OUR 300 BEST BUYS FROM £15-£15,000
OLED TV SHOWDOWN!
LG, Panasonic, Philips and Sony do battle HDR, OLED, 4K: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
NAIM UNITI STAR New streaming system is an absolute belter WIRELESS SPEAKERS Portable Bluetooth bargains under £200
£150 deck is a budget marvel! Soundbars to boost your TV’s sonic chops
PLUS OUR FAVOURITE PIANO TEST TRACKS
W E LC O M E
Coming out of the shadows – with OLED
Jonathan Evans, editor
The picture produced by an OLED television is remarkable, the seemingly impossible depth to the blacks quite stunning. What we had thought of as good black reproduction from the top LED/LCD sets of a few years ago was revealed as shades of grey. But an OLED set, while undeniably tempting, was also hugely expensive. ble, Audioquest ca ! 0 Now, though, there are some superb sets worth £6 scribe. When you sub to be had for around £2000. Which is See page 24 where our 55in OLED TV Group Test (p30), comes in, when four supremely talented sets, from LG, Panasonic, Philips and Sony do battle. To go alongside the TVs, we round up some terrific Soundbars (p48) from £200 to £800, so you can do your telly justice, with appropriately great sound. And, talking of great sound, we also have a round-up of some wireless portable speakers (p58) that manage to sound brilliant both at home and out and about.
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 facilities in London and Bath. We conduct all our tests 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; Oppo UDP-203; Panasonic DMP-UB900; Yamaha RX-A3060; Epson EH-TW7200; PMC Twenty5 23 5.1; KEF R50; Sky Q
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All the best kit brought together to create your perfect system. Stereo, home cinema, streaming, on the move – you name it, we’ve got a great system for you!
Pro-Ject Primary E, p20 This is a really fine effort (unsurprisingly) – an affordable turntable that does your vinyl collection justice.
December 2018 issue ON SALE 18th October facebook.com/whathifi.com
“So, you’ve decided that your next TV simply has to be an OLED – but which one should you buy?” Page 30
Audioquest Golden Gate analogue audio interconnect cable When you subscribe to What Hi-Fi? Page 24
THE WORLD’S MOST
RESPECTED VERDICTS 4 www.whathifi.com
One of the best ★★★★★ A serious contender ★★★★
Follow the url to
find the best price
Worth a look ★★★ Disappointing ★★ Awful ★
THIS MONTH WE GIVE THE DEFINITIVE WORD ON THESE PRODUCTS
PMC founder Peter Thomas on his hi-fi journey
CD PLAYERS ATC CDA2 Mk2
DACs FiiO K1
HEADPHONES 06 FIRST TESTS
Naim’s latest streamer is a great addition to the range
OnePlus Bullets Wireless
SMARTPHONES Motorola Moto G6
SOUNDBARS 30 OLED TV
Dali Kubik One
Four superb OLED TVs – but only one winner of our test
JBL Bar Studio
Q Acoustics Media 4
SPEAKER PACKAGES 44 WHAT TO WATCH?
