the Samsung serves a stable picture. If you want to add any at all, try the custom setting and keep both judder and blur on the low side. As for sound, the Samsung doesn’t do a bad job at all. Voices are clear and

direct, and there’s enough weight to stop the set sounding thin or hard. There’s a lack of separation though and subtler detail can struggle to be heard in a busy scene. A soundbar would make a useful upgrade to the sound, but if your budget can’t stretch, or this is a second-room set, it will certainly get you by.

KEY FEATURES

43in curved screen

says

Showing off its talent

While big screens might have the wow factor for reviewers and consumers alike, smaller-screen TVs are still a go-to for many, whether that be down to a lack of space or sometimes just as a second TV. The UE43KS7500 is a solid choice for either of those instances, showing off much of the talent we’ve seen higher up Samsung’s ranges, and meaning very

little in the way of compromise. Bright, sharp and punchy 4K images don’t come at the cheaper end of the TV spectrum, but the results here show they’re really worth the extra outlay.

Rating ★★★★ ★ HDMI inputs: 4

PICTURE SOUND FEATURES

VERDICT Samsung has produced an excellent all-rounder that proves 4K can be done well on a smaller screen TV Two remote controls www.whathifi.com 47


On-ear headphones Best home on-ear headphones £150-£300 Grado SR325e

SR325e Truly the world’s finest headphones ... and the most widely awarded. Handmade in Brooklyn, New York www.grado.co.uk


40-43 INCH TELEVISIONS

TEST WINNER

Samsung UE43KS7500 £800 ★★★★ ★ Only one of our smaller-screen televisions clearly demonstrates the benefit of 4K and HDR

SYSTEM BUILDER

4K BLU-RAY PLAYER Panasonic DMP-UB900 £600 ★★ ★ ★ ★ For the best 4K HDR pictures, this is the one

SOUNDBAR Q Acoustics Media 4 £300 ★★ ★ ★ ★ A superb soundbar from Q Acoustics

T

here’s no doubt adding 4K to a 40in TV makes all the difference with the right set. However, as we’ve seen here, to get the most out of HDR – 4K’s most interesting bedfellow – you are going to have to spend the money. In particular, you’ll want to keep an eye out for TVs bearing the UHD Premium logo. The 1000 nits peak brightness such sets offer is able to put intensity into colours, and oomph into the contrast. That’s why the UHD Alliance sets the guidelines, after all. That brightness was missing from both the Philips 43PUS6401 and Panasonic TX-40DX700B. With a maximum brightness of just 350 nits each, their pictures looked positively dull and gloomy in comparison with the

1000-nit Samsung. Both televisions struggled to make the most of any HDR content we watched. The Philips fared worse than the Panasonic in other areas though. With poor black levels and a soft picture, it failed to deliver the clarity and insight we really want from a 4K TV. Its reasonable price tag helps its argument to some extent, but they are things we’d rather pay more to get, even for a second-room set. It gets a three.

The Samsung TV puts its Panasonic and Philips rivals in the shade

Total build £1700 The selection of on-demand services and addition of Freeview Play adds to its performance to make this quite an intriguing little set, with strong SD and HD performances helping it to score four stars. However, the Samsung UE43KS7500, like so many from its range this year, makes 4K HDR on the small screen look easy, not to mention worthwhile. With all the boxes ticked to score the UHD Premium badge, you can be sure you’re on to a winner in terms of spec. Its performance with 4K HDR, streaming, TV and Blu-rays speaks for itself. It may well be double the cost of the cheapest TV in this test, but one look at it will show you why it’s worth every extra penny and then some. It’s an easy five stars and this test’s clear winner.

Ticking the boxes

The Panasonic, on the other hand, holds its own when it comes to detail, and even gives the Samsung a decent run for its money in the colour department. All it lacks is a bit of punch and a touch of subtlety in comparison.

HOW THEY MEASURE UP

TEST WINNER

Panasonic TX-40DX700B

Philips 43PUS6401

Screen size

40in

43in

Samsung UE43KS7500 43in

Curved

No

No

Yes

Screen resolution

3840 x 2160

3840 x 2160

3840 x 2160

HDR/Nits

Yes/350

Yes/350

Yes/1000

HDMI inputs

3

4

4

Sound

20W

20W

40W

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for the

masses

Surround sound needn’t break the bank – these three entry-level amplifiers all want to get you underway. But which is the best value for money? WHAT’S ON TEST?

I

f, like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, you’re looking for a heart – only in this case it’s for your first surround-sound system – then you probably shouldn’t start your search in Emerald City. Instead, those on a modest budget should begin by scouring the lower end of home cinema amplifier ranges. Here you’ll find entry-level models around the £200-£300 mark, mostly (albeit not exclusively) featuring 5.1 channels, Bluetooth streaming and the ability to decode the latest DTS and Dolby surround formats embedded into your favourite Blu-rays. Plenty of HDMI inputs, as well as compatibility with 4K and HDR passthrough, are now the order of the day too.

Ideal starting point Denon

Pioneer

Yamaha

AVR-X1300W

VSX-531

RX-V381

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The Denon AVR-X2300W may have shed a fifth of its £500 price tag since we awarded it Product of the Year only a few months ago, but for those with a tighter budget, Denon, as well as fellow AV giants Yamaha and Pioneer, may have just the thing… The question is, are they the ideal starting point or should potential surround-sound enthusiasts be setting their sights just a little higher up the price spectrum?


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A FINE FIRST BUY

Denon AVR-X1300W £300 FOR Lots of features; Dolby Atmos support; weighty sound

AGAINST Tough competition; flaky control app

★★★★ ★

The old adage ‘if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ crumbles in the face of in-credit electricity bills and all-you-can-eat buffets for a fiver, but is still relevant when it comes to the Denon AVR-X1300W, the brand’s entry-level 7.2-channel AV amplifier. It’s cheaper than its big brother, our Product of the Year AVR- X2300W, yet the two models have much in common. The AVR-X1300W decodes the latest surround-sound formats (Dolby True HD, DTS HD and Dolby Atmos, with DTS:X coming soon via a software update); it can stream popular two-channel formats from DSD 5.6MHz to AIFF and 24-bit/192kHz FLAC and WAV; it’s further equipped with wi-fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect and multiple 4K-supporting HDMI inputs. The AVR-X1300W appears to be good value, and it is. Only when the two machines are together in a sonic

shoot-out do the differences, and the benefit of spending more for the AVR-X2300W, become apparent. But the 1300W is more than decent as a first buy.

desperation it carries during the torture) aren’t as deftly communicated. Switch to a Blu-ray of The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years documentary, and we can’t fault the AVR-X1300W’s innate musicality. The opening 1963 performance of She Loves You is full of fervour, and everything from the thrashing cymbals to melodydriving guitar lines can clearly be heard above the screaming crowd that fills the rear channels. The Denon’s pleasingly spacious, well-imaged soundfield does wonders for vocal separation too, so McCartney’s inflection can be clearly distinguished from Lennon’s, and from Harrison’s harmonies underneath. To test the Denon’s two-channel presentation, we play Sgt. Pepper’s

IN DETAIL...

The AVR-X1300W has foldable antennae for a better wi-fi connection

The remote is more basic than that of its sibling, but we’ve no major complaints

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Caught in the crossfire

We play Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the presentation is warm, weighty and articulate – and not without the punch and authority to get your hands rubbing together as the epic symphonic orchestration scores the space-opera’s opening crawl. It surges through our speaker package with a bang, the brass section enthusiastic and the theatrical strings rising as resolutely as the words on the screen. The village-raid scene is an onslaught of crossfire and commotion, yet, even at

“The X1300W appears to be good value, and it is. Only in a shoot-out do the benefits of spending a little more on the X2300W become apparent” the soundtrack’s densest, the Denon never sounds bewildered. It has the space, cohesion and precision to track the trajectory of gunshots as they are fired from one speaker and make contact with a poor soul in another. For an amplifier, there’s a balance to be struck between having the muscle to punch with power and enough agility to avoid ponderousness. It needs to afford clout to exploding ships and clunky machinery, as well as execute crisply to sound fast and exciting. The Denon nails the balance better than both the Yamaha RX-V381 and the Pioneer VSX-531, giving explosions impact and hovering spaceships a big and consuming sound, while still allowing BB-8’s robotics and the fizz of lightsabers to peep out above the hum. There’s great authority and solidity across the board, most notably through the midrange. Voices have a pleasing mix of clarity, weight and warmth, even if the Yamaha reveals a layer or two more expression. During the interrogation scene, Kylo Ren’s voice sounds deep and intimidating, but the sarcasm in Poe Dameron’s voice when he’s initially confronted (and the

Lonely Hearts Club Band on CD. It doesn’t take more than the eponymous opening track to ascertain it’s just as listenable with music as with movies. As expected, there’s less subtlety, crispness and openness when we stream the same song via Spotify Connect, but still it’s snappy and tonally consistent.

Shorter sibling

Naturally, we would recommend your first task after unboxing the AVR-X1300W is to calibrate it to your room and speaker set-up. It runs Audyssey auto set-up software to measure eight positions around your listening area and, while it requires a fair amount of audience participation, it doesn’t take long. Want to take advantage of internet radio, Spotify Connect or music streaming from a NAS drive? Then your next stop should be establishing an internet connection. The Denon can work on a 5GHz waveband or a 2.4GHz, but we’d go down the ethernet cable route for optimum stability. Last but not least, up to eight sources can be connected digitally through either of the Denon’s two optical or six HDMI

The AVR-X1300W is closely related to our Product of the Year, the AVR-X2300W

KEY FEATURES

Dolby Atmos

80W-per-channel

24-bit/192kHz Hi-res audio


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inputs (all six of which are HDCP 2.2-certified to allow pass-through of all the latest display technology such as 4K and HDR). Legacy connections cater for any retro kit you might want to hook up and, as with the AVR-X2300W, a USB input and 6.3mm headphone output on the front panel are pretty convenient. The similarities between the two façades don’t end there. The AVRX1300W looks near-on identical to its sibling – just slightly shorter, lighter and without the high-density feet. It keeps things visually simple and functional by sporting a bright and coherent text

display between two large, easy-to-grab volume and input dials.

Up to eight sources can be connected via the Denon’s two optical and six HDMI inputs

Had the X1300W offered similar features to its big brother and the lion’s share of its performance, we’d be forced to question the Product of the Year status we recently awarded to the AVR-X2300W. As it turns out, there’s no need. Denon’s decision to drop the AVRX1300W’s price to put a bigger gap between it and the AVR-X2300W is sensible, but ultimately the extra dollops of power, authority and scale of the AVR-X2300W deem it the better buy. But of course, if you have a strict limit of £300, you could do a lot worse than this well-rounded AV amplifier.

Status symbol

The remote control is more modest than that of its sibling, but the differences are mostly aesthetic: a plainer matt-plastic replaces a brushed-effect finish, and labels painted next to the buttons. It’s basic, but we’ve no major complaints. Sadly, we can’t say the same for Denon’s mobile app. It connects instantly and has an easy-to-follow interface, but has all the reliability of a UK weather forecast.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT This Denon is a talented and well-equipped entry-level AV amp, but it plays it slightly too safe for our tastes

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THE SIMPLE THINGS IN

LIFE

Pioneer VSX-531 £250 FOR Articulate sound; HDMI inputs support 4K passthrough

AGAINST Spring-loaded terminals; no network features

★★★★ ★

If capitalism has shown us anything, it’s that money is power. Try to shoehorn that into a home cinema context, though, and the correlation isn’t necessarily quite as straightforward. For example, you don’t need to spend much money to get a fair bit of muscle, as this entry-level 5.1-channel Pioneer VSX-531 amplifier ably demonstrates. Delivering a claimed 130W per channel (into 6 ohms) for a rather thrifty (in AV amp terms) £250, the VSX-531 is a decent foundation from which to begin your inevitably life-spanning march towards cinema-rivalling surround sound. Fortunately for complete surroundsound novices, the journey required to get the Pioneer up and running is far from long and arduous. Simply plug the supplied microphone into the front panel’s dedicated port and by using the integrated software – in this case MCACC (Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration

System) Auto Room Tuning – you’ll be ready in the time it takes you to put batteries into the remote control and connect your Blu-ray player.

Despite the Pioneer’s consuming soundfield, the more majestic Yamaha RX-V381 takes grandiose one step further with a slightly bigger presentation capable of larger dynamic sweeps, while the Denon AVR-X1300W shows more solidity – most notably in the higher frequencies.

IN DETAIL...

Spring clip terminals mean thicker cables are trickier to connect

Startling punch

We do just that and find the final heist scene in crime western Hell or High Water is ideal ammunition to show off the Pioneer’s flair for size and scale. Revving cars, more stand-offs than in a Mexican history book, and a juicy country soundtrack served up by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis fill the soundfield with a compelling presence you might not expect at this price. Of course, power is nothing without control, and the Pioneer acknowledges this too, displaying a firm hand when it matters. With clarity and suppleness

54 www.whathifi.com

Even without the aid of a direct comparison, the Pioneer feels as though it’s lacking a little in substance. While it is able to convey the outlines of cymbal hits in the backing track or breaking glass, it doesn’t quite have the wealth of texture to shade them in. That means when we switch our listening to stereo CD playback, the slicing cymbals you can hear throughout

“Rather than network functionality or Dolby Atmos decoding, the Pioneer simply offers Bluetooth and AM/FM radio, plus a handful of connections” lying at the Pioneer’s sonic heart, it convincingly grasps the backing track, communicating the brooding tension of the instrumentals as Chris Pine and Ben Foster approach the bank with the intention of holding it up. Spiky violin strokes are allowed to poke their heads above shimmering cymbals and foreboding cello plucks, and the Pioneer’s concentration never wanders when they merely meander behind the ensuing action. Just as you’re comfortably situated in the lengthy build up, bullets bolt from gun barrels with enough punch to make you sit upright. Moments later, those bullets are ricocheting off cars, and between channels, with precision and conviction.

Majestic and grandiose

The Pioneer remote isn’t short of buttons, but remains easy to use

Out of the shade

Eloquent too, the Pioneer VSX-531 is just as convincing expressing Foster’s sarcastic jibes as it is his aggressive cursing during the heist. You don’t need to look up at the screen to recognise Jeff Bridge’s southern vernacular from True Grit, nor once question the country-vibe vocal as belonging to Cave.

If These Trees Could Talk’s Earth Crawler sound fairly tenuous, even if not uncomfortably so. Still, the Pioneer’s detail and agility in part helps make amends. The droning bass tones anchor the glacial electric riffs and snappy drumbeat, all of which work around each other with enough space to avoid sounding mashed together, and the piece tears along with a fine sense of drive. Invariably, Bluetooth streaming loses a little cleanliness and organisation over CD playback from our Cambridge CXU Blu-ray player, but despite that it’s tolerably clear and insightful – even when we really test the Pioneer’s ability by playing low-resolution Spotify streams. Pairing is as simple as pressing the Bluetooth button on the remote, and the connection remains stable whether our source is a Macbook or smartphone.

Bare-skinned features

If the Pioneer could talk (bear with us!) it would probably be that niggling reminder in your ear to appreciate the simple things in life, even though you would really like to be able to afford that luxury car or five-star holiday. In a

KEY FEATURES

130W per channel

Bluetooth

5.1 surround sound


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The VSX-531 is basic, but shows you don’t need to spend much to get a fair bit of muscle

similar way, although the Yamaha RX-V381 will suffice, it’s pretty bareboned where features are concerned. Rather than boasting the fancy network functionality of the Denon AVR-X1300W, with DLNA streaming and Spotify Connect, or the ability to decode Dolby Atmos, this Pioneer simply offers Bluetooth and AM/FM radio alongside a handful of physical connections. There are four HDMIs and single coaxial, optical and USB inputs, three pairs of RCA phonos for connecting a CD or DVD

player (for example), and HDMI, 6.3mm headphone and subwoofer outputs.

Limited connectivity

Aside from HDMI inputs supporting 4K passthrough, the Pioneer doesn’t have much separating it from more basic amplifiers of the early 2000s, but at this price it’s not the end of the world. However, we can’t make excuses for its centre and surround terminals having spring-loaded clips instead of banana plug terminals.

There’s a handful of connections, including four HDMI inputs, a 6.3mm headphone socket and sub out

Overlook that practical gremlin and we can say for certain that Pioneer has delivered a solid amplifier that could sit comfortably at the heart of anyone’s first surround-sound system. It’s entertainingly fast and articulate, and genuinely couldn’t be easier to use. The lack of features and limited connectivity shouldn’t be a issue – at this price we don’t expect the world. However, when just a little extra outlay brings such features into range, it is worth raising the question: is the Pioneer VSX-531 the most complete – sonically and feature-wise – entry-level AV amp out there? The answer is: no, it isn’t.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT The Pioneer VSX-531 is a fast and articulate entry-level amplifier, but lacks many of the features you might expect

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MAKES THINGS SOUN

D LOUD

Yamaha RX-V381 £250 FOR Big presentation; fast and articulate; easy set-up

AGAINST Few features; lacks a little authority and solidity

★★★★ ★

Like graduate salesmen, more and more tech goods are expected to go far beyond what they initially signed up for: smartphones can now start your car, fridges can talk, and kettles turn themselves on to boil. Even with budget AV amplifiers, a number of features are becoming almost mandatory: wi-fi, DLNA streaming, high-resolution audio support… all features of the Denon AVR-X1300W (£300), for example. The Yamaha RX-V381, however, flies in the face of all that. This is a back-tobasics, 70W-per-channel 5.1 surround amplifier with Bluetooth and an AM/FM tuner. No Spotify Connect. No Dolby Atmos. Not even Yamaha’s MusicCast multi-room technology. Pledging itself as fervently to the retro revolution as a department store’s homeware section, it doesn’t even have commonplace banana-plug connections

for all of its speaker terminals – the surround and centre channel inputs are the less substantial spring-loaded type. So why would you consider buying this amp, you ask? It’s a simple answer, but a good one: performance.

penchant for jump scares and instrumental climaxes, and is a little quicker out of the gate in this respect than its rival the Denon AVR-X1300W. There’s slightly greater expression to the opening narration that sets the scene for Ed and Lorraine Warren’s legendary Enfield hauntings case too. It carries the trepidation in Lorraine’s voice and emphasises the monologue’s final utterance of ‘demonic’ enough to make you shudder in your seat.

IN DETAIL...

The RX-V381 is very much a descendant of the V581 and the top-spec RX-A1060

Single-minded purpose

It should come as little surprise the RX-V381 impresses in the sound department. After all, Yamaha’s 2016 range of amps has been exemplary, from the £500 RX-V581 to the Awardwinning RX-A1060 and high-end RX-A3060. The RX-V381 is very much a sonic descendant of those devices, its primary concern being the size and scale of the sound it delivers. We turn the lights down and volume up for The Conjuring 2, and the Yamaha

56 www.whathifi.com

The Denon replies with more solidity, especially in the midrange. Gasps of horror and children’s menacing laughter feel more intimidating, and the heavier creaks of doors more unsettling too, than they do through the Yamaha. Ultimately though,

“By prioritising the core functionality of an amp – to make things sound big, loud and engaging – the Yamaha puts in an engaging performance” duly shows the film to be an exercise in suspense. The ghostly whispers and unnerving rumbles that break eerie silences are atmospheric and enthralling, this amplifier proving keen to show off its immense scale and enveloping soundfield. Close your eyes (if they aren’t already hiding behind a cushion from the horror being revealed on the screen) and it may well feel as though your speakers are positioned further back than they are. The exaggerated reverb on gunshots fires back towards the rear channels with precision – not once is there a gap in their travels – and the Yamaha creates enough space for the flurries of strings in the background and the diegetic sound effects not to bump into one another.

It’s in the detail

The simple remote included with the Yamaha is nicely laid out and easy to use

Creepy comparisons

The RX-V381’s pleasing detail detection means you’re never left in any unintended silences. The more discreet parts of the soundtrack – chirping birds and the slight shimmy of furniture, for example – are all present, if perhaps not quite as subtle as we’d like. It has the dynamism and agility to play into the hands of director James Wan’s

neither amp possesses the outright power or punch to truly convince. The mood-changing introduction of The Clash’s London’s Calling that scores stock footage of quintessential London not only gives you a chance to sit back up in your seat, but also to acknowledge the amp’s energy and oomph as the simultaneous drum and guitar groove fills the front speakers.

Musical bent

It’s a nod towards the Yamaha’s musicality, and one that is confirmed through a stereo performance of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Dust Of The Chase from the Hell Or High Water soundtrack. The gruffness of his Texan-twanged vocal is intact, and the acoustic strumming and harmonica that snake through the soundtrack are clear and lively. The RX-V381 doesn’t discriminate between movies and music, nor against people without the space for the ideal surround set-up. There are digital processing modes designed to emulate surround sound from two speakers (‘Virtual CINEMA’), or five speakers that have been forced to sit at the front of a room (‘Virtual CINEMA FRONT’).

KEY FEATURES

70W per channel

Bluetooth

5.1 surround sound


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The RX-V381 is a back-to-basics 70W-per-channel 5.1 surround amp with Bluetooth and AM/FM tuner

It spares a thought for newcomers to the process too. The YPAO set-up software, which measures everything from your speakers’ connectivity, phase and distances to your room’s acoustics and calibrates accordingly, is one of the simplest we’ve come across. And, as if under the pressure of the Countdown countdown, it’s one of the quickest too. It has Rachel Riley’s level of accuracy too, its calculations more or less spot on.

unterminated speaker cable, and relatively thin cable at that. Still, we’ve no complaints about arrangements elsewhere on the rear panel, where four HDMI inputs and one output – all HDCP 2.2-certified for 4K, HDR and BT.2020 pass-through – join single optical and dual coaxial inputs, a more-thanadequate handful of analogue connections, and an AM/FM antenna.

