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£600! Bargain projectors: because bigger is better



NOISE-CANCELLING WIRELESS HEADPHONES Peace, quiet and brilliant sound

9 770309 333260


January 2017 £4.99


E R T S ? D C ? L Y N I d e V in la p x e s n o ti p o r u o y ll A


The M3 Soundbar. Simplicity redefined, where beautifully engineered sound meets beautiful design. M3 is an elegant, compact soundbar, designed to bring life to your living room without the clutter of a full Hi-Fi system. Thanks to its built-in subwoofer, Intelligent Pre-Amplifier (IPA™), Bluetooth® aptX® wireless capability and seamless control via your own TV’s remote, the M3 will fill your home with superbly detailed and dynamic audio reproduction. Find Out More

Built-In Subwoofer

aptX® Bluetooth

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Ultra Wide Sound Dispersion

MoviEQ™ Enhanced Listening




You say ‘cat’ but we want ‘lion’

Meet DAVE. DAVE is a DAC. What’s more, DAVE is a What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year. And DAVE wants a place in your system...

Simon Lucas, editor

Bigger is better, right? Not always, admittedly – my overdraft (just as an example) becomes less lovely the bigger it gets but, in general, bigger wins. Engine capacity, volume level, wage packet… we want it big, don’t we? Bigger is just, well, bigger. And consequently better. The size of the picture when you’re watching films or TV is subject to similar desire for scale. In the past few years, TV brands have NEXT MONTH AV amplifiers £300 goes pulled out all the stops to a lot further than you think In-ear headphones from convince us that 50 inches is ‘affordable’ to ‘pricey’ 40-43in TVs suddenly the new 40, that any front room not so big any more worth its salt needs a 75-inch TV as a minimum. And with TVs, bigger is not only better. It’s also considerably more expensive. That’s why we love projectors. Just have a look at the three affordable projectors (p42) we’ve tested in this issue – just £600 buys a projector capable of delivering a 300-inch image (in case you live in a hangar). We love it when bigger is better, but we love it more when bigger is cheaper too.

Towards the end of last year we gave an Award to Chord Electronics’ extraordinary Digital to Analogue Veritas in Extremis. This DAC – DAVE to its friends – proved to be the best of the highend, money-no-object items of hi-fi heaven we reviewed last year, and demonstrated there’s a definite place for an £8000 DAC that looks like it might have been designed by HG Wells. And now, thanks to our friends at Chord, we’re giving you the chance to get DAVE into your own home. You might love it for the way it looks, you might love it for the way it performs, you might love it because it cost you no money whatsoever. But no matter the reason, we guarantee you will love it. So what are you waiting for?

My product of the month Ruark R7 mk2 (p20) No, it’s not the last word in audio fidelity. No, it doesn’t handle highresolution music. But never before have I encountered a piece of hi-fi I’d take active pleasure in dusting.

Find us on...



Enter online at, just click on the link in the article and submit your answer. The closing date for entries is Tuesday, 10th January, 2017. Good luck! 3



“Cross your T’s, dot your I’s, and you’re so much more likely to build a hi-fi system to be proud of”Page 28






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





CD PLAYERS Marantz CD6006


DACS Copland DAC 215


Oppo HA-2 SE




This space-age speaker looks out of this world


The best-sounding item of furniture we’ve heard



Bose QuietComfort 35


Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless


Sony MDR-1000X




Dali Zensor 3


Dynaudio Xeo 2


PMC Twenty5.23


Q Acoustics 3020








PRE/POWER AMPS Burmester 099/956 MkII




Enjoy the view with these ATC and Dynaudio duke it big-screen budget efforts out for cinema supremacy

BenQ 1090


Epson EH-TW5350


ViewSonic Lightstream Pro 7827HD


SMARTPHONES Apple iPhone 7


Google Pixel XL




Dynaudio Emit 5.1




Onkyo A-9010


Parasound Halo Integrated


Rega Brio-R


Rega Elex-R




Shut the world out with these noise-cancellers


Burmester’s pre/power is an impeccable combo

Amazon Instant Video




Pure Music


TELEVISIONS Philips 65PUS7601 Rega Planar 2

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


WIRELESS SPEAKERS Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 1





COPLAND DAC215 “Lovely sound, classy appearance and useful features – we can’t ask for more” Ketan Bharadia, International technical editor 5





Denon AVR-X1300W | AV amplifier | £300

click here to view offer

It’s like one of the family FOR Articulate sound; Dolby Atmos support; file compatibility

AGAINST Tough competition from rivals; flaky control app

★★★★ ★

If something sounds too good to be true it probably is. That old adage may crumble in the face of in-credit electricity bills and all-you-can-eat buffets for a fiver, but it holds some relevance when it comes to the Denon AVR-X1300W, the brand’s entry-level 7.2-channel AV amplifier. It’s now significantly cheaper than its big brother, our Product of the Year AVRX2300W (£500), thanks to a recent £100 drop in its previous price tag, yet the two models still have a great deal in common. The AVR-X1300W also decodes the latest and greatest surround-sound formats (Dolby True HD, DTS HD and Atmos, with DTS:X 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 well equipped, with wi-fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect and multiple 4K-supporting HDMI inputs.

Yes, it sheds some power by comparison – 80W per channel into 8 ohms, as opposed to the AVR-X2300W’s 95W – and forgoes a cleaner interface, more advanced high-density feet, a few connections and a better remote control. Denon says there are slight differences in the audio circuitry and power supplies too. The AVR-X1300W appears to be good value, and it is. If you have a strict limit of £300, there’s every reason to spend it here. 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.

never sounds bewildered. It has the space, cohesion and precision to track the trajectory of gunshots as they dart across our test room, not losing sight of them as they’re fired from one speaker and make contact with a poor soul in another.

Denon app We rather like the remote control that comes boxed with the Denon, but sadly that doesn't extend to the mobile app. Though it connects to the Denon instantly and sports a simple easy-to-follow interface, it proves to be rather unreliable, and both iOS and Android apps crash on numerous occasions. More stability is required here please, Denon

Deep and intimidating

For an amplifier, as with a heavyweight boxer, there’s a balance to be struck between having the muscle to punch with power and enough agility to avoid ponderousness. They need to afford clout to exploding ships and clunky machinery, as well as execute crisply to sound fast and

"The 1300W’s presentation is warm, weighty and articulate, and not without punch. It surges through our speaker package with a bang" We settle down for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and there’s a genetic likeness between the tonality of the two. The 1300W’s 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 figurative 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 soundtrack’s densest this Denon

exciting. The Denon nails the balance, giving explosions impact and hovering spaceships a big and consuming sound, but BB-8’s robotics and the fizz of lightsabers are still able to peep out above the hum. Voices come through the centre channel with a pleasing mix of clarity, weight and warmth, even if the X1300W sheds a layer or two of expression and solidity compared with its sibling. 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 desperation it carries during the torture, aren’t as deftly communicated.

FIRST TESTS The AVR-X1300W is Denon's entry-level AV amp. Its sibling, the X2300W, is our Product of the Year

There’s also less detail on offer higher up the frequency scale, as is demonstrated when comparing the tinkling bells in the Main Title Theme.

Zingy guitar lines

It’s abundantly clear the sibling has a greater penchant for dynamics too. Its larger sweeps make more of a meal of the intense instrumentals that rise alongside the action, and its more subtle build-up of the score provides extra suspense. Ultimately the extra dollops of power, authority and scale of the AVR-X2300W deem it the better buy, despite the higher price. The 15W-per-channel discrepancy in power isn't much in numerical terms, but in practice it's the difference between powerful and mightily powerful sound. With The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years documentary, it drives the wonderfully restored concert footage with greater impetus, the group’s instrumentals coming through with more definition and the supporting commentary with greater clarity. Still, you can’t fault the AVR-X1300W’s innate musicality. The opening 1963 performance of She Loves You isn’t without fervour, and everything from the thrashing cymbals to melody-driving guitar lines can clearly be heard above the screaming crowd that atmospherically fills the rear channels. The Denon’s pleasingly spacious, wellimaged 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 pick up the band’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band CD. It doesn’t take more than the eponymous opening track to ascertain it’s just as listenable with music as it is with movies. Sound placement remains spot on, and good insight into the zingy guitar lines and McCartney’s stretched vocal, combined with power behind Ringo’s relentless drumming, makes for an entertaining and coherent rendition.

Gruelling rhythms

As expected, there’s less subtlety, crispness and openness when we stream from Spotify Connect, but still it’s snappy, tonally consistent and far from lackadaisical. The anarchic electronica of 65daysofstatic’s Asimov is well controlled, the Denon keeping the gruelling rhythms ticking over and deftly communicating the might behind the galloping drums and droning synths. Nothing quite epitomises ‘jumping the gun’ in the AV world like throwing on your favourite film, or indeed album, without first calibrating an amplifier to your room and speaker set-up. So, naturally, we would recommend that be your first task after unboxing the AVR-X1300W.


Denon has worked hard to make the AVR-X1300W's wi-fi perfromance more stable

The AVR-X1300W has a microphone input which is used for the sound set-up

The remote is easy to use, though more basic than the control supplied with its sibling

The Denon has Spotify included, plus support for dts:X and Dolby Atmos






1 While this Denon works well when connected to wi-fi, we would still always prefer to go for a wired approach for greater stability

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, you are guided through the process (which shouldn’t take much longer than the time it takes to make a cup of tea). Those who like arts and crafts might also appreciate the required assembly of the cardboard tripod, for the microphone to sit atop. While results prove accurate in our set-up, it’s always worth glancing over the figures to see if any slight manual tweaks are required. There are various Audyssey processing modes to experiment with – but most are best left off in our experience.

There are seven channels of built-in power amplification, which means the X1300 can deliver a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos set-up


Dolby Atmos

80W per channel

24-bit/192kHz Hi-res audio

Establishing connections

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 inputs (which are all HDCP 2.2-certified to allow pass-through of all the latest display technology such as 4K and HDR). Legacy



The Denon has plenty of HDMI connections which are happy to support 4K sources. Legacy sources haven't been ignored either

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 for convenience sakes. The similarities between the two façades don't end there. The AVR-X1300W looks near-on identical to its sibling – just slightly shorter, lighter and without the highdensity 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. The remote is more modest than that boxed with 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 functionality-wise, we’ve no complaints.

SYSTEM BUILDER Three products to partner with your Denon

TELEVISION Samsung UE55KS7000 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £1300 Remarkable picture at a reasonable price

BLU-RAY PLAYER Sony BDP-S6700 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £150 A performance that belies its low price tag

Weather forecast

The AVR-X1300W is visually simple, with a bright text display and two large dials

Sadly, we can't say the same for Denon’s mobile app. It connects instantly and has an easy-to-follow interface, but all the reliability of a UK weather forecast. Had the Denon AVR-X1300W offered similar features to its big brother and also the lion’s share of its performance, we’d be left questioning the Product of the Year status recently awarded to the AVRX2300W. 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 a sensible one, but nevertheless we’d still happily part with more pounds for the considerable leap in performance brought by the bigger sibling. Mind you, if the budget simply won’t budge you could do a lot worse than this well-rounded AV amplifier.

SPEAKER PACKAGE Dali Zensor 1 5.1 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £980 The Dali remains ahead of its rivals

Total build £2730 Says


VERDICT This Denon is a talented and well-equipped entry-level AV amp, albeit not necessarily your go-to starting point

The playback screen is informative without being too cluttered


Onkyo DP-X1 | Portable music player | £700

click here to view offer

“On a hi-res mission” FOR Huge storage potential; file compatibility; MQA support

Of all Shakespeare’s sayings, none has become more of a truism in a wider context than having ‘too much of a good thing’. Take power, pizza, and sugar canes at Christmas, for instance. But in an era of compulsive hoarding, you can never have too much storage. So if your worst nightmare is a ‘memory full’ notification, you might want to check out the Onkyo DP-X portable hi-res music player. It has a potential storage of 432GB – though only 32GB is built-in, each of the Onkyo’s two microSD slots can support a 200GB card. You’ll have to pay extra, but it means you have room for more than 2000 24-bit/192Khz FLAC files, almost 11,000 CD-quality WAVs or roughly 108,000 MP3s. Packing two Sabre 9601K amps and dual Sabre ES9018K2M DACs, the Onkyo can cater for PCM files up to 24-bit/384kHz, DSDs (11.2/5.6/2.8MHz) and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) files.

AGAINST Rivals offer more cohesion; sharp edges

★★★★ ★

The Onkyo’s width and chunky casing means it only just qualifies as pocket-friendly

thanks to the spaciousness and neutral tonality of its presentation. There are three digital filters too: sharp, slow and short. The differences aren’t huge, but ‘sharp’ certainly has the edge, opening the presentation and delivering a touch more sparkle.

More welly

Jazzy fusion

With its chunky casing, the Onkyo looks like a giant next to the Astell & Kern AK70. It’s not thumb-stretchingly wide, but the edges aren’t as smooth or rounded as we’d like and dig in when you’re sitting down, making it only just pocket-friendly. Still, it feels well made and the subtle moulding of the rear panel to accommodate the volume dial, not to mention the bright and colourful 4.7in touch-panel display, keep it at the classier end of the market. Onkyo is seemingly on a hi-res music mission, turning out everything from portable music players to headphone amps to match its hi-res digital download store, Onkyo Music. The DP-X1 runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1, which, though a little dated, has a clean, intuitive interface. Menus are organised and free of bloatware, and the pull-down toggle bar is a handy shortcut for accessing wi-fi, line-out mode and Bluetooth. There are multiple options for a wired connection too, including a standard 3.5mm plug-in, and either balanced or Active Control Ground connections via the 2.5mm output. Onkyo’s music app is the access point of your library. The interface comprises multiple tabs, from artists, albums and songs to playlists, genres and formats. The idea being that you can simply swipe across to each one, with your library listed below accordingly.


“For features, the DP-X1 has it all: storage potential, file compatibility – you sure get your money’s-worth” The playback screen, a jazzy fusion of yellow-on-black with album art in the background, manages to be informative without being cluttered. Track info is supplemented by file type and size, and drop-down menus in the top corners offer easy access to queues, playlists and settings. A central circle showing track playback dominates the screen, but we find the arrows either side for track skipping are too close, occasionally skipping further through a track instead of past it, and vice versa. Onkyo claims the DP-X1’s 1630mAh battery lasts about 16 hours playing hi-res FLACs or 18 hours CD-quality 16bit/44.1kHz files. Volume goes up in 160 increments, but it isn’t capable of the ear-ringing levels of the Astell & Kern. Still, the Onkyo sounds more-than comfortable at its loudest

KEY FEATURES 24-bit/384kHz PCM

Play Mike Oldfield’s Pran’s Departure and the Onkyo gives the orchestration’s monumental climax its due, pushing the violins, woodwinds and percussion to the fore of its sizable soundstage, but leaving room for them to breathe. The xylophone notes twinkle thanks to the generous headroom, and, while bass notes aren’t as rich or full as through the Astell & Kern, they have substantial presence and depth to get across the composition’s sorrowful undertone. There’s an inkling of restraint and pianissimo to the heavily accented notes however, and that lack of punch is confirmed as we play Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Girl. We’d like more welly behind the drumbeats, and more push from the Onkyo to drive the infectious melody forward. The Onkyo lacks the sonic solidity of the Astell & Kern, the presentation of which has a firmer foundation. The DP-X1 takes silver where subtlety and rhythms are concerned too, its rival expressing not only the edges of notes better but their core too, and driving rhythms with greater togetherness. For features, the Onkyo DP-X1 has it all – the storage potential, the fle compatibility – and you sure get your money’s-worth. However, the same can’t be said quite as emphatically for sound quality. While impressively clear, spacious and balanced, it doesn’t quite match the solidity or rhythmic ability of our Award-winning Astell & Kern AK 70. And in this case, it can’t quite get over that fifth-star hurdle.

DSD 11.2MHz


Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND

Up to 432GB memory


VERDICT The Onkyo is well-equipped in every sense, but it just falls short of class-leading sound quality


You wouldn’t expect Bang & Olufsen to follow in the footsteps of its peers and make a normal-looking wireless speaker, now would you? This is, after all, the company responsible for the Dalek-esque BeoLab 5 – which looks and sounds stunning at £15,500. The Danish style experts have always thought out of the box when it comes to design, and their new BeoSound 1 speaker is no different. You’ll either be enticed by its sleek, conical aluminium body, or wonder why it looks like a thermos.

The tip of the precisely shaped sound waveguide glows blue to verify connection

Great design, lovely finish

The build is rock solid, the finish is impeccable and we’re fond of the way the top control dial looks like it’s floating above the main body. The compact design means it’ll ft into most small spots, but we’d give it plenty of space around to take full advantage of its 360-degree sound dispersion. The speaker features B&O’s Acoustic Lens Technology: a 4cm full-range driver housed in the top dial that fires down into a precisely shaped and measured waveguide to ensure the sound is spread out evenly in

A 10cm bass driver at the bottom fires sound evenly outwards through 360 degrees

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 1 | Wireless speaker | £995

click here to view offer

Sharp dresser needs sound bite FOR Easy-going presentation; even spread of sound; build all directions. Coupled with a 10cm bass driver placed at the bottom of the speaker that also fires downwards and out evenly, the ensuing result is a truly 360-degree sound that’s uniform from all angles. That top dial doubles up as volume control, and its gentle notches and smooth turning make it lovely to use. Tap the top to turn the Beosound 1 on, double-tap to change sources, and swipe left or right to skip or rewind tracks. Neat. You can do this from any angle, too, as the speaker orientates itself according to where you are. Set-up isn’t too cumbersome, although you'll need two separate apps to complete it: the B&O BeoSetup app for connecting to your home network and enabling wi-fi use, and the B&O BeoMusic app to access all your music. On the plus side, they’re both free to download and easy to use.

A torrent of streams

Once connected, you can stream songs from your devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop or NAS box) using a variety of protocols: Bluetooth, AirPlay, DLNA or even GoogleCast. The speaker supports high-resolution streaming up to 24-bit/ 192kHz and music-streaming services such

AGAINST Rivals offer greater subtlety and clarity; expensive KEY FEATURES

360-degree sound

Bluetooth/ DLNA/AirPlay/ wi-fi/wired

Control app iOS/Android

★★★ ★ ★

as Spotify Connect, Deezer and TuneIn internet radio, but no old-school music players as there aren’t any physical connections (apart from a wired ethernet port). The battery life is a respectable 16 hours if played at neighbour-friendly volumes or nearer four hours at full volume (and it goes go pretty loud). It’s portable, but not exactly built for outdoors. We’d be wary of placing it anywhere where dirt, rain, or cats could get at it. Also, it costs £1000.

All-around sound

B&O’s Acoustic Lens Technology works a treat here: the circumaural spread of sound is very wide and evenly dispersed, but it does produce an element of sonic diffusion. While that gives the BeoSound an easygoing presentation, it’s also responsible for a vague, hazy quality in the sound. Fiona Apple’s lilting vocals are clear and fluid in Every Single Night, but the delicate instruments are too soft around the edges. Rhythmically, they don’t quite gel. The arrangement is far more expressive through the rival Naim Mu-so (£895). There’s plenty of power coursing through the BeoSound 1, particularly through the

low end. Basslines are powerful and abundant, but they’re a touch heavyhanded and they don’t dig too deep. For this money we would like to hear more grip, texture and attitude when confronted with the fiery, muscular bassline in Rage Against The Machine’s Bullet In The Head. We'd also like a little more articulacy in music such as Light Of The Seven from the Game Of Thrones soundtrack. The whole point of a beautifully designed high-end wireless speaker such as the BeoSound 1 should be to stand out, both visually and musically. While this B&O will certainly catch your eye, it leaves quite a lot to be desired when you start using your ears.