Jamo S 807 HCS
The best 4K HDR films to play on your new OLED TV
STEREO SPEAKERS Kii Audio Three
ProAc Response DT8
STREAMING SYSTEMS Naim Uniti Star
58 WIRELESS SPEAKERS
For sound to match an OLED These Bluetooth speakers picture, try these soundbars will perform home or away
TURNTABLES Fluance RT81
Pro-Ject Primary E
The Kii Audio Threes have earned their place at the top
Audio Pro Addon T3
Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3
ATC’s reputation on the line with this CD player/preamp BUYER’S GUIDE
FIND THE BEST KIT AROUND, FAST! Our verdict on every product worth owning, p71
IDE BUYER’S GU
BEST BUYS HI-FI
STEREO AMPLIFIERS PRE-AMPLIFIERS
NOW WITH THE BEST BUYS BE ST IN EVERY BUYS CATEGORY BUYER’S GUIDE
BE ST BUYS The only products worth considering
HI-FI IERS AMPLIF
THE BEAT ING HEAR
T OF YOUR HI-FI
The only products worth considering
View offers mps whf.cm/BBStereoA
Kobina Monney, Buyer’s Guide
STEREO SPEAKERS MULTI-ROOM SYSTEMS
TURNTABLES WIRELESS SPEAKERS
ANA LOG CINEMA UE INTERCONNE HOME 103
BLU-RAY DON’T SKIMP ON CABLE HOME-CINEMA AMPLIFIERS PROJECTORS SET-TOP BOXES
Marantz PM6006 ★
Stereo amps up
Chord Company C-Line
£200 Onkyo A-9010 2017 ★★★★ ★ r under £300, Awards
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SOUNDBASES SPEAKER PACKAGES
analogue interconnect VIDEO STREAMERS under £50, Awards 2017 homethe ★★★★★ Few best entry-leve l interconnects at the price This is the definitive guide to the comeTELEVISIONS close to oﬀering sonic enjoymenTVs Chord has produced with 75in t that to From this cable. entertainment kit you can buy.Balanced/Single Single rs PORTABLE speake th Bluetoo le HEADPHONES smartphones, from portab MUSIC PLAYERS PORTABLE here’s QED Performes, d packag ance Audio 40 £45 SMARTPHONES Reviewed online ★★★★★ to Dolby Atmos surround-soun STREAMING APPS & SERVICES If you covet t, fast. produc and detail along with sure but nimble TABLETS footwork where you’ll find the perfect and heaps ofspace insight,
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all for less than £50, look no further. Balanced/Single Single
Rega’s Planar 1 Plus is CTS ANALOGUE INTERCONNE NEW ENTRIES This month, Chord Clearw superb anday Analogue RCA £90AV & HI-FI RACKS ience Best analogue interconn HEADPHONE AMPLIFIERS the perfect marriage of conven ec
S: THEY’R E A TOP-VA LUE 105
View offers whf.cm/BBAudio
RD EXCLUSIVE, IN-DEPTH VE
ICTS ON THE LATEST KIT
Naim Uniti Star | Streaming system | £3499
Success written in the stars FOR Entertaining sound; extensive features, fine build
AGAINST Nothing of note at this price
It’s fair to say that Naim’s new generation of Uniti products has been something of a smash hit. We’ve already reviewed the Atom streaming system (£1999) and the higher-end Nova (£4199) from the range and loved them both. Now it’s the turn of the Star to impress us. The Star is a cutting-edge streaming system where all you need to do is add speakers to get a sound. It differs from its pure streaming siblings in having a CD player built in. This makes it ideal for anyone who wants to get involved in streaming in all its forms, but who still plays music from their CD collection too.
inputs to accommodate external sources including an HDMI ARC to make connecting the Star to your TV easy. You will be able to have a DAB/FM module fitted too, as a £150 cost option, but this won’t be available until early next year. Overall, the Uniti Star is a wellequipped unit, and we think Naim has covered every reasonable request.
Full stream ahead One area where the Star excels is in its streaming options. Highlights include Bluetooth aptX HD, Airplay and UPnP (network streaming), as well as embedded support for Spotify, Tidal and Chromecast. It’s also Roon-ready and capable of working as part of a Naim multi-room set-up alongside the company’s other streamers and wireless speakers. As for physical connections, there’s a generous spread of analogue and digital
Short-changed The company hasn’t short-changed anyone with the engineering either. The internal amplifier, based on the Class A/B circuitry used in the highly regarded Nait 5si stereo integrated, outputs a healthy 70W per channel. That’s enough to drive most price-compatible speakers to decent levels. We don’t have any issue with our rather inefficient reference ATC SCM 50s, nor with more obvious partners such as Spendor’s A7 or Neat’s Iota Alphas. In use, the Uniti feels classy, as befits its premium price, and is clearly built to last. Naim has a great track record for supporting its products for years, and we don’t see why things would be any different with this one.