Yes, it has no bananas

Just because an alarm clock doesn’t have multi-coloured lights or a choice of TV theme tunes to wake you up doesn’t

The lack of banana plug sockets is a shame in that the amp requires

Clear-sighted priorities

There are four HDMI inputs and one output – all 4K passthrough – a handful of connections, and AM/FM antenna

make it a bad alarm clock. And it’s just that logic that applies here. By prioritising the core functionality of an amplifier – which is to make things sound big, loud and engaging – the Yamaha puts in an engaging performance that, while not the last word in punch or solidity, is nevertheless more than capable in most sonic areas. For purists who don’t need Spotify this and wi-fi that, or perhaps have access to those features elsewhere in their system, the Yamaha RX-V381 should be seen as functionally streamlined rather than detrimentally spartan. And that’s a good thing for an amplifier to be.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT The Yamaha RX-V381 is a pleasingly entertaining performer, though it is rather thin on features

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TEST WINNER

Denon AVR-X1300W £300

Four-star ratings all round suggests no clear winner, but one of these amps stands out...

The X1300W has a combination of hi-res audio, network streaming and weighty performance

Y

ou don’t need a diploma in astrology to work out that picking the one of this trio that’s best suited to your requirements means looking beyond the star-count. While all three have four-star ratings, suggesting that they all cross the line together in joint first place, there is still a clear hierarchy here. And topping it is the Denon AVR-X1300W. Continuing the brand’s impressive reign in the affordable market, it offers a compelling combination of 7.2 channels, hi-res audio, network streaming features like Spotify Connect, and a solid, weighty performance that neither the Yamaha nor the Pioneer can quite match. But in a way, Denon has shot itself in the foot here. The main barrier to the AVR-X1300W gaining a fifth star is its superior-sounding big brother, the Award-winning AVR-X2300W. That is

easily worth an extra £100 outlay for anyone with a more flexible budget.

to the task of inaugurating a newbie to the pleasures of surround sound. Given a touch more solidity and top-end insight, it might not have been our third choice.

Gripping sounds

Sonic purists (or those with such features accessible elsewhere in their system) who are willing to sacrifice network functionality and settle solely for Bluetooth streaming and physical connections can plump for either the Yamaha RX-V381 or Pioneer VSX-531. The former is next in the rankings. Yamaha’s vast range of AV amps has long been associated with big, enveloping presentations, and this entry-level amp doesn’t buck that trend. With expression on tap, especially in the midrange, it’s as gripping with music as it is with movies. But, like the Pioneer, it lacks the Denon’s level of authority. The Pioneer is no dud though. With its fast, articulate sound, it is more than up

Inner demons

Whether you’re looking to upgrade from a soundbar set-up, or starting a home cinema system from scratch, the trio of models here benefit from at least Bluetooth streaming, are easy to set up, and are bound to make both movies and music sound exhilarating. All three lay the foundations for you to build your system slowly towards surround-sound supremacy, but the Denon AVR-X1300W has what it takes to keep you entertained for longer than the Pioneer and Yamaha. Ultimately though, our inner demons are suggesting you skip all three and part with the extra cash for the superior Denon AVR-X2300W.

USE IT WITH

Amazon Prime £6pm A whole host of superb content, with 4k and HDR included as well

HOW THEY MEASURE UP Denon AVR-X1300W £300

Pioneer VSX-531 £250

Yamaha RX-V381 £250

Power output

80W per channel

130W per channel

70W per channel

Dimensions (hwd)

15 x 43 x 40cm

17 x 44 x 32cm

15 x 44 x 32cm

HDMI inputs

6

4

4

HDMI outputs

1

Subwoofer Weight

TEST WINNER

1

1

2

1

1

8.5kg

8kg

7.4kg

www.whathifi.com 59


SOUNDBARS

In t do he fig wo mina ht fo sou rld of nce r imp ndb the orta ar So be-a nt – con whic ll an the tend h of o kill ers u er b ca low n WHAT’S ON TEST? ?

Bose Soundtouch 300

Dali Kubik One

amsung

-

rB


W

hat mak soundbar? As an expa alternative to an ld be ou sh it , m ste sy home cinema ly tab for ced com enough to be pla e ic m na dy be ld telev ision. It shou ise e ec pr d an ts, ec eff high-octane d, perhaps most ced in soundtracks. An ver space it’s pla equately fill whate ad ars is db un so r sound that can fou of our alities that each selling-point e iqu These are the qu un a s ha e strate, and each on aiming to demon and achieve it. try in its quest to m calibration that 700 has Intellibea ard The Yamaha YSP-2 und that we’ve he so d st to true surroun se ay’ clo arr e th ide Gu ers e liv as de ouch 300 uses ‘Ph dT un So ’s a se of Bo ls from a bar. rate the channe designed to sepa is the ich of wh e , siz gy l olo ica techn an the phys sh it out wider th a for y ilit tib pa soundtrack and pu m os co 50 has Dolby Atm bills itself bar. Samsung’s K8 e Dali Kubik One th ile wh d, un so l na sio en im -d ree th und system. price as a complete so ing a sub-£1000 products occupy e es th of oms? ro ch g ea tin With from our tes emerge victorious point, which will

Join us on Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz whf.cm/playlist2017

Listen to our favourite tracks every month!

www.whathifi.com 61


SOUNDBARS

BUILD-A-BAR

Bose Soundtouch 300 £600 FOR Neat, discreet build; loud, expansive sound; features

AGAINST Lacks subtlety and crispness; bass short on depth

★★★ ★ ★

Bose’s latest soundbar offering, the SoundTouch 300, is much like the Build-A-Bear concept. Choose your basic product first, then accessorise away to your heart’s content. In this instance, you can add Bose’s Acoustimass 300 wireless subwoofer (£600) and Virtually Invisible 300 wireless surround-speakers (from £250) for a surround sound system that’s more compact than most traditional speaker packages. Wireless multi-room set-ups are on the menu too.

Feature feast

Having Bluetooth built in puts the 300 on a par with the other soundbars in this test, and the convenience brought by NFC is a sure-fire bonus. Less typical of the soundbar marketplace is the 300’s ability to stream music, from the likes of Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music, directly via the Bose SoundTouch app. The remote handset, which can be programmed to control other sources

Classy glass top; neat wraparound metal grille; nice, low stance (6cm)

“The remote is the go-to for playback, but for streaming the app is one of the most user-friendly we’ve come across” too, is still the go-to for playback controls, but for streaming, the app is one of the most user-friendly we’ve come across. This soundbar uses Bose’s PhaseGuide array technology, introduced in the brand’s first ever soundbar, which is designed to separate channels of a soundtrack and push it out wider than the physical size of the bar. The purpose of Bose’s QuietPort technology is to ensure distortion-free deep bass at any volume, and the ADAPTiQ calibration feature helps it optimise its sound for your room.

Premium look

The perforated wrap-around metal grille and glass top distinguishes it from the plastic builds common lower down the price band, and while physically it’s a good spread across a 50in telly widthwise – and a discreet 6cm tall – there’s no question it has the breadth of sound to be used with a bigger screen. Which is exactly what you need when experiencing Star Wars: The Force 62 www.whathifi.com

Awakens on Blu-ray on a 65in Samsung UE65KS9500. We connect it up via HDMI and hit play on our Cambridge Audio CXU Blu-ray player, and immediately find the Bose has no issue pushing the soundtrack well beyond each corner of the screen.

Sense of space

While ships hardly feel as though they’re flying overhead, there’s a good sense of them entering, travelling across and exiting a soundfield that’s big, expansive and well integrated. We can’t resist whacking the volume up for the legendary Star Wars theme, and the SoundTouch 300 doesn’t dampen the occasion. It’s capable of volume that will have your neighbours knocking at the door in no time, and thanks to the presentation’s weight and body, it stays reasonably composed. Even so, the Bose ultimately falls short of the standard set by the class-leading competition, which includes the multi-Award-winning Dali Kubik One (see opposite). The Bose has the upper

low-frequency punch and power to get behind exploding ships and collapsing planets, but doesn’t burrow deep enough to communicate the underlying thrum – a gap for the Acoustimass 300 wireless subwoofer to fill. Dynamically, the orchestral score doesn’t rise and fall as dramatically as it should either. When you’re spending this much on a soundbar, a thrilling sound is no less a requirement than a suite of inputs. Sadly for the Bose SoundTouch 300, its generous network features and practical design can take it only so far. Unless you’ve already bought into the SoundTouch family and are dead set on expanding your set-up, we’d be cautious about spending your cash here.

says

Rating ★★★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT Top points for style and specification, but uncompetitive sound is this unit’s undoing


SOUNDBARS

NINGLY BRILLIANT. AWARD-WIN

BRILLIANT

Dali Kubik One £800 FOR Involving sound; good connections; ease of use; looks

AGAINST Nothing of note

★★ ★ ★ ★

Dali says the Kubik One is not exactly a soundbar – rather than a mere extension of your TV, it’s a system in its own right, and one that can handle music files up to 24-bit/96kHz from a Mac, PC or similar. Whatever the appropriate nomenclature, one thing is for sure: we think it’s brilliant. Award-winningly brilliant, in fact.

Room to manoeuvre

We dive straight into Guardians Of The Galaxy and it’s hard not to notice the size of the sound presented here. It’s a wide, spacious soundstage, giving jets and spaceships ample room to manoeuvre. Even the more hectic scenes don’t sound crowded. The Dali manages to ping effects around meticulously, and with impressive clarity in comparison with the other soundbars in our test. It also makes the most of speech – voices are detailed, maintaining their textures, but never sound harsh.

Build and finish are from the top drawer and there are many colours to choose from

“The Dali manages to ping effects around meticulously, and with impressive clarity in comparison with the others in our test” There’s ample low-end heft to give substance to the sound, but it’s nicely controlled. Add good timing and you have a punchy, dynamic soundbar that wipes the floor with rivals in many ways. Whether you watch a film or listen to music, the Kubik One’s greatest strength is its ability to seize your attention. It’s a thoroughly involving experience: we don’t tend to expect this from soundbars, and although products such as the Yamaha YSP-2700 come close, the Kubik One does have an edge over them. Dali hasn’t focused only on the sound – the Kubik One’s exterior is as appealing. Soundbars don’t tend to be particularly attractive, but we think this one is really quite pretty. Those grilles are removable: red, white and black come as standard, but you can also choose from six others ranging from purple to lime green. Under the fancy exterior, a single piece of aluminium forms the chassis – designed to be thin yet sturdy enough to suppress unwanted resonances. It’s heavy and solidly built, with a finish luxurious enough to match that price tag.

It’s not just a pretty face, however. This is a serious bit of kit. You’ll find two 25mm soft-dome tweeters and two 13cm wood-fibre cones beneath the grilles. And at the back is a fair offering of connections. Inputs include two optical, and one analogue RCA. We’re pleased to see a micro-USB input too, which means you can hardwire in a Mac or PC. We’d still like to see it have the same HDMI ports that the Bose, Samsung, and Yamaha do, but nothing’s perfect.

Boost’). The latter does just that, and is best for large rooms (or blowing the roof off small ones). In between is ‘Bass Enhance’, providing a balanced sound in our set-up, on a rack and in front of a TV. Mind you, your TV will need to be tall to avoid having the bottom blocked off. At 16cm high, the Dali might conceivably justify its own shelf. Once in place, it’s easy to use, not least because the remote control is a notable improvement on that which launched with the soundbar back in 2014. Whether it’s a soundbar or a sound system, the Dali Kubik One is a massive success. The design and features impress us, and we love the way it sounds. This is a gorgeous, complete package.

A better class of wireless

For wireless input, there’s Bluetooth. The Kubik One handles aptX Bluetooth, which means you get higher-quality wireless streaming, provided you’re using a compatible device. A sub-out socket lets you hook up your own subwoofer if you feel the need. We don’t think you will, though. That’s partly because the Kubik One has a switch to adjust the amount of bass depending on the unit’s position (‘Neutral’ or, at the other extreme ‘Bass

says

Rating ★★★★★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT This Dali is a superb performer and comfortably sets the standard for soundbars at this price

www.whathifi.com 63


SOUNDBARS

OMS W FILLS OUR TESTING RO

ITH EASE

Samsung HW-K850 £900 FOR Deep bass; expansive sound; smooth tone What do you if you want the truly immersive Dolby Atmos experience – but wrapped up in a neat package that sits underneath your television? Samsung believes it has the answer here. With two 6cm upfiring drivers on the top, this unit gives the impression that audio is coming from above and in front of you. Running along the soundbar’s 120cm-wide body are nine more drivers: three 35mm tweeters and six 5cm midrange drivers, divided into threes for the left, centre, and right channels, and all driven by 360W of power amplification. Completing the 3.1.2 channel setup is a wireless subwoofer. The Samsung HW-K850 has both Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity, but to connect it to your wi-fi network you’ll have to download the Samsung MultiRoom app. It’s the only way to play Tidal, Napster or your on-device music – so not as connected as the Bose Soundtouch 300, although the K850 does have Spotify Connect built-in.

AGAINST Not dynamically powerful; lacks sonic precision

★★★ ★ ★

At 120cm, the HW-K850 is the longest soundbar in our group test

”The K850 makes a good attempt at creating a 3D space, with sounds appearing to be coming from above your television” The soundbar has a couple of HDMI inputs and one HDMI output that support 4K passthrough, and an optical input – all tucked away in the K850’s base. There’s a micro-USB port too, but that’s only for software updates. The soundbar’s remote looks similar to the motion-control wand that comes with Samsung televisions. It’s a stylish design that’s comfortable to hold, and we like the divide between overall volume control and subwoofer volume. However, the buttons aren’t quite as responsive as we’d like, and the click of the button isn’t very satisfying. As for tonality, you can adjust the bass and treble individually, but the K850 has various audio presets too, such as ‘Clear Voice’ (which enhances the midrange and treble), ‘Night’ (which keeps the vocals at the same volume while dynamically reducing loud sounds), and ‘Standard’ (with no extra processing). This is the one we keep it on. To its credit, the HW-K850 does fill our medium-sized test room with ease. The enthusiastic subwoofer helps the 64 www.whathifi.com

low bass rumbles during the opening of Jupiter Ascending, in which futuristic guns are firing and rocket boots are taking off, feel suitably large-scale. The upward-firing drivers on the soundbar help to create a wall of sound, adding the perception of height to the soundtrack.

Tracking spaceships

While it doesn’t reach high enough to really put the sound effects overhead, the K850 makes a good attempt at creating a three-dimensional space and can make sounds appear to be coming from above your television. It also has a wide soundfield, which makes it easy to track the general movement of spaceships flying across the screen. The K850 is an easy listen, with a smooth tone that doesn’t grate in the high treble or display any brittleness in the midrange. It’s big and bassy, but lacks in other aspects. It’s not as dynamically impressive or insightful as the Dali Kubik One or the non-Atmos Yamaha YSP-2700. The bass needs to be tightened up too – play California by Grimes, and the beats

are too slack to capture the punch. The opening thumps should have good kick to contrast Claire Boucher’s light vocals, but the K850 hasn’t quite got its boots on. Ultimately, the Samsung HW-K850 sits between the rock and hard place of the Atmos-enabled Yamaha YSP-5600 and cheaper, better soundbar options such as the Bose or the Dali. If you’re set on having Dolby Atmos from a soundbar, then save some more money for the pricier, but more capable, Yamaha YSP-5600. If not, there are better conventional soundbars available. The K850 delivers a large-scale sound, full of low-frequency force, but it’s not precise, dynamic, or subtle enough to be recommended ahead of the competition.

says

Rating ★★★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT The Samsung HW-K850 is a big, bassy soundbar, but needs fine-tuning before you let it into your living room


SOUNDBARS

JUSTIFY UNIQUE CAPABILITIES

THE PRICE

Yamaha YSP-2700 £800 FOR Wide surround-sound; slim design; great connectivity

For more than a decade, Yamaha’s YSP soundbar range has offered a simple, compact way to get a surround-sound effect into your home. And the YSP-2700 could be its best-value iteration yet. It works by using 16 28mm drivers, each with 2W of amplification, to bounce the sound off surrounding walls to create a 7.1-channel effect. Grunt is handled by a front-firing wireless subwoofer, creating a total power output of 107W. The soundbar should be placed centrally, but thanks to the Intellibeam calibration technology (which changes settings according to your room’s acoustics) it works with corner set-ups too. There are three modes on the YSP-2700 soundbar – ‘surround’, ‘stereo’ and ‘target’. Select the first for anything movie-based and the second for music. We’d avoid the ‘target’ option, which creates a very narrow soundfield. There are also a number of DSP modes for movies, music and entertainment. But this adds unnatural effects to the

AGAINST Needs careful placement; treble lacks bite

★★ ★ ★ ★

The YSP-2700 comes close to producing a surround-sound effect from a bar

“The Yamaha places sound in areas others can’t reach. It’s a more involving soundbar experience than any other we’ve heard” performance that are at best distracting, and at worst, off-putting. The YSP-2700 delivers when it comes to connectivity, with three HDMI ins and a single out – better than the Dali Kubik One – plus one each of optical, coaxial and analogue audio. All HDMIs support HDCP 2.2 and 4K/60p video, and are able to decode HD audio formats like Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS:HD.

Ramping up the tension

The soundbar is a MusicCast device, which automatically makes it part of a multi-room system with any other Yamaha kit, plus it supports streaming over wi-fi (up to 24-bit/192kHz), Bluetooth and Apple Airplay. It can even transmit via Bluetooth to a pair of wireless headphones or a speaker. Put on a movie and the YSP-2700 demonstrates just how wide it’s capable of throwing the sound. It’s not quite as convincing with pushing sound behind us, but everything else is placed with precision in a way that sets it apart from anything else in this test.

During a shootout with the Butcher’s henchmen in American Sniper, gunshots and explosions are delivered with a hefty amount of punch, whizzing from left to right and overhead with an enveloping sense of accuracy and agility. It’s a well-balanced sound, with low-end wallop controlled, and lightfooted enough that it doesn’t impress itself too heavily upon the rest of the frequency range. It gives more substance to the midrange, which is focused and detailed. Voices have no hard edges and the sound has a touch more authority. The slight clipping of the treble means there’s not as much expression in dialogue as with the Dali Kubik One, and the top-end zing in gunfire doesn’t have the same bite either. Dynamically it works pretty well with sound effects and soundtracks to ramp up tension. The YSP-2700 makes a case as a decent music system too, working as well with lossless music as it does Spotify streams. It times well, keeping itself coherent and organised during more complicated pieces of music. The

Dali takes it for musical competence though, delivering more detail, nuance and insight, which ultimately makes for a more up-front, engaging performance. That’s reflected in movies too, but the Dali can’t boast such a precise, expansive soundstage, the wealth of connectivity options or accommodating design. The Yamaha doesn’t deliver as explicit an effect as a full surround-sound system, of course, but the placement of sound in areas that other soundbars simply can’t reach makes for a more enveloping soundbar experience than any other we’ve heard. The YSP-2700 sits at the top end of most budgets, but its excellent performance and unique capabilities justify it.

says

Rating ★★★★★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT The YSP range’s best iteration yet – and the most convincing surround-sound experience you’ll get outside a 5.1 system

www.whathifi.com 65


Grand Musicality PianoCraf arrives, crowned with the name “Grand�. A CD player, amplifer, and speakers with the same fnish as a real piano inherit the Yamaha High-Fidelity concept, and play beautiful music that takes you beyond ordinary listening.

MCR-N870/D

Wireless Music System

FM / DAB+

App

AirPlay

Bluetooth

Wi-Fi

ECOmode

High-Res Audio

MCR-N670/D For more info visit uk.yamaha.com


SOUNDBARS

TEST WI ER

Dali Kubik One £800 A winning combination of sound quality, features, looks and build

T

he competition is stiff, but it’s the Dali Kubik One that comes out on top of this test. Sonically, it’s a soundbar that just commands attention whenever it’s playing. The bass is substantial and packed full of dynamism, and is significantly more responsive than the bass-heavy, but less subtle, Samsung HW-K850 – the Dali is ready to fex its lowfrequency muscles at any opportunity. It also has a great deal of insight in the treble, the scales just tipping in its favour when compared with the five-star Yamaha YSP-2700 – the Kubik One

“When it comes to sound quality you won’t be able to get anything better at this price than the Dali Kubik One”

delivers more expression in dialogue and greater nuance in the effects, without any harsh edges. It’s got a spacious soundstage too, so even busy scenes of sonic complexity have the freedom to move around. The Dali is as good on the outside as it is on the inside, its high-quality aluminium exterior hitting all three points of a soundbar’s design triad: solidity, elegance and slimness. The micro-USB port on its back, so you can link it up with a Mac or PC, is a nice touch too, as is the extra audio output in case you want to add a subwoofer.

USE IT WITH Samsung UE55KS7000 £1300 Stunning visuals at all resolutions from this Award-winning 4K screen. It’s well priced too

F O R A F U L L L I S T O F P R O D U C T S P E C I F I C AT I O N S A N D O T H E R U S E F U L I N F O V I S I T W H AT H I F I . C O M

Whether you’re playing a film or blasting out some high-resolution music, the Dali’s 24-bit/96kHz support will be able to handle it. While the lack of an HDMI connection might be a dealbreaker for some – and in that case, we’d point you towards the Yamaha – when it comes to sound quality you won’t be able to get anything better at this price than the Dali Kubik One. It will really take something special to knock this multiple Award-winner off the podium.