VERDICT A stylish speaker with great features, but its sound quality doesn’t live up to that high price 11


ELAC Debut B6 | Stereo speakers | £300

click here to view offer

“A charming presence” FOR Bold, spacious sound; plenty of detail; decent balance

There’s a satisfyingly poetic lineage connecting ELAC, a company founded in 1920s Germany, with the almost Bauhauslike design of its Debut B6 standmount speakers. It doesn’t conform to the sleek style of modern speakers, but has a bold presence that is rather charming. The B6s are the largest standmount speakers in ELAC’s Debut family, furnished with a two-way driver configuration that feeds a 25mm cloth dome tweeter and 16.5cm woofer, with a rear-firing reflex port to augment low-end. The company claims the midrange drivers’ woven aramid fibre cones offer superior stiffness and damping to polypropylene or paper, allowing celebrated speaker designer Andrew Jones more flexibility in achieving a smoother, extended frequency range. We Blu-Tack the Debut B6s to our speaker stands (ELAC describes these as bookshelf speakers, but we’d suggest investing in a pair of stands to achieve optimum sound quality) and let them run in overnight, before testing them with Jack White’s Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 collection.

Spare change

If you look at these rather sizeable standmounters and anticipate space and authority, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. There’s nothing meek about this performance, with a decent amount of enthusiasm in earlier White Stripes songs such as Apple Blossom and Hotel Yorba, and a generous soundstage that allows instruments plenty of air to breathe. The balance is generally good, though lower-quality recordings show up a little

The Debut B6s have a rear-firing reflex port to augment low-end

AGAINST Don’t match class leaders for dynamics y

coarseness to the treble. The more you let the tweeter bed in, the more the hard edges soften. White’s voice can sound quite thin, especially on older songs, but ELAC offers sufficient bass to support it while managing to stay true to the original recording. There’s plenty of detail, too. Sometimes a sparser recording highlights that more effectively, and the acoustic guitars and pianos are admirably convincing from a pair of speakers at this price. But the Debut B6s are found wanting in terms of dynamics when compared with the Award-winning Monitor Audio Bronze 2s. We couldn’t describe the ELACs as entirely flat, but there’s a noticeable difference in the expression when we switch between the two pairs of speakers, not to mention a spare £20 in your pocket from the cheaper Bronzes.

★★★★ ★ ELAC’s Debut B6 standmounters have a bold, almost Bauhauslike design

USE THEM WITH Cambridge Audio CXA60 £500 A great amplifier that looks and sounds the part, the Cambridge CXA60 is a success

They might not be as dynamically versatile as the Bronze 2s, but it’s still an energetic performance that shows off the power and punch of that impressive low end. These are well-layered grooves too, incorporating plenty of conversing rhythms, which ELAC organises and outputs with seemingly no trouble at all. The levels of detail are reaffirmed as the Debut B6s highlight the different synthesizer waveforms and juxtapose instruments and vocals well. It’s a cohesive listen that explores these arrangements more than adequately. There’s a definite gap between these and our Award winners in this price bracket, and a handy saving on the latter to boot, but there are plenty of reasons to give these ELACs a home. If you’re planning on spending £300 on some new speakers, it’d be an oversight to not at least try the Debut B6s with your current kit.

Well-layered grooves

The moods hinted at by ELAC are made clearer by Monitor Audio – there’s a diferent intensity between White’s finger picking and strumming, aided also by a tauter sense of timing. You feel the vulnerability of his voice with tracks such as You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket. We’re not sure whether that’s the Bronze 2s’ forte or the Debut B6s’ imperfection, but playing Hot Chip’s Made In The Dark convinces us the Debut B6s are speakers we can still recommend.




VERDICT Not quite a match for the Monitor Audio Bronze 2s, but many will prefer the ELAC Debut B6s' boldness and punch

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.

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.


Philips 65PUS7601 | 4K television | £2400

click here to view offer

“Close – but no cigar” FOR Punchy picture; nice level of detail; handles motion well

AGAINST Lacks subtlety and some catch-up TV apps; sound

★★★★ ★

American fairs in the mid-20th century were originally designed for the entertainment of adults rather than kids. As such, a common prize for winning the games was a cigar – and thus a popular saying was born. If this Philips television were to turn up at the fair, roll up its sleeves and have a go on the High-Striker, the puck would rise near to the top, but ultimately it wouldn't ring the bell. Yes, it’s close – but no cigar.

As is traditional for the brand, Philips has also tried to make its picture more immersive by projecting light onto the wall behind the television via its ‘Ambilight’ feature – three strips of LEDs around the edge of the television. This will either mimic the general colour balance of the video, or you can choose to have it dynamically change in time to the audio (or you can just turn it off). In dark rooms this can help set the mood, and is a nice addition when you’re playing music videos – but if you’re predominantly watching TV with the lights on, you won’t really notice it. Speaking of video, the 7601 has 4K and HDR support – with some caveats. While you can watch 4K content over streaming services, the Philips won’t process the HDR. Again, an update is said to be imminent, but there’s no clue on date at the time of writing.

As with all televisions, choosing the correct settings is vital. We settle on putting the television into ‘Movie’ mode, with the Dynamic Contrast option turned to ‘Best Picture’.

A curious stance

The Philips doesn’t quite put its best foot forward. In fact, the feet of this television are surprisingly far apart, approximately 135cm from each other. This is significantly wider than a standard AV rack, so you’ll want to have this TV either on a large table, or mounted on the wall. Round the back, there are two HDMI ports that support HDCP 2.2, a USB input and a Scart socket. On the side are another two HDMIs (that don’t support HDCP 2.2), two USB connections, and a headphone input. The Philips is an Android smart television, so has access to the array of Google Chrome applications. There’s also Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer pre-installed, plus apps whose content can be streamed via wi-fi or connected through an ethernet cable. It doesn’t, however, have catch-up services for other channels, such as ITV Player, All 4 or My5, so you won’t be able to watch everything after it's been broadcast. This is disappointing, as it means missing out on a lot of on-demand content. Still, Philips says a software update should be coming to legacy sets some time in the New Year.

Close to Premium

The Philips 700-nit screen means it comes up short on the 1000-nit mark that would qualify it for an Ultra HD Premium ranking. To meet this standard, a television must support 10-bit colour depth (which the Philips does), BT.2020 colour space representation and have HDR. Philips says that its direct-dimmable backlight compensates for this with regards to the TVs contrast ratio, but the 7601 isn’t going to be as bright as the similarly priced Samsung UE65KS9000.

Punchy, rich and warm

The result is a picture that has a real punch. The Philips has a rich palette that errs a touch on the warm side, so you might want to change the colour temperature to ‘cool’ if that’s not to your taste, but otherwise it’s a bold image. We put on an Ultra HD copy of Mad Max: Fury Road – a good way to turn up the heat when testing any television – and the Philips delivers a vibrant image that balances the clear blue skies with the scorched earth. It’s an impressive feat to make the post-apocalyptic world look this colourful and the Philips pulls it off well, without sacrificing natural skin tones. It doesn’t have a problem with movement either. The pursuing cars, complete with flaming guitar player, move smoothly across the wasteland without any obvious judder or jolt to take you out of the action – and that’s without any motion-processing enabled.

Virtual details look real

There’s enough insight to the image for you to pick out fine details, too. In Playtest, the third episode of the latest season of Black Mirror, neither the bright lights in the

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Type approval

Let's look on the bright side. It’s easy to log into the services that it does have – on the back of the remote is a QWERTY keyboard, split down the middle by a battery cover. It means word-based commands can be given more simply than by moving a cursor over an on-screen grid of letters. There’s also the option for voice control, should you want to shout at your television to open Netflix rather than use the button, but it’s not very responsive and is soon forgotten about.

Philips offers a total of four HDMI ports, two of which are HDCP 2.2 certified (and side-accessed)

Those feet are sturdy enough but they’re set a long way apart –might be tricky if you’re not wall-mounting

The remote will be familiar to Philips aficionados – its QWERTY keyboard on the back is a boon


If Ambilight is of interest and you don’t need all the catch-up services (or can get them from another source) read on…





Smart TV functionality

testing rooms nor the darkness of the pseudo-haunted house stop the Philips from making the virtual reality look completely believable. Both the whack-a-mole gopher and the horrifying spider-creature’s fur look layered and sharp. And that's more than just enjoyable to look at – when watching a show whose main premise is not knowing the difference between the game and the real world, this is a necessity.

hope for. We try the set’s built-in noise reduction setting with partial success. The Philips has a fairly detailed sound, and when playing one of the fight scenes from Captain America: Civil War, it’s pretty insightful at capturing the sound of lasers powering up or metal-claw on shield. Its midrange is clear at low levels, managing well the guttural accusations the heroes throw at each other, building anticipation nicely up to the thrilling climax.

“This set delivers a vibrant image that balances the clear blue skies with the scorched earth. It's an impressive feat, and the Philips pulls it off well” But the Philips’ punchy picture is a double-edged sword, and leaves it wanting for subtlety. Put on Marco Polo: One Hundred Eyes and there isn’t the variation in the range of the colours in the extravagant clothing (and even between shades of grey in an actor’s beards) to truly convince.

Raising the Standard

The upscaler also needs a little more sophistication. When pushing SD images to 4K the image is a little noisier than we’d

Unfortunately, once that fight scene begins, the Philips does pull some of its punches. There isn’t enough dynamism in the sound of Captain America hitting Iron Man’s armour, and when the superheroes throw each other to the ground, it doesn’t have the same solidity as we’ve heard from other TVs – particularly sets as big as this. There’s an absence of attack that this Philips really needs if it’s going to be able to keep up with the high-octane action of

the big blockbusters. Otherwise, you’ll want to pair this TV with a good sound system, rather than relying on its own, relatively average speakers.

The pros and cons

On the whole, this Philips television is decent, sitting in the middle of the £2000-£3000 price range. It has a rich, vibrant picture, smooth motion and an easy-to-use remote that makes it simple to sign into its streaming apps. But that's just part of the story. Because of a lack of subtlety in its image and unimpressive sound quality, as well as lacking all the catch-up services customers have come to expect, this Philips can’t grab that final fifth star.



VERDICT This is a good contender from Philips, but it needs a bit of fine-tuning to make it a great one


Google Pixel XL | Smartphone | £720 (32GB); £820 (128GB)

“Rubs shoulders with the giants of the mobile world” FOR Latest Android version; slick interface; sharp screen

AGAINST Sound quality isn't the best; not fully waterproof

★★★★ ★

For years, Google has employed other brands – LG, Motorola and HTC to name but three – to design and manufacture its Nexus smartphones and tablets. But the global tech giant has gone it alone with two new smartphones: the Pixel and the Pixel XL. Or at least, that’s what its ‘Made by Google inside and out’ strap-line would have you believe. But though the Pixels sport Google’s branding on the back, the brand hasn’t erected its own smartphonemanufacturing factory overnight. For it’s actually HTC behind the Pixels’ hardware.

Lines are crisp and contrast punchy, and while it doesn’t quite have the Samsung Galaxy S7’s vibrancy and high contrast, it’s hardly a washout either. The XL sits between the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6 Plus in size – an XXL version would cross into ‘phablet’ territory – but the curvaceous corners of its aluminium unibody and the subtle wedge around its side panel help with ergonomics. Its relative slimness means it can be operated one-handed, and the fact the buttons, fingerprint scanner and camera lens are all flush or inset means there are no bumps or bulges to contend with. It’s every bit the sleek and trim construction we’d expect of a smartphone this pricey, and that’s only helped by the glass panel on the back where the Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner sits, and the classic choice of colour finishes: ‘Quite Black’ (apparently to Google, that’s grey) and a more decisive ‘Very Silver’. Google Assistant is essentially a more conversation-based extension of Google Now, and a rival to Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. For now, it's exclusive to the Pixels and other Google products like the Home wireless wi-fi speaker. Pressing the home button or saying “OK Google” (even when the phone is locked) launches the service, and any voiced interaction is presented in a chat layout. You know the drill: ask it to open Spotify and play a tune, WhatsApp a friend or take a selfie, and it obliges. More impressive is the Assistant’s willingness to keep chatting. Ask it “what is the weather like tomorrow?” and it second-guesses your next question with ‘what about the weekend?’ Ask it the time

and it will also give you the option to set a timer or alarm. Users are entitled to unlimited cloud storage, so can wave goodbye to ‘storage is full’ notifications for videos and photos, which is good as Google has packed performance into the Pixel XL’s snapper. In fact, with a best-ever score from industry-recognized DxOMark Mobile, the camera might be one of its strongest features. The front camera snaps at 8MP and records in 1080p, the rear 12.3MP and 4K/60fps. On paper, similar to the Nexus 6P.

Muscling in at the top

However, everything from the handset's industrial design to the user experience is Google’s own doing, making the Pixels the first true bona fide ‘Google’ phones. There will be no more Nexus, as the line has been usurped by Pixel. But the Pixels aren’t merely a more Google-heavy replacement. Whereas the Nexus offered premium, flagship-worthy specs at a slightly lower price than the top-dollar Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and LG G handsets, the Pixel rubs shoulders with the giants of the mobile world. The cheapest 32GB Pixel handset is £600, and the most expensive 128GB Pixel XL is £820. That’s serious cash. Considering the market leaders are the long-established Apple and Samsung, muscling in at the top is a tall order for any newcomer, even one with the resources and reputation of Google. To stand out, the Pixels have to offer something different. Not only are they the only smartphones with the company’s new Google Assistant, but Pixel users also get free, unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos. Ironically, the Pixels don’t have the industry-leading Ultra HD screen (3840 x 2160) heralded by the likes of the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. The Pixel XL features a Gorilla Glass 4-protected AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 – Quad High Definition (QHD) as the industry has coined it. It’s a healthy 5.5in, sharp and bright with a refined colour palette and penchant for nuanced detail.


Sweet operation

It also features an improved and instant version of the HDR+ multi-image capability built into some Nexus models, and the results are impressive. With HDR+, the camera manages to combat the discrepancies in lighting and dig up detail in every area. Daylight shots are just as pleasing: crisp, detailed and brimming with subtle colour tones. Even with the zoom stretched there’s very little discernible noise. Snapping feels instant, with rapid shutter-speed and no autofocus lag. Video stabilisation is one of the camera’s most valuable bits of software – the effect can look overdone, but generally it does a good job of eliminating judder and smoothing out action clips. While Google is busying itself on Android-Chrome hybrid operating system ‘Andromeda’, the Pixels stick to the familiar Android format and are the first to show off the latest 7.1 Nougat version.


Android Nougat 7.1 OS

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12.3mp front camera

Aluminium and glass panels on the back make the Pixel XL look sleek and trim, as you’d expect at this price


“Everything from the handset’s design to the user experience is Google’s own doing, making these Pixels the first true bona fide ‘Google’ phones”

There’s no Ultra HD screen, but the Pixel XL has a refined colour palette and a penchant for detail

Using the Pixel XL is as pure an Android experience as you’ll get: there’s no second skin layer over the top, and the interface is stripped-back and more intuitive for it. Thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, everything from screen responsiveness to launching apps and performing tasks is prompt. Fast charging means the 3450mAh battery can be topped up for seven hours use in just 15 minutes. Like the Marshmallow Android version before it, Nougat is as sweet an operation as you could wish for. Of the new features here, the most useful is split-screen – by dragging one app on top of another, you can keep on top of messages and emails while following directions on Google Maps or video-calling your mum. A new ‘Night Mode’ tints the screen amber for easier reading in dim light and Doze (the battery-saving idle mode launched as part of Marshmallow) now works on the go and not just when you’re stationary. It also promises even more effective power saving.

The app drawer is summoned by a swipe up on the home page. Pop-up notifications from the same apps are bundled together, and there’s now an option to reply directly to messages within the notification window without having to launch the app. A quick tap of the Google logo on a homepage launches a pop-up search for speedier web surfing too. There are three shortcuts Google calls ‘move gestures’: swiping your finger down brings up the notification bar; a double-tap of the power button launches the camera; twisting the phone swaps between front and rear snappers. Google has also introduced long-press shortcuts for most Google apps. It’s all about getting more options from fewer presses. You can compose a message directly from holding down the Gmail icon, or choose whether to set an alarm by doing the same with the clock.

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But when it comes to sound, it’s as if Google’s engineers ran out of steam. There’s no hi-res audio support and the sound quality is nothing special. We plug in a pair of B&W P5 S2s and find a smooth, tonally even sound. But play Chromatic’s Ceremony and the presentation is as lax as the synths shimmering calmly behind the guitar. But you don’t need a particularly upbeat song to know that something’s missing. The Apple iPhone 7 and even the Samsung Galaxy S7 throw more drive and conviction behind the track’s guitars, making the Pixel sound soft and restrained by comparison. The two rivals provide greater space for the electronica to evolve around the vocal, and reveal enough subtlety to communicate the discrepancies between each guitar twang. Through the Pixel, there’s not really much in the way of dynamic activity to get across the interest or emotion in the recording, and as a result it sounds flat. Thankfully for Google’s mobile team, the Pixel XL has plenty of other talents. The uncompetitive sound quality is a shame, but usability and innovation is high on the list of pros. 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. But it all boils down to the million-dollar question: is that enough to tear people away from LG, Samsung or perhaps even Apple? We aren’t convinced.



VERDICT The Pixel XL impresses with its features and pure Android experience, even if sound quality isn’t the best 17

() &) 7/2,$


B&W P3 Series 2 | Headphones | £120

click here to view offer

A smooth option if you want to carry the cans FOR More detailed than the originals; rich sound; weight

Like a long-awaited sequel to your favourite flm, it has taken B&W four years to release a successor to the P3 on-ears. As the name suggests, the P3 Series 2s are revised editions of the original P3s. Those forebears received five stars when we first reviewed them in 2012, but lost a star when faced with competition from the Philips M1s. B&W is currently marking its 50th birthday and has released three different products to celebrate the occasion. The P3 Series 2s – the brand’s most affordable on-ears – now sit alongside the premium P9 Signature and P7 Wireless models introduced earlier this year.

AGAINST Sonic presentation lacks energy

★★★★ ★

They reveal more about the timbre of the twanging banjo that closes the track, and the multiple high-pitched trumpetsounding harmonies (split, layered and manipulated by audio production software) are that bit more textured.


130g weight

Familiar bass temperament

Down low, we’re struck by familiarity. B&W headphones tend to favour a bass that’s rich and full, so it’s no surprise the song’s underlying deep hum has a potent presence through the P3 Series 2s, sounding all the more poignant for it. As we're appreciating an agility that gets behind the melodic bassline in Fleetwood Mac’s Hold Me, it’s here in our playlist we notice in the search for smoothness, the Series 2s appear to have traded a bit of get-up-and-go. There’s a lack of attack to the Mac song, the B&Ws not quite sounding like they’ve given themselves over to its melodies. In comparison, the Philips M1s – now also in a MKII version – sound more upbeat. They also sound more subtle dynamically, as a listen to Clint Mansell’s The World Beyond The High-Rise shows. For all their reticence the B&Ws do, however, afford a lovely sweeping flow to the strings and there’s never a dull moment in the monumental composition.

