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AUDIO GUIDE INSIDE

C I S U M L A C I G A M MAKERS The best wireless speakers and noise-cancelling headphones on the planet

REVIEWED 360 REALITY AUDIO Sony’s

new soundtech explained

B&W’s multiroom speaker

FESTIVE GIFT GUIDE

Fabulous ideas for the tech lover in your life!

Panasonic’s £600 40in 4K smart TV

Audiolab’s simple way to add superb streaming to hi-fi

PLUS HUGE BUYER’S GUIDE 2019 AWARDS UPDATE


CONTENTS 06 FIRST TESTS

The latest products from Apple, B&W, Audiolab, Ruark, Panasonic and more, all reviewed

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INSIDER

The new year starts with CES 2020… here’s what we can expect to see at the Las Vegas tech show

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WIRELESS SPEAKERS

No longer a compromise, they’re taking on ‘proper’ hi-fi

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26 INSIDER

The top five products that have caught our eye this month

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360 REALITY

Everything you need to know about Sony’s latest 360 Reality Audio technology

GIFT GUIDE

Stuck for Xmas gifts for the hi-fi enthusiast? Step this way for the What Hi-Fi? grotto

WORTH

£29.99 4 www.whathifi.com

SUBSCRIBE AND SAVE! Free Juice® Power Station FREE when you subscribe. See page 22


CONTENTS

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THIS MONTH WE GIVE THE DEFINITIVE WORD ON THESE PRODUCTS

PREMIUM NOISE CANCELLING

Seven pairs of premium wireless noise-cancelling headphones battle it out

AMPLIFIERS Krell K-300i Marantz SR5014

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BLU-RAY PLAYERS Sony UBP-X800M2

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HEADPHONES AKG N700NC M2 Apple AirPods Pro Beats Solo Pro Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Dali iO-6 Sennheiser Momentum Wireless Sony WH-1000XM3

68 TEMPTATIONS 64

TEMPTATIONS

Krell’s £9k integrated amplifier is so good that we call it ‘a high-end bargain’...

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Can these upgraded Audiovectors compete with the best highend speakers?

BEST ALBUMS OF 2019

Our eight picks to test your system

BUYER’S GUIDE

59 61 57 58 56

MUSIC STREAMERS Audiolab 6000N Play Ruark R5

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STEREO SPEAKERS Audiovector R3 Arreté

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TELEVISIONS Panasonic TX-40GX800B

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WIRELESS SPEAKERS Amazon Echo 3rd Gen AudioPro Drumfire Bowers & Wilkins Formation Flex Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge Devialet Phantom Reactor Dynaudio Music 5 Naim Mu-so Qb 2 Technics Ottava SC-C30 Triangle AIO 3

19 30 10 31 32 33 34 36 37

FIND THE BEST KIT AROUND, FAST! Every product worth owning. Starting on page 71

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2019 AWARDS UPDATE

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WIRELESS SPEAKERS ROUND-UP

FROM FUDGE TO QUALITY STREET Once upon a time, even premium wireless speakers were a compromise of convenience. Now, they’re challenging ‘proper’ hi-fi systems

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here was a time not so long ago when, while testing one-box wireless speakers, we would be itching to rush back into the arms of our reference hi-fi system. The chances of us finding such a product to replace our traditional set-up are pretty slim within this lifetime or the next, but audio quality has certainly caught up with convenience to the point that there are speakers we’re loathe to turn off rather than turn on. This is especially the case when we get to the premium market, and this septet of wireless speakers costing between £500 and a grand are a marvelous example of just what a little investment can return. It features two What Hi-Fi? Award winners, for a start. The Audio Pro Drumfire handed its crown to the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation in 2019, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s been usurped in a general sense. Like all of the speakers you’re about to see, it offers a sonic signature all of its own, and a set of skills that

will appeal to some more than the unit we’ve named our wireless speaker Product of the Year. You won’t be short of household names, either, in terms of the world of hi-fi and those who have been making wireless boxes for a good while. We’re casting a keen eye on the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge, which is a highlight in the company’s new multi-room family, and comparing that with the equally high-end Devialet Phantom Reactor. Don’t baulk at their price tags before you’ve given them a try, though: both offer a lot of punch that they hope will leave you floored. For tighter budgets, there’s also the eagerly anticipated Dynaudio Music 5, Triangle’s IO 3 and the SC-30 from Technics. Big names all, with big characters to match. Of course, the beauty of wireless speakers remains the marriage of convenience and fun, but this round up does much to prove that they’re getting closer to hi-fi than ever before.

CONTENTS Audio Pro Drumfire (page 30) B&W Formation Wedge (page 31) Devialet Phantom Reactor 600 (page 32) Dynaudio Music 5 (page 33) Naim Mu-so QB 2nd Generation (page 34) Technics Ottava S SC-C30 (page 36) Triangle AIO 3 (page 37)

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CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE

CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE 2019

Christmas is nearly upon us, so if you are still stuck for gifts, step this way into the What Hi-Fi? grotto...