HOW THEY MEASURE UP Bose Soundtouch 300

Dali Kubik One

Samsung HW-K850

Inputs

HDMI, optical, ethernet

2 x optical, USB, audio, RCA

2 x HDMI, optical, audio

3 x HDMI, optical, coaxial, audio

Bluetooth

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Subwoofer

Optional (£600)

No

Yes

Yes

Finishes

1

3 (6 other options, £60 each)

1

1

Dimensions (hwd)

6 x 98 x 11cm

16 x 98 x 10cm

8 x 121 x 13cm (bar)

5 x 94 x 15cm (bar)

Weight

4.7kg

9.6kg

6.7kg (bar), 9.6kg (sub)

4kg (bar), 9.1kg (sub)

TEST WINNER

Yamaha YSP-2700

www.whathifi.com 67


TEMPTATIONS EXPENSIVE, YES. BUT YO

U KNOW YOU WANT TH

EM

McIntosh MT5 | Turntable | £8200

“A full dose of excitement”

KEY FEATURES

FOR Insightful, refined sound; simple to set up; nicely made

AGAINST Sonic standards are sky-high at this price level

★★★ ★ ★

Few high-end companies can boast a heritage like McIntosh. It’s easily one of the oldest hi-fi brands around, founded in Maryland, USA, back in 1949. By comparison the likes of old-timers such as Mark Levinson, Krell, and Audio Research are just getting started. Over the years McIntosh has made pretty much every part of the hi-fi chain, but the brand is best known for its distinctively styled amplifiers. Their identity is invariably reinforced by the company’s traditional glass fronts, VU meters and less-than-subtle backlighting.

the top and lower sections of the bearing to limit noise levels. McIntosh’s main engineering input, predictably, comes in the electronics, with the company designing the power supply and reworking the motor. This collaboration between high-end audio giants results in a deck that’s as close to plug-and-play as we’ve seen at this level. The MT5 is a breeze to set up. It comes with both arm and cartridge attached and aligned. The cartridge is the wellregarded Sumiko Blue Point No.2 – a high-output moving-coil design – which, if bought separately, will cost you around £200. Of course, the MT5 design is capable of handling far more ambitious designs, but as a step-off point this cartridge is still talented enough to show what it can do in this context. Once you take the deck out of the box it takes a matter of minutes before you’re listening to music. You’ve got to add a bit of oil to the ceramic bearing-shaft, fit the two-part platter assembly, move the counterweight to the pre-designated spot on the arm, and off you go. Oh, and don’t forget to fit the drive belt – not much will happen without that.

The acrylic platter is a relatively hefty unit, weighing in at around 2.3kg. This mass gives a flywheel effect that helps with speed stability. It’s beautifully made, with a precision that makes it hard to tell whether it’s spinning or not, so accurate is the manufacture.

A rare breed

A new McIntosh turntable, however, is a rare thing. With the introduction of the MT5 the company now has just two in its repertoire – the other one, the MT10, was introduced back in 2008. Considering McIntosh’s current expertise lies more in electronics and, to a lesser extent, speakers, we wonder whether the company can truly deliver on the record-playing front. Given that context, it makes sense for the brand to collaborate with a company that specialises in all things vinyl, and in this respect there are few better choices than Clearaudio. That tie-in becomes obvious when you see the MT5’s magnetic main bearing (with its ceramic shaft), which mirrors the design used on our reference Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable. In this clever engineering, there is minimal contact between 68 www.whathifi.com

Engineering prowess

This record player is a nicely engineered unit. Its chassis is a rigid but damped combination of stainless steel and alloy, topped off by an acrylic top panel. The front controls mirror those of McIntosh’s amplifiers but here they control the On/ Off and Speed functions.

Supplied with arm and cartridge

N

S

Magnetic main bearing

Glow of satisfaction

Power on the MT5 and the platter lights up with the kind of light-show you get with McIntosh’s amplifiers. We like the effect. It adds a visual drama most of this deck’s competitors lack. The platter is driven by a high-quality Swiss-made DC motor, which is controlled by a servo system to compensate for load and power fluctuations. Three speeds are offered: 33⅓, 45 and, more unusually, 78rpm. It’s such a pleasure to be able to change speed electronically rather than via the back-to-basics method of moving the drive belt from one pulley step to the next that many decks still adhere to. The tonearm is also nicely made. The bearings feel smooth and precise, and it uses Clearaudio’s trademark magnetic anti-skate adjustment mechanism. As with the rest of the MT5, this arm feels as though it’s built to last. There’s a lid for the deck too, something many rivals omit. It might not improve performance but it does mean your pride and joy will be protected from dust and inquisitive little fingers, which can’t be a bad thing. And you can always leave it off during play.

45

33⅓

Electronic speed change

USE IT WITH Cyrus Phono signature/ PSX-R2 £1900 A top-class phono stage capable of getting excellent results from a wide range of cartridges


T E M P TAT I O N S The MT5 sounds better with the supplied felt mat on the platter – but looks better without it

”We can’t think of a high-end alternative that’s as easy to set up, and few that are as nice to use” The magnetic anti-skid device is adjusted via a wheel on the side of the tonearm

www.whathifi.com 69


T E M P TAT I O N S On the right of the rear panel, three recessed screws allow adjustment of platter speed

In our experience all turntables work best when placed on a rigid, lowresonance support, preferably well away from the speakers. The MT5 proves no exception, which is no surprise considering the lack of a traditional sprung suspension system. Given such a support, and a suitably talented system, this player produces some fine results.

Reference point

We use our usual reference set-up of Cyrus Signature/PSX-R2 phono stage, Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power and ATC SCM50 speakers, and find much to like in the McIntosh’s performance. We start with Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. The McIntosh has a fast and agile sound, one that picks up quite a lot of detail. There’s plenty of energy here, and no shortage of punch. Rhythm tracks charge along with enthusiasm, while Springsteen’s passionate vocal delivery gets centre stage. It’s quite a dense album, and we feel the MT5 package doesn’t separate out the instrumental strands quite as well as we’d like – but we suspect a change to a more ambitious cartridge might help that. Tonally, there isn’t much to complain about. This combination sounds even enough to avoid criticism and has the top-end refinement to stay enjoyable, even when presented with some less-than-perfect recordings.

Blue sounds in the pink

We move to Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis. With the right kit, this recording can still impress thanks to the sheer presence and solidity of the sound. The MT5 package doesn’t disappoint. 70 www.whathifi.com

It sounds surefooted, delivering shifts in dynamic intensity with confidence and tying the various instrumental contributions together well. Changes in pace are conveyed with skill, while the album’s complex rhythmic flow comes through with clarity. Soundstaging is pretty good for the most part, though there is a lack of expanse when things get complicated or multi-layered. The MT5 never sounds confused, but the space around

The bold platter illumination and distinctive logo backlighting help make the MT5 unmistakable

instruments tends to shrink when a piece of music becomes complex. Dynamics become less fluid and expressive too. We notice this on Orff’s Carmina Burana, but it isn’t enough to spoil our enjoyment. Here we’re impressed by the McIntosh’s enthusiasm and its ability to stay composed when the music gets demanding. There’s plenty of punch here, along with the means to supply a full dose of the excitement on offer. We’re also pleased the MT5 can couple these strengths with an ability to render lowlevel instrumental strands with subtlety. There are brains behind that muscle.

Easy-going but exciting

The MT5 is an impressive package. We can’t think of a high-end alternative that’s as easy to set up, and few that are as nice to use. The sound quality, while not outstanding, is exciting and enjoyable. For some, the McIntosh brand name and those looks would be enough to get their credit card out, but the MT5 is more than a show-pony. This is a truly capable unit that can stand up to any class rival without embarrassment. We like it a lot.

says

Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT If you’re looking for a hugely capable plug-and-play turntable we can think of nothing better


   

     

          

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TEMPTATIONS Linn Klimax DS 3 | Streamer | £15,800

Linn spawns a stream of superlatives FOR Class-leading sound; fine dynamics; tight rhythms; build

AGAINST No DSD replay

★★★★ ★

Sometimes it doesn’t take long to realise a product is special. In this case, just a few minutes with Linn’s rangetopping streamer is enough for us to come to that conclusion. Extended listening confirms it. This level of competence should come as no surprise, as Linn is no stranger to music streaming. The original Klimax DS was launched way back in 2007, making it one of the earliest high-end units around. Linn also has the advantage of being involved right through the music chain, from making original recordings to manufacturing source components, speakers and cables. This gives the brand a perspective over music replay that’s impossible to get any other way.

The DS is a small unit, about two-thirds the size of a normal piece of kit. Each edge on the casework is as crisp as you like, and the ultra-clean, control-free front-panel design still manages to look futuristic to our eyes – that’s despite the Klimax’s external design being a decade old.

such as play or changing inputs but, as with all such things, it feels cumbersome for extensive music searches. Delve into the Klimax DS 3 functions and you’ll come across Tidal and Qobuz built in, and something called Space Optimisation. While room equalisation is nothing new, particularly in AV kit, finding such functionality in high-end stereo gear is unusual. And the Linn offers an interesting twist – you can place the speakers where you want, and it will attempt to make them sound as though they’re in the ideal position.

The new ingredients

While the DS 3 looks just like previous generations of Klimax streamers, much has changed under that immaculately executed aluminium casework. This is the first Linn product to feature the company’s Katalyst digital-to-analogue conversion architecture – the company’s fourth generation of DAC design. Katalyst brings multiple isolated power supplies, a high-precision master clock, careful optimisation of the data before conversion and a new lowdistortion output driver stage. And we’re sure the new circuit plays a significant part in the terrific sound we hear. That solid casework must help too. We can’t help but be impressed by the build quality and superb machining. Linn’s heritage is all about top-class engineering – the likes of the legendary LP12 turntable – so that’s no surprise. 72 www.whathifi.com

Inclusions and omissions

Look around the back and you’ll find both balanced and single-ended analogue outputs and an ethernet port. There are also connections for Linn’s proprietary Exakt link – a digital feed to the company’s top-end active speakers. Unusually for a product such as this, the DS 3 doesn’t have digital inputs. To get those you have to spend another £3100 for the Klimax DSM 3. Oddly, even with the DSM, there’s no USB option. File compatibility covers all the usual PCM types – including MP3, FLAC, WAV and even ALAC – up to a relatively modest limit of 24-bit/192kHz, but there’s no DSD. While DSD files are arguably something of a niche interest we’re still surprised the Linn can’t play them. The 24-bit/192kHz resolution limit bothers us less, because there’s very little material available beyond that. A music streamer invariably lives or dies by the quality of its control app, and on the DS 3 Linn’s longused Kinsky app has now given way to something called Kazoo. This new app is clearly a step forward in terms of usability and response. Linn also supplies a standard remote handset, which is fne for basic functions

How well does it work?

It’s a bold aim and, for the most part, works well. The process takes a bit of time but the effort pays off, particularly if your speakers’ performance is notably compromised by their placement. Once up and running, this is a simple product to use. Kazoo connects quickly and it doesn’t take long to load album art from our NAS unit. We start with Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, sit back and enjoy. The Linn

USE IT WITH Gamut D3i/D200i £14,800 Our reference pre/ power delivers a class-leading combination of agility, detail resolution and transparency

New Katalyst DAC brings multiple isolated power supplies and a low-distortion output stage


T E M P TAT I O N S Minimal, elegant and futuristic, it’s hard to believe the exterior design is a decade old. It’s lovingly made too

”The DS 3 is without doubt the most transparent and insightful streamer we’ve ever tested”

captures the menacing tone of the piece brilliantly, balancing Cohen’s gravelly vocals well against the intense but low-key instrumental backdrop. There’s plenty of subtlety here alongside a sense of impending doom that’s all the more poignant given Cohen’s demise just a few weeks after the album was released. The level of clarity is sky-high, the Linn delivering the leading and trailing edges of notes with surgical precision. So clean and clear is the presentation that initially it’s easy to wonder if anything is missing. Maybe a touch of natural warmth? Longer listening suggests not. Compared with our current reference streamer, the similarly priced Naim NDS/555PS, the Klimax does sound a touch less substantial, but the trade off is a level of subtlety, detail resolution and responsiveness that the Naim can’t match. The DS 3 is without doubt the most transparent and insightful music streamer we’ve had in our test rooms. Moving onto something more upbeat (not to mention cheerful) in the form of Pon De Floor by Major Lazer and the Klimax responds with enthusiasm.

KEY FEATURES

PCM only

There’s plenty of bite coupled to a surefooted way with rhythms that make the song great fun to listen to. Bass notes hit hard and fast, yet subtle instrumental textures are also revealed. The same goes for vocals. While there’s plenty of energy, the Klimax also demonstrates a level of finesse most high-end alternatives barely hint at.

Orchestral manoeuvres Balanced XLR

Tidal

Wondering if the Linn has what it takes with larger-scale music, we try a range of demanding recordings from Hans Zimmer’s Inception and Interstellar OSTs to Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring. We come away deeply impressed. This streamer’s stereo imaging is expansive and precise, and the soundstage is nicely layered in every dimension. There’s a pleasing stability here too, so the presentation stays organised even during demanding sections. All in all this is an excellent performance that beautifully balances convincing tonality with wild dynamics and crisp rhythms. Listening to Tidal shows the expected drops in outright performance but, of

course, brings in a wealth of new material to enjoy. The Klimax DS 3 remains a fun and entertaining experience, and the integration of the streaming service is done well. Linn hasn’t been shy about charging a massive amount for the Klimax DS 3. Yet look at the build and engineering and that price starts to make more sense. This streamer’s sound quality sets it apart from just about every rival we’ve heard, and makes this a must-listen product for anyone looking for the finest-sounding digital source around.

says

Rating ★★★ ★ ★ PERFORMANCE FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT If you’re looking for the finest-sounding music streamer on the market, and price isn’t an issue, start here

www.whathifi.com 73


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BUYER’S GUIDE

BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS HI-FI

NOW WITH THE BEST BUYS IN EVERY CATEGORY Kobina Monney, Buyer’s Guide Editor

This is the definitive guide to the best homeentertainment kit you can buy. From 75in TVs to smartphones, from portable Bluetooth speakers to Dolby Atmos surround-sound packages, here’s where you’ll find the perfect product, fast. NEW ENTRIES This month we have the first phone made by Google, Onkyo’s DP-X1 portable music player comes with a bevy of features and Copland’s DAC 215 is a lovely, understated performer.

STEREO AMPLIFIERS

84

PRE-AMPLIFIERS

85

POWER AMPLIFIERS

86

CD PLAYERS

86

DACS

88

MUSIC STREAMERS

89

RADIOS

91

STEREO SPEAKERS

91

MULTI-ROOM SYSTEMS

101

STEREO SYSTEMS

102

TURNTABLES

103

WIRELESS SPEAKERS

104

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107

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108

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110

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111

VIDEO STREAMERS

114

TELEVISIONS

115

PORTABLE HEADPHONES

117

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121

SMARTPHONES

124

STREAMING APPS & SERVICES

124

TABLETS

126

ACCESSORIES ANALOGUE INTERCONNECTS

126

AV & HI-FI RACKS

127

HEADPHONE AMPLIFIERS

127

MAINS PRODUCTS

127

PHONO AMPLIFIERS

128

SPEAKER CABLES

129

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130

Onkyo DP-X1 “Its storage potential may as well be unlimited; it’ll play almost anything; and it has MQA compatibility”

Google Pixel XL “The organic Android experience, now slicker and more user-friendly than ever, is a joy to use and, with Google Assistant, its future looks bright indeed”

Copland DAC 215 “We like the Copland DAC 215. It’s smart, nice to use and well built. It sounds lovely too, particularly as a headphone amp”

www.whathifi.com 77


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A LICENCE AGREEMENT TO SEVENOAKS SOUND & VISION

  WINTER 2016

Winter Issue Out Now!

THE SOUNDS, THE SCENES AND THE SENSATIONS

LOADS OF AMAZING AS CHRISTM AUDIO & VIDEO STUFF

 

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PAGE 20 WORTH ÂŁ999


BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS Stereo amps up to £500

The only products worth considering

HI-FI

AMPLIFIERS

THE BEATING HEART OF YOUR HI-FI SYSTEM

Marantz PM6006 £400

NEW ENTRY

December 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Another fine amplifier from Marantz, it’s a clear improvement over the PM6005, our only disappointment is the scarcity of digital sources. Power 45W Inputs 5 line-in, MM Outputs headphone AWARD WINNER

Onkyo A-9010 £230

Best stereo amplifier under £300, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Our favourite budget amplifier, this is arguably the most entertaining affordable amp around. It has agility and a wicked sense of rhythm. Power 44W Inputs 5 line-in, MM Outputs speaker, headphone

Arcam FMJ A19 £600 May 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Arcam’s entry-level amplifier is a terrific combination of sensible features, fine build and entertaining sound. Power 50W Inputs 6 line-in, MM Outputs Speaker, headphone, preamp

Cambridge Audio CXA60 £500

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

£500 to £1000

Best stereo amplifier £300-£700, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This is a lively performer with expressive dynamics and a surefooted sense of rhythm. Build quality is impressive. Power 60W Inputs 4 line-in Outputs Preamp, 2 x speaker, headphone

Naim Nait 5si £925 January 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Naim’s starter amp is an exceptionally polished performer which combines drama with the insight and subtlety to match the very best. Power 60W Inputs 3 line-in Outputs speaker, headphone

Rega Elex-R £900

Best stereo amplifier £700-£1000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

Arguably the best-value amp Rega makes, with insight and the precise handling of rhythms that’s hard to better even at double the price. Power 72W Inputs 4 line-in, MM Outputs Speaker, preamp

Naim Supernait 2 £2750 £1000 to £3000

December 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A terrific integrated amplifier. It’s punchy, with a low-frequency performance that brims with authority. Dynamics are strong too. Power 80W Inputs 5 line-in Outputs Speaker, headphone, preamp

Rega Elicit-R £1600

Best stereo amplifier £1000+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Rega’s top integrated builds on the qualities of its smaller brother, the Elex-R. We haven’t heard a more precise amplifier for the money. Power 105W Inputs 5 line-in, MM Outputs preamp, speaker

84 www.whathifi.com

AWARD WINNER


AMPLIFIERS CONTINUED Rogue Audio Cronos Magnum II £2495 October 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Though it has a villainous name, its performance is heroic. This valve amp has a robust and refined sound to match its attractive looks. Power 100W Inputs 3 line-in, MM Outputs Speaker, h’phone, preamp

£1000 to £3000

Roksan Caspian M2 £1900 October 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A supremely rounded product with solid build, classy aesthetics and a brilliant all-round sound that works well with all types of music. Power 85W Inputs 5 line-in Outputs Speaker, preamp

Roksan K3£1250 February 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This lively effort from Roksan delivers a sound that’s big, expressive and agile. It even performs capably on a Bluetooth connection. Power 150W Inputs 5 line, MM, B’tooth Outputs Spkr, preamp, h’phone NEW ENTRY

Burmester 099 £6440

Preamps up to £9000

January 2017 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The 099 can pretty much play all your music files. It’s configurable and, in partnership with the 956 Mk2, delivers a smooth, enjoyable sound. Inputs 3 line-in Output Balanced, headphone, preamp DAC No

GamuT D3i £6150 January 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This GamuT D3i is a brilliant performer with excellent detail and superb transparency. It isn’t packed with inputs, but will cope with most set-ups. Inputs 3 line-in Output Balanced, single-ended DAC No

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FRDE80E20

NAD ERS SPEAK

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NAD D 3020

The D 8020 is a compact monitor which has been optimised to work with the NAD D 3020 set with the BASS eq to on which gives a full sound that defies their dimensions. The speakers come with speaker cable in the box, so all you need to do is connect and play!

£449 STEREO AMPLIFIERS BEST STEREO AMP UP TO £500

“The NAD D 3020 remains a fantastic piece of hi-fi kit. The compact design and breadth of connections aside, it’s the punchy, exciting, nuanced performance that truly engages us.”

NAD D 3020

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WHAT HI-FI? AWARDS 2013

5 YEAR WARRANTY

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Preamps £9000 and above

AMPLIFIERS CONTINUED Burmester 808 MK5 £22,242 February 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Burmester’s masterpiece may be decades old but a string of upgrades have kept it relevant. Sound quality remains exceptional. Inputs line-in, MM, MC (opt) Outputs Balanced, single-ended DAC No

Mark Levinson 326S £9300 July 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This classy unit has a refined presentation and a spellbinding sense of control. Construction quality is deeply impressive. Inputs 7 line-in Output Balanced, single-ended DAC No

Burmester 956 Mk2 £8440

NEW ENTRY

Power amps

January 2017 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Paired with the 099 preamp, this impeccably built power amp offers a smooth, engaging and full-bodied sound that needs to be heard. Power output 115W Mono/Stereo Stereo Inputs XLR

GamuT D200i £8500 January 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The D200i combines transparency, muscle and agility better than any alternative we’ve heard. Build and finish are excellent. Power output 220W Mono/Stereo Stereo Inputs Phono, XLR

CD PLAYERS & TRANSPORTS GET THE RIGHT PLAYER AND CD CAN STILL SHINE Cambridge Audio CXC £300 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Up to £500

If you already have a DAC – the CXC is useless without one – we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this transport over a standalone CD player. Type CD transport Outputs Coaxial, optical AWARD WINNER

Marantz CD6006 £400

Best CD player under £500, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The price may have gone up, but several upgrades have contributed to a CD player that, overall, is an improvement on its predecessor. Type CD player Outputs Coaxial, optical, RCA, headphone

Onkyo C-N7050 £350 April 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A CD player or a hi-res music streamer? Whatever it is, the C-N7050 is a hugely appealing system that combines the best of both worlds. Type CD player/streamer Outputs Optical, coaxial, line level

Cyrus CD i £995 £500 to £1000

Best CD player £500+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Cyrus says this player is its best-sounding yet, and afer listening to how confident and entertaining it sounds, it’s tough to disagree. Type CD player Outputs Coaxial, optical, RCA

Cyrus CD t £750 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

An exceptionally talented transport, the CD t offers a level of insight, transparency and clarity you’d struggle to find elsewhere at this price. Type CD transport Outputs Coaxial, optical 86 www.whathifi.com


CD PLAYERS & TRANSPORTS CONTINUED Naim CD5si £1080

October 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£1000 to £1500

The CD5si boasts a full-bodied, winningly enthusiastic approach to music. The absence of digital outputs means there’s no upgrade path. Type CD player Outputs RCA, DIN

Roksan K3 CD Di £1300 November 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Few players at this price are as musical as the K3 CD Di. It promotes the character of your music, so you’ll never tire of listening to it. Type CD player Outputs Coax, opt, XLR, RCA Inputs Coax, opt

Cyrus CD Xt Signature £1750 May 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£1500 to £2000

Looking for a top-class transport? The Xt Signature provides a sound that’s cleaner, crisper and more dynamic than its predecessor. Type CD transport Outputs Coaxial, optical

Roksan Caspian M2 CD £1900 Awards 2010 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Caspian M2 CD has been around the block, but it’s showing few signs of its age, combining skill with timing, dynamics and authority. Type CD player Outputs Coaxial, optical, USB, XLR, RCA

£2000 to £10,000

Esoteric K-05 £7495 January 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The K-05 is a hefy, well-built piece of hi-fi. The sense of scale and composure is impressive; as is its powerful, yet articulate bass. Type CD player Outputs Coax, opt, XLR, RCA Inputs Coax, opt, USB

AUDIOPHILE GRADE BASS RESPONSE WITHOUT A SUBWOOFER

NEW

The new Bluesound PULSE SOUNDBAR £999

The PULSE SOUNDBAR delivers a high-res audio experience that brings any soundtrack to life in vivid, cinematic detail. Created by world-renowned speaker Paul Barton, the PULSE SOUNDBAR features clear, 24-bit resolution sound and audiophile grade bass response - without a subwoofer. It’s also the first soundbar designed to stream original studio master files (MQA) for an unprecedented spatial experience of sound texture and realism. This is the soundbar your TV deserves.