In-line remote

The changes

So, what’s new? In the name of performance, B&W has produced a small drive unit that uses a unique damping system that’s claimed to better control diaphragm movement. And instead of sticking with the same material that lined the headband and earpads of the P3s, the Series 2s are now elegantly clad in sheep leather to mimic the larger P5s and even larger P7s. In reality, the P3 Series 2s’ size is more for small pockets than small people. Ultra compact, these headphones keep the petite, foldable frame of the originals, although everything from the aluminium connectors to teabag-sized ear pads still seems durable and well made. It doesn’t mean they’re not lightweight, though. Weighing just 130g (as much as a small jar of Marmite), the B&Ws are as little a burden as you could hope for from on-ears. When you're carrying them around their minimal weight increases only slightly thanks to the elliptical hardshell case that’s supplied in the box.

Cable options

Also in the box are two 3.5mm jack-ended cables: one with a remote compatible with Apple products, and another with a ‘universal’ remote that claims to work with the rest of the smartphone and tablet world. In common with other B&W headphones, the cables snake up through each earcup, so swapping them requires popping off the magnetic earpads.

Like the P3s, the hardshell carrycase is lightweight and practical

Compact carry-case

Easy does it

There’s no question these cans offer an improvement over the P3s in some areas, as you’d expect from engineering this far down the pipeline. They produce a similarly warm, refined and easy-going sound but one that’s more direct, clear, and refined in the higher frequencies.

Texture and light

The Series 2s make more of a deal about the slow-burn synthesized saxophone in Bon Iver’s __45__ than their predecessors, better capturing its wheezing texture while putting an even brighter spotlight on Justin Vernon’s suave, gospel-like inflections. Both are welcome developments.

Now sporting a sheep-leather finish, these P3s fold easily and are as comfy as ever

If you’re after an easy-listening sound from ultra-compact headphones that are of a classier calibre than the Beats of this world, these are a good on-the-fly option. We simply feel that Philips has the edge in this domain, and that B&W's real stars are to be found higher up its range.



VERDICT B&W’s most affordable on-ears are genuinely portable and easy to listen to, but not quite class leaders 19


Ruark R7 mk2 | Music centre | £2000

Destined to become a part of the furniture FOR Fine cabinet; extensive specs; smooth, def sound

AGAINST Quite pricey on a sound-per-pound basis

★★ ★ ★ ★

“And now,” as Monty Python memorably used to say, “for something completely different.” Think you’re riding the crest of the retro wave with your brand-new turntable? Think again. If you want a bit of modern antiquity, Ruark’s remarkable R7 mk2 is where it’s at. Many readers may not have heard of a radiogram, but back in the sepia-tinted pre-decimalisation day, they were a staple of the nation’s front rooms. Half radio/ turntable/amplifier/speaker, half large and awkward-to-dust item of furniture, the radiogram eventually evolved into the stereogram – and then headed for obscurity as hi-fi manufacturers around the world began a drive towards separates. Aside from being obligatory set-dressing in any TV drama set in the mid-20th century, obscurity is where the radiogram has languished ever since. That is until Ruark had its big idea.

work as – for want of a better description – a music centre. In terms of technology, the R7 mk2 ticks most boxes. Radio is covered thanks to DAB, DAB+, FM and internet radio capability. The slot-loading disc drive plays both CDs and MP3 discs. Integrated wi-fi allows streaming both from a DLNA home network and aptX Bluetooth. Auxiliary inputs include optical, coaxial and two pairs of stereo RCAs, while outputs extend to a USB socket and a 3.5mm stereo headphone output. The 160W total power comes courtesy of class A/B amplification, and is deployed to drive a couple of 14cm dual-concentric drivers (hidden behind cloth grilles) and an 20cm downward-firing subwoofer. Bass presence is given extra impetus by pair of bass-reflex ports that vent from the base of the cabinet too. Ah yes, the cabinet. A big part of the original radiogram’s place in our collective hearts relates to its function as furniture, as decoration – and Ruark intends the R7 mk2 to deliver as much visually as it does on an audio level. The metre-wide cabinet is impeccably constructed, elegantly designed and smoothly finished. In fact, it looks and feels almost exactly like a super-sized

version of every other product in Ruark’s range – the glossy black legs only adding to its aesthetic appeal. Judged purely as a £2000 piece of furniture, we’d perhaps expect it to feel a little more luxurious – but then again, if you go shopping for a sideboard, would you bemoan its lack of internet radio connectivity? And the option of an audio-visual mount (at additional cost) that allows the Ruark to support a TV above and a set-top box, console or Blu-ray player below only serves to increase its ‘highperformance furniture’ credentials.


Evidently, reinventing the radiogram for the 21st century isn’t something to be rushed into lightly. This is a product that needs to function on a couple of different levels: it must make sense as a decorative piece of furniture every bit as much as it needs to

“This product needs to function on a couple of levels: it must also make sense as a decorative piece of furniture”


Feet up and wallow

The R7 mk2 is controlled via Ruark’s puck-shaped remote control – there’s a recess on top of the cabinet where the remote can sit when not in use. It’s an RF rather than infra-red device, so will work from a different room. The Ruark connects swiftly and relatively painlessly to our wireless network – the display, which is bright and legible, guides us through the once-only set-up wizard. And from there on it’s a straightforward job to switch inputs, save favourite radio stations, make bass/treble adjustments and so on. We start with internet radio and tune into FIP, a perennial favourite in the office. The French station’s 128kbps stream is stable, and when the music shifts (as it inevitably does with FIP) to Madeline Peyroux and her smooth-as-warm-butter reading of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love, the Ruark sounds clean, detailed and right at home. There’s enjoyable fluidity to the presentation, the languid tempo handled with real confidence. Easy listening just doesn’t get any easier than this – if your music taste runs to the airbrushed and unthreatening, the R7 mk2 encourages you to put your feet up and wallow. Mixing it up a little, we switch to the CD drive and a disc-borne copy of The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin. It’s a pretty overwrought recording, with effects piled


There’s a recess on top of the cabinet for the puck remote to sit when not in use


160W power

Dimensions (hwd): 65 x 100 x 40

aptX Bluetooth

on top of each other like an aural wedding cake. The HDCD encoding (remember that? It’s not quite as retro as the Ruark but not far behind) helps to deliver considerable dynamic range, and in terms of lowfrequency attack this is a testing album.

Loss of composure

It’s too fierce for the R7 mk2, which is flustered by the levels of attack and unable to give the plentiful low frequencies the sort of body and solidity the recording requires. Consequently the album’s drive and intensity is rather neutered, and the limits of the Ruark’s comfort zone are defined as if by a Boundary Commission. Results are similarly mixed when we move to BBC Radio 3 via the (grippy, stable) DAB receiver. The simpler, the sparer and the smoother the piece of music (some of Freddie Hubbard’s less frantic recordings, for instance), the more authority and more understanding the R7 mk2 exhibits. Up the ante, though – Radio 3 never seems to be far away from playing some National Philharmonic of Russia bombast – and its irresolute way with low frequencies, congested soundstage and shortage of decisive dynamics come to the fore. This is the case across the board – whether using optical, coaxial or analogue inputs, or music stored on your home network (the Ruark has a grasp of most standard-resolution file types, including

The Ruark R7 mk2’s slot-loading disc drive can play CDs and MP3 discs

PCM, FLAC, AAC and MP3). The R7 mk2 is a deft and detailed (if rather narrowsounding) performer right up until the moment the going gets hectic or bassy –and that's when its composure deserts it. If you place low-frequency punch, solidity and presence high on your list of must-haves, this Ruark isn’t going to warrant a place on your shortlist, no matter how decorative it looks in your home.

Not a regular £2k system

But where the R7 mk2 is concerned, we are always going to end up coming back to the way it looks. Because judged in absolute terms – as an amplifier, CD player, radio, streamer and stereo speakers – there’s simply no way it can compete against alternative equipment at the same sort of money. It doesn’t have the low-frequency rigour, it doesn’t have a particularly wide soundstage and it doesn’t handle highresolution audio. But, of course, that alternative equipment looks like a stack of hi-fi that requires a rack and a lot of cabling, as well as needing more mains sockets. What it won’t be is a piece of furniture. Of course, we’re not asking the Ruark to perform like a ‘regular’ £2k system – you’re paying a premium for that cabinet, and for its overall presence. But we need it to reach an acceptable standard of performance – and we can’t help but find the R7 mk2 wanting.

We’re not even in a position to suggest a similar, but better-performing, alternative – because right now the R7 mk2 is number one in a field of one, a list headed 'pieces of furniture you can play music upon'. There are pros and cons, of course, in the compromises the Ruark requires. If you can live with them, then dive right in: the Ruark R7 mk2 is simply the best-sounding item of furniture we’ve ever heard.


VERDICT As Abraham Lincoln supposedly said, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like” 21




Samsung’s $8bn take-over of specialist hi-fi brand Harman seems curious. But with its long-term aim of investing in next-generation smart cars, automotive electronics is the key for the South Korean giant 22 www.whathiďŹ .com

INSIDER There isn’t much cross-over between headphones and cars, but acquiring AKG could give Samsung a route into audio engineering


he recent news that Samsung is to acquire Harman International for $8bn is further evidence of the increasing consolidation taking place in the consumer electronics market. Often it’s a case of a large corporation taking over a smaller company – but not here; Harman is one of the biggest players in the global audio market. It’s quite a catch for Samsung which, let’s face it, has had enough troubles of its own recently. There were already rumours flying around that Samsung wanted to acquire a specialist audio company. This latest move follows denials last month that it was planning to buy a smaller audio brand, French speaker company Focal, which also owns Naim Audio (supplier of in-car audio systems to Bentley). At first glance, you might wonder why Samsung needs specialist hi-fi brands such as Harman Kardon, AKG, JBL, Mark Levinson, Infinity and Revel. Samsung isn’t exactly far removed from the cutting-edge of new technology, so what does it see in Harman?

Slice of the action

Look closely at Samsung’s statement and its strategy becomes clearer: the South Korean giant is after Harman’s wealth of experience in the automotive market. Samsung sees huge potential for growth in this sector, estimating that the value of the market for automotive electronics will grow to $100bn by 2025, and it wants a slice of the action. “Harman perfectly complements Samsung in terms of technologies, products and solutions, and joining forces is a natural extension of the automotive strategy we have been pursuing for some time,” says Oh-Hyun Kwon, vice-chairman and chief executive officer of Samsung Electronics. “The vehicle of tomorrow will be transformed by smart technology and connectivity in the same way that simple phones have become sophisticated smart devices over the past decade,” adds Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer of Samsung Electronics. It’s that link between the connectivity of smartphones, about which Samsung knows a great deal, and the trend towards ever-more connected cars that lies at the heart of this deal. Speaking at a recent Web Summit in Lisbon, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, explained the profound change in the car industry. “The car is moving from a vehicle of transportation to become a connected device. With the rise of autonomous or driverless vehicles, the way you sit in the car, and what you do in it, will change. Connectivity is key, but we know we

can’t do it alone. Car manufacturers are mainly engineering companies – we will have to shift our competence to computer and software skills, which we don’t currently have. So we are recruiting them and partnering with those companies that do have them.”

over-the-air updates and telematics, with [Samsung’s] significant expertise and experience in connectivity technologies, including 5G, UX/UI, display technology and security solutions. This will enhance Harman’s automotive and connected services businesses to drive greater sales and provide significant benefits as automakers speed the adoption of next-generation connected cars.”

Connected cars

In that context, Samsung’s acquisition makes a great deal of sense. Given Harman’s experience in providing in-car entertainment systems for the likes of Ford, BMW and Lexus (and for other car manufacturers such as Tesla on an Original Equipment Manufacturer basis), it’s easy to see why Samsung would want to buy a significant slice of that market. Earlier this year Samsung acquired the automotive business of Bang & Olufsen for €145m (including a licence for its Play sub-brand), and has since struck a deal with Ford to develop B&O Play in-car audio systems for 2017 models. In addition, it has also licenced the Bowers & Wilkins brand for automotive use. “Harman immediately establishes a strong foundation for Samsung to grow our automotive platform,” says Oh-Hyun Kwon. Samsung sees a golden opportunity to “combine Harman’s leadership in new connected car technologies, including its top positions in infotainment, cyber security,


Samsung’s take-over of Harman also includes the hi-fi brand JBL

Given that Google and Apple are making a play for the future market for driverless vehicles, it’s hardly surprising Samsung is prepared to invest heavily in the automotive sector. As for all those other specialist audio brands Samsung is acquiring as part of the deal, it believes they will enhance its mobile, display, virtual reality and wearable products to deliver “a fully differentiated audio and visual experience for customers”. We’ve already had B&O sound on an Award-winning LG smartphone, so it’s hardly a stretch to imagine Samsung bringing the Harman sound to a range of its portable products. And Google has already selected Harman as its audio technology partner for its forthcoming modular Ara Android smartphone. Given the breadth of Harman’s portfolio, from Award-winning AKG headphones to bespoke, high-end hi-fi, one thing is for certain: Samsung has bought itself some serious audio engineering. Combine that with access to Harman’s 8000 software designers and engineers who are unlocking the potential of the IoT (Internet of Things) market, and you can see why Samsung was prepared to pay a 28 per cent premium for those Harman shares. 23






Our deliberations over the merits of the equipment we test increasingly need to consider priorities other than outright performance

“If a product makes its visual desirability a big part of its appeal, it’s not for What Hi-Fi? to suggest it’s wrong”

The how and why of What Hi-Fi? The world of home entertainment has altered considerably since the first issue of What Hi-Fi? went on sale in late 1976. The technological and societal changes have been numerous, and – at least where the reliability, performance and relative cost of home entertainment equipment is concerned – almost entirely positive.

Our core values

Throughout all the upheaval, What Hi-Fi? and its methodology has remained constant: we strive to deliver impartial, sincere, thorough reviews of all manner of home-entertainment equipment. Value for (your) money is what concerns us – it can be tough enough to fund a new TV or upgrade your record player, so we want to make sure you’re getting the most for your money in terms of performance. To that end, all our testing is done comparatively, so we always know where a particular product or service falls in the current pecking order. Whether it’s a smartphone or a Sky TV subscription, What Hi-Fi? lets you know if it’s worthy of your cash or not. Throughout the lifespan of our brand, the purpose and function of the equipment we test and rate has, in some cases, altered almost beyond recognition. Convergence between products – long since one of the consumer electronics industry’s Holy Grails – has reached a point where it’s difficult to describe a product in just a word or two. Take the humble TV, for example: it has become thinner and screens have become bigger, but these days any TV worth its place in your front room does more than simply let you watch broadcast

television. ‘Smart’ TV functionality has opened a portal to catch-up platforms, Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services, while further advances mean your screen is ready to play its part as an element of a home cinema surround-sound system. Even the humble stereo amplifer is a smart alec. On top of the ability to amplify your hi-fi kit, stereo amps now routinely feature Bluetooth, integrated DACs and digital inputs. Factor in the occasional bit of internet radio or Spotify Connect, and it’s obvious the stereo amp has come a long way. None of this poses any significant problem when it comes to reviewing products. Our ‘quality-perquid’, ‘sound-per-pound’ ethos is still easy enough to follow, but lately we’ve found ourselves appraising products that have priorities other than outright performance or functionality.

The new priorities

Take the Ruark R7 mk2 on page 20, for example. It’s hardly reasonable of us to clamber aboard our high horse and suggest that your £2000 would be better spent on separate speakers, amplifier, internet radio, CD player, Bluetooth reception and equipment rack – even if it undoubtedly would. That would be not only to miss the point of the R7 mk2 entirely, but also to suggest we’re incapable of understanding the Ruark’s appeal. We’re not. Yes, you can achieve a better sound for the money. But the days of home-entertainment equipment in general, and hi-fi in particular, making a virtue of its ugliness, its want of tactility, its fiddliness and lack of ergonomic sense, are long gone. It’s not enough to sound great these days – a

product has to be properly made, easy to use and even easier on the eye if it’s going to make a convincing case for itself.

A flexible approach

So we strive to judge a product on its own terms, even as we keep sound (or picture) quality uppermost in our minds. If a product goes even further, as the R7 mk2 does, and makes its good looks and visual desirability a big part of its appeal, it’s not for What Hi-Fi? to suggest it’s wrong. We will never deviate from our desire for a product to sound like it’s worth the asking price, but if consumers place more emphasis on decorative value than audio quality that’s their absolute prerogative. Ultimately you, the reader, know where we’re coming from. We will only ever appraise a product primarily on the basis of its performance relative to the money it costs. Of course, if a product is badly made, or lacking features, or illogical and truculent to operate, even class-leading sound might not save it. Equally, a beautifully made, sleekly finished and aesthetically pleasing product that sounds a bit iffy won’t shoot to the top of our recommendations. But if you decide to use our review as an advisory note before deciding you’re happy to pay the premium for a product that looks as good as – or better than – it sounds, then go right ahead. We are, as always, happy to help. See our review of the Ruark R7 mk2 all-in-one music centre on page 20 25

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System upgrades need careful thought. So, whether you’re replacing everything or simply making improvements, we thought we’d offer a little advice

“   I

t’s no good having a band with the 10 best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist,” said former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini after losing his job. It’s an elegant metaphor, whether it’s describing a musical ensemble, a football team or a hi-fi system. In essence, it’s about balance as much as it is individual quality. The whole should amount to more than, or at the very least equal to, the sum of its parts. But balance is one of those concepts that can be hard to define, let alone to find. While a lot of it boils down to trial and error, there are certain guidelines that will aid and, hopefully, truncate your path to sonic enlightenment.

Sorting your priorities

The first two questions you need to ask yourself are what you’ll be using your system for, and how much you’re willing to spend. The latter relates to the former. It’d perhaps be easiest to begin at the start of the chain – what will you be using as your source? Each decision will have a knock-on effect: if you play all your music from your phone or tablet, but want a traditional hi-fi system, you’ll likely want something with Bluetooth built in; if you 28

play mostly vinyl, you’ll need to think about whether you want a turntable with a phono stage or to buy the latter separately for more versatility when upgrading in the future; if this isn’t going to be your main hi-fi system, can you do without another CD player and invest more heavily elsewhere?

Make a list

It’s probably worth making a tick-list of the features you want, such as headphone output or Bluetooth, then prioritising the things you need most and which you can do without so that your money stretches further. Having a realistic budget from the off will also help you spread your money more evenly. It should stop you buying your dream amplifier with the lion’s share, only to match it with a budget turntable whose flaws it’ll emphasise, exacerbated by playing it through a pair of speakers you found by your neighbour’s bin. There’s more to careful pairing and system building than simply buying components that retail at a similar price, of course, but budgeting properly for each part of the chain ought to set you on the correct path.