“The Naim Uniti Star is ideal for anyone who wants to get involved in streaming in all its forms, but still plays music from their CD collection too" 6 www.whathifi.com
★★ ★ ★ ★
Bluetooth Apt X HD
The Star is easy to use for a product of this type. At the front you’ll find a 5in full colour LCD display that’s crisp and easy to see from a distance. The screen also has a proximity sensor that will make it wake up even before a button is pressed. Next to the display are a few control buttons that cover the basic functions. There’s also a well-designed handset that works intuitively. Of course most of the time we use Naim’s dedicated app, which is currently one of the better efforts around and continues to improve with regular updates.
Spring into action We start with the Star’s CD section. It’s possible to use this as a ripper too, though you will need to attach a USB storage device. As a CD player it sounds detailed and focused. We play Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring and the Naim copes with this demanding piece well. The unit sounds organised and stable throughout, coping
“The Naim Uniti Star feels classy, as befits its premium price, and it is clearly built to last”
The 5in colour LCD display at the front of the Star is crisp and easy to read from a distance
The Naim has a generous spread of analogue and digital connections too
Control buttons on the front panel cover most of the basic functions
Naim’s dedicated app is one of the better efforts around – and with regular updates available, it continues to improve all the time
1 This volume control is one of the premium touches that separates the Naim from its rivals. The control feels nicely damped and wonderfully smooth in operation
2 The Uniti Star features a decent spread of optical and coaxial digital inputs, as well as an ARC enabled HDMI which allows connection straight to a TV
with the music’s savage dynamic sweeps and complexity with control and composure. Tonally, the Uniti sounds even and has plenty in the way of solidity underpinned by a firm, grippy bass.
We try out the headphone output and are pleased to report that it’s a good one. There are many products on the market where the sound through the headphone socket is a poor relation to that heard out of the speaker outputs. That’s not the case here – it’s clear that Naim’s engineers have taken care to ensure the level of dynamic subtlety, resolution and musical drive remains consistent between outputs.
Positive story The story is even more positive when we switch to UPnP streaming from our usual Naim network server. The Star now sounds even livelier than with CD while retaining the insight, composure and punch we admire. Playing a raft of music from Bruce Springsteen’s Radio Nowhere and Jay Z’s Black set, right the way through to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, the Naim sounds right at home. It doesn’t favour any particular musical genre and just gets on with the job of entertaining. There’s enough in the way of musical cohesion and rhythmic precision to keep things interesting. Switching to Tidal doesn’t dull our enthusiasm. The Uniti Star’s appealing musical character doesn’t change and we’re pleased with its responsive nature. This streaming system moves between sources seamlessly, a feeling that is reinforced by the quick pairing with our iPhone 6S for Bluetooth use.
3 Naim hasn't forgotten analogue source components either. There's a standard RCA stereo input alongside the company's long-favoured Din option
SYSTEM BUILDER These will make the Uniti Star shine...
Range of talents
The remote control is well designed and works intuitively
We’re not in the least bit surprised that the Star turns out to be so capable. Our experience of other Uniti products has given us a pretty good idea of Naim’s talent in this arena. The Star is a great addition to the range, and if you need CD replay, it is the obvious choice.
Stereo speakers Neat Iota Alpha ★★ ★ ★ ★ £1470 These highly entertaining speakers won’t dominate the room
Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD
VERDICT The Star’s talents only reinforce the excellence of Naim’s Uniti range
Tablet Apple iPad 2018 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £319 The iPad is a prodigious AV tablet, and ideal for controlling your hi-fi system
Total build £5288
Fluance RT81 | Turntable | £250
“An instantly likeable deck” FOR Weighty presentation; attractive and well engineered
Fluance is a Canadian hi-fi and home cinema brand that has been growing ever since it was founded in 1999. According to the company’s website, the prefix ‘Flu’ is Latin for ‘flowing’ or ‘wave’, while the suffix ‘ance’ is Latin for ‘a state of being’. While we’re not sure we fully understand quite what they’re getting at, this is the first time we can remember one of its products entering our test rooms and we very much hope that it won’t be the last. The RT81 is the more premium of a pair of turntables offered by Fluance, and certainly it looks, and feels, the part. A solid block of MDF with a convincing wood veneer, the deck sits elevated upon four isolated feet and is crowned with aluminium platter and rubber slip mat on top – as opposed to the felt one included with the RT80. Fluance has also used a balanced aluminium S-shape tonearm, into which you will have to screw the Audio Technica AT95E cartridge with its elliptical diamond-tipped stylus. To the right of the platter is a chunky dial for switching between 33⅓ and 45rpm.