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ith Christmas just around the corner, you've probably already started to get into the Xmas spirit – by cracking open the mince pies, wrestling the Christmas tree down from the attic and dusting off your NOW That's What I Call Christmas CD ahead of the big day. But if you're anything like us, you will no doubt have left the really important stuff until last, and still have a few remaining presents left to buy. The Christmas shopping period may have started with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but if there's anything still to tick off your list, now's the time to start getting your gifts of goodwill in order. If you're looking for a perfect present for the music or film fan in your life, you've come to the

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right place. Over the following nine pages, we will be sharing our tech gift ideas for music and movie lovers, starting with gifts that are ideal for the jet-setter who's coming home for Christmas. We recommend gifts for last minute shopping, with items costing between £50 and £100. We also list gifts to get the Christmas party started, or – for the person whose turn it is to cook the Christmas dinner – items for the kitchen. The film or sports lovers in your life haven't been forgotten either, we have some great ideas for them too. From sub-£20 stocking fillers to serious-money hi-fi and AV gifts that will dominate the space beneath your tree, this Christmas feast promises something for everyone and every budget. So, credit card at the ready, let's get stuck in…


PREMIUM WIRELESS HEADPHONES

No strings attached Let yourself loose on these seven stunning pairs of premium wireless noise-cancelling headphones

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ne day, it seems, wired headphones will be used as scene-setting devices in historical dramas, much like smoking in pubs is now. Indeed, like a technological umbilical cord, the cables are being cut from our audio devices as we’re ushered out into a brave new wireless world. Of course, a community that still values the inconvenience of reel-to-reel tape players won't be willing to dispense of wires entirely. But we can still rejoice at how far wireless technology has come: never before has the market been this packed full with such talent, in terms of both innovation and audio quality. It certainly isn’t necessarily the case that the more you spend, the more you get, but this

collective of seven pairs of noise-cancelling wireless on-ear headphones is proof that there is a huge amount of additional value to be had by heading for the premium end of the range. And if you’re going to put your trust – along with your hard-earned cash – in the hands of any manufacturer, you should have little issue in doing so with this septet of big hitters. Over the following pages we have headphones from Sony, Bose, Dali, Bowers & Wilkins, Beats, Sennheiser and AKG all battling for the title. Sony sits proudly as our 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards Product of the Year with its WH-1000XM3 cans, but that was decided before all of its competitors here were on the market. Does it still reign supreme? There’s only one way to find out.

View online review whf.cm/MomentumWireless

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless (page 58)

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View online review whf.cm/WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM3 (page 56)


PREMIUM WIRELESS HEADPHONES

View online review whf.cm/SoloPro

Beats Solo Pro (page 55)

View online review whf.cm/iO-6

Dali iO-6 (page 57)

View online review whf.cm/NCH700

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (page 59)

View online review whf.cm/PX7

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 (page 61)

View online review whf.cm/N700NCM2

AKG N700NC M2 (page 54)

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BUYER’S GUIDE

BUYER’S GUIDE The definitive guide to the best home-entertainment kit you can buy From 65in 4K TVs to turntables, and from portable Bluetooth speakers to Dolby Atmos surround sound packages, here’s where you’ll find the perfect hi-fi and AV product, fast. NEW ENTRIES THIS MONTH There’s an absolute feast of new entries to our Buyer’s Guide this month, as we update things with all the latest 2019 Award winners. Each of these is clearly marked with a Best Buy (or, for a supreme few, a Product of the Year) logo so you can track down the best piece of kit for your music and home cinema needs in record time.

NOW WITH THE BEST BUYS IN EVERY CATEGORY HI-FI Stereo amplifiers Pre- & power amplifiers CD players & transports DACs Music streamers Radios Stereo speakers Systems Multi-room systems Turntables Wireless speakers

79 81 81 82 84 85 92 96 98 97 99

HOME CINEMA Blu-ray players Home cinema amplifiers Projectors Set-top boxes Soundbars & soundbases Speaker packages Video streamers Televisions

102 102 105 106 106 107 108 109

PORTABLE Headphones Portable music players Smartphones Streaming apps & services Tablets

112 116 117 118 118

ACCESSORIES Analogue interconnects AV & hi-fi racks Cartridges Headphone amplifiers Mains products Phono stages Speaker cables Speaker stands

119 119 120 120 120 121 123 124

HOW TO POSITION YOUR SPEAKERS Just a few moments spent thinking about speaker placement can make all the difference to getting the best sound. Turn to p95. AMAZON PRIME TIPS Amazon Prime is one of the big hitters of the video-streaming world – and getting bigger day by day. It’s worth picking up some navigational tips and tricks; so we enlighten you on p117.

9000

Cambridge Audio CXA81 stereo amplifier, p80 A stunning stereo amp that manages to knock a multi-year Award winner off its throne

AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC, p82 The DragonFly range of USB stick DACs just gets better and better

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What HiFi 430 (Sampler)  

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