”Don’t buy your dream amp only to match it with a budget turntable and speakers you found by your neighbour’s bin”


WHATS ON TEST iPhone 7, Oppo HA-2 SE, AKG Y50 £340 Marantz CD6006, Onkyo A-9010, Q Acoustics 3020 £780 Rega Planar 2, Rega Brio-R, Dali Zensor 3 £1245 Dynaudio Xeo 2, Pure Music, Macbook Air £1990 Cambridge Azur 851N, Rega Elex-R, ATC SCM11 £3300 Naim ND5 XS, Parasound Halo Integrated, PMC Twenty5.23 £7970

You might also have space restrictions. If you haven’t room for multiple separate components, you’ll need to consider where you can pool certain functions, such as a turntable with built-in phono stage, a ready-made system with amplifier and CD player combined, or using active speakers to reduce the number of boxes to accommodate. This needn’t affect the quality of your system, and it isn’t a decision that needs be made solely on space, but think carefully about which parts you’re most likely to want to upgrade when electing those you can combine.

Speaker spotlight

It’s also worth reading the feature we published last month on how to choose the right speakers, because space can affect your choice there as well. Speakers react differently depending on their position in a room and how close they are to each other and to any walls, so the

best-sounding pair you can afford when listening at a dealership might not be the best-sounding pair when you get them home. We always recommend measuring the dimensions of your room when it comes to choosing the right speakers. Don’t be blasé when it comes to positioning, either; they’re likely to come with a manual with the manufacturer’s suggestions for placement, but there’s nothing like experimenting with a keen ear.

Building blocks

Of course, you may well not be building your system from scratch. Perhaps you already have one or more components and now you’re looking to match the final pieces of the jigsaw. We often make the point that you shouldn’t dismiss a product simply on its star rating in our magazine, but this is a particularly pertinent point if you’re looking to pair something you already own. Certain products may not be flawless allrounders, but they could well have the blend of talents you’re looking for.

So often in life it’s the little things that can make the biggest impression, and that’s the case with system building. Specifically, don’t skimp on quality cables or speaker stands – you simply won’t get your money’s worth if you do. And the golden rule, as always, is you ought never buy anything without having heard it first.

Find a good supporting cast

A good support lets your kit perform optimally, turntables being particularly sensitive and responding well to a rigid, low-resonance platform, so steer clear of those wobbly floorboards or uneven bits of carpet. And if you can use a dedicated mains outlet that would be ideal – and avoid placing mains cables and signal cables too close to each other, it can degrade performance. We’ve put together six systems, reviewed over the next few pages, that might help give you some ideas to get you started. But these are just examples. Go to a dealer, listen to a range of products and be open to all possibilities. Most importantly, take your time – when setting up as well as when buying. As an inarticulate doctor once said, patience is a virtue. Cross your T’s, dot your I’s, and you’re so much more likely to build a hi-fi system to be proud of. 29

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 3 4 0


i P H O N E 7, O P P O H A- 2 S E , A KG Y 5 0

“The right external DAC and a talented set of headphones” iPhone 7 Free (contract) ★★★★★ Oppo HA-2 SE £290 ★★★★★ AKG Y50 £50 ★★★★★

It would have seemed absurd, not so many years ago, that by now you could have such high-fidelity sound on the bus to work, but never has pretending not to notice the colleague who just walked past you up the aisle felt so darn brilliant. In terms of the systems we’ve put together in this feature, this is the one of which you’re most likely already to own at least one of the components. We’ve used the latest Apple iPhone as an example here, a smartphone renowned historically for the quality of its music playback, but the point is more that any phone can have its audio output markedly improved by the right external DAC and a talented set of on-ear headphones.

The partners

To that end, we’ve paired ours with an Oppo HA-2 SE, the ‘special edition’ version of the company’s 2015 Awardwinning portable DAC and headphone amp, and a pair of three-time Awardwinning AKG Y50s. That’s a quite reasonable £340 on top of your smartphone contract. The point of the Oppo in this set-up is essentially that it will take over from your phone’s inbuilt components for digital-to-analogue signal conversion and headphone amplification, following the general rule that a product focused on a specific purpose is likely to be able to do it better. Specifically, the HA-2 SE supports PCM files up to 32-bit/384 kHz and DSD 256, and can connect to Android smartphones, PCs and laptops via its micro-USB input, Apple products through a USB type-A input and 3.5mm 30

jack for everything else that doesn’t have a USB connection. And, because your phone battery likely runs from 100 per cent to empty within the space of a few albums, the fact you can top up from the Oppo is a tidy solution to arguably the most first-world of first-world problems. If you’ve picked up our magazine even semi-regularly over the past few years, you’re unlikely to be a stranger to the talents of the AKG Y50s. Put simply, there are no better-sounding portable on-ears under a ton – they’re detailed, dynamic and time exceptionally well, with an even balance ideal for highlighting what the rest of your chain is up to. A quick blast of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures directly from the iPhone – well, through a Lightning-to3.5mm adapter because of you-knowwhat – shows up that refined, rhythmic sound that’s made Apple phones such a popular choice for music fans since day one. But we know it can be better. The question is: how much? Oppo comes dancing in with the answer. If the clout of Stephen Morris’s

drum kit, tethered to the ground by Peter Hook’s iconic bass line, seemed authoritative before, the rhythm section that opens the album on Disorder is now positively dictatorial. It’s tight, agile, and builds the sturdiest of platforms for Bernard Sumner to wash over with his soaring guitar line that aptly spotlights the openness of the treble as it reverberates through the track.

Crucial details

Detail has never been in short supply on the iPhone, yet the Oppo manages to dig out even more, largely in the textures of those grime-drenched guitars that now take on extra dimensions. Ian Curtis’s vocals, too, seem to be afforded a closer inspection in terms of dynamics and expression, the crux of his refined yet emotional delivery. The HA-2 SE is really pulling its weight, and is framed gorgeously by the talented yet honest presentation of the AKGs. If you’ve a phone you love for all but its sound, or you just want its audio performance to be even better, this is a combination well worth trying out.

Or swap in one of these… Sennheiser Momentum, £65

iPhone 7 Plus, free on contract

Their reputation might be burdened by the ubiquity of 20-pence tat given away with smartphones, but there are in-ear headphones doing their utmost to prove you can do without cans. Clear, detailed and expressive, with no shortage of low-end, these are great if you find the AKGs too big.

As narrow-minded as we are, we do understand there’s more to a phone than how well it makes a noise. It’s physically grander than the standard iPhone, but the 7 Plus’s major victory over its sibling is its camera; there are two of them that shoot as one. Never have your cat pics been so nuanced.



Audioquest DragonFly Red, £170


Electrical goods, Curly Wurlys, your disposable income: so many things appear to be decreasing in scale. And so it is with class-leading DACs. The Red produces so sophisticated, solid and subtle a sound, it’s baffling how Audioquest shoehorned its talents into so meagre a chassis.

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 3 4 0

OK, so there’s no 3.5mm port any more, but the 7 honours the iPhone’s impressive audio pedigree

They might be in your face visually but there’s nothing brash about the Y50s’ detailed, dynamic sound

”A soaring guitar line that aptly spotlights the openness of the treble as it reverberates through the track”

If you ever doubted the value of an external DAC in a portable system, the HA-2 SE will set you straight in an instant 31

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ÂŁ 7 8 0

Each of these three is an accomplished all-rounder, so their total sonic output is way more than the sum of their parts

32 www.whathiďŹ .com

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 7 8 0


M A R A N T Z C D 6 0 0 6 , O N K YO A- 9 0 1 0 , Q A C O U S T I C S 3 0 2 0

“This is the sonic equivalent of wearing all black: dead suave” Marantz CD6006 £350 ★★★★★ Onkyo A-9010 £230 ★★★★★ Q Acoustics 3020 £200 ★★★★★

Some combinations are more difficult to get wrong than others – you can think of this system as the sonic equivalent of wearing all black. As long as it’s properly fitted, you’re bound to look dead suave. More than just a case of lining up three long-standing Award-winners in a row – though the Q Acoustics 3020s did lose their title by a guinea-pig’s whisker this year – each member of this trio is so undemanding, such an all-rounder, that it would be quite implausible for them not to end up complementing each other.

has a decent array of line-level inputs, a moving-magnet phono stage and headphone output, while the omission of its own inbuilt DAC has allowed Onkyo to focus its energy on making the A-9010 a class-leader in every other respect. It is that graceful midfielder in the black boots, so easily undervalued, who keeps everything simple but drives the team with effortless, match-winning elegance. And up front, if you will, the 3020s, which for so long have been our reference for entry-level speakers. Entirely unfussy, they’re loyally willing to feed on scraps, but properly nourished they boast an exceptional combination of refinement, insight and dynamics. Despite our attempts to resist undue narcissism, upon inserting the CD of R.E.M.’s 1991 MTV Unplugged set we are satisfied that, yes, we really do know how to put together a great system. From the opening few seconds of Half A World Away we get a tremendous sense of space and an impressive amount of detail that immediately differentiates both between guitars and mandolin and the varying textures of the organ.

We’ve said before that the CD6006 favours easy listening over studious analysis, which is by no means a slight, but here partnered with the A-9010 the Onkyo has the vigour to spotlight every bit of energy Marantz has to offer, so never does laid-back become lifeless.

Balanced teamwork

Perhaps most impressive, though, is how well each of these talented components complements the others dynamically. No one is shirking any responsibility, the system tracking rises and falls to deliver an expressive, engaging performance that can be so often lacking in entry-level set-ups. There are few voices more wrought with emotion than Michael Stipe’s, and this trio is more than capable of proving it. For under a grand, we don’t think there is a more widely talented system to play your CDs and, let’s not forget, hi-res files. Try out some different components – perhaps you’ll favour something with a more specific bent than these all-rounders – but you’d be foolish not to at least give these a go.

Make the most of it

Marantz is a name that has become synonymous with the mastery of affordable CD players and, while £350 is by no means loose change, we couldn’t give you a solid reason not to buy the CD6006 unless you’re willing to spend a lot, lot more. As well as your standard stereo analogue outputs, the CD6006 will let you bypass its internal DAC and use it purely as a transport via digital optical and coaxial connections. But we’d warn you not to be tempted without having first made the most of the DAC inside. It’s a high-quality, high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz) Cirrus Logic CS4398 affair, capable of dealing with betterthan-CD-quality digital files via the USB input on the front. If you’ve any hi-res files on a USB stick then the CD6006 effectively becomes a hi-res audio player. Though that price tag then seems to appear more and more of a bargain, fear not, there is a budget amplifier more than capable of making the most of the Marantz’s offerings. The Onkyo A-9010

Or swap in one of these… Rega Planar 2 £375

Rega Fono Mini A2D £85

We fully subscribe to the belief that vinyl deserves a quality vehicle to get from (side) A to B. Now over 40 years old, the latest universally talented Rega Planar 2 has more than justified itself as said vehicle. Its authoritative, detailed sound will mix sweetly in with the A-9010 and 3020s’ gifs.

If you fancy slotting in the Rega Planar 2 (lef), might we humbly suggest you pair it with this moving-magnet phono stage from the same maker rather than employing the one in the Onkyo. It’s no-frills to the core, with the rear sockets joined by an unusual front-mounted earthing point. Great dynamics, punchy and cohesive.



Tannoy Eclipse 3 £300


Bonnie Tyler wouldn’t have written a song about the Tannoy Eclipse if they weren’t that good, now would she? Our favourite floorstanders under £500, the Eclipse 3s’ agility and xpressive articulation make them a antalising alternative for those afer reater-than-standmounter oomph. 33

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 1 2 4 5



“They tag-team to tackle tough rhythmic patterns with ease” Rega Planar 2 £375 ★★★★★ Rega Brio-R £550 ★★★★★ Dali Zensor 3 £320 ★★★★★

The key to system synergy is finding components that know how to bring the best out of each other. Often one of the easiest ways to do this is to choose components from the same company. Of course, blindly pairing kit based on brand is not the way to go, but you can usually expect two items from the same manufacturer to have a similar character and, if picked carefully, share strengths that can really make your system sing.

Brand compatibility

The two Rega components in this system are proof of this. Though the half-size Brio-R is a few years old now, it still offers one of the best phono stages in an integrated amp at this price, and a level of transparency and consistency of character in the line stages that’s second to none. That’s vital for a turntable-led system like this, and provides the perfect platform for the Planar 2 deck to shine. It’s also worth noting that it would – should your budget allow – work well with the Planar 3 too, such is the Brio-R’s flexibility to work well with pricier kit.

A worthwhile sacrifice

What’s not so flexible is its connectivity. There are competitors that’ll give you far more by way of input variety, but the Brio-R’s upfront, musical character really gels with the natural musicality and authority that the Planar 2 has to offer. And that’s what really counts here. Their strengths mirror and complement each other perfectly. Both agile and light on their feet, they tag-team to tackle tough rhythmic 34

patterns with ease, and despite the Brio-R’s relatively modest output of 50W per channel, this is an amplifier able to convey the large-scale dynamic sweeps from the Planar 2 with decent power and precision. They’re both equally enthusiastic and keen to please, but it’s perhaps their way of making sense of a piece of music that’s most endearing. Their ability to tie all the musical strands of a song together and paint them on a precise and spacious canvas comes easy to this Rega combo. It’s in that sense most of all that this pairing just works.

The fun factor

Of course, this is only two thirds of the system puzzle. We’ve chosen the Dali Zensor 3s to complete the picture – and for very particular reason. They aren’t the most refined speakers at this price, but they’re a really fun listen and are hugely likeable, complementing the lively and exciting Rega character perfectly while sharing the amplifer/turntable combo’s strengths in dynamics, timing and organisation.

These speakers do offer a slightly weightier balance than that provided by the other two components, helping to neutralise the somewhat brighter and more upfront character of the Brio-R and delivering a healthy dose of scale, power and deep bass in the process.

Know your place

You will want to play around with the speaker placement to make sure you get the maximum impact of the Dali’s abilities though – despite the Zensor 3’s bass response being pretty impressive for the size of its cabinets, if you place them too far from a wall, the brightness can creep back in. We place the Zensor 3s about 50cm from a back wall, not toed in, and any problems are all but gone. Positioned with care, they deliver a punchy low end and have added solidity to the midrange alongside a crisp, clear treble. It all comes together to make for a truly engaging listen, full of detail and expression, with a strong sense of timing that doesn’t miss a beat. Now that’s what we call synergy.

Or swap in one of these… Tannoy Eclipse 3 £300

Cambridge CXA60 £500

Yes we know we’ve already mentioned these speakers, but the fact is, the Eclipse 3 would also fit quite seamlessly into this system as a floorstanding alternative to the Zensors, offering a similarly agile, expressive and detailed performance but adding a bit more girth.

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away (in fact it was this land here), you couldn’t buy a great £500 integrated stereo amplifier. Then along came Cambridge with the CXA60. If you don’t require the phono stage in the Brio-R, this enthusiastic, snappy amp is probably the way to go.



Marantz CD6006 £350


Remember Wife Swap? Well, it never went this well. Just as the Rega Planar 2 fits the system in which we selected this Marantz, so the CD6006 will hold hands gleefully with Brio and Zensors for those who prefer CDs to vinyl. It serves up a big, expressive sound and effectively doubles as a hi-res player.

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 1 2 4 5

Combining a natural musicality with great authority, the Planar 2 also finds time to look really rather elegant

Rega might supply the heart in this system but it’s the fun-loving Dalis that really bring the 35

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 2 0 0 0

For Mac users, Pure Music enables high-res playback via iTunes. There are alternatives for those with PCs

The active Xeo 2s don’t just sound great, they’re compact, flexible and have adjustable sound settings


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 2 0 0 0


DY N AU D I O X E O 2 , P U R E M U S I C , M A C B O O K A I R

“The Dynaudio Xeo 2s are the perfect just-add-source system” Macbook Air £890 Pure Music £110 ★★★★★ Dynaudio Xeo 2 £1000 ★★★★★

If you want a system that keeps things simple, you can’t get much simpler than this. The Dynaudio Xeo 2 active speakers need only a source, so add a laptop filled with music (we’ve chosen a Macbook Air for its musical flair) and some good audio software into the mix, and you’re all set. Even getting the Xeo 2s up and running is easy – just plug each one in to a power source and they’re ready to go. The speakers work together wirelessly, so you don’t even need to run a cable between them – for the ultimate in placement flexibility.

For a start, it offers a lot of the scale and authority of its wired character, with a weighty low end that’s not scared to put some wallop behind a chunky bassline. It’s well-handled though, and is never overpowering, having enough rhythmic know-how to stay composed during faster-paced tracks and integrate with the Xeo 2’s expressive midrange and articulate treble.

Active ingredients

One advantage of active speakers is that their engineers can ensure the various internal elements work together in harmony. And so it is here. In fact, there’s a level of transparency at play in the Xeo 2s you’d be hard-pressed to find from a similarly priced system of hi-fi separates. That’s not a boast a set-up like this can make very often. Switch it up to a wired system to play some high-resolution files and these benefits become even more apparent. Of course, with iTunes not supporting high-resolution music, FLAC or DSD files, it’s worth investing in a piece of companion software that can – we use

Channel D’s Pure Music (£110) for Mac. JRiver is a good alternative for PCs. Pure Music layers itself seamlessly over iTunes, so you can carry on using Apple’s software as you would usually, but with the ability to load hi-res files into your library and play them natively. It sounds better than iTunes too, both by dodging any iTunes sound-processing and by caching audio into RAM before playback to reduce jitter. Ultimately, music sounds more fluid, solid and cohesive, not to mention the added transparency of higher-resolution tracks.

The space/timing continuum There’s more space using a wired connection as well, and timing is tighter still. Best of all, all the above applies no matter what your musical tastes. Flexibility and convenience might not be words usually associated with excellent sound quality, but the Xeo 2s break the hi-fi mould. Versatile, easy to house and offering a performance more than worthy of their asking price, the Dynaudio Xeo 2s are the perfect just-add-source system.

Compact and adjustable

This is helped further by their relatively compact size, meaning they can fit almost anywhere you need them to. And the EQ settings on the master speaker allow you to choose whether they are placed in a neutral, wall or corner environment. That said, even on the wall setting we’d still recommend giving these speakers at least 10cm clearance from a back wall for the best balance. Whether you want to listen to your music wired via the system’s 3.5mm input (there are also RCA and optical ins for adding a TV or other hi-fi components) or fancy the wireless convenience of Bluetooth, the Xeo 2 system can support it. And, unlike with a lot of kit, you won’t have to compromise on sound if you cut the cables. Of course, for any hi-res tracks, you’re going to need a hard connection, but for CD-quality tracks or streaming services the Xeo 2’s wireless performance shows a clarity and sophistication we wouldn’t usually expect over Bluetooth.

Or swap in one of these… HTC 10 On contract


Great hi-fi sources come in all shapes and sizes. If you don’t want to store tons of music on your laptop, a sonically exquisite smartphone such as the HTC 10 will more than suffice. It matches precision and detail with drive and enthusiasm, and all from the palm of your hand. Ruark Audio MR1 £300

Tidal £20/month

With all the extra gubbins they pack in, the Dynaudio Xeo 2s are more a system than merely a pair of speakers – but you don’t need a budget in touching distance of a grand to enjoy what your laptop has to offer. For just £300, the MR1s offer a punchy, musical, open sound with real verve.

If you had walked into HMV 10 years ago and declared “all these will soon be invisible”, you’d have been shown to a padded cell. Nowadays this formerly lunatic concept is TIDAL, the Award-winning service offering an almost incomprehensible catalogue of CD-quality, lossless audio.