5 YEAR WARRANTY

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Other brands available include:

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£2000 to £10,000

CD PLAYERS & TRANSPORTS CONTINUED Metronome Le Player £5490 April 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

‘Entry-level’ in name only, this effort from Metronome features an agile, articulate presentation along with plenty of insight. Type CD player Outputs Coaxial, optical, USB, XLR, RCA

£10,000 and above

Burmester 089 £13,320 January 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A top-class player that requires a suitably talented system to shine, the 089 is one of the best digital sources money can buy. Type CD player Outputs Coaxial, optical, USB Inputs Coax, opt

Burmester 069 £35,840 November 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If you can get past the massive price tag then you have a wonderful player that ranks among the best, if not the best, we’ve ever heard. Type CD player Outputs 2 x coaxial, opt, XLR, RCA Inputs Coax, opt

DACS A DIGITAL-TO-ANALOGUE CONVERTER IS A MODERN HI-FI MUST Arcam miniBlink £90 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Up to £200

This receiver has serious dynamic clout, with a zingy and fluid rhythm. The 3.5mm analogue output means an adaptor is needed for trad hi-fi. Inputs Bluetooth Size 25 x 30 x 40mm

Audioquest DragonFly Black £90

AWARD WINNER

Best USB DAC under £100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Cheaper, with improved sound and compatibility, this is arguably the best DragonFly yet. The 96kHz playback limit is a disappointment though. Inputs USB Size 60 x 20 x 10mm Resolution Up to 24-bit/96kHz

Audioquest DragonFly Red £170

AWARD WINNER

Best USB DAC £100+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A more expensive alternative to the DragonFly Black, this is a marked improvement over the original, sounding more sophisticated and subtler. Inputs USB Size 60 x 20 x 10mm Resolution Up to 24-bit/96kHz

Chord Mojo £400 £200 to £500

Best DAC under £500, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The majority of the £1400 Hugo’s performance for a fraction of the price. An enthusiastic performer that stays refined and superbly balanced. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 20 x 60 x 80mm Res 32-768kHz/DSD 512

Oppo HA-2 SE £290 Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£500 to £1000

A minor upgrade but a good one. The SE costs more than the DragonFly, but offers more features to go with its clear, agile and detailed sound. Inputs USB, 3.5mm Size 140 x 70 x 120mm Res to 384kHz, 16/24/32-bit

Audiolab M-DAC £600 June 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A good desktop alternative to the Chord Mojo, with plenty more sockets and features. Smooth balance, fluid dynamics and subtle detail. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 6 x 25 x 25cm Res Up to 24-bit/192kHz

88 www.whathifi.com

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR


DACS CONTINUED Audiolab M-DAC+ £800 August 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

Chord 2Qute £995

Best DAC £500-£1000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The 2Qute’s insight, accuracy and dynamic punch outshine rivals with aplomb. The colourful display and the shiny chassis continue to wow us. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 7 x 16 x 4cm Resolution Up to 32-bit/384kHz

Chord Hugo £1400

£500 to £1000

Audiolab’s follow up to the M-DAC gets a great deal right with a sound that’s neat, tidy and expansive. The M-DAC+ demands your attention. Inputs 2 x coax, 2 x opt Size 11 x 25 x 29cm Res Up to 32-bit/384kHz

AWARD WINNER

Best DAC £1000+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Hugo benefits from the genius circuitry informing Chord’s latest products. It has superb timing, remarkable clarity and plenty of power. Inputs 2x USB, opt, coax Size 2 x 13 x 10cm Resolution Up to 384kHz

Chord Hugo TT £2995 September 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

NEW ENTRY

Copland DAC 215 £2000 January 2017 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A versatile DAC that can be used as a preamp. This understated effort is hugely talented and has an open, clean and precise presentation. Inputs RCA, USB, opt, coax Size 12 x 20 x 28cm Res Up to 32-bit/384kHz

£1000 to £3000

This ‘table-top’ version is the basic Hugo design, but supercharged. The finish is gorgeous, and it sounds better than its cheaper siblings. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 5 x 24 x 23cm Res Up to 32-bit/384kHz

Naim DAC-V1 £1350 February 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Naim’s entry DAC is typical of the company’s sonic signature, combining a balanced tone with strong dynamics and fine organisation. Inputs USB, 2x opt, 3 x coax Size 9 x 21 x 32cm Res 24-bit/384kHz

Chord DAVE £8000

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

The uniquely-named DAVE costs a lot but we’d argue it’s the best DAC money can buy. Build quality is excellent and the sound is very special. Inputs 4 x coax, 2 x opt, XLR Size 6 x 34 x 15cm Res Up to 768kHz

TAD DA1000 £11,995 May 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

It’s massive and it costs an eye-watering £12,000, but this is a brilliant performer. Agile and refined, it handles low level detail with finesse. Inputs USB, opt, coax, AES/EBU Size 9 x 27 x 27cm Res Up to 384kHz

£2000 and above

Best Temptation, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

MUSIC STREAMERS THE BEST WAY TO SHARE YOUR TUNES AROUND THE HOUSE

November 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Looking for a non-amplified streamer to hook up to your existing hi-fi? The Node is back, and better, with improved design and connectivity. DLNA Yes Inputs Toslink, 3.5mm Storage No

Up to £500

Bluesound Node 2 £499

www.whathifi.com 89


MUSIC STREAMERS CONTINUED AWARD WINNER

Google Chromecast Audio £30 Up to £500

Best music streamer under £100, Awarda 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Google turns its expertise to audio streaming to bring music from any Cast-compatible app to your amps and speakers. And for only £30. DLNA Yes Inputs RCA, 3.5mm, optical Storage No AWARD WINNER

Pioneer N-50A £380

Best music streamer £100-£500, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£500 to £1000

The impressive N-50A offers an insightful performance, and can pluck music over DLNA and Internet radio or via a hoard of inputs. DLNA Yes Inputs optical, coaxial, USB Storage No AWARD WINNER

Cambridge Audio CXN £700

Best music streamer £500-£1000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Building on the success of Cambridge’s Award-winning Stream Magic 6 v2, the CXN features an all-new design and improved sound. DLNA Yes Inputs optical, coaxial, 3 x USB Storage No

Cambridge Audio Azur 851N £1200

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

£1000 to £2000

Best music streamer £1000-£2000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A sterling streamer that boasts excellent file support, plenty of connections and a sound that’s both expressive and dynamic. DLNA Yes Inputs 2 x optical, 2 x coaxial, 3 x USB, ethernet Storage No

Cyrus Stream Xa £1250 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The two-time Award-winning Xa is a corker. Its half-width design won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but its truly entrancing sound surely will. DLNA Yes Inputs 2 x optical, 3 x coaxial, USB Storage No

Naim NAC-N272 £3400 £2000 to £5000

November 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A talented unit that combines a capable preamp with a terrific music streamer, it delivers a top-class sound with an extensive feature list. DLNA Yes Inputs 3 x line, 3 x coaxial, 3 x optical Storage No

Naim ND5 XS £2250

AWARD WINNER

Best streamer £2000+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A forward-thinking design from an established hi-fi company. A brilliant sonic performance and a must-have if you’re afer a do-it-all streamer. DLNA Yes Inputs USB, coaxial, optical Storage No

Burmester Musiccenter 151 £12,500 £5000 and above

August 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This multi-talented machine is a streamer, server, CD player and ripper, all wrapped in one superbly made chrome-laden box. DLNA Yes Inputs optical, coaxial, USB Storage 4TB

Naim NDS/555PS £12,620 December 2012 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Hear what this monster of a streaming machine can do and there will be no going back. Can afford the outlay? Lucky you DLNA Yes Inputs 2 x coaxial, optical Storage No

F O R A F U L L L I S T O F S P E C I F I C AT I O N S A N D I N - D E P T H R E V I E W S V I S I T W H AT H I F I . C O M 90 www.whathifi.com


RADIOS CONTINUED

RADIOS ONE OF THE OLDEST ENTERTAINMENT TECHS, STILL GOING STRONG AWARD WINNER

Pure Evoke D2 £90

Best radio under £100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Roberts Stream 93i £150

Best radio £100-£200, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Up to £200

A three-time Award-winner. For just £85, you have a stellar radio that not only sounds lovely but will look charming in any home. Battery Yes Size (hwd) 15 x 21 x 7cm Inputs Mini-USB, 3.5mm

This Roberts delivers deep bass that doesn’t overpower the midrange. Spotify Connect, wi-fi and USB playback are the headliners. Battery No – Size (hwd) 21 x 24 x 13cm Inputs 3.5mm

Geneva World Radio DAB+ £270 September 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This Bluetooth-toting portable radio is a sleek machine that’s a breeze to use. The full-bodied, detailed performance is worth the price. Battery Yes (chargeable) Size 18 x 30 x 12cm Inputs 3.5mm, B’tooth

Revo Axis X3 £200 January 2014 ★★★★★

Revo SuperConnect £280

Best radio £200+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

Not just a radio, this feature-packed Revo is a streaming music player that will play just about anything from nearly any source. Battery No Size 18 x 27 x 12cm Inputs 3.5mm, Bluetooth, DLNA

£200 and above

Strong with voices, the X3 goes surprisingly loud for a compact radio. It also has internet radio, aptX Bluetooth and a Lightning connector dock. Battery No Size 13 x 22 x 15cm Inputs 3.5mm, B’tooth, Apple, DLNA

Revo SuperSignal £180 August 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A stylish radio with plenty of features, it’s even more impressive on the audio front thanks to a large-scale sound that belies its appearance. Battery No Size (hwd) 21 x 14 x 14cm Inputs 3.5mm, AUX in, B’tooth

STEREO SPEAKERS THEY BRING THE MUSIC TO YOUR EARS – SO CHOOSE WITH CARE Eclipse TD-M1 £800 August 2014 ★★★★

KEF Egg £350

Best desktop speaker, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Our 2015 Best Desktop Speaker Over £200 have a distinctive design and flexible connectivity – and a stunning, consistent performance. Size (hwd) 27 x 13 x 17cm Powered Yes Finishes 3

AWARD WINNER

Desktop speakers

Some might feel the TD-M1s are watching them – but we’re more interested in the great stereo imaging, fine detail and precision. Size (hwd) 24 x 16 x 22cm Powered Yes Finishes 2

www.whathifi.com 91


SALE CONTINUES Check in-store or online for all our latest reductions. This ad goes to print weeks ahead and our prices are changing daily!

Lowest price guaranteed & take it home today! We’ll beat any genuine advertised price, voucher ofer or system deal, online & in-store, by up to £100!

Products must be brand new, with a similar guarantee and in stock. Ask in-store for full T&Cs.

Hi-fi a selection from our massive range

VIP exclusive Buy this amp and save £50 on any speakers over £200. Ask in-store for more details.

Q Acoustics speakers (pair) 3020 (graphite)

Denon mini system exc. speakers DM40 DAB (black)

Denon turntable DP300

Onkyo stereo amplifier A9010

“Another outstanding budget standmounter from Q Acoustics. The 3020s deliver a fabulous sound.” – What Hi-Fi?

“Denon has done it again – the DM40 DAB is a seriously impressive micro system for the money.” – What Hi-Fi?

“The sound quality is excellent, with great depth and rich, high notes.” – richersounds.com customer review.

“Excellent value and one of the most musically satisfying budget amplifiers we’ve heard in recent years.” – What Hi-Fi?

149

SAVE

50

£

£

RRP £199 | Other colours available

179

SAVE

20

£

£

Were £199 from 27.09.16 | 6 Year Supercare £17.90 Also available in silver

179.95

199

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120

£

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30

£

£

RRP £299 | 6 Year Supercare £17.95

£

Were £229 from 07.09.16 | 6 Year Supercare £19.90

VIP exclusive Buy this CD player and save £50 on any amp over £250. Ask in-store for more details.

Tannoy speakers (pair) Eclipse Three “As far as budget floorstanders go these are the best we’ve heard in recent years. Well done Tannoy.” – What Hi-Fi?

199

SAVE

100

£

£

Were £299 from 19.05.16

Marantz streaming mini system exc. speakers MCR611 (black)

Marantz stereo amplifier PM6006

Marantz CD player CD6006

“A very good system for the price – smooth operation, great features, connections and efortless sound.” – richersounds.com customer review.

"Marantz hasn't lost its touch - the PM6006 is a fine budget amplifier.” – What Hi-Fi?

“There’s a tangible sense of performance that nominal rivals (of which there are few at this price) can’t quite match.” – What Hi-Fi?

299

SAVE

200

£

£

RRP £499 | 6 Year Supercare £29.90 Also available in black/apple green

299

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Were £349 from 01.11.16 | 6 Year Supercare £29.90 Also available in silver

299

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RRP £399 | 6 Year Supercare £29.90

Why not add? The Chord Co. speaker cable Clearway unterminated

10

£

per metre

The Chord Co. interconnect C-Line (0.5m)

35

£

6 Year Supercare available SUPERCARE

(For hi-fi and home cinema components)

Just £9.99 for products under £100 and 10% of purchase price on products over £100. Plus, if you don’t use it, it needn’t cost you a penny! Call or ask in-store for more details.

QED interconnect Reference Audio 40 (1m)

109.95

£

Audioquest speaker cable Type 4 Terminated 2m pair

185

£

More in every store

Join free today and receive a fantastic set of privileges. Sign up in-store or online in seconds with just an email address.


Premium hi-fi

GUARANTEED

“Experience better audio performance. Pop down to hear how a top-notch system enhances your favourite music in our comfortable demonstration rooms.” Dawn, Deputy Manager, Lichfield store. 5th year of service

The Cambridge Audio CX Range is exclusive to Richer Sounds

Cambridge Audio amplifier CXA60 (silver) “A great amplifier that looks and sounds the part – this Cambridge is a big success.” – What Hi-Fi?

449.95

SAVE

£

50

£

Were £499.95 from 01.06.16 6 Year Supercare £44.95 | Also available in black

Arcam amplifier & CD player / music streamer “This dynamic duo packs a lot of power and performance. In short, it’s in a class of its own.” – Hi-Fi Choice.

A39

1249

£

| 6 Year Supercare £124.90

CDS27

699

£

Cambridge Audio CD transport CXC (silver)

Cambridge Audio amplifier CXA80 (silver)

"We would not hesitate to recommend the Cambridge CXC.” – What Hi-Fi?

249.95

SAVE

£

50

£

Were £299.95 from 01.06.16 6 Year Supercare £24.95 | Also available in black

649.95

SAVE

£

100

£

Were £749.95 from 01.06.16 6 Year Supercare £64.95 | Also available in black

Audiolab amplifier & CD player

Roksan amplifier & CD player

“The 8300A is an excellent value integrated amplifier. The 8300CD is a stellar performer. Both highly recommended!” – Hi-Fi Choice.

Let your music enjoy the five-star treatment with this dream hi-fi set-up from Roksan.

8300A

K3 Amp

899

£

| 6 Year Supercare £89.90

8300CD | 6 Year Supercare £69.90

“Excellent clarity and rich detail. A powerful, muscular beast of an amplifier.” – What Hi-Fi?

999

£

1300

£

| 6 Year Supercare £99.90

1350

£

“A stylish, feature–packed streamer that sounds great.” – What Hi-Fi?

599.95

£

SAVE

100

£

Were £699.95 from 01.06.16 6 Year Supercare £59.95 | Also available in black

Cambridge Audio power amplifier & network music player / pre-amp Experience a powerful yet refined sound from these stunning Cambridge units.

851W | 6 Year Supercare £130

K3 CDDI

Audiolab available in selected stores. Check richersounds.com for more details.

Cambridge Audio network music player CXN (silver)

1499.95

£

| 6 Year Supercare £149.95

851N | 6 Year Supercare £135

Amp & CD player also available in anthracite or opium.

1199.95

£

| 6 Year Supercare £119.95

Amp & network music player also available in silver

VIP exclusive

VIP exclusive

VIP exclusive

VIP exclusive

Free Chord Cobra interconnect worth £115 when you buy this system. Ask in-store for more details.

Free Chord Cobra interconnect worth £115 when you buy this system. Ask in-store for more details.

Free Chord Cobra interconnect worth £115 when you buy this system. Ask in-store for more details.

Free Chord Cobra interconnect worth £115 when you buy this system. Ask in-store for more details.

VIP exclusive Buy this system and save £150 on speakers over £500. Ask in-store for more details.

Arcam digital pre-amp/DAC irDAC II

Tannoy floorstanding speakers (pair) XT6F (dark walnut)

Arcam streaming system exc. speakers Solo Music

Roksan amplifier & CD player Blak

“Anyone wanting a sonic upgrade for their digital library should consider this a viable contender for their cash.” – What Hi-Fi?

“These Tannoys are something special – they fire out an infectious, entertaining sound… We urge you to give them an audition.” – What Hi-Fi?

“There’s real force to the thumping bass, and deep extension. It communicates the dynamic outline of a track confidently.” – What Hi-Fi?

“Powerful, punchy, feisty and tough. A thunderous yet supple and fluid sound that gets the feet tapping.” – Hi-Fi Choice on the Blak amplifier.

399

£

SAVE

95

£

Were £495 from 22.01.16 | 6 Year Supercare £39.90

599

£

SAVE

400

£

RRP £999 | Also available in oak

* Lowest Price Guaranteed, we'll beat any genuine advertised price, voucher ofer or system deal, online & in-store, by up to £100. Products must be brand new, with a similar guarantee and in stock. Further T&Cs apply.

1299

5350

£

£

6 Year Supercare £129.90

6 Year Supercare £535


Headphones

Experience better sound on the move

VIP exclusive Get £50 off any Hi-Res Audio player when bought with these headphones. Ask in-store for more details.

SoundMAGIC in-ear E10C

AKG over-ear K550 Mk2

“Our favourite budget headphones get a new remote & sound as good as ever.” – What Hi-Fi?

“A hugely capable pair of closed-back headphones.” – What Hi-Fi?

39.95

109

£

AudioQuest over-ear NightHawk

“Another year, and another award - these really are still the finest in-ears we've ever heard at this price.” – What Hi-Fi?

“A comfortable upper-class headphone that adds character to the mix.” – digitaltrends.com

249.95

SAVE

£

Shure in-ear SE425

399.95

£

20

£

Were £129.95 from 30.11.16

£

Were £499 from 20.04.16

Streaming & Hi-Res Audio “Enjoy great quality music at home or out and about. Our range of wireless speakers and Hi-Res Audio players will make your music sound incredible, no matter where you are.” Wasim, Manager, Prestwich. 12th year of service

VIP exclusive Save £50 on any headphones over £199. Ask in-store for more details.

Claim a 90 day free trial for Tidal worth £60. Ask in-store for more details. Ofer ends 28.03.17.

Cambridge Audio portable speaker G5 (titanium)

Harman Kardon bluetooth speaker Go + Play

Astell & Kern portable Hi-Res Audio player AK70

Naim wireless speaker Mu-so

“A balanced, detailed and focused sound. Cambridge Audio knows how to build class-leading wireless speakers.” – What Hi-Fi?

“The Go + Play’s tenderness and aggression make it the yardstick for £250 portable speakers.” – What Hi-Fi?

“The AK70 sounds simply superb... Oodles of detail and plenty of drive. A very impressive music player.“ – trustedreviews.com

“Naim’s first entry into the wireless speaker market, and it’s an absolute belter.” – What Hi-Fi?

99

199.95

SAVE

£

RRP £229.95 | 6 Year Supercare £9.99

995

499

SAVE

£

130

£

£

£

50

£

Were £249.95 from 21.09.16 6 Year Supercare £19.95

6Y

SONOS

S

2

£99 50

PLAY:3 PLAY:1

Unlike others, who just ofer the standard two year cover, all our Sonos equipment now comes with a free 6 Year Guarantee. PLAY:1

SUB

PLAYBAR

PLAY:5

Also available in white

SUB GEN 2 PLAY:3

Also available in white

PLAYBAR

Also available in white

PLAY:5 Also available in white

Call or see web

Massive savings on SONOS this season. Call us last!

Samsung Wireless Audio 360 speakers

HEOS by Denon wireless speakers

R1 starter kit ofer

R7

“Sound quality is excellent from such a small unit. They’re also very quick and easy to set up.” – richersounds.com With 12 months customer review.

“A stylish, innovative and great-sounding speaker that takes multiroom technology to new heights.” – trustedreviews.com

Deezer Music

With 12 months Deezer Music

Call or see web Also available in ivory

HEOS 3 HS2

249 £349 £

Also available in white

HEOS 5 HS2

Also available in white

399

£

RRP £429 Also available in white

HEOS 7

SAVE

30

£

“HEOS proves to be an exciting new product.“ – hifichoice.com on the HEOS 7

Get a demo in one of our 53 stores nationwide, or visit us at richersounds.com for more info

HEOS 7 HS2

Call or see web

Also available in white


SALE CONTINUES

GUARANTEED

This ad goes to print weeks ahead. Check in-store or online for all our latest reductions!

TVs Latest ranges Our prices are changing daily to ensure you get the very best deals, so give us a call today and we’ll find the perfect TV for you. Samsung 49" UHD Premium Smart LED TV UE49KS8000 “I’m really impressed with the TV for playing games and watching movies. Game mode is amazing for a 4K TV.” – richersounds.com customer review. “A stunning all-round performance from Samsung’s flagship flatscreen.” – What Hi-Fi?