Serious engineering You get the sense that the RT81 is a serious product. Fluance is serious about design, about the engineering and about the performance. But this is still an entry-level deck, and the Canadian company hasn’t ignored the simplicity that requires. It’s pretty close to being plug-in-and-play, apart from having to attach the cartridge, belt and platter, that's all you are required to do. To the rear, there is one pair of analogue terminals with grounding peg, one switch to toggle line out or for using the RT81’s built-in Texas Instruments phono stage, and another switch to turn the auto stop function on or off. But still, the best thing about this turntable is its performance. It does everything really quite well. We begin with The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, and what strikes us first is the weight of the sound. It’s thick and it’s authoritative, kicks and toms trading blows as an army of reverbdrenched guitars marches overhead. We’ve heard decks like this before, but what sets the RT81 apart is its organisation and agility. Even when faced with a chunky
AGAINST Bettered elsewhere in a well-populated market
The Fluance RT81 looks and feels like a premium record player
presentation, it doesn’t slur or soften its syllables, nor does it become clogged when we want movement and texture. Dynamics are another triumph. While it’s difficult to strip James Graham’s effusive vocal of its emotion, the Fluance gives a performance that is altogether musical. This is further confirmed as we change tack slightly, and slip Masayoshi Fujita’s Apologues from its sleeve. As Fujita’s mallets strike the vibraphone, the varying intensities are not lost, while the RT81’s considered sense of timing tracks the ebb and flow of each movement.
Built-in phono stage
Aesthetic splendour 33.3 & 45rpm
Crowded marketplace Fluance’s only real downfall is its entry into an ever-growing market, dominated by Rega at this price range. The standard Rega Planar 1 does, of course, require a phono stage, whereas the RT81 has its own one built in, but the upturn from pairing it with even a budget pre-amp is felt across the board. While still perhaps less full of body, the Rega is faster, more agile, more detailed and yet more expressive. If you can extend your budget, the Rega Planar 1 Plus comes into view with its built-in phono stage, delivering an excellent performance that the Fluance can’t match.
For similar money and with phono amp included, there’s also the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Audio Technica’s AT-LP5 and the Sony PS-HX500 – both of which also offer a vinyl ripping function.
Yet the Fluance RT81 will undeniably find its audience. It is an instantly likeable deck, one we would happily take home. It can be easily upgraded, either with an improved phono stage or cartridge, and its aesthetic splendour is one rarely matched by this kind of performance at this price. If you covet a warm, solid-sounding turntable with plenty of musical talent, then it’s about time you introduced yourself to Fluance.
Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND
ALSO CONSIDER Audio Technica AT-LP5
★★ ★★ ★
VERDICT We’re often apprehensive when testing a brand new to us, but the Fluance RT81 immediately wins our affection
FIRST TESTS View offers
ProAc Response DT8 | Stereo speakers | £1950 | whf.cm/ResponseDT8
“As musically cohesive as we‘ve heard at this price” FOR Agile, articulate sound; insightful midrange; fine build
AGAINST Cosmetics lack slickness
It’s been several years since we last reviewed a ProAc speaker. But having spent some time with the new Response DT8 floorstanders, we wish we hadn’t left it so long. While not perfect, these towers turn in as musically cohesive a performance as we’ve heard at this price. The use of two types of 16.5cm mid/bass drivers working in tandem may be clever from an engineering point of view, but visually it unsettles us. It looks odd – as does seeing the company name plastered liberally on the front of the speaker. It’s easy to see the logo on the tweeter faceplate, lower mid/bass driver and on the badge near the base of the enclosure. But look closer and you’ll also find it appears no less than three times on each mid/bass driver chassis, making nine times in total. We think that’s overkill. However, we have no complaints when it comes to the build quality, which is as good as we’ve come to expect from ProAc. The 98cm tall cabinet feels immensely solid and is blessed with crisp edges and neatly applied wood veneer. The enclosure’s walls use differing thicknesses of MDF to spread resonances. They are heavily braced and damped to give the drive units a solid, low noise foundation from which to work. There are five standard finish options – black ash, maple, mahogany, oak and cherry – so these speakers should fit well in most rooms. If you fancy something a little different there are two premium options – rosewood and ebony – for an extra £400.