★★★★★ 37

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 3 3 0 0


C A M B R I D G E A Z U R 8 5 1 N , R E G A E L E X- R , ATC S C M 1 1

“Delivers more faithfully than a Catholic Labrador” Cambridge Azur 851N £1200 ★★★★★ Rega Elex-R £900 ★★★★★ ATC SCM11 £1200 ★★★★★

Like an open fire on a winter’s evening, with the attendant magnificence produced when you throw on another block of wood and the homely taste of the whiff of smoke that escapes the mouth of the chimney, there will always be a home for physical media in the world of hi-fi. Yet, as central heating has in many ways usurped the wood fire, the rising prominence of network streamers is pushing home listening into an ultra-convenient 21st-century domain. And who could complain when that domain is occupied by wares such as the Cambridge Azur 851N? If you’re in search of your first network streamer, want to future-proof your system with a healthy investment but aren’t quite prepared to fork out an extra grand for a Naim ND5 XS, there’s no better way we can fathom of spending £1200.

Budget statement

When it comes to streaming-based systems, it’s best if you can build up a healthy budget rather than skimp on quality just so you can get your kit more quickly – if, that is, sound quality is as much a priority for you as convenience. Once you’ve gathered the requisite funds, the good news is you won’t necessarily have to forego features in order to enjoy good sound quality. The Azur 851N, for example, is far from sparsely specified: it doubles up as a pre-amp, meaning you can plug straigh into a power amplifier; music signals pass through two 24-bit Analog Device DACs working in dual differential mode meaning lower distortion, more transparency and greater detail. And it 38

boasts two coaxial and optical inputs with three USBs and an AES/EBU input, thereby providing no small measure of versatility for partnering kit. In this system, we’re pairing the Cambridge with Rega’s Elex-R amplifier, with built-in phono stage (so you don’t have to bin all your vinyl just yet), and a pair of ATC SCM11s. In essence, this pair, each of which held onto their respective Awards this year, are just great across the board – they’re detailed, dynamic, great with timing and hugely transparent. We’ve long used them as reference when testing a similarly priced source, and the rule sticks – take care with what you place at the front of the chain, and this Rega/ATC combination will deliver more faithfully than a Catholic Labrador. So when we play Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, we are entirely unsurprised to hear the Cambridge’s performance in all its glory. That glowing midrange, so characteristic of Justin Vernon’s latest work, washing vocal harmonies in ethereal reverb, comes across as gorgeously full-bodied and warm,

though without any sacrifice of detail or evenness in the balance. There’s also a widescreen view of the Azur 851’s spacious soundstage, placing instruments and samples naturally among each other, in their own space but undeniably tethered to one another. That’s a sign of the sense of timing these products share as well – it’s one of the aspects with which streamers sometimes struggle, but here all three components are easily capable of organising the various off-beat and off-kilter rhythms that make up this sonic collage of an album.

Quality to spare

As we alluded to, the glory of this Rega and ATC marriage at the end of the chain is such that, if you have the extra budget to invest in Naim’s Award-winning ND5 XS, they would be more than capable of showing off the jump in quality of your source. But for sheer value, the Azur 851N, with its full-bodied, rhythmic and spacious sound, more than earns its place here. For insight and transparency, we can’t show this system enough respect.

Or swap in one of these… Revel Concerta M16 £950

Cambrige Audio CXN £700

Quite simply, these are the best speakers under £1000 we’ve heard. As well as a spacious soundstage, the M16s offer strong dynamics and a weighty bass. The Cambridge and Rega complement them nicely – over-aggressive kit can make the M16s’ searing insight sound edgy.

Cambridge has obligingly assured you needn’t shell out over a grand to take home one of its Award-winning streamers – for £500 less than the Azur 851N, you may own this fine specimen. Fully decked out with all the latest streaming features, it gives a thoroughly entertaining performance.



Naim Nait 5si £1020


Much as the Rega/ATC combo is a match constructed in paradise, this Naim amp has what it takes to shake that stable relationship. It delivers a dynamically and rhythmically solid performance that also supplies stacks of detail plus huge scale and authority.

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 3 3 0 0

The Azur streamer is an Award-winner but, should you want to upgrade, the Rega and ATC will be up to the job

”Gorgeously fullbodied and warm, though without any sacrifice of detail or evenness in the balance” 39

SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 7 97 0

Insightful streaming, feature-packed and neutral amplification, and a stunning pair of speakers – your ticket to hi-fi heaven


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : £ 7 97 0


N A I M N D 5 XS , PA R A S O U N D H A LO I N T E G R AT E D, P M C T W E N T Y 5 . 2 3

“Feed it a hi-res track and you’ll really hear this system shine” Naim ND5 XS £2300 ★★★★★ Parasound Halo Integrated £2700 ★★★★★ PMC Twenty5.23 £2970 ★★★★★

When you’re spending this much money on a system, it’s hard not to want it all. Bells, whistles, performance and then some. But this end of the market is often the preserve of more purist kit, where features are stripped back to concentrate on sound gains. For some it’s worth it, for others it’s restrictive. That’s what makes this system so refreshing. Fully equipped to tackle anything from Bluetooth to high-res to headphones, it’s an unusually accommodating set-up that works hard to make its price tag make sense, all the while not scrimping on performance. Sitting at the heart of this trio is the Parasound Halo Integrated amplifier, which offers a spec sheet largely unheard of at this level. There’s a switchable phono stage, headphone output, tone controls, a built-in DAC, more inputs than you could shake a cable at and support for just about every music format going (up to 32-bit/364kHz and DSD 256). And with a peak current output figure of 45 amps, there’s enough grunt here to get good volume levels from just about any speaker you’re likely to hook up.

Flexible neutrality

Furthermore, its beautifully judged tonal balance is about as neutral as they come, so you have the ability to mould your system’s sound to your tastes. The amp holds its own with kit even more expensive than this too, but we find a good balance in the PMC Twenty5.23 speakers, which are about as discreet and stylish as floorstanders get at this price. We find they work best with small- to medium-sized rooms, but with the

Parasound you have the freedom to move up the range if you need to fill a larger space. The 23s have surprising scale and authority for their size though, and complement the amp in their ability to deliver both subtle and larger-scale dynamic shifts with real enthusiasm. They’re tonally well judged, with a low end that’s meaty without being overpowering and a treble that offers plenty of bite. The solidity of these speakers adds some of the natural warmth that’s missing from the Parasound’s midrange too, with plenty of nuance, refinement and clarity all round. The PMCs help create a big-sounding system too, with excellent stereo imaging that renders an expansive soundstage stretching well beyond the speakers themselves – just keep them away from side walls and at least 30cm in front of the back wall for the best results. As for your source, you’re spoiled for choice with the Parasound’s plethora of inputs, but we like the Naim ND5 XS streamer for adding even further to this system’s flexibility.

It’s kitted out with just about every streaming feature worth having, including Tidal and Spotify Connect, internet radio and aptX Bluetooth, as well as its ability to sniff out NAS drives and laptops on your network with ease. Feed it a good hi-res track and you’ll really hear this system shine, the Naim capable of digging out excellent levels of detail and insight.

More than just detailed

It’s an exciting, engaging presentation too, dynamic in its handling of highs and lows, with the ability to go satisfyingly deep while still staying light on its feet. Timing is precise and the soundstage wide and layered. Bring it all together and the whole system just works, flourishing under its shared strengths and similarly flexible outlook. When you’re spending this much money on a system, you really want a result that sounds as effortless as this does. Three great products don’t always come together to make a great-sounding system, but in this case, it’s a match made in hi-fi heaven.

Or swap in one of these… ATC SCM19 £2000

Roksan Caspian M2 CD £2000

ATC’s reputation for making worldclass studio monitors is a big clue here. If you’d prefer standmounts to the floorstanding PMCs, the SCM19s are gloriously insightful, incredibly dynamic and as honest as the day is long, meaning the only risk is they might reveal flaws elsewhere.

The two grand you pay for the M2 CD doesn’t go on features – it doesn’t double up as a streamer or coat itself in digital inputs, just as it won’t make you a cup of tea or negotiate the terms of your divorce. What it does do is play CDs better than anything else anywhere close to this price.



Naim Supernait 2 £3050


When Naim revamped the Supernait a few years ago, it removed the built-in DAC. This evidently lef the company free to focus on building an even better integrated amplifier – the 2 is dynamic, detailed, rhythmically surefooted with a rumbling low-end. It bosses the entertainment factor too. 41





HOME These budget projectors bring big-screen entertainment to your living room without breaking the bank. Home cinema has never been more affordable

42 www.whathiďŹ .com


WHAT’S ON TEST? BenQ W1090 Epson EH-TW5350 ViewSonic LightStream Pro7827HD


ho needs a four-figure 4K TV when you can have a 100in screen for less than a grand? As these three projectors show, you don’t need to break the bank to get a gloriously big, clear, punchy and entertaining picture in your home. Projectors are no longer the daunting, high-end option reserved for AV enthusiast, nor do you need to rearrange your living room or knock down walls to accommodate one. Today’s projectors – especially budget ones – are compact, portable and deliver the kind of cinematic grandeur you get only in cinemas. In this test, BenQ and ViewSonic take on the Award-winning Epson to be crowned the new budget champion. Three Full HD projectors, all vying for a new home – pick your favourite. 43



BenQ W1090 £600 FOR Rich colour palette; easy set-up; detailed picture

AGAINST Motion instability; rivals offer a subtler picture

BenQ has had a good run of sub-£1000 projectors, with four- and five-star reviews peppering its range in the past couple of years. Its recent efforts missed out on a Best Buy at this year’s Awards, but there’s no doubt that if you’re in the market for a budget projector, BenQ is one of the companies to look out for. The new BenQ W1090 proves this. With its compact size, short throw ratio and big picture (100cm from 2.5m away, says BenQ), this DLP projector is perfect for those with small rooms and home cinema fans on a restricted budget.

The W1090 gives an image with crisp edges and exuberant colour

Effusive quality

Crisp edges, glossy detail and an exuberant way with colours means that the BenQ W1090 pleases from the start. Play Star Trek Beyond on Blu-ray and the W1090 delights in delivering the special effects with vibrancy. Starfleet uniforms are solid and the pristine interiors of the U.S.S Enterprise shine brightly, with stark whites and gleaming metal bursting from the screen. Black levels are deeper on the BenQ W1090 than its £600 Epson EH-TW5350 and ViewSonic LightStream Pro7827HD rivals. This gives a pleasing solidity to scenes, especially when you can see pinpricks of stars twinkling against the vast expanse of space. But we want it to go brighter, and to have more subtlety throughout. While the BenQ’s black depth is commendable, it doesn’t make the punchy areas go any brighter than its rivals. It’s obvious when you look at any scene containing a bright light source, a lens flare or natural sunlight through a windowpane. The way the light falls upon characters’ faces should vary in intensity and brightness – here it looks subdued and uniform. The Award-winning Epson handles colour gradations and finer detail with more accuracy, giving a more lifelike quality to films such as The Imitation Game. The W1090’s colours are bold and attractive, but a touch overdone. Whether that’s the artificial-looking green grass, the wooden furniture that looks too polished, or skin-tones that are a bit too flushed, the colour palette could do with some of the restraint and subtlety found on the Epson. To calm down that effusive quality, we play with ‘Brilliant Colour’ in the settings 44

★★★★ ★


Manual focus and zoom adjustments are easy to use and we have a perfectly centred, large image in mere seconds. Three adjustable feet underneath help with positioning, too. There are no lens-shift controls, but you can correct the vertical keystone using the included remote control, which is compact, works responsively with the menu and is backlit – which is handy in a dark room.

There are plenty of ways to connect to the unit – and speakers too

A dash of reality

and set the colour temperature to ‘Cool’. Our biggest complaint remains that you can’t adjust the colour settings of the BenQ when connected via HDMI, as it would be helpful to tone down the overly rich picture. There’s a hint of noise creeping into the Full HD picture, too. And while some projectors have trouble with smooth motion in long panning scenes, the W1090 struggles when characters move their heads or walk around a table. The built-in speakers are appreciated, but the wispy sound is nowhere near fulfilling, and certainly not a patch on the sound you’d get through a speaker package or a soundbar. Elsewhere, the W1090’s build quality is solid, and we like the smart matt-white finish. It’s a nice change from the glossy finishes of projectors such as the Epson EH-TW5350. The compact and lightweight build means you can position the W1090 anywhere in the room or ceiling-mount it. The lens light bleeds through the side vents of the projector, which can be distracting if it’s placed in front of you.


Full HD resolution


Around the back you’ll find two HDMIs, composite and PC VGA inputs, 3.5mm auxiliary sockets for audio input and output, and a USB port too. The BenQ W1090 has its wobbles – motion instability, overly rich colours, a lack of subtlety – but it’s an exciting, engaging picture that’s easy on the eyes. The lush colours are appealing, but a dash more reality would allow it to really take the fight to its Epson rival. For its budget price, however, the W1090’s bold presentation, compact build and easy set up will win people over. If you’re on a strict budget, but want a big screen picture, this BenQ is one to watch out for.


Rating ★★ ★★ ★ Backlit remote


VERDICT This budget projector delivers an eye-popping, vibrant picture that’s sure to grab your attention immediately




Epson EH-TW5350 £600 FOR Stable picture; compact; exciting contrast; lightweight Budget projectors haven’t always won us over, but this talented and compact Epson EH-TW5350 shows you can get an excellent big screen picture for less than £1000. This LCD projector is perfect for those with small rooms and even tighter budgets. While you can get Ultra HD 4K TVs for similar money, it’s not quite the same as watching your favourite film on a giant screen with the lights all turned off. The compact, lightweight body of the EH-TW5350 means you have the freedom to place it anywhere, even take it to different rooms. But the budget price doesn’t mean Epson has scrimped on build quality – the curved chassis is sturdy and smart looking, with a gold-bronze accent around the lens adding some bling.

AGAINST The 5W in-built speakers sound rather thin KEY FEATURES

Full HD resolution

Active 3D

Two HDMI inputs

In full effect

The EH-TW5350 comes with a decent spread of connections on the back panel. You get two HDMI inputs to plug your Blu-ray player or games console into. Epson has helpfully added inputs such as composite, PC VGA and a USB type A. The projector does have its own 5W speakers, but they’re too thin-sounding to enjoy watching a whole film. We’d recommend using external speakers to get a more solid and enveloping sound with your movies. You’ll need time and patience to set up this Epson. There are feet to twiddle and adjust to get the picture to the right height, as well as manual zoom, focus, lens shift and keystone corrections to get a perfectly centred and sharp picture. The remote control is nice to use and responds well, but isn’t backlit, which may cause problems in the dark.

★★ ★ ★ ★

A claimed 35,000:1 contrast ratio and 2200 lumens means the picture should look bright, but we’d still suggest dimming all the lights down to get the full effect of this petite projector.

Tom Cruise’s hair

We start with Edge of Tomorrow on Blu-ray and as the action gets more intense, we start singing the Epson’s praises. It’s detailed – you can see flecks of mud on Tom Cruise’s hair, the grime on soldiers’ faces and the rough-hewn surfaces as they take refuge in an abandoned cottage. There’s minimal noise across Blu-rays and DVDs alike. In fact, this is one of the most mature budget projectors we’ve seen in a long while. The detail on show isn’t flashy or screaming to be noticed; it’s subtle and allows gradients of colour and texture to be shown. That crispness isn’t overly etched either, giving characters a natural, three-dimensional quality against backgrounds instead of looking like cardboard cut-outs.


There’s a decent spread of connections on the EH-TW5350

What makes the Epson so comfortable and exciting to watch is that it gets the balance of dark and bright elements in a scene just right. Black depth could admittedly be darker – you’ll find deeper blacks in the rival BenQ W1090 – but the dark scenes are satisfyingly solid and textured for the price. The colour palette is well balanced, too, delivering more realistic colours than the BenQ W1090 and more vibrant hues than the ViewSonic LightStream Pro7827HD. It goes a long way to ensuring the EH-TW5350 is an enjoyable, fuss-free watch regardless of what you throw at it.

Motion sense

Another aspect that stands out is motion. The EH-TW5350 is surprisingly stable: when Tom Cruise gets thrown out of a helicopter, the projector handles the zooming, swirling picture without breaking a sweat. Panning scenes expose a small amount of judder, but we’ve seen high-end projectors that have the same issue. For those who still enjoy 3D Blu-rays, you’re in luck. Even as the majority of TV manufacturers phase the technology out, this Epson projector still supports 3D films. There are no 3D glasses in the box, but you can buy them separately for around £65 per pair. We’re not used to seeing budget projectors perform so admirably. Apart from its rather thin sound quality, the Epson EH-TW5350 delights in every aspect. The handling of motion, contrast and colour balance is skilful, and indicative of a level-headed restraint we wish all budget products would adhere to. For just £600, this EH-TW5350 projector brings a bit of the magic of cinema into your living room.

Epson’s projector is perfect for those with small rooms and tight budgets



VERDICT Epson has produced another mature and enjoyable budget projector that delivers all the big screen thrills 45




ViewSonic LightStream Pro7827HD £600 FOR Clear, stable picture; well-equipped; easy set-up

AGAINST Not the most subtle or refined

Those in the market for a budget home cinema should ask themselves what matters most: sharpness or size? Do you get a 40-something inch 4K TV, or a Full HD projector with lesser resolution, but capable of a much bigger image size? At this price, the ‘best of both worlds’ scenario doesn’t exist. Bigger 4K tellies and the limited 4K projector offerings available right now will set you back thousands. To quote Neo from The Matrix, “the problem is choice”.

If size matters, the LightStream is an attractive home cinema solution

★★★★ ★

Out of its shell

Those who opt for size may well plump for the ViewSonic LightStream Pro7827HD. Despite the awkward name, it’s an attractively simple home cinema solution: a compact short-throw DLP projector with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution and 3D support. The LightStream Pro7827HD’s smart, all-black shell is small enough to comfortably tuck under an arm. It will sit as easily on a coffee table or on a bookshelf as in an AV rack. The set-up process is easy too: using its on-unit controls, it’s dead simple to project an image of up to a maximum 300in on to your screen or, if you really have to, wall. Zoom and focus can be adjusted on the lens itself, and there’s a dial for vertical lens shift, so you shouldn’t have to rest it on a pile of magazines. Keystone correction options can be made using the half-sized remote (we just wish it had backlit buttons). With a 1.1-1.5 throw ratio, the ViewSonic is capable of beaming a 100in image from just 8ft away. A USB port is a handy inclusion, as are the single component, VGA and 3.5mm inputs it sits beside. There are three HDMI inputs, one of which is an HDMI/ MHL port that can accommodate ViewSonic’s optional WPG-300 dongle (£115) for streaming content from smartphones, tablets or laptops. A detachable cover at the back hides cables and sockets, letting us concentrate on Tarantino’s latest splatterfest flick The Hateful Eight. The ViewSonic has a crisp, easy-to-watch and, thanks to its 2200 lumens, bright picture. While not capable of truly dazzling whites or blacks that seep into the walls, the ViewSonic’s contrast is pleasant enough to draw you in. It doesn’t match the depth or intensity of the Epson EH-TW5350 or the 46

There’s an HDMI/MHL port for streaming content from a tablet

BenQ W1090, and can tend to look washed out compared with its rivals. Happily, that doesn’t affect the punchy brights too much. The same can be said for colour reproduction. As the degenerate strangers travel through wintry Wyoming, the mahogany stagecoach and yellow drapes inside it are more subdued than effusive – a balance that some might prefer over the exuberant richness of the BenQ W1090. Reds in particular look washed-out, but blues and yellows are convincingly deep, with the gold décor leaping out against the wood.