Call or see web

Also available 55", 65" & 75"

Get a half price UHPH1 Blu-ray player when you buy this TV. Ofer ends 29.01.17. Ask in-store for more details.

12 months Sky Q when you buy this TV. Ask in-store for more details. Ofer ends 28.03.17.

UHD PREMIUM

4K HDR

UHD PREMIUM

UHD PREMIUM

SMART TV

SMART TV

SMART TV

SMART TV

OLED

Samsung 55" UHD Premium Smart LED TV UE55KS7000

Sony 55" 4K HDR Smart 3D LED TV BRAVIA KD55XD9305

LG 55" OLED UHD Premium HDR Smart TV OLED55B6V

Samsung 65" curved UHD Premium HDR Smart LED TV UE65KS9000

“There’s enough definition to count the individual raindrops on a windscreen.” – What Hi-Fi?

“Simply, there’s little of any matter that could keep us from imploring you to buy this.” – What Hi-Fi?

“LG’s 4K OLED screens have hit the jackpot this year. It’s very difcult to take your eyes of this TV.” – What Hi-Fi?

“Sharp picture and realistic colours. Another efortless five stars for Samsung.” – What Hi-Fi?

Call or see web

Call or see web

Call or see web

Call or see web

Also available 49", 60" & 65"

Also available 65"

Also available 65"

Also available 49", 55" & 78"

6 year guarantee included Projectors

For VIP Club members on the vast majority of TVs, projectors & wireless multiroom systems.

Over 30 models in our range

VIP exclusive

VIP exclusive With a FREE PS4 Slim. Ask in-store for more details. While stocks last.

Buy this projector and get the BDSP6700 Blu-ray player half price. Ask in-store for details.

Optoma 3D projector HD50 “Accurate colours, plenty of detail and great motion handling.” – avforums.com

Call or see web

Sony SXRD 3D projector VPLHW45ES

Buy this projector and get the BDSP6700 Blu-ray player half price. Ask in-store for details.

Sony SXRD 3D projector VPLHW65ES

Sony 4K 3D projector VPLVW320ES

“For gamers and home cinema fans alike.” – trustedreviews.com

“The HW65ES keeps Sony’s current projector roll going in emphatic style.” – trustedreviews.com

“Capable of displaying stunning images. Another string to its bow is the upscaling of HD content.” – trustedreviews.com

Call or see web

Call or see web

Call or see web

Our VIP Club is completely FREE for ALL customers. Sign up in-store or online in seconds with just an email address. *Lowest Price Guaranteed, we'll beat any genuine advertised price, voucher ofer or system deal, online & in-store, by up to £100. Products must be brand new, with a similar guarantee and in stock. Further T&Cs apply.


is c Our for omp VIP AL let Clu L c ely b us to FREE me rs

Join the Richer Sounds VIP Club free today and receive a fantastic set of privileges. Sign up in-store or online in seconds with just an email.

We've got you covered for longer

We’re open for you, 8am – 8pm

VIP-only discounts

6 Year Guarantee included for VIP Club members on the

VIP Club members can book demos / shop by appointment between these times, Mon – Fri.

Special VIP Club savings on selected products in our catalogue, our emails, our website and in-store.

vast majority of TVs, projectors & wireless multiroom systems.

AV separates

AV receivers

Dozens more in store

“Experience better TV sound by adding a soundbar, sound base or home cinema system. We have something for everyone.” Ben, Store Manager, Birmingham. 10th year of service

JBL TV soundbar Boost “A talented soundbar. Ofers a considerable improvement over many when it comes to dynamics, detail and clarity.” – What Hi-Fi?

Denon Atmos AV receiver AVRX2300W

99

SAVE

70

£

“It's a superb sonic all-rounder and well-equipped with it.” – What Hi-Fi?

£

Were £169 from 15.06.16 | 6 Year Supercare £9.99

VIP exclusive Save £50 on any home cinema speakers over £200. Ask in-store for more details.

Call or see web

Cambridge Audio TV sound base TV2 “A sterling soundbase that builds on the Minx TV's success with a few design and feature upgrades.” – What Hi-Fi?

6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price

119

SAVE

£

80

£

Were £199 from 07.09.16, £179 from 14.11.16 6 Year Supercare £11.90

VIP exclusive Save £50 on any home cinema speakers over £200. Ask in-store for more details.

Pioneer Atmos AV receiver VSX1131

Onkyo Atmos AV receiver TXNR656

Pioneer Atmos AV receiver SCLX501

“A big, meaty and enjoyable performance from Pioneer, with an excellent spread of features.” – What Hi-Fi?

“Has excellent balanced sound with punchy bass and crystal-clear dialogue.” – richersounds.com customer review.

This class act combines powerful and efcient amplification with cutting-edge networking technology.

349

£

SAVE

200

£

customer rating

RRP £549 | 6 Year Supercare £34.90

449

£

SAVE

100

£

customer rating

699

£

SAVE

300

£

Were £999 from 01.08.16, £799 from 21.11.16 6 Year Supercare £69.90

RRP £549 | 6 Year Supercare £44.90 Also available in silver

Q Acoustics 5.1 speaker package Q7000i “Cohesive and expansive soundfield. Stacks of details. A stunning package at his price.” – What Hi-Fi?

699

£

SAVE

275

£

Were £975 from 24.11.16 | 6 Year Supercare £69.90 With FREE HEOS 1 HS2 worth £199

VIP exclusive

VIP exclusive

VIP exclusive

Save £50 on any home cinema speakers over £200. Ask in-store for more details.

Save £250 on any home cinema speakers over £700. Ask in-store for more details.

Save £250 on any home cinema speakers over £700. Ask in-store for more details.

VIP exclusive FREE Ghostbusters (2016) Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. While stocks last.

Yamaha Atmos AV receiver RXA1060

Denon Atmos AV receiver AVRX6300H

Yamaha Atmos AV receiver RXA3060

Panasonic 4K Blu-ray player DMPUB700

“Yamaha delivers the goods with this powerful and articulate AV receiver.” – What Hi-Fi?

“Ofers an unbeatable combination of exceptional performance and value. A class act in every respect.“ – avforums.com

“The RXA3060 takes your home cinema experience to a whole new level.” – What Hi-Fi?

“A great disc player that delivers a superb level of performance in terms of video and audio.” - AVforums.com

Call or see web

£

Call or see web

Call or see web

6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price

6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price

6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price Also available in titanium

1799

SAVE

200

£

Were £1999 from 04.10.16 | 6 Year Supercare £179.90

Most of our stores now ofer same day local delivery. Available in-store or by phone. Please ask for more details.


We will come to you! „

No job too big or too small

GUARANTEED

From simply mounting your TV to the wall to multiroom systems, or a dedicated home cinema, we can help you select the right equipment at the best prices. „

Wires hidden We’ll advise as to the best location within the room, so that unsightly cables can be hidden or chased into walls.

„

Inspirational ideas Our experienced sales advisors can suggest innovative products designed to deliver dazzling sound and picture quality from discreet, living room friendly equipment, such as in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and projectors.

„

Corina, Deputy Manager, Swiss Cottage store. 4th year of service.

Health check We can visit your home or place of work to thoroughly check on the set-up of your new equipment, tweak as necessary, and answer any questions you may have, whenever suits you, for just £99.95!

Ask us for a FREE, NO OBLIGATION consultation and survey at your home or place of work today. (10 mile radius)

Premium AV separates

A selection from our massive range

Oppo 4K Blu-ray player UDP203

Yamaha TV soundbar YSP2700

DALI TV soundbar KUBIK ONE (black)

REL subwoofer T9i (black)

“The pictures on ofer looked nothing short of spectacular.” – trustedreviews.com

“The most convincing surround sound experience you’ll get outside a full 5.1 system.” – What Hi-Fi?

“The design and features impress us and we love the way it sounds. This is a gorgeous, complete package.” – What Hi-Fi?

“An excellent subwoofer for the audiophile. Capable of making big bass noises. Highly recommended.” – hifiplus.com

Call or see web

£

6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price

699

799

SAVE

100

£

RRP £799 | 6 Year Supercare £69.90

899

£

£

6 Year Supercare £79.90

6 Year Supercare £89.90 Also available in white

SALE CONTINUES This ad goes to print weeks ahead. Check in-store or online for all our latest reductions!

3 great ways to buy In-Store

By Phone

Online

Enjoy specialist advice, demo rooms, install services and take your bargains home today!

Call your local store, or our Telesales team on 0333 900 0093. Lines are open 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10-5 Sat & 12-4 Sun for the UK’s sharpest prices and next day delivery.

With Click & Collect available at www.richersounds.com you get the best prices online – guaranteed!

Visit richersounds.com for store opening times.

Demonstration rooms in every one of our 53 stores! Visit our website for local store details and opening times. London

Bath 0333 900 0088 Belfast 0333 900 0070 Birmingham 0333 900 0023 Bournemouth 0333 900 0058 Brighton 0333 900 0039 Bristol 0333 900 0024 Cambridge 0333 900 0053

Cardif 0333 900 0029 Cheltenham 0333 900 0057 Chester 0333 900 0063 Eton 0333 900 0087 Edinburgh 0333 900 0026 Exeter 0333 900 0061 Glasgow 0333 900 0038

Guildford 0333 900 0050 Hanley 0333 900 0060 Hull 0333 900 0059 Leeds 0333 900 0025 Leicester 0333 900 0043 Lichfield 0333 900 0089 Liverpool 0333 900 0030

London Bridge 0333 900 0021 London Bromley 0333 900 0051 London Chelsea 0333 900 0027 London Chiswick 0333 900 0055 London City 0333 900 0045 London Croydon 0333 900 0033 London Kingston 0333 900 0040

London Southgate 0333 900 0085 Swiss Cottage 0333 900 0031 London West End 0333 900 0028 Manchester 0333 900 0086 Maidstone 0333 900 0062 Middlesbrough 0333 900 0096 Milton Keynes 0333 900 0054

Newcastle 0333 900 0032 Norwich 0333 900 0046 Nottingham 0333 900 0035 Oxford 0333 900 0052 Plymouth 0333 900 0047 Preston 0333 900 0080 Prestwich 0333 900 0042

Reading 0333 900 0044 Reigate 0333 900 0081 Romford 0333 900 0041 Shefeld 0333 900 0034 Solihull 0333 900 0090 Southampton 0333 900 0036 Stockport 0333 900 0022

Tunbridge Wells 0333 900 0082 Watford 0333 900 0037 Weybridge 0333 900 0083 York 0333 900 0084 Customer Service 0333 900 0095

03 NUMBERS ARE NOT PREMIUM RATE NUMBERS! 03 numbers connect you directly to the store you call and are charged at the same rate as you are charged for numbers starting 01 and 02. 03 numbers are included in all bundle rates for mobile phones and landlines.

Some of these ofers are exclusive to What Hi-Fi? readers. Please quote this ad when calling. While stocks last. Valid from 08.01.2017 - 11.02.2017 All trademarks are acknowledged. E&OE. All featured products strictly 1 per customer/household. Some ofers may be for in-store callers only. All stock is brand new in sealed containers and fully guaranteed for one year unless clearly stated otherwise. 1000s more bargains in-store! RRPs are based on information supplied by What Hi-Fi?, manufacturers, Google, Which? & Pricerunner. Further information is available on request. *Lowest Price Guaranteed, we'll beat any genuine advertised price, voucher ofer or system deal, online & in-store, by up to £100. Products must be brand new, with a similar guarantee and in stock. Further T&Cs apply.


STEREO SPEAKERS CONTINUED AWARD WINNER

Q Acoustics 3050 £550 Up to £1000

Best floorstander £500-£1000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Another 2015 Award-winner, and no wonder. The powerful 3050s are so talented, they give speakers closer to £1000 a run for their money. Size (hwd) 100 x 20 x 30cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 5 AWARD WINNER

Tannoy Eclipse 3 £300

Best floorstander under £500, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A speaker that’s easy to set up and partner, this is the most talented budget floorstander we’ve heard in years. Size (hwd) 96 x 27 x 29cm Bi-wire No Finishes 1

B&W 683 S2 £1150

£1000 to £2000

Tremendously talented speakers. We’re impressed by their power, scale and delicacy – they’re wonderfully versatile performers. Size (hwd) 99 x 19 x 36cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2

Q Acoustics Concept 40 £1000

“Aim to give you a sound that you can happily listen to”

May 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If you want a talented set of speakers with an easy-going, welcoming sound, you must consider these. Size (hwd) 97 x 17 x 29cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 2 AWARD WINNER

Best floorstander £1000-£2000, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

Few rivals will be able to match this combination of muscle and subtlety. Most of all they make listening to music fun. Size (hwd) 100 x 27 x 32cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 2

Eclipse TD 510Z Mk2 £3840 The 510Z Mk2s plump for the single-driver route to quality sound. It yields insight, impressive agility and rock-solid stereo imaging. Size (hwd) 98 x 38 x 39cm Bi-wire No Finishes 3

£2000 to £5000

PMC Twenty 23 £2300 February 2014 ★★★★★

These PMCs show real class, serving up sound that’s both refined and exciting. The 23s stand on their clean insight and unfussy nature. Size (hwd) 92 x 15 x 33cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 4

Best floorstanders £2000+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

PMC has created a terrific pair of floorstanding speakers. Match them with a suitably talented system and they will sing for you. Size (hwd) 91 x 16 x 33cm Bi-wire No Finishes 4

Spendor A6R £2500 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Musical notes have dimension and depth, and vocals are conveyed with reality and emotion. Outstanding. Size (hwd) 87.5 x 19 x 28cm Bi-wire No Finishes 5

“They’re beautifully finished, but more importantly they sound every bit their asking price”

“They do things that no conventional rival can match”

August 2012 ★★★★★

PMC Twenty5.23 £2970

“The Threes turn in a musically engaging performance that compares to the best at this price”

“Among the best floorstanders we’ve heard at this price”

October 2014 ★★★★★

Tannoy Revolution XT 6F £1000

“Hats off to Q Acoustics: these speakers are another staggering achievement”

“Given a suitably talented system, the Twenty 23s sound terrific”

“If you’re looking for a top class, compact floorstanders, we can’t think of a better alternative”

“A fantastic pair of speakers that do so much right”

F O R A F U L L L I S T O F S P E C I F I C AT I O N S A N D I N - D E P T H R E V I E W S V I S I T W H AT H I F I . C O M 98 www.whathifi.com


STEREO SPEAKERS CONTINUED Spendor D7 £3500 When it comes to insight and precision, these floorstanders set the standard at this price. Unfussy, and they deliver a huge sound for their size. Size (hwd) 95 x 20 x 32cm Bi-wire No Finishes 6

Triangle Signature Delta £4900 July 2014 ★★★★★

“They’re entertainers of the highest order”

ATC SCM40A £6280

“Once up and running, these ATCs are deeply impressive speakers”

Terrific timing ability combines with strong dynamics and impressive resolution to produce speakers that can stand toe-to-toe with the best. Size (hwd) 123 x 37 x 39cm Bi-wire No Finishes 3

April 2014 ★★★★★

The price looks steep but factor in built-in amplification and exceptional sound, and the SCM40As emerge as something of a high-end bargain. Size (hwd) 98 x 37 x 34cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2 Powered Yes

Focal Electra 1038Be £7700

“Wonderfully polished performers that work well with all types of music”

July 2015 ★★★★★

A hefy slice of the performance of Focal’s high-end Utopia range, at a fraction of the cost. Impressive detail, dynamics, bass and timing. Size (hwd) 125 x 30 x 40cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2

PMC Twenty 26 £5750 This range of speakers hardly puts a foot wrong. Here, it’s the insightful yet refined balance and impressive levels of detail that win the day. Size (hwd) 109 x 19 x 44cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 4

ProAc Response D40/R £6125

“We could stretch this out, but we won’t: the D40/Rs are wonderful”

October 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

As musical as they come, these are also as articulate, transparent and dynamic as any floorstander we’ve heard around this price. Size (hwd) 120 x 21 x 34cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 6

“Spend some time with the Quads and the shortcomings in conventional speakers soon become apparent”

Quad ESL-2812 £6500 October 2013 ★★★★★

Electrostatic speakers with cutting-edge standards of mid-range finesse, great detail and a smooth tone. In many respects, unmatched. Size (hwd) 107 x 69 x 38cm Bi-wire No Finishes 1

Tannoy Kensington GR £9950

“There’s enough sonic quality to place them on the top rung of speakers at this price”

August 2015 ★★★★★

Along with that traditional appearance comes real substance. These are gentle giants, balancing finesse with force in a mighty appealing way. Size (hwd) 110 x 41 x 34cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 2

Mission’s most convincing speaker in quite some time, the LX-2 is also one of the best budget speakers you can buy. Size (hwd) 31 x 19 x 25cm Bi-wire No Finishes 1

Best standmount speaker £200-£400, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

For their size, these Monitor Audio Bronze 2 dig deep in the bass. They’re tonally balanced and impressively detailed too. Size (hwd) 35 x 19 x 26cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 4

AWARD WINNER

Standmounts up to £300

AWARD WINNER

Best standmount speaker under £200, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

Monitor Audio Bronze 2 £280

£5000 and above

“An all-round package that’s very hard to pick holes in”

November 2014 ★★★★★

Mission LX-2 £160

£2000 to £5000

“Spendor has a rich history of making terrific speakers. You can count the D7s among them”

February 2014 ★★★★★

www.whathifi.com 99


Standmounts up to £300

STEREO SPEAKERS CONTINUED Q Acoustics 3020 £190 Awards 2015 ★★★★★

These lovingly constructed boxes deliver an exceptional combination of refinement, insight and dynamics. We can’t fault them. Size (hwd) 26 x 17 x 23cm Bi-wire No Finishes 5

Wharfedale Diamond 220 £180

March 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A talented speaker that’s a great fit for a budget or mid-range set-up. At less than £200, the Diamonds are an attractive proposition. Size (hwd) 50 x 32 x 41cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 4

Dali Zensor 3 £300 £300 to £500

October 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If they’re made by Dali, they’re going to be fun to listen to. These classy-looking speakers have plenty of punch and winning dynamics. Size (hwd) 35 x 21 x 29cm Bi-wire No Finishes 3

Q Acoustic Concept 20 £350 October 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If you want a top-quality, sub-£500 standmounter you ignore this one at your peril. Clarity and refinement shine through in abundance. Size (hwd) 26 x 17 x 28cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 2

Dynaudio Emit M10 £500 July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The M10s offer a layered, intricate and versatile sound that we can’t believe costs only £500. A confident return to form for Dynaudio. Size (hwd) 29 x 17 x 24cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2

Dynaudio Emit M20 £600

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best standmount speaker £400-£800, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£500 to £1000

Another pair of entertaining standmounters from Dynaudio, the M20s marry sweeping dynamics with bags of insight to stunning effect. Size (hwd) 36 x 22 x 27cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2

Dynaudio Xeo 2 £995

Best active speaker, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

A pair of hi-fi speakers that are much more than they appear. Bluetooth, hi-res support and a versatile sound make this a formidable package. Size (hwd) 26 x 17 x 15cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2

Quad S-1 £500 July 2016 ★★★★★

They’re only little, but the S-1s are smooth, intimate and insightful – especially in the midrange – as well as being a sight for sore eyes. Size (hwd) 29 x 16 x 24cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 2

Revel Concerta2 M16 £950

AWARD WINNER

Best standmount speaker £800-£1200, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£1000 to £1500

One of the best speakers we’ve heard below the £1000 mark. Make sure to partner well to get the best out of them. Size (hwd) 37 x 22 x 27cm Bi-wire n/a Finishes n/a

ATC SCM11 (2013) £1200

Best standmount speaker £1200-£1500, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

AWARD WINNER

These are the most talented standmounters anywhere near this price. The transparency of their sound compares with far more expensive rivals. Size (hwd) 38 x 21 x 25cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 2 Powered Yes

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STEREO SPEAKERS CONTINUED Neat Motive SX3 £1045

November 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£1000 to £1500

If you’re tight on space, or don’t need an overpowering sound, these articulate, fun-loving speakers should be a shoo-in for your shortlist. Size (hwd) 33 x 16 x 20cm Bi-wire No Finishes 4

ProAC Studio 118 £1075 November 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Weighty, detailed bass, lively treble and a good natural balance overall. The energy of the 118’s performance will provide hours of enjoyment. Size (hwd) 38 x 19 x 24cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 4

ATC SCM19 £1995

Best standmount speaker £1500+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

AWARD WINNER

It’s quite a trick for a speaker to be highly analytical with music yet never sound clinical or passionless. And yet so it is with the SCM19s. Size (hwd) 44 x 27 x 30cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2

£1500 to £3000

PMC Twenty5.22 £2495 October 2016 ★★★★★

PMC turns 25 in great style with the Twenty5.22s. Demonstrating fine clarity, speed and enthusiasm, they are superb speakers for the price. Size (hwd) 41 x 19 x 37cm Bi-wire No Finishes 4

Spendor SP2/3R2 £2795 April 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

They might lack the excitement of modern alternatives, but these retro speakers boast an easy-going sound and are a pleasure to listen to. Size (hwd) 55 x 28 x 33cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 1

ATC SCM20ASL Pro £4380 October 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£3000 and above

These ATCs are terrific value. Getting standmounters and four power amplifier channels of such a high standard should cost far more than this. Size (hwd) 45 x 25 x 39cm Bi-wire Yes Finishes 1 Powered Yes

Roksan Darius S1 £5000 December 2014 ★★★★★

Fluid, balanced and with a solid, agile bass, the S1s are among the most enjoyable standmounters we’ve heard in years. Size (hwd) 38 x 20 x 38cm Bi-wire No Finishes 2

SYSTEMS SIMPLE DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN LOWER QUALITY Sonos System From £175

Best multi-room system under £500, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

AWARD WINNER

Bluesound Generation 2 From £540

Best multi-room system £500+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Multi-room

If you don’t need hi-res, Sonos is an obvious choice for multi-room. A great user experience alongside a full-bodied, insightful sound. Res 16-bit/44.1kHz App Mac, Android Formats MP3, iTunes Plus, WMA

Bluesound’s Generation 2 has a more streamlined design and sounds as good as ever, offering hi-res support and good connectivity. Res 24-bit/192kHz App iOS, Android Formats MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG www.whathifi.com 101


Stereo systems up to £400

SYSTEMS CONTINUED PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Denon D-M40DAB £350

Best microsystem, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Denon continues to reign supreme on the micro-systems front. There are no Bluetooth or wireless features, but the sound makes up for it. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources CD, streaming, DAB, FM

Tangent Ampster X4 £300 November 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This is a quality entry-level mini system, perfect for anyone who wants to start building a system with a greater scope. Terrifically entertaining. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Bluetooth, streaming AWARD WINNER

Revo SuperSystem £550

Best one-box system, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£400 to £800

An all-in-one system that exudes quality, this Revo features great sonic performance and terrific retro looks. It’s a talented system. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, internet, Bluetooth

Ruark Audio R2 Mk3 £400 Awards 2015 ★★★★★

Packed with extensive radio, network and streaming features, this is a system whose spacious, rich and dynamic performance is captivating. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, internet, DAB, FM

Onkyo TX-8150 £550 April 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This modest, unassuming black box is packed to the gills with every streaming feature you can think of. One of the bargains of the year. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, internet, AirPlay AWARD WINNER

£800 and above

Arcam Solo Music £1600

Best hi-fi system, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Swiss Army Knife of hi-fi/home cinema systems, the 3rd gen Solo is a well featured, fine-sounding product. It’s the benchmark at this price. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, CD, DAB/DAB+/FM

Moon Neo Ace £2500 October 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Ace has all you’d ever need from a piece of modern hi-fi, a versatile all-in-one system that puts music enjoyment at the top of its list. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, aptX Bluetooth

How they work: Turntables 1. Motor - Drives the platter either directly or through a rubber belt. Both methods have merit. Belt drive isolates the platter from the motor’s vibration while direct drive promises greater speed stability. 2. Platter - This is where your vinyl record goes. It can spin at 33.3, 45 or 78 rpm depending on how the record was mastered, but the first two speeds are most common. 3. Plinth - The plinth is the turntable’s base and can come in a variety of materials (MDF, metal, acrylic). Vibration picked up by the plinth will affect sound quality.