natural mids and a stiff poly mica diaphragm in the lower one to deliver powerful but articulate bass. The trick is to get the two working seamlessly, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Despite a nominal impedance of just 4ohms, the DT8s aren’t overly demanding of an amplifier. They’re pretty sensitive at 90dB, so there shouldn’t be an issue reaching those high volume levels with most price-compatible models. These floorstanders use ProAc’s usual downward-firing port arrangement that vents to the sides. This configuration makes the speakers less fussy over room positioning than conventional rear-firing ported alternatives would be. In our test room, we position the Responses around a metre into the room and well away from the sidewalls. We also angle them slightly towards the listening position to focus the stereo imaging.
We move onto My Head Is An Animal by Of Monsters And Men and the ProAcs continue to shine. They’re good at conveying the momentum on hardcharging tracks such as Mountain Sound, keeping all the music’s energy intact. There’s plenty of attack on hand, and that high level of insight we noticed with the Beethoven piece just as apparent here. The DT8s keep track of the music’s multitude of instrumental strands with ease. While the presence of two different types of mid/bass drivers causes us to have doubts, we’re impressed by the DT8s' expressive and transparent midrange performance. Voices come through with clarity, and are nicely separated from the complex instrumental backdrop.
Driving in tandem Why use two types of mid/bass driver? In engineering terms, there’s always a trade-off between the optimisation of midrange and bass performance in a drive unit. Designers simply end up with a compromise that suits the product the best. By using different drivers that still work in tandem, ProAc’s engineers have attempted to get the best of all worlds with a polypropylene cone in the top unit for
Taking the Fifth We start with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the ProAc’s respond with a large-scale sound that’s full of force and fury. They deliver the music’s high-octane dynamic swings with enthusiasm and plenty of punch; yet have the skill to render the subtleties with care. Tonally, these speakers are a little forward, but they have enough in the way of refinement to prevent this being an issue. We would still tend to avoid bright or aggressive side systems, though. The detail levels are high, with the DT8s able to resolve layers of information and organise it in a cohesive manner. They render instrumental texture superbly and deliver slight changes in the piece's intensity and drive well. Stereo imaging is lovely too. These speakers paint on an expansive sonic canvas and locate instruments with precision and stability. The orchestra is laid out convincingly with the sound extending well beyond the space between the two speakers.
ALSO CONSIDER Spendor A4
★★ ★★ ★ £2195 Excellent speakers with a huge dose of entertainment
Slim pickings We play Angel by Massive Attack – one of our favourite bass tracks – and the ProAcs continue to please. They deliver that insistent bassline with plenty of verve. There’s an impressive degree of agility, coupled to plenty of power and weight. The DT8s may be relatively slim speakers but there’s no denying their ability to deliver basslines with conviction. We really like the ProAc Response DT8s. If you can put aside their slightly odd appearance, they deliver such an entertaining sound that we can’t help but recommend them. Take a bit of care with system matching and these speakers will surely impress.
Mid/bass drivers use different materials
Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★
SOUND XXXX COMPATIBILITY XXX BUILD XXX
VERDICT The ProAc Response DT8s are one of the best pairs of floorstanders we’ve heard at this price. Highly recommended
25mm dome tweeter
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