Full HD resolution


3 x HDMI

Though not offering class-leading transparency, the ViewSonic is an entertaining watch and a good upscaler. It is stable enough to be at home with camera pans. Less static shots (for example close-ups of feet hurriedly dragging along the floor) carry a slight blur, but it’s not the end of the world. The characteristic Tarantino dialogue demands little of the ViewSonic’s built-in 10W speakers. Whether you’re sitting in front of or behind the projector, voices sound clear and can be heard from across a large room. We’d be wary about pushing it to its highest volume, though, as a slight hardness starts to creep in. It doesn’t have the dynamics or bass depth for you to truly value the impact of Ennio Morricone’s sinister soundtrack, either. But that’s where a soundbar or, better, surround-sound package comes in. For general TV watching, it’s a reasonable ‘make do’ option. Rivals, such as the Epson, have a more subtle hand. But if you want big-screen entertainment without having to spend a huge amount, you won’t go far wrong with this ViewSonic as the centrepiece of your home cinema system.

Rustic hues

If anything, the restrained rustic hues of the Western frontier are less refined and realistic than through the Epson EH-TW5350 (£600). The ViewSonic’s picture is a touch noisier, too. Because it overlooks finer detail such as shading and highlights, for example, there’s a sense that the picture lacks dimension in comparison too, with winter landscapes looking a bit flat.



VERDICT An affordable and accessible way to get super-sized entertainment



Epson EH-TW5350 £600 ★★★★ ★ Three budget projectors, one clear winner


udget projectors have come a long way. A decade ago, you’d have had to fork over at least £2000 to get the same level of performance as you do from today’s Full HD projectors costing around £600. Combining entertaining picture quality with sturdy, compact build and essential connections, these three projectors are testament to just how much big-screen entertainment you can now get on a budget. You don’t have to be an AV boffin to set them up either: you can achieve a perfectly focused and centred picture in just a few minutes, thanks to a range of easy-to-use controls.

The detailed and articulate Epson retains its Awardwinning status

Wispy, thin sounds

All three projectors have built-in speakers, and while the ViewSonic’s efforts are better than its rivals’ wispy sounds, we’d recommend you plug in proper speakers for a more exciting, involving sound for your films. When it comes to motion stability and noise levels, the crystal-clear Epson 300”

stands head and shoulders above the rest. The ViewSonic is particularly noisy, while the BenQ has more motion issues around certain movements on screen. To the BenQ’s credit, it does have the deepest blacks, giving richness and solidity to its colour balance. If you’re planning on watching lots of space battles, then you’ll love the way stars sparkle against the night sky. The ViewSonic pales in comparison thanks to its weak black levels, although it does retain a decent amount of shadow detail. BenQ’s exuberant colour palette and ViewSonic’s more subdued presentation sit at either end of the scale. BenQ’s approach is immediately arresting – who wouldn’t like to see such a vibrant, richly hued picture? – but ViewSonic’s natural clarity and restrained colours (apart from the rather washed-out reds) are quite pleasing on the eyes.

Happily watch for hours 105” 65”

When setting up a home cinema system, the question is size or resolution. Do you choose a 65in screen 4K TV, or a Full HD projector with a much bigger image?

But it’s the Epson that handles that balance between light and dark, or between realistic and punch, the best of the three. From its natural colour palette to the clear, bright picture that manages to immerse you and impress you with every film, the Epson’s ability to convey depth, texture and fine detail stands apart from its rivals.

SYSTEM BUILDER BLU-RAY PLAYER Sony BDP-S6700 £140 ★★★★★ Its performance belies the budget price tag

AV RECEIVER Denon AVR-X2300W £500 ★★★★★ A superb, well-equipped, sonic all-rounder

SPEAKER PACKAGE Dali Zensor 1 5.1 £980 ★★★★★ Fantastic Award-winning speaker package

Total build £2220 It’s simply more detailed and articulate than the other two. It’s the projector we can turn on and happily watch for hours on end. Engaging and exciting, this talented Epson’s Awardwinning status remains intact.


Epson EH-TW-5350 £600

ViewSonic LightStream Pro7827HD £600

Max image size







Dimensions (hwd)

10 x 35 x 22cm

11 x 30 x 25cm

10 x 32 x 23cm


1920 x 1080

1920 x 1080

1920 x 1080










DLP 49

A M A ZO N I N S TA N T V I D E O v s N E T F L I X


Free yourself from the tyranny of TV schedulers! Amazon Instant Video and Netflix have changed our TV viewing habits for ever. They may take over your lives, but they’ll never take your freedom to binge on a boxset


atching films from the comfort of your own sofa no longer requires shopping for Blu-rays and setting aside a huge amount of shelf space to accommodate your growing collection. There has been a similar change in watching TV too – the days when your evening’s viewing revolved around Radio Times listings and programme recording are long gone. The arrival of video streaming services has seen to that, spearheading a ‘next generation’ of TV that looks set to stay. For the past few years, having thousands of hours of content available to stream 24/7 to our telly at home or on the smartphone in our pocket has changed our viewing habits, making marathon film trilogies and bingewatching TV boxsets the new going out. It doesn’t have to come at a price either, with YouTube and UK catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and ITV Player serving up hour after hour of free streaming. What a world we live in, eh? But none has the content diversity or versatility of the two giants of video streaming, Amazon Instant Video and Netfix. Theirs is an intense battle that

A M A ZO N I N S TA N T V I D E O v s N E T F L I X

mirrors the rivalry between Spotify and Apple Music in music streaming. Both offer thousands of movies and TV shows, old and new, for as little as £6 per month. There aren’t enough hours in the day to warrant two subscriptions, so which service should you hand over Friday nights in and lazy Sundays to?


For the first month, why not try both? Amazon and Netflix each offer 30-day free trials, so it goes without saying that you should reap the benefits of having twice as much content as you could ever sit through. Just because you can. But when the time is up, so is the two services’ subscription homogeneity. Amazon offers two cancel-anytime subscription tiers: ‘Prime Video’ for £6 per month, which is the standard video streaming service, and a more Amazonembracing £8 per month (or £70 per year upfront) ‘Prime’ membership. This option builds on Prime Video by adding ad-free streaming of Prime Music, unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive, one-day shipping on select Amazon-stocked products and early access to Amazon’s ‘Lightning’ deals. Both are inclusive of Amazon’s 4K and HDR content, and allow two screens to stream from the same account, with each video limited to one device at a time. Netflix has a more tiered approach and, unless you’re happy settling for the standard-definition streams of the digital Dark Ages, is going to set you back more. Up from the basic £6 monthly subscription, which allows SD playback to only one screen at a time, is the £7.50 tier that grants you access to high-

definition streams to two screens simultaneously. To take advantage of the 4K and HDR content Netflix has to offer, you have to sign up to the £9 per month premium tier, which also takes the screen count to four – a good-value family-size package, for sure. For couples and singletons though, Amazon is the more affordable option – especially for feasting on sharper, more cutting-edge 4K HDR material.


Perhaps surprisingly, there’s not much crossover between the two catalogues, so paying out for both wouldn’t be as pointless as it initially seems. There’s no official figure for the size of Netflix’s catalogue, although claims it’s around 3000 titles in the UK and more than 5000 in the US – the most of any country. Amazon isn’t as reticent – boasting 15,980 titles, why would it be?

Size isn’t everything of course, and many will no doubt veer towards one based on commitments to certain shows which are exclusive to each of the services. Do you care more about The Walking Dead and Lucifer (Amazon), or Peaky Blinders and Marvel’s Daredevil (Netflix)? Both groom their catalogues on a regular basis, vary their offerings from country to country, and pluck titles from the post-Blu-ray-release window – so don’t go expecting films that have just hit the shelves or the latest seasons of TV shows before the next one has started. That said, Amazon often pips its rival in the race to be first to show newer releases. While brand new films (Neon Demon, for example) and hot-off-thelens TV shows (Season 7 of The Walking Dead, say) are reserved for Amazon Video’s 38,000-strong ondemand and rental service outside subscriptions, Prime and Prime

”The arrival of video-streaming services like Amazon and Netflix has spearheaded a ‘next generation’ of TV that looks set to stay” 51





“For offline viewing, there’s only one winner. Amazon lets subscribers watch titles on-the-go” Video subscribers have access to a fair few of last year’s big titles. Currently there’s the latest Macbeth adaptation, Academy Award-winning Spotlight and nominee Room, as well as some films that had theatrical releases just a few months ago, like A Walk in the Woods. Netflix has a few gems from the past 12 months – Sicario and Creed, for example – but not as many. If this were a competition of firsts, Netflix would win. While Amazon was first to HDR content, Netflix pipped it to the post with 4K as well as self-produced original content. Today, TV shows produced by Netflix and Amazon’s own studios – ingeniously titled ‘Amazon Originals’ and ‘Netflix Originals’ – sit at the forefront of the services’ campaigns. Netflix has more (and perhaps more popular) programming in its repertoire, led by acclaimed dramas Better Call Saul, Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards and Marvel’s Daredevil. Amazon has stepped up its game and isn’t far behind, with the likes of Bosch,

Mozart in the Jungle, Hand of God and Man in the High Castle under its studio umbrella, as well as three seasons of Transparent, which last year won a Golden Globe for Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy). The much-vaunted Grand Tour, fronted by popular petrol-heads Clarkson, Hammond and May is bound to gain the service even more traction too. Unlike Netflix’s conglomerate film-and-TV approach, Amazon is strictly concentrating its output on TV shows, and already has several in the pipeline for next year. It is taking a crowdsourcing-like ‘have your say’ approach to new content too, releasing numerous pilot episodes which viewers can vote to make into a full-length series. ‘Originals’ is where both services’ 4K and HDR offerings begin. At the moment they’re the only material on Amazon to get the 4K treatment, with a handful of those also in HDR. Netflix similarly bigs up its original content by wrapping it in the two technologies, starting

‘Prime Video’ starts at £6, but the best package is Amazon Prime at £8, which includes 4K content

Usability A new, simplified interface helps, but we still wish finding our favourite film wasn’t such a fuss



Amazon is less reticent about the number of titles it has – and why not?


with the first series of House of Cards and also incorporating Daredevil and its other Marvel character-based live action dramas too: Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Netflix gets one over on Amazon by throwing in a couple of 4K HDR films too: The Ridiculous Six and The Do-Over (part of a four-film deal between Netflix and lead actor Adam Sandler), although Amazon Video offers more titles to rent or buy – but be prepared to splash out around (deep breath) £20 for them. Netflix also supports Dolby Vision (Dolby’s alternative to the more widely adopted HDR 10 version of HDR), which, for now, Amazon offers only in the US. That’s not a huge deal breaker, as currently only a few TVs, such as the flagship LG OLED65G6V and OLED65E6V models, support this ‘other’ HDR format. But it’s something to bear in mind if you own one of these TVs.

Platform support

Streaming isn’t the exclusive domain of the dedicated coach potato either. Both services are supported on a wide number of platforms, including PCs, laptops, Android and iOS smartphones, as well as TVs, Blu-ray players and games consoles, and are therefore as readily available on-the-fly as Facebook and Twitter. Netflix has the edge here. It’s everywhere, on everything. While Amazon is now across almost every smart TV offerings, there’s no ‘almost’ about it for Netflix, which is as much of a household app on Sony, Samsung, LG and Philips televisions as BBC iPlayer and YouTube. It also plays ball with Windows phones, Apple TV and Chromecast, which is more than we can say for Amazon. Instead, Amazon is much more concerned with native compatibility on the Fire phone, tablet and TV stick. But where there’s a will there’s a way, and you can always AirPlay Amazon content from the iOS app to an Apple TV, and similarly Google Cast any laptop or mobile screen to a telly. Where offline viewing is concerned, there’s only one winner: Amazon, which lets subscribers download many of its titles and watch them on the go without needing an internet connection. Netflix is online only.


Amazon boasts nearly 16,000 titles in its library, and also just shades this test for its 4K and HDR content 52

Amazon has worked vigorously to simplify its interface. Both follow similar layouts, with home screens dominated by seemingly endless lists of categories, from ‘Continue Watching’ and ‘Recently Added’ to ‘Independent Movies’ and ‘Award-winning Movies’,

and including ‘Ultra HD’ (which appears only on apps of compatible 4K TVs. You can strip out movies if you only have time for a TV episode, and flag things to watch later that are stored in ‘My List’ on Netflix and ‘Watchlist’ on Amazon. Ultimately, Netflix has the edge here. What you see is what you get – if you don’t pay for it (Ultra HD content, for example) you don’t see it. On Amazon, there are effective filters to sieve out Amazon Video’s paid-for content, and what’s included in the subscription is well flagged by a sash-like banner, but the filters are a hassle and if you’re only using the web platform all this is buried within Amazon’s allencompassing website – which isn’t ideal. Much as we love Amazon, we’d prefer it wasn’t so much of a fuss finding our favourite shows. Ever let your dinner get cold trying to find something to watch? Annoying, isn’t it? Netflix tries harder to take the pain out of fruitless browsing with its algorithmic ‘because you watched…’ suggestions based on past viewings. But with layouts being shared, so are shortcomings. At the moment, HDR programming is buried within the services’ catalogues, and relies on your hunting skills to sniff out the small logo attached to content. We’d like a category to flag which content is supported – as there is for Ultra HD material.


You are unlikely to choose one service over the other based solely on performance. On both, a good many shows and films are available in 5.1-channel surround sound and, with regards to picture, the effort each service has geared towards streaming quality over the past few years has paid off – HD material looks impressively bright, clean and sharp on our Samsung UE65KS9000, Apple Macbook and LG G5. On the TV, it’s not a million miles from the standard you’d expect from playing a Blu-ray disc. Through both Amazon and Netflix, lines are crisp, colours deep and motion handled as though stability has never been a streaming problem. Unlike fast food or Bluetooth playback, the convenience of video-streaming services requires hardly any sacrifices in quality, and anyone just out of a three-year hibernation wouldn’t believe the progress that’s been made, let alone how juicy Ultra HD looks (once they’d looked up what that was). Again, the equivalent disc format makes the most of the higher resolution, with a touch more crispness and sharpness. But is the higher resolution






For the basic £6/ month, you get only SD content, so choose £7.50 (Full HD) or £9 (4K, HDR) tiers instead

“Netflix takes the pain out of fruitless browsing with algorithmic suggestions based on past views” justifiable for streaming? Absolutely. And to that end, Amazon and Netflix are equally compelling options.

Verdict Usability Netflix has the edge here. Its ‘what-you-see...’ approach takes the pain out of fruitless browsing



Netflix claims to have a catalogue of 5000 titles in the US, 3000 in the UK

A year or so ago, this fight would have been over by round two, with Netflix lifting the belt over Amazon’s crumpled figure. But Amazon has risen from its underdog roots to challenge its rival’s long-term supremacy, pruning its service to be more user-friendly and competitive in terms of both pricing and catalogue. Instant Video is one of the most affordable ways to watch 4K and HDR content and, for heavy users of Amazon’s shopping and music streaming, it’s an attractive option as part of its Prime tier. It might not have the global reach of Netflix, which claims more than 86 million members worldwide, or be as omnipresent or quite as effortless to use, but for those whose prime concern is getting the most for their money – especially when it comes to ogling 4K – Amazon is the better bet. Unless you’re a Marvel fan, perhaps.

says Amazon ★ ★ ★ ★★ FOR Inclusive of 4K and HDR content; original content; quick to add new releases; huge catalogue of films and TV shows; offline viewing; impressive quality across resolutions AGAINST No native Apple TV or Google Chromecast support TEST WINNER

Netflix ★ ★ ★ ★★ FOR Intuitive, all-embracing interface; good recommendations; original content; premium tier includes 4K HDR films and four screens; impressive quality across resolutions; platform support AGAINST More expensive if you want HD and Ultra HD material; generally not first to new releases VERDICT The more affordable option, Amazon edges ahead with an extensive catalogue that’s geared to newer releases and is inclusive of 4K and HDR content

Netflix claims over 86m members worldwide, thanks to its ease of use and omnipresence on TV smart apps 53

THE BEST HI-FI SYSTEM The latest generation Solo Music sets new standards of sound reproduction for an all in one system

WHAT’S ON TEST? ATC C1 Dynaudio Emit 5.1

A speaker package should envelop you with classleading surround-sound. ATC and Dynaudio fight it out to see which is better


hen we say envelope, we aren’t talking final warnings from the gas company – the next few pages are devoted to the enjoyment of surround sound. The ATC C1 5.1 package recently claimed an Award in our highest-price bracket with ease – the British loudspeaker brand making light work of designing a high-end, but competitively priced, surround system with no discernable weaknesses, laying down a gauntlet for the rest. Yet Dynaudio is no David, its muscular Emit 5.1 package more like Goliath in this bout. Brute force isn’t its only faculty, but its indisputable brawn provides effective opposition to ATC. With both packages pushing the envelope in this enticing match-up, read on to find which of the pair gets our ultimate stamp of approval.





ATC C1 £3250 FOR Spacious and detailed; expressive, musical sound


★★ ★ ★ ★

Every now and then precedent counts for little – listen to almost every great band’s third or fourth album. Thankfully for them, and our eardrums, ATC’s C1 surround speaker package does its distinguished family proud. The set-up comprises four ATC SCM7s (which are standmount monitors sporting 25mm soft-dome tweeters and a distinctive 12.5cm mid-bass driver), a C1C centre (with a pair of mid-bass drivers), and the C1 subwoofer (boasting an impressive 31cm downfiring bass driver). Unless you’re a complete stranger to ATC products you’ll recognise the aesthetic. Our test kit is what ATC calls cherry (essentially light brown) but there’s also the option of black ash (black), and all in the company’s tidy yet undoubtedly smart, trademark style.

speakers. Thunder and flying arrows crack and sail behind us, while not detracting from the main action or dialogue. Our reference PMC 5.1 package consists of two pairs of floorstanding speakers, but if we are expecting these smaller units to be lacking in weight we’re pleasantly surprised by how rich these surround effects are. You’ll still require something bigger to fill a large room, but the ATCs have an impressively expansive sense of space. Despite not quite having the muscle to properly fll our largest listening room, the sound is anything but boxed in, giving a sense of scale and distance in tune with what’s happening on our projector. Given its smorgasbord of strengths, you may have expected us to begin by praising the C1C centre speaker. ATC says it’s designed to complement the SCM7s in the corners of your room, and it certainly shares their neutral, balanced tone. Even in the heat of battle, with a busy score and even busier list of sound effects, the edges are never edgy nor smoothed. It’s a presentation that has us almost forgetting to analyse and just becoming lost in the film. Perhaps the most important asset for any speaker, though, given it will be handling much of any film’s dialogue, is dynamics. We could probably have picked a more difficult film for the C1C’s exam, given over-acting in 300 is rife almost to the point of secondary-school theatre production, but nonetheless the level of expression is a delight. It’s easy to say the most important aspect of a film is its content, but poor dynamics will ultimately leave your characters sounding achingly bored which, unless you’re watching some mid2000s coming-of-age indie drama, is far from what your director intended. Essentially, it’s so much more an immersive experience if your speaker package can render vocal expression as well as the ATC C1.