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4. Cartridge - There are two choices available here: a moving-magnet (MM) or a moving-coil (MC) cartridge. MM tends to produce a higher output while MC (usually found on more expensive designs) can dig up more detail. 5. Tone-arm - Holds the cartridge and allows it to move across the record. “Most budget turntables come pre-assembled. These come with arm and cartridge attached”

4.


TURNTABLES DECKS TO KEEP THE VINYL REVIVAL THRIVING AWARD WINNER

Audio Technica AT-LP5 £330

Best USB turntable, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A pleasure to use and listen to, the LP5 boasts both ease of use and the added bonus of a USB ouput. At this price there’s none better. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 16 x 45 x 35cm

Pro-Ject Essential II £210 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A frill-free, entry-level product that gets all the basics spot-on. Easy to set up and even easier to enjoy, it’s an obvious Award-winner. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 14 x 46 x 36cm

Best turntable under £500, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

The modifications Rega has made to the Planar 1 haven’t hindered the fantastic sound. It’s an entertaining turntable with no obvious flaws. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

Up to £500

AWARD WINNER

Rega Planar 1 £250

Rega Planar 2 £375 August 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Forty years old and still going strong, the Planar 2 is a big leap up from the RP1, but also offers great sound at a competitive price. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

Sony PS-HX500 £450 July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A turntable with the ability to rip vinyl into hi-res files, but it’s also an entertaining deck with a big, open sound. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 11 x 43 x 36cm

Best turntable £500-£1000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Rega builds on the 3’s predecessor by adding extra servings of clarity, precision and insight. The result is the best RP3 yet. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

£500 to £1000

Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 £625

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TURNTABLES CONTINUED Clearaudio Concept £1000

Best turntable £1000+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

AWARD WINNER

A thoroughly sorted, easy-to-own package with tremendous sound, combining punch, extension and tonal variation in equal measure. Speed 33.3, 45, 78rpm Size (hwd) 14 x 42 x 35cm

£1000 and above

Rega RP6/Exact £1000 December 2014 ★★★★★

The RP6’s simple styling belies its engaging, detailed sound. One of the most expressive and enthusiastic turntables you can buy for the money. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

Rega RP8/Apheta £2200 December 2014 ★★★★★

A terrific turntable that sets standards at the price. A detailed sound delivered with superb agility, strong dynamics and exceptional precision. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

VPI Prime £3750 Awards 2015 ★★★★★

A confident-sounding package that can organise with the best and maintain composure even when faced with the most challenging music. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 18 x 54 x 40cm

WIRELESS SPEAKERS FREE YOUR MUSIC WITH ONE OF THESE STREAMING WONDERS JBL Flip 3 £100

May 2016 ★★★★★

Up to £150

Correcting the missteps of the Flip 2, the Flip 3 boasts a smooth, warm sound as well as improved battery life and connectivity. Size (hwd) 6 x 17 x 6cm Battery Yes, up to 10 hrs playback

UE Boom 2 £120 February 2016 ★★★★★

UE has built on the success of the original Boom and produced a speaker that betters its predecessor in usability and performance. Size (hw) 18 x 7 x 7cm Battery Yes, up to 15 hrs playback

UE Roll 2 £80

Best portable wireless speaker under £100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

The Roll 2 has a sound that’s more open, more dynamic and goes louder than its predecessor. The drop in price makes this a bargain. Size (hw) 4 x 14cm Battery Yes, up to 9 hrs playback

Audio Pro Addon T3 £165 £150 to £300

Best portable wireless speaker £100-£200, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This classy boombox from Audio Pro ignores gimmicks and focuses on delivering the best sound possible for an extremely tempting price. Size (hwd) 12 x 22 x 14cm Battery Yes, up to 30 hrs (at half volume)

Bluesound Pulse Flex £270 September 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

It’s not cheap but the price is justified by the stonking performance on offer. It has a big, open, enthusiastic sound that’s impressive for its size. Size (hwd) 18 x 13 x 10cm Battery No 104 www.whathifi.com

AWARD WINNER


WIRELESS SPEAKERS CONTINUED JBL Charge 3 £150 November 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A versatile wireless speaker that delivers a great sound whether indoors or out, it offers a very fine performance for the price. Size (hwd) 9 x 21 x 9cm Battery Yes, up to 20 hrs playback

Harman Kardon Go + Play £250 October 2016 ★★★★★

£150 to £300

It’s big, but the Go + Play is an energetic performer with a warm, open sound and lots of bass. The lack of wi-fi and aptX is disappointing. Size (hwd) 21 x 42 x 18cm Battery Yes, up to 8 hrs playback AWARD WINNER

Monitor Audio Airstream S150 £150

Best wireless speaker under £200, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

The Airstream S150 boasts impressive clarity and detail with solid, weighty bass and an agile and dynamic delivery. Size (hwd) 27 x 12 x 14cm Battery No

Sonos Play:1 £170 January 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Well built, with solid bass response and great detail and clarity, the Play:1 offers much more than its price tag might suggest. Size (hwd) 16 x 12 x 12cm Battery No

Bluesound Pulse Mini £420 February 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A great addition to Bluesound’s family of wireless speakers, it packs the Pulse’s impressive sound into a smaller, more affordable package. Size (hwd) 17 x 16 x 34cm Battery No

Dali Katch £330

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best portable wireless speaker £200+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Katch has significantly raised the bar among portable wireless speakers. Its powerful, versatile sound is just one of many highlights. Size (hwd) 14 x 27 x 5cm Battery Yes, up to 24 hrs playback

Best wireless speaker £200-£500, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£300 to £500

Geneva AeroSphère Small £350

AWARD WINNER

Follows in the footsteps of its bigger ‘bulbous’ brother, sharing the same sonic charateristics but with a smaller body and a reduced price. Size (hwd) 23 x 23 x 19cm Battery No

Ruark Audio MR1 £300 October 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The £50 wireless battery pack for the R1 radio will turn these Award-winning desktop speakers into a tidy little wireless package. Size (hwd) 17 x 13 x 14cm Battery No

Sonos Play:5 £350 December 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Rich bass response, great detail and crystal-clear midrange make the Play:5 a class leader as a wireless speaker or part of a multi-room set-up. Size (hwd) 20 x 36 x 15cm Battery No

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WIRELESS SPEAKERS CONTINUED Bluesound Pulse 2 £600 July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£500 to £800

A speaker with a big and bold character, it has a rich and engaging sound that fills the biggest of rooms. A big step in the right direction. Size (hwd) 20 x 42 x 19cm Battery No

B&W Zeppelin Wireless £500

December 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Eight years on, the Zeppelin speaker is still a must-have for the audiophile who wants fine sound in a convenient package. Size (hwd) 18 x 66 x 18cm Battery No

Geneva AeroSphère Large £650

AWARD WINNER

Best wireless speaker £500-£800, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Not only is this bulbous beauty among the best-looking wireless speakers we’ve seen, it’s high on the list of the best we’ve heard too. Size (hwd) 41 x 41 x 32cm Battery No

B&O BeoPlay A6 £800 £800 and above

February 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Oozing style and substance, the A6 effortlessly combines the simplicity and convenience of a one-box system. It’s a job fully well done. Size (hwd) 30 x 54 x 16cm Battery No AWARD WINNER

Naim Mu-So £895

Best wireless speaker £800+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Mu-so has a rich, powerful sound, a huge sense of scale and soaring dynamics – and has now been updated to accommodate Tidal. Size (hwd) 12 x 63 x 26cm Battery No

BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS The only products worth considering

HOME CINEMA BLU-RAY PLAYERS

ENJOY HIGH-DEF MOVIE THRILLS

Panasonic DMP-BDT170 £90

Up to £100

August 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Picture quality is what counts. It might be short on catch-up services but the arresting colours, strong contrast and good upscaling make up for that. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD

Sony BDP-S4500 £75 August 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£100 to £300

Nothing’s perfect in this life, but the BDP-S4500 comes pretty close. Delivering on every count, it’s a positive steal at this price. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD

Panasonic DMP-BDT370 £100 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A bright, sharp picture, weighty sound and 4K upscaling, all for just £100. Enough to award this player our 2015 Blu-ray Product of the Year. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD

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BLU-RAY PLAYERS CONTINUED AWARD WINNER

Sony BDP-S6700 £150

Best Blu-ray player under £200, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£100 to £300

Another fantastic budget Blu-ray player that boasts excellent picture quality and good features, but the 4K upscaling is a little unconvincing. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD

Sony BDP-S7200 £180 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The pictures here are impressive, but the sound quality on this model shines brightest – it’s entertaining, exciting and musical. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD AWARD WINNER

Sony UHP-H1 £400

Best Blu-ray player 200+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Panasonic DMP-UB900 £600

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best 4K Blu-ray player, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

£300 to £800

A Blu-ray player in name only, this one-box offering is one of the most talented multimedia players we’ve seen around this price. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD

The first 4K Blu-ray player is a stunner. Lush colours and strong contrast are allied with great definition. The future of home cinema has arrived. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD

Cambridge Audio CXU £1000 Awards 2015 ★★★★★

£800 and above

A universal disc-player, packed with features and connections, that pushes the boundaries with both picture and sound quality. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD

Oppo BDP-105D £1100 March 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£1100 is a lot for a disc player, but if you want a quality component that’s as adept with music as it is with movies, this is top class. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD

HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS STUNNING SOUND THAT TRULY BRINGS MOVIES TO LIFE Denon AVR-X1300W £300

NEW ENTRY

January 2017 ★★★★

Up to £500

This entry-level AV amp features Atmos and good file compatibility. The app is flaky and the competition tough, but it is a talented effort. Power 80W Dolby Atmos Yes HDMI in/out 6/1

Sony STR-DN860 £400 September 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Sony proves the value of performance over the latest mod cons. No Dolby Atmos, but a thoroughly authoritative and engaging sound. Power 7 x 95W Dolby Atmos No HDMI in/out 5/1

Best home cinema amplifier under £500, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Better than the stunning AVR-X2200W; the sound has been refined, it’s easy to use and has plenty of features, all for the same price. Power 7 x 150W Dolby Atmos Yes HDMI in/out 8/2

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

£500 to £1000

Denon AVR-X2300W £500

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£500 to £1000

HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS CONTINUED AWARD WINNER

Denon AVR-X3300W £800

Best home cinema amplifier £500-£1000, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

A home cinema amp that will take your budget home cinema set-up to the next level. Its strengths are many, and weaknesses are few. Power 180W Dolby Atmos Yes HDMI in/out 8/2

Yamaha RX-A1060 £1100

AWARD WINNER

£1000 and above

Best home cinema amplifier £1000-£2000, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

The A1060 represents a return to form at this price for Yamaha, an expressive amp that strikes a balance between power and subtlety. Power 110W Dolby Atmos Yes HDMI in/out 8/2

Yamaha RX-A3060 £2000

AWARD WINNER

Best home cinema amplifier £2000+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

A premium receiver with breathtaking dynamics and a powerful, controlled sound. It’s pricey but the performance reflects that. Power 9 x 150W Dolby Atmos Yes HDMI in/out 8/2

PROJECTORS Up to £1000

BECAUSE A MASSIVE PICTURE IS HOME CINEMA AWARD WINNER

Epson EH-TW5350 £600

Best projector under £1000, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

A talented budget effort that handles motion, contrast and colour balance with great skill. It’s a mature and enjoyable projector. Throw ratio 1.22-1.47:1 Inputs 2 x HDMI, RCA, composite Spks Yes

BenQ W3000 £1200 £1000 to £3000

August 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A fine alternative to a TV. 4K is off the menu but you do get a big picture, accurate colours and useful features for a relatively modest price. Throw ratio 1.15-1.86 Inputs 2 x HDMI, PC, component Speakers Yes

Sony VPL-HW45ES £1850

Best projector £1000 to £2000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Delivers a riveting picture that strikes the perfect balance between performance and price. Great for a first projector or an upgrade. Throw ratio n/a Inputs 2 x HDMI, USB Speakers No

Sony VPL-HW65ES £3000

Best projector 2000+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£3000 and above

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

AWARD WINNER

A Full HD projector for nearly £3000 is a lot, but the immersive, rich image and strong contrast mean the lack of 4K is (slightly) forgivable. Throw ratio n/a Inputs 2 x HDMI, ethernet Speakers No

Sony VPL-VW520ES £9000

Best 4K projector, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

With one eye on the future, this feature-heavy 4K and HDR projector performs superbly – if you can afford the hefy pricetag. Throw ratio n/a Inputs HDMI, LAN Speakers No

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SET-TOP BOXES THE BEST WAY TO ACCESS THE WORLD OF TELEVISION AWARD WINNER

Humax HDR-2000T £150

Best PVR, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

We may sound like a broken record, but this fantastic digital box from Humax has plenty of features, great usability and great AV quality. Tuners 2 Storage 500GB Ultra HD No

Humax FVP-4000T £200 PVRs

March 2016 ★★★★★

Catch-up TV is made supremely easy with this Freeview Play box. It’s a comprehensive entertainment hub with minimum fuss. Tuners 3 Storage 500GB, 1TB Ultra HD No

Humax HDR-1100S £190 to £270 December 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Now with wi-fi, this impressive Freesat recorder is a genuine wireless entertainment hub. It’s our top subscription-free choice. Tuners 2 Storage 500GB , 1TB, 2TB Ultra HD No

Set-top

BT Ultra HD YouView min £15/month + fees November 2015 ★★★★

The first 4K box to hit the market, this is the most accomplished live TV you can watch. Content is limited right now – so it’s one for sports fans. Tuners 2 Storage 1TB Ultra HD Yes

How to... improve your home cinema A few simple tweaks can pay dividends when it comes to getting the best picture quality from your flatscreen TV or projector

Control your lighting While the best modern projectors can be used in fairly bright rooms, the results are far from optimal. Ideally, projectors work best in a darkened room – and if you’re after the best results, proper lighting control and using blackout blinds, makes a big difference. If you’ve the luxury of a dedicated home cinema room, consider omitting windows altogether, painting the ceiling black, and finishing walls in matte, muted hues. Optimise your cabling Always use the best available video connection option for your sources. The hierachy of picture quality runs (bottom to top): composite, S-Video, RGB Scart, component, DVI, then HDMI. If you find you’ve run out of suitable sockets for your sources, you can use video converters to turn one signal into another, or HDMI switching boxes – the latter can be handy with some early LCD TVs, which tend to be short of HDMI inputs.

Invest in a kit rack On the subject of kit racks, remember that a decent equipment rack will make a useful difference to both sound and vision quality in a good home cinema. A solid, stable stand can really give you a better picture: try it for yourself if you don’t believe us. Not only will it effectively isolate your source gear, it will also give your TV a boost. To get the most from any rack, ensure it is both stable and level – use a spirit level to achieve this

Calibrate your screen To make more precise adjustments, purchase a DVD/Blu-ray with THX approval (try Avatar). These discs feature a THX Optimiser section that will enable you to fine-tune your picture. For those with tablets and other portable devices, THX’s Optimiser app is available on both Anroid and iOS devices.

Buy a projector For the most realistic cinema experience at home, we always recommend a display that swamps your peripheral vision with the scale of the image in front of you - namely, a projector. You’ll be amazed at just how impressive even a £1000 projector can be these days. The Award-winning Epson EH-TW5350 comes in at £600 and boasts impressive picture performance.

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SET-TOP BOXES CONTINUED Sky+HD 2TB free or £250

Set-top

Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Sky+HD is a complete subscription package that’s hard to rival. The interface keeps getting better too, which is great for longevity. Tuners 2 Storage 2TB Ultra HD No

Sky Q 2TB from £44/month + fees

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best subscription box, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Sky has overhauled its TV package with Q and made it more enticing, versatile and contemporary, but it does come with a high price tag. Tuners 4 Storage 2TB Ultra HD Yes

SOUNDBARS AN IMPRESSIVE WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR TV’S SOUND Philips HTL5140 £270 Up to £500

December 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Insightful, balanced and unobtrusive, this slimline package will suit almost any set-up. Comfortably deserving of its five-star status. Size 5 x 104 x 7cm Inputs Coax, optical, USB, analogue Sub Yes

Q Acoustics Media 4 £330

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best soundbar under £500, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Q Acoustics’ debut soundbar is remarkable value – even more so at its reduced price – and more than worthy of its two-time PoY status. Size (hwd) 9 x 100 x 14cm Inputs Optical, RCA Subwoofer No

Dali Kubik One £800

Best soundbar £500+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£500 and above

A gorgeous and complete package, Dali’s debut soundbar impresses with its hugely engaging sound and smart, well-equipped exterior. Size (hwd) 15 x 98 x 10cm Inputs Optical, 2 x RCA Subwoofer No

Philips Fidelio B5 £600 December 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Thanks to two detachable (wireless, battery-powered) speakers, it can add surround sound or be a multi-room system. Great sound, too. Size 7 x 104 x 16cm Inputs 2 x HDMI, optical, coax, RCA Sub Yes

Yamaha YSP-2700 £800 October 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

With a spacious, involving sound the YSP-2700 is the most convincing surround experience you’ll get outside of a full 5.1 surround system. Size (hwd) 5 x 94 x 15cm Inputs 3 x HDMI, opt, coax Subwoofer Yes

SOUNDBASES Up to £500

AN ALTERNATIVE SOURCE OF SUPERIOR TV SOUND Cambridge Audio TV5 £250 June 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The TV5 shares its TV2 sibling’s rich presentation, but with an extra driver and bigger chassis there’s better detail, clarity and dynamics. Size (hwd) 10 x 73 x 34cm Inputs Optical

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AWARD WINNER


SOUNDBASES CONTINUED Up to £500

AWARD WINNER

Canton DM55 £330

Best soundbase, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

Replacing the DM50, the £70 cheaper DM55 is even more appealing – its meaty yet subtle sound is a huge audio upgrade for your TV. Size (hwd) 7 x 55 x 30cm Inputs Optical, coaxial

Geneva Model Cinema £550 June 2015 ★★★★★

£500 and above

This premium soundbase has a big, balanced and authoritative sound, with detail and dynamic insight in spades. It’s worth the extra spend. Size (hwd) 10 x 70 x 35cm Inputs Optical, coaxial

Philips Fidelio XS1 £500 April 2016 ★★★★

If you’re willing to trade a little audio quality for features, connections and streamlined looks, the XS1 should be on your shortlist. Size (hwd) 73 x 4 x 33cm Inputs coaxial, digital, HDMI 1.4, HDMI, RCA

SPEAKER PACKAGES GOOD SURROUND SOUND IS A MOVIE-MAGIC MUST Style packages up to £1000

Q Acoustics Q7000i £900 November 2013 ★★★★★

Got £900 to spend on a sub/sat package? Spend it here. This compact set creates a cohesive and expansive soundfield, with strong bass. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 12 x 20 x 16cm Finishes 2

4 questions to ask when setting up your rear speakers Getting the most from your home cinema surround sound set-up

1

Do I need rear speakers? What do rear speakers do, exactly? Well, with the advent of discrete 5.1 surround sound in 1992, sound designers gained the ability to place specfic effects into either the left or right rear speaker. Unlike older systems that relied on a mono rear channel of sound, such as Dolby Surround, the rear channels are given more to do instead of the same signal being shared between multiple surround speakers. Sound steering was better as the sound matched what was on screen more precisely.

2

Should I use hif-fi speakers? Positioning can be a bit awkward if you have a large rear speaker. Place it too close and a headache may ensue. Hide it in a corner and performance will be diminished. Hi-fi speakers are designed to create an audio image that places sonic elements within a focused soundstage. This direct pattern of sound reproduction is what sound engineers avoid with most rear speaker effects. It’s why, to avoid sound localisation, cinemas use multiple pairs of rear speakers along the sides and behind you.

3

How do I deal with localisation? Negating the effect of localisation can be done in two ways: mounting a hi-fi style bookshelf or style speaker high on the wall, or buying a specialist rear speaker that’s either bipolar or dipolar in design. A bipolar design will use an opposingdriver arrangement which run in phase (unison). This gives good bass and helps fill the room. A dipolar design is similar, using opposing sets of drive units radiating into directions, one running out of phase with the other. This creates an out-of-box sound that’s hard to localise.