A word on that C1 sub: it’s just about light enough for one person to lift without putting their back out, and packs more than enough of a punch that you won’t be suffering from bass envy. Rumbles are indeed rumbles – you can feel ships colliding through the soles of your feet, underlining that solid body of the rest of the package with authoritative weight. A dial on the front allows you to easily tweak the bottom end so you do, or don’t, annoy the neighbours. Whichever is your preference.

Invest in some stands

As this is a package built exclusively of standmount speakers, you’ll also have to shell out for some decent speaker stands. The curved backs of the corner speakers means you’ll be able to tuck them neatly into your front room. In terms of the physical, it’s an ideal package for any small- to medium-sized room. We put the C1 system on our Atacama speaker stands – the standmounters have flat wooden bases, so you’ll want to Blu-Tack them down for security – wire up to our Yamaha RX-V3060 AV amp and, having let them run in over a weekend, play a Blu-ray of 300: Rise Of An Empire. We are immediately drawn to the way in which this package integrates its

The C1 sub packs more than enough of a punch – you won’t be suffering from any bass envy


Being serenaded

We’ve mentioned dynamics, which the C1 package masters both in terms of quiet-to-loud and those more nuanced levels of expression, but ATC has also lived up to its unimpeachable reputation for timing. In this 300 sequel, much momentum is lost through its ridiculousness, but this package claws some of that back through the music. It’s exceptionally fast, building anticipation as we head into each battle and firing each arrow with uniform precision. This is not simply a product for home cinema. If you keep your stereo amp in the same space, or have a particularly accomplished AV amp, these SCM7s will be a welcome addition to your hi-fi set-up. Using the same Yamaha amp, we spin Lou Reed’s Transformer on CD and allow ourselves to be serenaded with tales of New York cross-dressing. It’s a wonderfully musical performance, with all you’d expect from a manufacturer of studio monitors. It could be bettered only by adding more dedicated hi-fi components into the chain. The highest praise we can give the ATC package is it has provided a match for our (considerably more expensive) reference system. They aren’t exactly on a par, but nor are they lacking in any department – their characters are equally appealing. In a room a little smaller than our test room, at the moment we can think of no better alternative for the money. A consummate triumph, to be sure.

“ATC has provided a match for our considerably more expensive reference system. Not exactly on a par, but nor is it lacking in any department”


25mm tweeter / 12.5cm mid/bass


Sub power: 200W


The ATC C1 set-up comprises four ATC SCM7s, a C1C centre speaker (top) and the C1 subwoofer


Rating ★★★ ★ ★ SOUND BUILD

PROJECTOR Sony VPL-HW45ES ★★ ★ ★ ★ £1850 A projector that will stand you in good stead for years to come

BLU-RAY PLAYER Panasonic DMP-UB900 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £600 Panasonic delivers a devastating first blow for Ultra HD Blu-ray

HOME CINEMA AMP Yamaha RX-A3060 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £2000 Takes your home cinema experience to a whole new level


VERDICT If you’ve got £3250 to spare, and you aren’t trying to fill an auditorium, this speaker package is hard to better 57




Dynaudio Emit 5.1 £3275 FOR Muscular performance; good amount of detail

AGAINST Not uniform sound; centre speaker lacks expression

★★★★ ★

If history has taught us anything, it’s that those hungry for power are usually the ones least deserving of it. On the other hand, if you do fall into the power-hungry category and want to put it to good use, Dynaudio has made sure you can get some proper welly in your home cinema without having to remortgage the house.

similar to the M20s, with the same tweeter and two-way crossover, but with two of the 17cm drivers to properly fill that grander cabinet. In the centre, a pair of 11cm magnesium silicate polymer drivers again flanks the same tweeter. Also included is a detachable metal plinth, which angles the M15C to fire up or down dependent on your favoured listening position. In theory, if you have a TV rack or similar already placed below your screen, this negates the need for a separate speaker stand. Setting the floorstanding M30s up as our front speakers and the M20s behind us, we plug in our reference Yamaha RX-A3060 AV amp and play the riotously funny Nice Guys on Blu-ray. We immediately notice the presence of a familiarly weighty performance coming from the M30s which, in conjunction with the SUB 600, assaults us with the full force of gunshots and car crashes.

but unfortunately the package cohesion isn’t superb. The similarly priced ATC C1 – our 2016 Award winner at this price category – benefits from having the same speakers in each corner, meaning it can offer a more uniform performance, the speakers complementing rather than competing with each other. However, with the Emit package, there seems to be a slight disconnect between the M20s, M30s and M15C, which doesn’t always allow for an entirely immersive experience.

Weighty performance

The Emit family replaces Dynaudio’s now discontinued DM range, and comprises a pair of large standmount speakers (the Award-winning M20), floorstanders (M30) and a centre-channel designed for home cinema use (M15C). There isn’t a dedicated subwoofer in the Emit range, but Dynaudio offers a £400 reduction on its SUB 600, bringing it down to a grand if purchased as part of an Emit 5.1 system. As the company’s most advanced sub, its 300W amplifier powers a 30cm, forward-firing driver that promises to make your walls vibrate. Sporting a 28mm soft-dome tweeter and 17cm magnesium silicate polymer mid/bass driver specially designed for the Emit models, the M20s’ immense scale, energy and sweeping dynamics recently earned them a Product of the Year crown for stereo speakers. In our review of the M30s as standalone hi-fi speakers, we were pleased with their detailed, authoritative performance, though they didn’t quite hit the dizzy heights of their smaller

Breaking bones

That’s not to ignore the detail on offer, however. The power and grit are pooled with genuine deftness, not just the will to smack you between the eyes. There’s a good job made of the film’s funk-drenched soundtrack, which moves as nicely beneath the sounds of rustling papers and clinking glasses as it does when people are having their bones broken and setting off good oldfashioned explosions. e particularly sive as surrounds that same insight nd sense of timing nd dynamics tanding out,


Floorstanding front speakers

Sub power: 300W

Absurdist humour

Overall, the package could do with a bit more expression. Our main gripe is with the M15C centre. It comes across as just a bit meek, allowing itself to be overshadowed by the sheer scale of the rest of the package. There isn’t a great deal of expression on offer either – voices lack the subtle dynamics that expose the deadpan deliveries and wit that are the basis of the film’s absurdist humour. As a little experiment, we replace the centre speaker with one of the M20s and suddenly the sound is transformed, recouping expression and adding the shot of adrenaline that energises the film. Neither does it seem overpowered by the combined strength of the M30s and muscular SUB 600. In the Emit 5.1, Dynaudio has put together a speaker package with much to admire. It certainly doesn’t lack for presence or detail, and could be more suitable than even the Award-winning ATC C1 speaker package for those with larger living rooms. At its best, it’s a true powerhouse that will have many home cinemas shaking.

30cm sub driver

“In the Emit 5.1, Dynaudio has put together a speaker package with much to admire. It could be more suitable for those with larger living rooms” The M15C centre, which is included in the Emit 5.1 package, benefits from a stable, solid support


This is a hefy speaker package, and therefore ideally suited to a larger room – and partnering kit that can provide some serious welly


Rating ★★★★ ★ SOUND BUILD

TELEVISION Samsung UE65KS9500 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £3500 Superb picture and sound from this pricey curved Samsung television

VIDEO STREAMING Amazon Prime Instant Video ★★ ★ ★ ★ from £6/m Extensive catalogue that’s geared to newer releases and 4K and HDR

HOME CINEMA AMP Yamaha RX-A3060 ★★ ★ ★ ★ £2000 It’s our Award winner at this price for a reason - a stunning performer…


VERDICT Seeking a versatile, powerful speaker package to blow you back into your seat? You won’t go far wrong here 59


WHAT’S ON TEST? Bose QuietComfort 35 Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless Sony MDR-1000X

ss ancelling wirele -c e is o n … in d d un wires or backgro t n ie n e v n o c in No headphones remove the last obstacles to complete musical bliss. ee ic has never been so fuss-fr us m to ng ni te lis , irs pa e re With these th


hen was the last time you had to turn the volume of your music up to drown out the train ride to work? Scratch that. When was the last time you had to turn up the volume to drown out the train ride to work, only for your headphone wire to get caught in your jacket zip? If the answer is this morning, even last week, then the solution could be a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones.

Fuss-free music

Listening to music has never been so fuss-free – streaming services give us access to thousands of songs on devices in our pocket, and wires and background noise no longer have to get in the way of our enjoyment. Both Bluetooth and noise-cancellation used to come at the expense of sound quality in headphones, but that quality shortfall is ever-narrowing and, more importantly, no longer off-putting – as Bose, Sennheiser and Sony are on a mission to demonstrate in this three-way test. The winner will be the pair that best disconnects you from the world around you.


Things to know Bluetooth Gone are the days when most wireless headphones relied on separate radio frequency or infrared transmitters. Bluetooth is now deemed the standard technology for wireless music playback and is built into the headphones, with most having a typical range of 10 metres or so. aptX Bluetooth An audio coding algorithm synonymous with Bluetooth that claims better audio quality than ‘normal’ Bluetooth. It can transmit music, with full bandwidth, at a ‘CD-like’ 16-bit/44.1kHz, but isn’t quite ‘CD-quality’ as it uses compression to reduce audio coding delays and minimise latency.


ME! T C E N N O C S I ID U O Y FROM Join us on Spotify & Tidal Listen to our favourite tracks every month!

Active noise-cancellation By using small microphones to detect and measure ambient noise, such as the drone from traffic and the general hum of an office, noise-cancelling headphones can create a wave that is 180 degrees out of phase with the noise, which cancels it out. Battery life Wireless and noise-cancelling functionality both need power. Built-in rechargeable batteries promise hours of wireless and noise-cancelling listening from a single charge. A wired connection can still be used when the headphones have run out of juice, however.

www.whathiďŹ .com 61


“Presentation is as clean as a whistle”

£290 5 3 t r fo m o tC ie u Q e s o B

QUIET ZONE With the QC35s, Bose has brought its noise-cancelling QuietComfort headphone range up to date. You now get Bose’s traditional sound and aesthetic quality, but with no strings attached

FOR Generous battery life; AGAINST Balance is less insightful sound; forgiving than before

★★★★ ★ For a decade, Bose’s QuietComfort series of noise-cancelling headphones has been keeping droning transport and office hum away from you and your music. But with many rivals ofering noise-cancelling functionality with the convenience of wireless listening, one without the other now feels like a job half done. Bose has moved with the times – the QC35s bring wireless functionality to the range for the first time, doing what it has always done so well but with no strings attached. It feels like a long time coming, but there’s no denying it has been worth the wait.

Enter the 21st century

While the development from the QC15s to the QC25s focused on improvements in sound and aesthetics, features are at the forefront of the line’s latest evolution. Microphones inside and outside the earcups work to block external noise as effectively as ever. But the headline news is the addition of (non-aptX) Bluetooth for wireless listening, alongside NFC for one-touch pairing. Bose has abandoned the AAA battery in favour of a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a generous claimed battery-life of 20 hours. Using a wired connection with solely noisecancellation, that doubles to 40 hours. In place of a battery compartment in one of the earcups, there is now a much neater micro-USB slot for charging. It’s hard to tell the QC35s and their predecessors apart – the oval earcups and chunky headband that define the QuietComfort line’s signature look are back – but small changes have been made to accommodate wireless functionality. The power button on the right earcup now doubles as a Bluetooth-pairing button – slide it across to initiate pairing. You’ll also spot a NFC tag and three buttons down the side. The middle ‘multifunction’ button plays and pauses songs, answers and ends calls, and can also initiate voice commands such as Siri. Either side of that are two volume buttons, slightly raised so you can feel your way around the buttons without needing to take the headphones off. 62

“Bose has moved with the times, doing w hat it has always done so well. It has been worth the wait” The partly suede headband features leather instead of cloth material now, and feels plumper than before. That may be to cushion the QC35s’ 100g extra weight (from the wireless internals). They still feel lightweight though, and the familiar earpads are still some of the most comfortable in the business. The all-black and all-silver finishes look a little less interesting than those of the QC25s, which also featured coloured accents. But both the build and finish quality are just as pleasing as before.

touch more spacious and open, but the balance has changed paths slightly. While still precise and agile, with good control and detail across frequencies, the QC35s are a bit brighter and less forgiving towards poorer kit or lo-res files than more refined rivals such as the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless. If you have experienced the QC25s’ noise-cancellation and think it can’t get any better… you’re probably right. The new Boses match their predecessor for sound-sucking ability, which remains among the best we know. While there’s a noticeable drop in refinement and transparency with wireless operation, they’re almost as entertaining. The presentation is clean as a whistle, offering a window into the twinkling electronics opening of ANOHNI’s Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth? It’s a demanding, bass-heavy dance track, and the Boses afford it weight and punch while managing to keep a lid on any boominess. Discipline is applied to the rhythmic side too, the QC35s keeping a firm hand on the patterns underlying the grubby, crashing synths. The song’s androgenous vocals have solidity and focus, and hang onto each quiver and quirk, even if the Sony MDR-1000Xs do a better job of conveying the emotion. Stretching your budget over £300 to the more expensive Sennheisers and Sonys gets you more in the way of bass depth and subtlety. But for the money, the Boses are an attractive option and easily the brand’s best portable headphone package to date. We’d happily work them into our next holiday budget.


You need only go as far as a wired comparison with the QC25s to hear that the £20 price hike is justified. Taking their predecessors for detail, dynamics and clarity, the QC35s are better at bringing everything to your attention. Play Billy Bragg’s Levi Stubbs’ Tears and there’s greater texture and clarity to guitar plucks and strums, and more insight into the twanging bass and resonating vocals. The soundstage feels a



VERDICT Bose cuts the cord and boosts sound quality to produce a highly desirable pair of portable on-ears


“Dynamically, they don’t miss a beat”

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless £380 FOR Design; great dynamics; AGAINST A little pricey good noise cancellation

★★★★★ Victorian critic John Ruskin had a point when he said, “it’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little”. Naturally, you don’t want to pay more for something than it’s worth, but spending less on something that’s not up to the job is equally pointless. The problem the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wirelesses have is that more affordable rivals, such as the Sony MDR-100Xs, have sprung up. Do these Sennheisers warrant the extra spend? In some ways they do, especially if you’re after a premium-looking design as well as strong performance.

Desirable looks

When Sennheiser launched the first range of Momentum headphones in 2013, it showed a fashion-conscious popular headphone market that style and substance didn’t have to be mutually exclusive – and that’s a message strongly carried by the range’s wireless noise-cancelling edition. Sporting an all-leather headband, elegantly sculpted over-ear earcups on adjustable stainless-steel rails, and soft earpads, the Momentum 2.0 Wireless look desirable. It’s fair to say they’re a touch classier than their rivals and, with a collapsible frame, just as portable. You’ll get a class-leading 22 hours of stable aptX Bluetooth playback with noise-cancellation activated (more at a modest volume level) and, should you drain that, you can attach the included cable and continue to listen passively. You’ll find all the controls on the right earcup. The power button doubles as the pairing button, with the ability to remember up to eight different devices, or you can use NFC pairing if your device is compatible. There’s a multi-function button that shifts up and down for volume adjustments, and can be pressed for various functions. Once you remember what each combination of presses does, it’s a handy option. The noise cancelling on board is Sennheiser’s proprietary NoiseGard technology, and it does a really good job of dulling down the noises of the world around you. You don’t get the almost eerie levels of silence provided by Bose’s

2.0s are “It’s fair to say the an their a touch classier th collapsible rivals and, with a able” frame, just as port

Despite the strong bass response, it’s in the midrange the Momentums really shine. From vocals to guitars, there’s a level of subtlety here that just a few seconds listen can reveal the worth in the extra outlay over the QuietComfort 35s. In Rihanna’s FourFiveSeconds, vocals are expressive and focused, while Paul McCartney’s guitar strums have real depth and texture to them. The Sonys are slightly clearer in this respect, and edge ahead with slightly better detail, but the Sennheisers hardly feel bereft. Dynamically they don’t miss a beat either, timing superbly and delivering an enthusiastic, up-front presentation that keeps you hooked. The high end is as well judged as the rest of the frequency range, possessing an open, articulate treble that shows no hint of harshness even with lesser-quality recordings.

Spacious presentation

They also offer an impressively spacious presentation for a pair of closed-back headphones, giving instruments room to breathe even in the busiest recordings. Take a call while wearing the headphones and, thanks to a separate QC35s or Sony’s MDR-1000Xs, but it microphone dedicated to voice calls feels more natural – office racket is all built into the earcups, you don’t need but gone and airplane noise is a mic on the audio cable. ON THE WIRE reduced to a negligible hum. £380 is a not inconsiderable We fire them up and we’re amount to spend on a pair of Sennheiser’s Momentum greeted with the familiar headphones, and the cheaper range shows that style and Momentum signature sound, Sonys may just win out on a substance aren’t mutually which hasn’t lost any of its performance-per-pound basis. exclusive in headphones. That verve or excitement in the But if you have this amount of remains true of this wireless shedding of the cables. We’re money to spend, these noise-cancelling 2.0 impressed at how close wired Sennheisers won’t disappoint. Wireless edition and wireless performances are. It’s a little tighter with the wire attached, but you won’t feel as if you’re missing says out when you go wireless. Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ It’s a rich, full-bodied performance with a level of composure and SOUND refinement we aren’t always used to hearing from Bluetooth headphones. COMFORT The low end is weighty but detailed, BUILD giving the pulsating bassline of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s No Church In The Wild VERDICT The Momentum range just got plenty of punch without ever sounding even better – these headphones look good, boomy or drowning out the rest of the offer great functionality and sound superb frequency range. 63


“Little wonder they scooped an Award”

BOLD CLAIM Sony says its MDR-1000Xs offer “industry leading levels of noise-cancelling”. It’s a bold claim, but excellent noisecancellation and sound quality give rivals something to think about

Sony MDR-1000X £330 FOR Great noise-cancelling; excellent Bluetooth audio

AGAINST Touch controls can be hit and miss

★★ ★ ★ ★ You have to admire Sony’s chutzpah. The blurb for its MDR-1000X wireless headphones claims they offer “industry leading levels of noise-cancelling”. That’s a bold claim for Sony’s first pair of premium Bluetooth, noise-cancelling over-ears. After all, they’re up against stiff competition in the shape of the five-star Bose QuietComfort 35 (£290) and former Award-winning Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless (£380).