4

How loud should they be? Whatever your speakers, watch the volume levels. It’s tempting to crank it up to make the rear speakers more audible but all that does is defeat their purpose: they’re not meant to draw attention to themselves. Too much rearfocused sound is unrealistic and, over long periods can become wearing for the listener, so don’t be tempted to select an artificially heavy rear bias. Even in 5.1 channel mixing, it’s common to use a mono effect at times. Effects such as rainfall are often rendered this way.

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Style up to £1000

SPEAKER PACKAGES CONTINUED Tannoy HTS-101 XP £600

Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The latest incarnation of a multiple winner has a sonic character that retains its fast, spacious quality, but with extra detail and solidity. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 19 x 10 x 11cm Finishes 1

Style £1000 and above

B&W MT-50 £1100

Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

These speakers sound crisp, clear and insightful, and the sub and satellites integrate so well. Value and versatility combined. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 25 x 11 x 16cm Finishes 2

B&W MT-60D £1950

May 2012 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Compact and stylish (we love that sub), this package presents a dynamic, powerful sound that excels with surround sound and stereo music. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 25 x 11 x 16cm Finishes 2

Dali Zensor 1 5.1 £980

AWARD WINNER

Best speaker package under £1000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Traditional packages up to £2000

Why did it win an Award? Because of its punchy dynamics, abundance of detail, expression, articulation and impressive integration. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 16 x 44 x 29cm Finishes 3

Q Acoustics 3000 Series 5.1 £700

“Continues the Q Acoustics’ tradition of punching way above its weight”

July 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A budget package that makes a film’s soundtrack come across as subtle, atmospheric and detailed. This is a fun listening experience. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 15 x 43 x 20cm Finishes 5 PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Monitor Audio Bronze B5 AV £1500

Best speaker package £1000-£2000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“This may be the easiest £1500 you’ll ever spend”

Wharfedale Diamond 220 HCP £850

“Watching Birdman we are so immersed it is easy to imagine we are backstage in a Manhattan theatre”

Our Speaker Package Product of the Year is beautifully designed, has ample punch, creates a spacious soundfield and is very musical. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 17 x 46 x 19cm Finishes 4

July 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Traditional packages £2000 and above

Featuring one of our favourite standmounters, this package offers an excellent surround-sound experience for a reasonable price. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 17 x 47 x 27cm Finishes 7

ATC C1 5.1 £3250

AWARD WINNER

Best speaker package £2000+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

We’d like a bit more authority in the bass, but we’re delighted by the detailed, agile sound, focused surround steering and power on offer. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 16 x 41 x 28cm Finishes 2

KEF R100 5.1 £2850 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Gorgeous looks and superior sound quality – the R100 5.1 has both. There’s great scale, seamless integration, and an expressive midrange. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 17 x 53 x 31cm Finishes 4

Monitor Audio Silver 6 AV12 £2875 June 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

With terrific build and finish, and a fine degree of insight and precision in the sound, these speakers work together seamlessly. A top-notch package Size (hwd) Centre speaker 19 x 50 x 24cm Finishes 6

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“For small to medium-sized rooms, we can think of no better alternative”

“There aren’t many speaker packafes as exciting as this one. It will transform your movies and music”

“No doubt worth every penny of its asking price”


Audio Visual Experts

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£2000 and above

SPEAKER PACKAGES CONTINUED PMC Twenty 23 5.1 £8240

“Stick with the PMCs and you’ll be rewarded with an incredible surround-sound experience”

July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

One of our favourite floorstanders features in a speaker package that delivers a captivating performance. So good it’s our reference system. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 17 x 52 x 31cm Finishes 1

VIDEO STREAMERS DON’T RESTRICT STREAMING TO A LAPTOP – GET IT ON THE TELLY Google Chromecast 2 £30

Up to £50

December 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The second-gen Chromecast still ‘casts’ content from a device to a TV over wi-fi, but now with speedier operation and a performance boost. Resolution 1080p, 720p Storage No Ultra HD No

Now TV (2015) £15 February 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Now it outputs 1080p and passes through 7.1 surround sound, Now TV is a great way to open your doors to a plethora of Sky content. Resolution 1080p, 720p Storage n/a Ultra HD No

Amazon Fire TV (2015) £80 £50 to £150

Best video streamer, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

An improvement on the first Fire TV. For the same money you get 4K streaming, greater speed and power, and expanded storage options. Resolution Ultra HD, 1080p, 720p Storage 8GB Ultra HD Yes

Roku 3 £100

March 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£150 and above

Super-slick operational speeds and a plethora of content make Roku’s latest entry to its established streaming catalogue the best we’ve seen. Resolution 1080p, 720p Storage opt, 2GB microSD Ultra HD No

PlayStation 4 (500GB) £300 February 2014 ★★★★

With stacks of smart music and movie apps plus solid performance, Sony’s latest is a must-have for gamers and entertainment-seekers alike. Resolution 1080p, 720p Storage 500GB, 1TB Ultra HD No

114 www.whathifi.com

AWARD WINNER


SET-TOP BOXES CONTINUED £150 and above

Xbox One (500GB) £300 January 2014 ★★★★

This hugely ambitious console isn’t without imperfections, and it might need time to realise its potential. For now it’s a very good games console. Resolution 1080p, 1080i, 720p Storage 500GB, 1TB Ultra HD No

TELEVISIONS MAKE THE FOCUS OF YOUR ENTERTAINMENT HUB A GOOD ONE Sony KDL-32WD603 £300

Up to 40in

AWARD WINNER

Best 32-39in TV, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

A HD-ready TV might seem behind the times, but when the picture performance is this good, we can’t complain. Type LCD/LED HDMI 2 Resolution 1366 x 768 Tuner Freeview HD AWARD WINNER

Panasonic TX-40DX600B £500 Best 40-46in TV, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

Samsung UE49KS8000 £1300

40in to 50in

Ideal for those with limited space, this affordable 40in TV offers an appealing experience, but doesn’t feature HDR. Type LCD/LED HDMI 3 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview HD/Play PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best 47-52in TV, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

This Samsung manages to squeeze a lot of tech into a sub-50in screen. It’s by far the best Samsung flatscreen we’ve seen in 2016. Type LCD/LED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD

Best 52-50in TV under £2000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

50in to 60in

AWARD WINNER

Samsung UE55KS7000 £1300

Offering remarkable quality at a reasonable price, the picture on this SUHD TV is consistently excellent across different resolutions. Type LCD/LED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD

Films to sink your teeth into…

Star Wars : The Force Awakens

Though it’s arguably a little too familiar for its own good, The Force Awakens is a more consistent experience than the prequels. It has a clean, pristine image, plus a soundtrack that’s impressively mixed – and packs plenty of weight and, let’s say, force.

Sicario

A crime/drug drama in which nothing is truly what it seems. Shot digitally, it looks crisp and contrast is excellent, while Emily Blunt excels as an FBI agent in over her head. The sound quality and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score create a fine audio experience too.

Sing Street

Following a group of kids who come together to form a rock band, Sing Street is one of 2016’s more charming efforts. Picture performance is sharp and nuanced enough to feel natural but it’s the fantastic original soundtrack that makes this one to watch.

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TELEVISIONS CONTINUED AWARD WINNER

LG OLED55C6V £2300 50in to 60in

Best 52-60in TV 2000+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

LG’s latest OLED looks to the future (Dolby Vision, HDR10) but in the here and now it boasts a rich, detailed picture with impressive blacks. Type OLED HDMI 3 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD

Sony KD-55XD9405 £2000 June 2016 ★★★★★

The presence of HDR significantly improves the image on this set, which offers a level of subtlety that leaves others trailing in its wake. Type LCD/LED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview HD AWARD WINNER

LG OLED65E6V £4600

Best 65in TV £3000+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

60in and above

LG has been pushing OLED panels and this may well be its masterpiece. The picture is gorgeous and its slick WebOS continues to improve. Type OLED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD

Samsung UE65KS9000 £2500

AWARD WINNER

Best 65in TV under £3000, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

Samsung’s SUHD range continues to thrive – despite OLED’s emergence – with a TV that has a sharp picture, realistic colours and an improved OS. Type LCD/LED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD

Sony KD-75XD9405 £5000 July 2016 ★★★★★

Sony’s flagship sets a marker for others to follow by going all out to maximise compatibility and picture performance. As good as it gets. Type LCD/LED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview HD

What screen size should I buy? Choose your viewing distance...

32”

min 1.5m

min 1.3m

Buy a 32in Screen

When you’re sitting this close to your telly, a 32in TV is optimal. If you watch a lot of high-def Blu-ray and TV, though, you should consider buying a 37in set.

Buy a 37in Screen

When you’re sitting this close to your telly, a 32in TV is optimal. If you watch a lot of high-def Blu-ray and TV, though, you should consider buying a 37in set.

min 1.9m

Buy a 47in Screen

Now you’re talking. If you can get your sofa this far away from the screen, a 47 or 48in TV is just the ticket, particularly with HD images. And that’s a big telly.

min 1.7m

Buy a 40- 42in Screen

You can afford to go up to a 42in set if you’re sitting here. Economies of scale mean that 40- and 42in TVs are cheaper than an equivalent 37in.

60” +

50-52”

47”

116 www.whathifi.com

40-42”

37”

min 2.2m

Buy a 50in Screen

… or a 52, or even a 55. It’ll look pretty huge for the first few days, but you’ll quickly get used to – and come to really appreciate – the extra screen size.

min 2.5m

Buy a 60in+ Screen

A few years ago a screen bigger than 60in would have seemed huge, but the advent of 4K displays has meant you can now sit closer to the screen than you would have before.


BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS The only products worth considering

PORTABLE HEADPHONES

BIN THE BUNDLED BUDS, AND INVEST IN BETTER SOUND

Best in-ears under £50, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The C stands for compatibility but could stand for consistency too. Five years in and these in-ears are still as good as they’ve ever been. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.2m

Sennheiser Momentum M2 IEi £80

In-ears up to £50

AWARD WINNER

SoundMagic E10C £40

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best in-ears £50-£100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£50 to £100

You wouldn’t think anything so small could sound quite so good – not for just £80. But they are wonderfully smooth, expressive and balanced. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.3m

Sony MDR-EX650AP £60 November 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

These smart buds are nicely judged tonally, with plenty of detail. Add an expansive soundstage and you’re looking at great value for money. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.2m

Focal Sphear £100 November 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

These Focals back that classy design with a full-bodied, detailed sound that’s seriously engaging. They are a comfortable fit, too. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.2m

£100 to £500

Klipsch X11i £200 November 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

As comfortable in your ear as a cotton bud, the X11is deliver great sound too – exciting yet smooth and insightful. Highly recommended. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.3m

Shure SE425 £230

Best in-ears £100-£300, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

If you’re serious about the quality of your in-ear headphones, we’d point you here. The energetic, immersive performance is irresistible. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.6m

AKG N40 £350

Best in-ears £300+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Shure KSE1500 £2500 November 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

At that price they won’t be for everyone, but they are the finest in-ears we’ve heard and arguably one of the best headphones money can buy. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.3m

£500 and above

They sound great, however, you’ll need a decent portable DAC and hi-res tracks to make the most of it, so they’re not for the casual user. In-line controls No Cable length 1.2m

AWARD WINNER

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HEADPHONES CONTINUED Philips SHB8850NC £90

Best noise-cancelling headphones under £100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

Bose QuietComfort 35 £290 January 2017 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The latest QuietComforts benefit from being truly wireless and from a switch to rechargeable batteries. The best just got better. Quoted battery life 20 hours (wireless), 40 hours (wired)

Sony MDR-1000X £330

Best noise-cancelling £100+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

Noise-cancelling headphones

A fantastic pair of noise-cancelling headphones that offer great sound and features, without making a huge dent in your wallet. Quoted battery life 16 hours

The noise-cancelling performance is among the best we’ve heard, while the audio is beautifully balanced and the features useful. Quoted battery life 20 hours (NC on), 22 hours (NC off )

AKG K451 £50

October 2012 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AKG K92 £50

Best home on-ears under £100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

They look a little blingy but a smooth, detailed sound and excellent build quality make the K92s one of 2016’s best-value headphones. Type Closed Connection 3.5/6.3mm Weight 200g

AKG Y50 £50

On-ears up to £100

Great agility and precision timing, combined with excellent build and compact size, make the K451s a must-audition pair of cans. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 120g

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best portable on-ears under £100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Our Product of the Year cans for 2015 are portable on-ears, and deliver a rhythmic, clear, detailed, dynamic sound. At this price they’re amazing. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 190g

AKG K550 £130

AWARD WINNER

Best home on-ears £100-£200, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

These on-ears, relatively light and very comfy, are communicative too. Natural and unforced, they deliver bass with punch and precision. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm/6.3mm Weight 305g

£100 to £200

Grado SR125e £150 December 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

These might look suited to the ears of a wartime radio operator, but they sound great. Best used in the home though, as they’re very leaky. Type Open Connection 3.5mm/6.5mm Weight 363g

Philips Fidelio M1Mk2 £120

AWARD WINNER

Best portable on-ears £100-£200, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Fidelios offer an unusually smooth delivery and plenty of weighty, punchy bass. Clarity and precision are further strong points. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 166g

Awards 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

It’s satisfying when great design, premium build and top performance all come together. These on-ears really do sound as good as they look. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm/6.3mm Weight 174g

£200 to £300

Beyerdynamic T51i £245

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HEADPHONES CONTINUED B&W P5 Series 2 £250 February 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Clear, precise sound, bags of detail, punchy rhythm – these gorgeous ’phones have the lot. We can’t think of anything to say against them. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 195g

Grado SR325e £300

Best home on-ears £200-£400, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

AWARD WINNER

£200 to £300

If you don’t mind the amount of sound leaking from them, you’re free to enjoy the fluid dynamics and wonderfully musical presentation. Type Open Connection 3.5mm/6.5mm Weight 330g

Philips Fidelio M2L £200 December 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

NEW ENTRY

These Lightning-connected cans boast an exciting and refined sound. In fact, they’re the best Lightning-based headphones we’ve heard so far. Type Closed Connection Lightning Weight 200g

Philips Fidelio X2 £230 October 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The X2s have a smooth, neutral sound, great rhythm and punchy bass. Superior design helps make them supremely comfortable too. Type Open Connection 3.5mm Weight 380g

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 £270

Best portable on-ears £200+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

AWARD WINNER

£300 to £500

We love the design, but it’s more than just pretty – these Momentums are comfortable on your ears and fold away neatly when not in use. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 240g

B&W P7 £330

September 2014 ★★★★★

These B&Ws are worth every penny. The solid build quality and comfy fit we expect, but the level of detail and dynamics sweep us off our feet. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 290g

Audio Technica ATH-W1000Z £600 September 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£500 to £1000

The 11th version of the W1000z opts for evolution over revolution and with a spacious sound that packs power and punch, it’s a good choice. Type Closed Connection 6.3mm Weight 320g

Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation £850 Best home on-ears £400+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Six years on and a few refinements later, the T1s are just as stunning. These ‘phones are insightful, comfortable to wear and a joy to listen to. Type Semi-open Connection 3.5mm/6.3mm Weight 360g

B&W P9 Signature £700 December 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

They’re not cheap but there’s no doubt these are talented cans. A retro look, stunning sound and a comfy fit make these worth their price. Type Closed Connection 6.3mm/Lightning in 2017 Weight 413g

£1000 and above

AWARD WINNER

Sennheiser HD800S £1200 June 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If the price invites doubts, rest assured the performance is absolutely worth it, provided your source and amplification are up to the job. Type Open Connection 6.3mm Weight 330g

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NEW ENTRY


HEADPHONES CONTINUED AWARD WINNER

AKG Y50BT £130

Wireless up to £300

Best wireless headphone under £200, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

By wireless standards, they’re excellent. Clarity and insight are particular strong points, but it’s also a great design. Folding Yes Quoted battery life 20hrs+ Wireless range n/a

B&W P5 Wireless £230

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best wireless headphones £200-£300, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

All the characteristics of the P5 Series 2 without the wire. The Bluetooth connection works well and the sound is as good as the Series 2. Folding Yes Quoted battery life 17hrs Wireless range n/a AWARD WINNER

B&W P7 Wireless £320

Best wireless headphones £300+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

£300 and above

We expect high standards from B&W and the P7 Wireless meets them. Stylish, easy to use with good audio quality, they are very impressive. Folding Yes Quoted battery life 17hrs Wireless range n/a

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless £380 January 2017 ★★★★★

Take the Momentum 2.0, add aptX Bluetooth and active noise cancellation and – voilà. You have these very desirable ‘phones. Folding No Quoted battery life 22hrs Wireless range 10m

PORTABLE MUSIC PLAYERS TREAT YOUR TUNES TO A DEDICATED MUSIC PLAYER Apple iPod Touch (6th Gen) 128GB £330

“There’s still life in the iPod Touch yet”

Sony NW-AH25N £240

“Stays composed as the music becomes complex and never sounds edgy or harsh”

There’s life in the iPod Touch yet. Its price and talent with CD-quality music makes it a worthy challenge to pricier rivals with hi-res audio. Hi-res compatible No Weight 88g Storage128GB

February 2016 ★★★★

Likeable and affordable, the AH25N boasts plenty of features and, although the ergonomics could be better, it produces a good sound. Hi-res compatible Yes Weight 66g Storage 16GB

Best portable music player, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The AK70 is even better than the AK Jr. Improved sound, more features and a better interface make this an easy recommendation Hi-res compatible Yes Weight 132g Storage 64GB

Pioneer XDP-100R £500 February 2016 ★★★★

Sony NW-ZX100HN £500 April 2016 ★★★★

While it’s too polite in terms of presentation, this likeable player hits the sweet spot for design, performance and price. Hi-res compatible Yes Weight 145g Storage 32GB

“The sonic improvements over the Jr are more evolutionary than revolutionary”

“Gives an impression of refined detail, an even balance and a full-bodied, solid sound”

“An affordable player with a touch of premium quality”

£400 to £700

A player that ticks all the boxes on the hi-res checklist, thanks to its excellent compatibility, massive storage and balanced sound. Hi-res compatible Yes Weight 181g Storage up to 432GB

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

£400 to £700

Astell & Kern AK70 £500

Up to £400

December 2015 ★★★★★

www.whathifi.com 121


For our very latest prices, ask in-store or check online at

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HiFi & Home Cinema Specialists

The Brilliant Denon AVRX1300W now at Superf

BUY WITH THE DENON SYS2020 5.1 SPEAKER SYSTEM FOR ONLY £498.00 AND SAVE £200!

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£299 NEW for 2017! Optimum Project furniture NEW!

NEW Kef LS50 Wireless Our price:

£2000 Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones Sennheiser PXC550

SEPTEMBER2016

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OCTOBER2016

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£399.99 £699 Soundbar Acoustic Energy Aego

Atmos Soundbar Onkyo LS7200

Our price:

£899 Amplifer Audiolab M-One

Signature Headphones Bowers & Wilkins P9

Our price:

£199.99

Speakers Mission LX2

Our price:

£799

.95

Our price:

£159

.95

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Home Cinema

Headphones & Earphones

Denon AVRX6300H + FREE Heos 1

Earphones Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

3D 1080P Projector Optoma HD27

Our price: Our price:

Our price:

£1999

£549

JULY 2016

.95

AV Receiver Yamaha RXA3060

AUGUST 2016

AV Receiver Pioneer SC-LX701

Our price:

CALL OR CHECK ONLINE FOR LATEST PRICE

£1999 4K Blu-ray Player Panasonic DMPUB700

Full HD 3D Projector Sony VPLHW45ES

OCTOBER2016

OCTOBER2012

RRP: £139.95 SAVE: £70

Headphones AKG Y50 BT

Our price:

Our price:

£109

HiFi Separates Amplifer & CD Player Arcam A29 Our price:

Turntable Audio Technica ATLP5

£849

CDS27 Our price:

£699 Audiolab 8300CD Our price:

Amplifer & CD Player Audiolab 8300A

£995

Our price:

APRIL 2016

Wireless Speakers 1

Bookshelf Speakers Bowers & Wilkins 685

SEPTEMBER2016

2

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Amplifer & CD Player Marantz PM6006 & Marantz CD6006

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£1299 Amplifer Cyrus One

Headphone Amplifer and DAC Chord Mojo

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Mahogany fnish £699.95

USB Digital To Analogue Converter Audioquest Dragonfy Red JUNE 2016

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Earphones Bose Soundsport Wireless

Noise Cancelling Portable Headphones Goldring NS1000 Expedition

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Radios

£379.99

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1. Ruark R1 mkIII - DAB/DAB+/FM Alarm Radio Our Price: £199 2. Revo Pixis RX - DAB/FM/Internet Radio RRP: £129.95 Save: £30.00

Massive Savings on KEF Q Series Speakers Save up to £500! Black fnish only.

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If you fnd an identical item cheaper from one of our online UK competitors, tell us and not only will we match the price, we'll beat it by 10% of the diference†

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*Open Sundays


PORTABLE MUSIC PLAYERS CONTINUED NEW ENTRY

Onkyo DP-X1 £700 £700 and above

January 2017 ★★★★

It’s stocked with plenty of features, support for MQA and up to 432GB of storage, but the sound is short on solidity and rhythmic ability. Hi-res compatible Yes Weight 203g Storage Up to 432GB

“Sounds more than comfortable at its loudest thanks to the spaciousness and neutral tonality of its presentation”

Sony NW-ZX2 £950 September 2015 ★★★★

“It’s a master at picking out the detail and nuance in music”

This second-generation hi-res Walkman is impressive. If you’re an audio enthusiast who takes music seriously, you should take a closer look. Hi-res compatible Yes Weight 235g Storage 128GB

SMARTPHONES Under 5in

SUPERB MUSIC AND VIDEO PLAYERS THAT MAKE PHONE CALLS TOO Apple iPhone 7

“There’s no doubt the iPhone 7 is Apple’s most controversial handset to date”

Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The lack of a headphone jack distracts from what is a sterling upgrade; an improved screen, camera and sound, plus faster performance. OS iOS Size (hwd) 138 x 67 x 7mm Storage 28/128/256GB

LG G5 (with Hi-Fi Plus DAC)

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best smartphone, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“LG G5 with Hi-Fi Plus by B&O Play may be a mouthful, but it is the complete package”

HTC 10

“HTC has focused on the core functionality and we think it has got the focus absolutely spot on”

LG combines innovation and performance to produce a phone that’s up there with the best. The modular components are a brilliant idea. OS Android Size (hwd) 149 x 74 x 8mm Storage 32GB & microSD

Over 5in

July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

HTC bounces back with a superb effort that nails the core functionality of a smartphone and excels in the audio and video departments. OS Android Size (hwd) 146 x 72 x 3mm Storage 32/64GB/microSD

Google Pixel XL January 2017 ★★★★

The results are mostly impressive from this first phone made by Google. The interface, camera and screen are great, but the sound disappoints. OS Android Size (hwd) 155 x 76 x 9mm Storage Up to 128GB

Samsung Galaxy S7 July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A lesson in how to make a great phone even better. With microSD support, a superb screen and good design, there’s little to moan about. OS Android Size (hwd) 142 x 70 x 8mm Storage 32GB & microSD

STREAMING APPS & SERVICES On demand video

THE BEST WAY TO GET YOUR STREAMING FIX

BBC iPlayer Free

Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Quality content, a great interface and free (for catch-up TV), BBC’s iPlayer is one of, if not the best, video on-demand platforms out there. Resolution up to 1080p Offline playback Yes

124 www.whathifi.com

NEW ENTRY

“The organic Android experience, now slicker and more user friendly than ever, is a joy to use”

“Samsung’s made careful tweaks to an already great phone, making it one of the best you can buy”


STREAMING APPS CONTINUED On demand video

Google Play Movies & TV Variable

June 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Google’s venture into video streaming is a success, offering pretty much everything we could ask for from an on-demand video service. Resolution Up to 1080p Offline playback Yes

Qobuz Sublime £220/pa

May 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

On demand music

Qobuz Sublime is, well, sublime. Easy to use, with a diverse catalogue and competitive prices, this is a service that packs in a lot of value. Sound quality Up to 24-bit/192kHz Offline playback Yes

Technics Tracks Variable January 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Offering a (very) similar experience to 7digital, the Technics site focuses on hi-res music, which is what gives it the edge over its competition. Resolution Up to 24-bit/192kHz Offline Playback Yes

Amazon Prime Instant Video £6/month June 2014 ★★★★

A very good video subscription service, its strengths lie in its strong film library, offline playback and its near-ubiquity among devices. Resolution Up to Ultra HD Offline playback Yes PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Video apps

Netflix £6 SD, £7.50 HD, £9 Ultra HD Best video streaming service, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Without doubt one of the most satisfying streaming services, it runs on practically every platform available, even on your Ultra HD television. Resolution Up to Ultra HD Offline Playback No

Now TV from £7/month June 2014 ★★★★

Essentially a Sky service without the subscription, Now TV is a great way of getting the latest content without paying through the nose for it. Resolution Up to 1080p Offline playback No

Apple Music £10/month December 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Apple’s music service has intelligent curation, an extensive catalogue, very good sound quality and an engaging live radio station. Sound quality Up to 256kbps AAC Offline playback Yes

Music apps

Spotify from free

December 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Its accessibility, ease of use, huge catalogue and more mature music disovery are reasons why Spotify remains at the top of the pile. Sound quality Up to 320kbps Ogg Vorbis Offline playback Yes

Tidal from £10/month

AWARD WINNER

Best music streaming service, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

One of the few streaming services to offer lossless audio, Tidal’s exclusive content and curated playlists make it stand out. Sound quality Up to 1411kbps lossless Offline playback Yes

F O R A F U L L L I S T O F S P E C I F I C AT I O N S A N D O T H E R U S E F U L I N F O V I S I T W H AT H I F I . C O M www.whathifi.com 125


TABLETS

Under 8in

TOUCHSCREEN HEAVEN, WITH LAPTOP SMARTS Apple iPad mini 4 from £320

Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Apple’s best small tablet yet? A superb screen, great user experience, punchy audio and fine apps make this the best small-screen tablet. OS iOS Size (hwd) 203 x 135 x 6mm Storage 16/64/128GB PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Apple iPad Air 2 from £400 Best tablet, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Over 8in

The iPad Air 2 ticks all the boxes: best-bar-none video and audio; an unrivalled user experience; snappy in use, and a gorgeous design. OS iOS Size (hwd) 240 x 170 x 6mm Storage 16/64/128GB

Apple iPad Pro (9.7in) from £499 July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Fits all the things we like about the bigger Pro in a smaller form. This smaller screen incarnation is a seriously tempting proposition. OS iOS Size (hwd) 240 x 170 x 6mm Storage 32/128/256GB

Sony Xperia Z4 tablet £500 Reviewed online ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

An excellent screen, superb sound and lovely features. The Z4 is a great option for Android fans and, at last, a real competitor for the iPad. OS Android Size (hwd) 254 x 167 x 6mm Storage 32GB (expandable)

BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS The only products worth considering

ACCESSORIES ANALOGUE INTERCONNECTS

DON’T SKIMP ON CABLES: THEY’RE A TOP-VALUE UPGRADE

Atlas Element Integra £45 November 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Up to £50

An Award-winner three years on the trot, this cable digs up detail and isn’t fussy about the kit it’s used with. A great first upgrade. Balanced/Single Single

Chord Company C-Line £45

Best analogue interconnect, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Few entry-level interconnects at the price come close to offering the sonic enjoyment that Chord has produced with this cable. Balanced/Single Single

QED Performance Audio 40 £45 Reviewed online ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

If you covet space and detail along with sure but nimble footwork and heaps of insight, all for less than £50, look no further. Balanced/Single Single 126 www.whathifi.com

AWARD WINNER


ANALOUGUE INTERCONNECTS CONTINUED £50 and above

QED Reference Audio 40 £85 June 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

An engaging interconnect with a reassuring build quality, and one that is capable of expressing the dynamics and nuances of a track. Balanced/Single Single

AV & HI-FI RACKS HI-FI KIT CAN ONLY SOUND ITS BEST WITH THE PROPER SUPPORT

“A great-performing, well-built and well-priced kit rack”

April 2012 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Whatever hi-fi you have will sound agile, detailed and dynamic on this. If that’s not all, the Eco is well built, easy to construct and looks smart. Width 590mm Modular Yes Cable management No

Atacama Elite Eco 12.0 £500 Those looking for a strong support for AV and hi-fi that enables a fluid, authoritative presentation will like the performance this rack can offer. Width 1157mm Modular Yes Cable management Yes

Atacama Evoque Eco 60-40 SE £525

AWARD WINNER

Best equipment rack, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The SE stands for Special Edition, while significant improvements in the Eco 60-40’s design and dampening mean it works better than ever. Width 600mm Modular Yes Cable management No

“If you’re of the opinion all hi-fi racks are created more or less equal, think again”

£500 and above

“We were impressed by how our system performed when using this rack”

March 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Up to £500

Atacama Eris Eco 5.0 £460

HEADPHONE AMPLIFIERS HOW TO GET THE VERY BEST FROM YOUR CANS Audio Technica AT-HA5050H £4500

July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Pathos Aurium £850 August 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Up to £5000

A headphone amp whose design harks back to the 1970s, this unit has a spellbinding sound that will leave you captivated. Outputs headphone x2 Inputs coaxial digital, XLR, RCA, USB

A top-class choice for amplification, but you’ll need a source and a pair of headphones of similar quality if you want the best from it. Outputs 6.3mm, XRL, RCA Inputs XLR, 3 RCA

MAINS PRODUCTS A CLEAN POWER SOURCE IS VITAL FOR INTERFERENCE-FREE HI-FI

September 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Grants a system far greater freedom of expression without sacrificing control or authority. If you can afford to, buy it without reservations. Type Block Mains filter Yes No. of plugs 6

Up to £200

Olson Sound Fantastic HF6 £135

www.whathifi.com 127


MAINS PRODUCTS CONTINUED Tacima CS947 ÂŁ45 Up to ÂŁ200

September 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Great value, the highlight being how well it allows for greater detail, attack and dynamics. For the price, it’s a brilliant entry-level purchase. Type Block Mains ďŹ lter Yes No. of plugs 6

Audioquest Jitterbug ÂŁ40 April 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

It might look insubstantial, but when plugged into a USB port it works wonders, ďŹ ltering signal noise to allow a more solid and precise sound. Type USB Mains ďŹ lter No No. of plugs n/a

Isotek EVO Polaris + Premier cable ÂŁ400 ÂŁ200 and above

September 2015 ★★★★

Oers a signiďŹ cant improvement over just plugging your hi-ďŹ into the wall, allowing your system to sound more positive and conďŹ dent. Type Cable + block Mains ďŹ lter Yes No. of plugs 6

Russ Andrews X6 ÂŁ350 September 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

No matter what the source material, the X6 helps unearth a revealing, well-integrated listen, allowing your kit to be as explicit as it can be. Type Block Mains ďŹ lter Yes No. of plugs 6

PHONO AMPLIFIERS EVERY RECORD DECK NEEDS A PHONO AMP Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Communicator ÂŁ160 Up to ÂŁ200

June 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Fast, organised and dynamic, this box oers great quality on a budget. The Gram Amp 2 Communicator is low on frills but high on quality. Type MM Dimensions (hwd) 7 x 10 x 25cm

Rega Fono Mini A2D ÂŁ85 March 2012 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

There’s little fancy about the Fono Mini A2D but that doesn’t matter when the presentation is this good. And it has a useful USB output. Type MM Dimensions (hwd) 6 x 18 x 25cm

    





      

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PHONO AMPLIFIERS CONTINUED Rega Fono MM Mk2 £200

Best phono stage, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

AWARD WINNER

Rega Aria £800

December 2015 ★★★★★

A phono stage of rare quality for under £1000, the Rega Aria performs superbly – as long as the rest of your system is suitably talented. Type MM, MC Dimensions (hwd) 8 x 22 x 32cm

May 2016 ★★★★★

Partnered with the PSX-R2 power supply and a suitably talented turntable, the Signature sounds great. It’s a top-class phono stage. Type MM, MC Dimensions (hwd) 7 x 22 x 36cm

£1000 and above

Cyrus Phono Signature/PSX-R2 £1900

£200 to £1000

Although it lacks the detail of other similarly priced phono amps, the Rega Fono more than justifies its price in terms of dynamics and scale. Type MM Dimensions (hwd) 7 x 4 x 33cm

SPEAKER CABLES ONE OF THE MOST COST-EFFECTIVE UPGRADES YOU CAN MAKE

November 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Not only is the FLX-SLiP 14/4 able to turn a corner no matter how tight, lest we forget, it’s also an incredibly easy cable to listen to as well. Single or Bi-wire Single

Up to £10/m

Audioquest FLX-SLiP 14/4 £5.80/m

www.whathifi.com 129


SPEAKER CABLES CONTINUED QED Ruby Anniversary Evolution £6/m Up to £10/m

March 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Capable of delivering a jolt of excitement to a hi-fi system, but can emphasise any harshness present in bright-sounding electronics. Single or Bi-wire Single

Wireworld Luna 7 £6.50/m March 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A fine speaker cable, the Luna’s exciting presentation and all-round ability means it should sit well with a wide range of systems. Single or Bi-wire Single

£10/m and above

Chord Company Clearway £10/m

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best speaker cable, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Not the flashiest cable, its strength is aiding dynamics and musicality, as well as knitting instruments together for an enjoyable experience. Single or Bi-wire Single

QED XT40 £10/m Awards 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Facilitates a detailed, balanced and authoritative sound with a full-bodied presentation that leaves competitors sounding lean. Single or Bi-wire Single

SPEAKER STANDS

Up to £100

STANDMOUNT SPEAKERS NEED THE BEST SUPPORT YOU CAN GET Atacama Duo 6 £65 Easy to assemble (we suggest you mass-load the stand), these Atacamas help produce a detailed, clear and energetic sound. Top plate size (wd) 130 x 170mm Height 60cm Fillable Yes

Atacama Moseco 6 £120 £100 to £200

Best speaker stand, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A speaker stand that impresses with how weighty and dynamic it allows systems to sound. Considering the price, it’s something of a steal. Top plate size (wd) 130 x 170mm Height 60cm Fillable Yes

Hi-Fi Racks Podium Slimline £120 September 2013 ★★★★

A stylish offering, these are affordable stands that will make your kit sound easy-going and pleasant, if not the most attacking. Top plate size (hwd) n/a Height 50 to 70cm Fillable No

£200 and above

“Really good at letting a system to do its job properly”

February 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Q Acoustics 20 speaker stands £200 September 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Designed with QAs’ Concept 20 speakers in mind, the clever construction and elegant design ensures other speakers give their best too. Top plate size (hd) n/a Height 66.5cm Fillable No

AWARD WINNER

“The Mosecos may just be our new favourite affordable speaker stands”

“We like the warm, full-bodied and gentle sound that these slim wooden stands bring out”

“£200 for a pair of speaker stands? When they’re this good, we don’t mind”

F O R A F U L L L I S T O F S P E C I F I C AT I O N S A N D O T H E R U S E F U L I N F O V I S I T W H AT H I F I . C O M 130 www.whathifi.com


DEALER FINDER COVENTRY

131

New responsive web site now launched suitable for all display screens including tablets and mobiles of all sizes

Centrally located in the heart of the midlands, we not only ofer some of the very best prices, but pride ourselves on the excellence of our service too. Why not call into our large three storey16th Century showroom for a demonstration in one of our three demo rooms where you can audition some of the world’s best analogue and digital Hi Fi and AV equipment, plus we stock one of the UK’s largest ranges of loudspeakers.

CHESHIRE

CUMBRIA

EAST MIDLANDS

LANCASHIRE TOWER AUDIO LTD

Audio Lab ● B&W ● Cyrus ● Denon KEF ● Marantz ● Monitor Audio Onkyo ● Pioneer ● Pro-ject Rega ● Roksan ● Sonos Spendor ● Q Acoustics FULL DEMONSTRATION FACILITIES

51 Washway Road, Sale, Cheshire M33 7AB 0161 973 5577 www.hifistereo.co.uk

LONDON

The Hi-Fi & Home Cinema Specialists Stockists of most leading brands. 81 Whitegate Drive, Blackpool. FY3 9DA. Tel 01253 300599 www.tower-audio.co.uk

EAST YORKSHIRE Linn • Naim • Bowers & Wilkins • Rega • Rotel ProAc • Unison Research • Well Tempered Dynavector • Moon • Michell • Classé delivery & installation, mail order and part exchange available

the audio room ... Savile Street, Hull, HU1 3EF t: 01482 891375 w: www.theaudioroom.co.uk

www.whathifi.com 131

CHESHIRE | COVENTRY | CUMBRIA | EAST MIDLANDS | EAST YORKSHIRE | LANCASHIRE | LONDON

www.hifx.co.uk


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132

WEST YORKSHIRE ROKSAN - MONITOR AUDIO - MARANTZ DENON - YAMAHA - PROJECT - PIONEER ARCAM - REL - Q ACOUSTICS - PANASONIC RUARK AUDIO - MUSICAL FIDELITY GRADO - CANTON - BOSE

DEMONSTRATION AND INSTALL SERVICE AVAILABLE

www.ericwiley.co.uk 01977 556774 / 553066

64 & 85 Beancroft Road, Castleford, WF10 5BS

LONDON

SURREY

37 High Street, Aldridge 01922 457926

Exposure Heed Kudos Lehmann Linn Marantz Michell Monitor Audio Naim Neat Nordost Okki Nokki Ortofon Project Rega Roksan Ample Parking Tue-Sat 10 - 5.30pm

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NORTH EAST

132 www.whathifi.com

LINN NAIM REGA B+W PROAC FOCAL MUSIC SYSTEMS CINEMAS MULTIROOM/CONTROL 97 Sidwell Street, Exeter EX4 6RF 01392 491194 www.gullifordhifi.co.uk

CHESHIRE

To advertise here please call 020 8267 5521 or email jessica.sarfas@haymarket.com

WEST MIDLANDS

EXETER

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B&W | Cyrus | Linn | Moon | Naim | PMC Pro Ac | Rega | Ruark | Sugden | Sonos

97 Christleton Road, Chester CH3 5UQ


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DEALER FINDER SOUTH YORKSHIRE

AVON | CHESHIRE | KENT | NOTTINGHAM SHIRE | N.YORKS | S.YORKS

136

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

You say “Control Freak” like it’s a bad thing.

The best approach to improve your sound is to treat the room acoustically. Dollar for dollar, GIK Acoustics’ products absorb more sound than any other product on the market. We provide our customers the most cost effective solution to make every space sound its best. We sell acoustic panels, bass traps, and diffusors direct to customers. WORLDWIDE.

GIK ACOUSTICS MAKES YOUR ROOM SOUND BETTER. gikacoustics.co.uk

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Naim • Linn • B&W Spendor • Rega • Arcam

CHESHIRE

Audio Lab ● B&W ● Cyrus ● Denon KEF ● Marantz ● Monitor Audio Onkyo ● Pioneer ● Pro-ject Rega ● Roksan ● Sonos Spendor ● Q Acoustics FULL DEMONSTRATION FACILITIES

51 Washway Road, Sale, Cheshire M33 7AB 0161 973 5577 www.hifistereo.co.uk

To advertise here please call 020 8267 5521 or email jessica.sarfas@haymarket.com 136 www.whathifi.com


N O I T I D E DIGITAL AVAILABLE NOW


T H AT WA S T H E N

Haymarket Media Group, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP

THAT WAS THEN

EDITORIAL 020 8267 5000 Editor-in-chief Andy Clough Editor Simon Lucas Digital editor Joe Cox Managing editor Jonathan Evans International technical editor Ketan Bharadia Multimedia editor Verity Burns Content editor Andy Madden First tests editor Kashfia Kabir Staff writers Andrew Murphy, Becky Roberts, Adam Smith Buyer’s Guide editor Kobina Monney Sub-editor Jon Crampin

EMBER 1995 SONY PLAYSTATION DEC

Art editor Simon Bowles Designer Kayleigh Pavelin Photographer Steve Waters Video editor Pete Brown THANKS THIS ISSUE Andy Puddifoot, Peter Spinney ADVERTISING 020 8267 5976 Account director Chloe McDowell Sales manager Liz Reid Retail manager Rob Kerr Display sales executive Joshua McGonigle Retail sales executive Jessica Sarfas Global sales manager Chris Marriott Special projects manager Julie Hassan Tech business development director Mike Walsh SUBSCRIPTIONS AND MARKETING 020 8267 5000 Marketing manager Claire Griffiths PRODUCTION & PLANNING 020 8267 5000 Production manager Anthony Davis OVERSEAS LICENSING 020 8267 5024 Licensing and syndication Isla Friend

Two stars. You could say we failed to see the whole picture

Evolution – things have to adapt to survive. That’s something we’ve tried to do over the years as the types of products we review change and our readers’ priorities shift. We’re not perfect though, and proof of that lies in our December 1995 review of Sony’s original Playstation. Back then we recognised the new device’s strengths as a games console, but then proceeded to rate it solely by its abilities as a CD player. Usability was a concern. The controls were accessible only through an on-screen display, so a connected TV was essential. This was at the time, remember, when TVs and hi-fi did not mix for most of the population.

Misjudgement day

What rating did we give a product that was to become a dominant force in home entertainment for decades to come and a household name overnight? One that expanded gaming to the multi-billion pound industry it is today, and spawned descendants that would go on to establish the DVD and Blu-ray formats for the masses? Two stars.

138 www.whathifi.com

MANAGEMENT Commercial director Stephen McKeon Brand director Alastair Lewis Editorial director Mark Payton Managing director David Prasher

We’ve learned a lot since then, as we hope this issue’s review of the Playstation 4 Pro proves. We take a more holistic view of products now, one that takes into account the absolute ability as well as the feature-set and usability. Performance still takes priority, but we’re flexible enough to give other aspects of the design a decent amount of pull on the verdict. The latest Playstation still isn’t a great CD player. But it can play Blu-rays, stream audio and video across your network and, of course, play games to state-of-the-art standards. That’s worth more than two stars in anyone’s book.

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What Hi-Fi? (incorporating VTV, Audiophile, Hi-Fi Answers, High Fidelity, Which Hi-Fi?, DVD, What CD? & What MP3?) is published by Haymarket Consumer Media Ltd, a subsidiary of Haymarket Media Group Ltd. What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, ISSN no. 0309333X, is published monthly (with an extra Awards issue) by Haymarket Media Group, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP, UK. Airfreight, mailing in USA by Air Business Ltd, c/o Worldnet Shipping Inc., 156-15, 146th Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11434, USA. Periodicals postage paid at Jamaica NY 11431. Subscriptions records maintained at Haymarket Media Group, Twickenham, TW1 3SP. We take every care when compiling the contents of this magazine, but assume no responsibility for effects arising therefrom. Adverts accepted in good faith as correct at time of going to press. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the publisher. © 2015 Haymarket Media Group Ltd, all rights reserved. Circulation trade enquiries Frontline Ltd, Park House, Park Rd, Peterborough PE1 2TR. Tel 01733 555 161. Subscriptions & Back issue requests: Haymarket Counsumer, 3 Queensbridge, Northampton, NN4 7BF Email: help@whathifi.themagazineshop.com Tel: 0344 848 8813/+44 (0)1604 251462.

The new PS 4 Pro is worthy of its heritage. See p26

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The great LS50. Now a complete system.

LS50 WIRELESS Presenting the LS50 Wireless. A complete, fully active system masquerading as a great-looking pair of speakers. Featuring a 192kHz/24-bit high-resolution digital signal path from beginning to end, it is driven by factory-optimised 230-watt x2 EQTPM½GEXMSRMREFMEQTHYEPQSRSGSR½KYVEXMSR'SQFMRMRKEXMQIGSVVIGXMRK DSP crossover, the great award-winning Uni-Q sound is taken to the next level. Listen with LS50 Wireless because music deserves quality sound. /)*'31

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