Bose’s QuietComfort headphones have long been regarded as the best noise-cancellers in the business, so, to help Sony compete in this area, the company has developed some interesting tech for the MDR-1000X. Key to this is Sony’s new Sense Engine and, in particular, the Personal NC Optimiser – auto-calibration software that fires out test tones to measure your ear shape and the positioning of the headphones, with the aim of delivering the best noisecancelling (and sound quality) possible. Another key feature is the Quick Attention mode. Place your hand on the right headphone housing while listening to music and it immediately cuts out. Take your hand away and the music snaps back into place. It’s a smart way of interacting with the headphones. The MDR-1000Xs also offer an Ambient Sound mode, which has two settings. ‘Normal’ allows a little outside noise through, so you can keep an ear out for sirens, bicycle bells and the like. ‘Voice’ means the headphones focus on allowing conversations in. The outer surface of the right earpad doubles as a touchpad, with finger movements on the faux leather surface controlling music playback and volume. Tapping on the middle plays and pauses, tap and slide up or down to change volume, and left or right to skip track. Take them out of the box and the first impression is that the MDR-1000Xs’ build is on a par with its rivals. Our sample black finish looks smart, though a beige option is also available. Comfort is good. They rest on your head as opposed to clamp onto it, but 64

“The MDR-1000X s give rivals something to thin k about. Noise-cancelling is excellent and sound quality superb” they feel secure and won’t slide off unexpectedly. Sony has opted for polyurethane foam to help aid the noise isolation when noise-cancelling isn’t in use. The earpads feel soft enough, but they aren’t quite as supple or plush as the pads used on the Bose QC35s. As you’d expect from a pair of premium portable cans, the MDR-1000Xs fold away neatly. A substantial case is provided, complete with travel adapter, headphone cable and micro-USB cable.

The headphones use Sony’s DSEE HX audio processing, which the company claims improves the sound of compressed music. We always get nervy when processing tech starts messing around with the source material, but on this occasion the audio is pleasing. With some Bluetooth headphones, we’ve experienced a slight brightness and hardness, but these Sonys sound anything but. There’s a sense of refinement here, while leading edges are delivered with precision. Play Rod Stewart’s In A Broken Dream and the guitar solo intro wails with as much soul and power as you could want. There’s a cutting edge here, but it doesn’t sound too sharp nor cut too deep. The Sonys manage to get the distinctive vocal spot on. Expressive and rich in detail, you can’t help but get caught up in the emotion of the track. They have what it takes to show both the Boses and the Sennheisers a thing or two about detail retrieval. While the latter offer similar levels of refinement and an expansive soundstage, the MDR-1000Xs open up the sound that much more, and fill that extra space with more insight. Purely in terms of clarity, they come out just on top. Little wonder that they just scooped an Award. The MDR-1000Xs give the competition something to think about. Noise-cancelling is excellent and sound quality superb. Wrap it all up in an appealing, convenient and innovative package and you’ve got some best-inclass cans, ready to be taken outside.

Ready to rumble

Of course sound quality is king, but with headphones like these, noise-cancelling has to be up to scratch. And in this respect, the Sonys are very good indeed – easily on a par with the Bose QC35s, and better than the more expensive Momentum Wirelesses. The MDR-1000Xs do a great job of cancelling out the drone and rumble of everyday life, whether in a busy office or on your daily commute – and with or without music playing, too.



VERDICT A stunning effort from Sony. These superb noise-cancelling cans are up there with the very best at the money


Discover a whole new world of sound at




With a sophisticated design, Elear headphones create a personal and passionate listening experience. Inspired by Utopia, these open high-fidelity Focal headphones feature an aluminum/magnesium tweeter that will take you to the heart of the music. The leather headband and aluminum yoke offer ideal comfort. Contact your local Focal retailer to experience:



Sony MDR-1000X £330

★★★★ ★

just shade it Three pairs of great noise-cancelling wireless cans, but the super Sonys


eadphones with wireless and noise-cancelling functionality could only be more convenient if they carried themselves. They are the ultimate travel companions. The combination was something of a rare offering when the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wirelesses arrived in 2015 – and, by delivering a similarly impressive sound as the five-star wired Momentums, they picked up an Award. Since then, fellow renowned headphone brands Bose and Sony have joined the race, with the QuietComfort 35s and MDR-1000X respectively, and their greater affordability has shaken things up a little.

In the past when Bose’s QuietComfort models have been pipped on sound quality, they’ve had class-leading noisecancelling keeping them safe at the top of the pile. Now that Sony has found a way to match it for noise-cancelling, and be more sonically expressive at the same time, for just £40 more, Bose has some head-scratching to do for any QC35 successor.

Attractive option

The Sennheisers remain no less an attractive option for the money, with their plush build, neat controls and open, refined and transparent sound a winning combination in anyone’s eyes or ears. The Sonys simply build on that entertaining and insightful template with slightly greater openness, detail and clarity – not to mention more effective noise cancelling. The differences aren’t huge in either respect, but, combined with the Sony’s lower price tag, they are just enough to ensure the win over the Sennheisers. Pricewise, the Sonys are nicely positioned between these two rivals. They’ll win favour with anyone who values outright sound quality, or can’t stretch their budget to the Sennheisers, and are close enough to the Bose’s asking price to win over some of its fans.

“The Sonys simply build on an entertaining and insightful sound w ith more effective noise-can celling” 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

More subtlety and insight

Still, Bose is heading in the right direction – the QC35s are easily the range’s best model yet – and those who can’t stretch their budget over the £300 mark are hardly ending up with the wooden spoon. Comfortable and lightweight, with a generous battery life and clear, detailed and direct sound, they tick all the boxes… but ultimately they just lack their rivals’ levels of subtlety and insight.

HOW THEY MEASURE UP Bose QuietComfort 35

Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless

Sony MDR-1000X





















Cable length








Burmester 099/956 Mk2 | Pre/power amplifier | £6440/£8440

“Doubles as an emergency mirror” FOR Insightful sound; excellent build; great with headphones

AGAINST Provided the price isn’t an issue, nothing

★★ ★ ★ ★

Over the years we’ve come to expect certain things from Burmester products, and the 099/956 Mk2 pre/power combo conforms to type. A chrome front that doubles as a mirror in emergencies? Tick. Top-drawer build and finish? Tick. Eye-watering prices? Tick. And, last but not least, superb sound? Again, tick. This pairing comes from the middle of the luxury brand’s amplification range, yet by most standards it’s still very much at the cutting edge as far as all-round ability is concerned.

interest, has gone mainstream (at least as far as specification sheets are concerned) so it comes as a bit of a surprise that the 099 doesn’t embrace these things. Burmester will argue its preamp plays pretty much all the music files most people have, and we couldn’t disagree. The 099 is generous when it comes to outputs though. There are balanced XLR and single-ended options, an optical and coax alongside a 6.3mm headphone jack. That headphone output is inconveniently placed on the back panel, so you’ll have to go rummaging around to connect a pair of headphones. The preamp is configurable too: the relative sensitivities of its inputs can be adjusted to take account of the differing outputs of various sources; matching to a partnering power amplifier can be improved by changing the 099’s output between low and high ranges. Things like start-up volume and the way the remote changes inputs can also be adjusted. As there’s no display, these things are shown using the 099’s front panel LEDs (which can be a little confusing at first, but begins to make sense with familiarity). The 956 Mk2 is the more visually interesting product. Burmester has used the finned exterior design across a number of power amp models and it looks stunning. But there’s a practical purpose behind all that heatsinking – the amplifier runs relatively cool despite a power output that achieves the theoretical ideal of doubling from 115W per channel when driving a 4ohm load.

As with other Burmester products, the 956 Mk2 is DC coupled. This means there are no capacitors in the signal path, so avoiding the innate distortions these components impart. The company has long tried to use low levels of overall feedback, the engineers believing this design gives a more natural sound.

No traditionalist

The 099 is a well-equipped unit as far as line-level high-end preamplifiers go. Burmester has long been a believer in the advantages of balanced signal transmission, so it’s no surprise to find all three of the 099’s line-level inputs are of the balanced XLR variety. The brand hasn’t been dogmatic about this though, and the preamp is supplied with adaptors that plug into the XLR sockets to convert them for single-ended use. As if to prove this pre- is no traditionalist, Burmester has equipped it with a generous supply of digital inputs. There’s a trio of opticals, a duo of coaxials and a single USB. The opticals are limited to 24-bit/96kHz signals, while the rest are happy to accept 24-bit/192kHz feeds. Those figures aren’t that impressive, and in recent years even some fairly affordable products have gone beyond this, accepting signals as high as 768kHz for PCM files. Even DSD, so long a fringe 68

When in chrome

If for some reason a single 956 isn’t enough, you can obtain adaptor cables from Burmester to turn it into a bridged mono unit delivering around 500W output. Of course, you’ll need two power amps – we can’t imagine a situation where anyone feels disappointed with the volume levels of such a system. Take a look inside either of these Burmester products and you’ll be impressed. Construction standards are excellent, from the quality of the aluminium casework through to the internal wiring and board layouts. The chrome finish is exceptional – deep and immaculately applied – and every switch and control feels as though it will last decades. These products are designed for long service, so the input selector or volume control should feel as precise after 10,000 turns as it does the frst. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. Some products take days of running before they shine, but this 099/956 Mk2 pairing sounds good straight out of the box. They get better over time too, their presentation becoming even clearer and more transparent.


Built-in DAC

Balanced XLR connections

115W per channel

The 099/956 Mk2 pairing is typical Burmester. Nice build? Tick. Huge price tag? Tick. Great sound? Tick

”Some products take days of running before they shine, but this 099/956 Mk2 pairing sounds good straight out of the box. They get better over time too, their presentation becoming even clearer and more transparent” 69





The finned design looks impressive, but serves a practical purpose. It keeps the 956 Mk2 cool when it’s working hard



The chunky mains transformer is part of a generous power supply that gives the amplifier so much sonic authority

3 There is a power-amp circuit board on both sides of the case, reducing interaction and looking neat with it

”Burmester’s engineers have done a fabulous job in balancing this amplifier. It has plenty of power but never sounds musclebound, and has a sweet tonality while convincing with textures”

It’s essential to use top-class partnering equipment. We use Naim’s NDS/555PS streamer as our main source with a Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable package as back-up. The 099 doesn’t have a phono stage, so our reference Cyrus Signature/PSX-R2 performs the equalisation duties. Our trusty ATC SCM50 speakers are used, with Monitor Audio’s hugely capable PL300 IIs stepping in on occasion. All cables are from Chord Company’s premium ranges.

Rich, creamy sound

Once up and running this pre/power pairing sounds lovely, delivering a smooth, almost creamy sound that’s easy to enjoy. As we listen to The Light of the Seven from the Game of Thrones Season 6 OST it becomes clear this is an impressively light-footed combination for something so muscular. It has agility with the piano notes and a delicate way with low-level dynamics that is unusual in such a power-packed product. This is a cohesive presentation too, with every sound from the lowest bass note upwards working together to produce a convincing whole. Tonally, the presentation is fullbodied, with just a hint of extra richness – it’s Burmester’s family sound and we wouldn’t expect any different – but none of it is taken to excess and it never intrudes on the transparency or believability of this pairing’s sound. As the piece builds it comes as no surprise to find there’s plenty of authority in the bass and the ability to deliver powerful crescendos with 70

composure and control. And it does go loud, generating enough level for us to admit defeat before the amplifier shows any sign of stress. We find ourselves wondering why anyone would need a pair of monobloc 956 Mk2s when the standard single stereo does so well. A switch to Kate Bush’s classic Hounds Of Love album shows these Burmesters capable of rendering the subtle textures and inflections of her distinctive voice brilliantly. There’s plenty of insight into demanding tracks like Cloudbusting, and the ability to keep track of the various instrumental stands without tearing the music apart. There’s solid punch and the sort of rhythmic talent that is certainly surefooted enough to convey the rising momentum of the piece convincingly. We make a switch to digital from the line inputs and find the on-board DAC module is a good one. It preserves most of the impressive qualities we’ve heard so far through the line inputs, delivering a pleasing combination of detail, dynamics and authority. Even the USB – often a disappointment in such products – is good, taking the signal from our Macbook Air (loaded with Pure Music software) and making it sound great.

No box-ticking exercise

We go through a whole range of music from grimy-sounding Konnichiwa from Skepta right through to Holst’s Planet Suite, and are never left wanting more. Burmester’s engineers have done a fabulous job in balancing this amplifier. It has plenty of power but never sounds muscle-bound, it’s insightful without

USE IT WITH Burmester 089 £13,320 This top-end CD player is one of the best digital sources money can buy

being clinical, and has a sweet tonality while still convincing with instrumental and vocal textures. In short, it’s a sound that works with all types of material, good and bad recordings included. Despite our grumbles about the rear panel position of the headphone socket, we give it a go. These outputs are often little more than a box-ticking exercise, but that’s not the case here. Regardless of the headphones – we use Grado PS500s and Beyerdynamic T1s – we get impressive sound that mirrors the results through the main preamp outputs. If you want the last word in resolution or transparency, we would still probably point you towards our reference amplifier combination of Gamut D3i/ D200i. However, if you want a high-end amplifier that makes the most of your music collection and has a forgiving, sophisticated yet still entertaining balance, this 099/956 Mk2 combination must be heard. Factor in the excellent build and the well-proven service back-up, and this pre/power becomes an excellent buy.



VERDICT The 099/956 Mk2 is a terrific combination of engaging sound, impeccable build and useful features


The ECC88 valves used in the DAC 215 are visible from the front grille and on the top panel too

TEMPTATION Copland DAC 215 | DAC | £2000

“A glowing technological core” FOR Open presentation; can used as a preamp; fine build

AGAINST Up against some tough competition

★★ ★ ★ ★

Danish manufacturer Copland has made an art out of understatement. Its products exude an air of Scandinavian cool, both in clutter-free appearance and subtle sound. Since the brand was founded in 1984, it has become known for its classy valve-based amplifiers and a series of fine premium CD players. But over the years the company’s product flow has been erratic, so when it releases something new we’re eager to listen. So far, we haven’t been anything less than impressed, and we’re pleased to report the company’s first standalone digital-to-analogue converter, the DAC 215, maintains that tradition.

circuitry is needed (and when headphones are used). There’s a small toggle switch on the front panel to turn this function on and off. There’s no display as such, just a series of LEDs showing sampling rate as a base – 44.1kHz and 48kHz – and multiples – x2, x4 and x8. It’s complicated and, even though we eventually get used to it, it would make sense to show the actual sampling rate instead. It’s a very un-Copland-like fuss, but the rest of the fascia returns to

though the black alternative is neat too. The DAC’s controls work with precision and give the 215 a feel of something designed with care. Once warmed through, this is a hugely talented device. We start off using it with headphones, namely Beyerdynamics’ excellent T1 Gen.2s with able back-up provided by Grado’s PS500s. Our resident MacBook Air (loaded with Pure Music media software) delivers the digits to the USB, while Naim’s talented NDS/555PS

A versatile proposition

The world is hardly short of digital-toanalogue converters with headphone outputs, but the 215 is a little different. It uses valves in its amplifier stage – a pair of ECC88s, visible through the grille on the front panel. There’s also a line-level analogue input. It’s something most of the competition don’t have, and makes the Copland a more versatile proposition. It can form the heart of a mixed analogue and digital set-up in a way that all-digital rivals just can’t. Look around the back and you’ll find the usual trio of digital inputs – USB, optical (two) and coaxial – and two pairs of single-ended outputs. One of these is for plugging the Copland directly into an existing preamp section and using it solely as a standalone DAC. The other, marked ‘Amplifier’, makes use of the valve circuitry and should be connected when using the 215 as a preamp. That’s right, the valves come into play only when the analogue preamp 72

”Those expecting to hear a hiss from the valve-powered circuit are in for a surprise – there’s little clue to its technological core. What you get is a sound that brims with texture and subtlety” traditional values, with a minimum of controls and clean simplicity in design. Our review sample is one of the first batch off the production line, and a printing mistake results in the 48kHz LED being labelled as 48.2kHz. We’re assured by Copland that all later units have been suitably amended.

Chip off the block

Look inside and you’ll find the much-respected ESS9018 Sabre32 Reference DAC chip. This is something we find in many of the premium digital-to-analogue converters that come our way, and it usually gives good results. The use of the 9018 chip means the Copland accepts PCM signals up to 32-bit/384kHz as well as DSD128 files. The general build quality is solid and neatly finished. It looks smart, especially in the silver fascia option,

provides both analogue and co-axial feeds to the Copland. A Cyrus CD Xt Signature is also roped into action to test the co-ax and optical connections. Our first impression of the Copland’s sound is one of an open, clean and precise presentation. We start off by

Around the back, you’ll find the usual trio of digital inputs – USB, optical and coax


Copland’s first standalone DAC, the 215, maintains its reputation for producing classy valve-based amps

playing The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen and find the Copland paints on an impressively quiet canvas. Those expecting to hear a trace of hiss from the valve-powered circuit are in for a surprise. This is a quiet circuit that gives little clue to its glowing technological core.

KEY FEATURES 32-bit/384kHz Hi-res files

DSD 128

Tonally spot-on

What you do get is a sound that brims with texture and subtlety. From the harmonica that opens the track, to Springsteen’s world-weary vocals, the Copland lays it all out with admirable clarity. The edges of notes are crisply defined, yet at no point do we feel there’s any excess hardness or an over-etched quality to the sound. Tonally, things are spot-on. Those valves seem to add little in the way of excess richness or smoothness – we find the tonality convincing and wonderfully balanced. The DAC’s presentation is just natural, insightful and fluid. Move onto something with a touch more drama, such as The Hand That Feeds by Nine Inch Nails, and the

Valve-based preamp

USE IT WITH Beyerdynamic T1 Generation 2 £800 Beyerdynamic’s T1 Generation 2s haven’t changed much; they remain convincing ‘phones

Copland continues to impress. The DAC 215 responds well, with enough organisation to keep the various instrumentals and distortion noises in check, while still delivering the track with energy and drive.

An impressively open sound The Chord Hugo shows greater subtlety in aspects of timing and dynamics, but the Copland counters with an impressive open and tidy sound. Despite the distortion-laden instrumental backdrop, the Copland remains easy to listen to over long sessions without overly sanitising the music. That’s a difficult trick few manage quite as well. We try the 215 as a preamp, using our Gamut D200i power amp and ATC SCM 50 speakers, and the results remain good. There’s a good level of transparency and the sound remains nicely balanced. Only the lack of a remote, and the limitations of just a single analogue input, stop the DAC 215 from being a totally recommendable digital preamp.

Bypass the Copland’s preamp circuitry altogether and use it as a dedicated DAC, and it remains a fine proposition. The sonic balance changes slightly – there’s a touch less body to the presentation and a slight loss of fluidity, but the sound stays insightful and articulate. We like the DAC 215. It’s smart, nice to use and well built. It sounds lovely too, particularly when used as a headphone amp. Given a good source, it delivers an immensely likeable sound, one that combines clarity and subtlety superbly. Highly recommended.



VERDICT There’s much to like about this Copland. A pleasure to use and listen to 73



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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 two headphones with eyes on the future. B&W’s P9 Signature boast stunning sound with Lightning compatiblity in the offing, while Philips’ M2L are the best Lightning headphones we’ve heard to date. B&W P9 Signature “No matter what you feed them they find themselves right at home, delivering a sound that’s not just accurate, but that’s enjoyable too”












































Philips Fidelio M2L “Despite being one of the oldest on the market, the M2Ls are one of the best Lightning headphones we’ve heard” 77

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Sonos PLAY:1

Monitor Audio Bronze 2

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Denon DM-30DAB Q Acoustics 3010


Q Acoustics BT3

((((( JUNE 2014




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Marantz PM6006 KEF LS50


NAD D 3020




NAD D 3020



WORTH £249





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USB Turntable

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Sony PS-HX500


PLAY:1 .............. £149 SAVE £20

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Marantz CD6006/PM6006

£299 each

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Imagine X1T

Floorstanding Speakers

£599 Save £150 Imagine XB

Bookshelf Speakers

£299 Save £80 Bluetooth Speaker

Monitor Audio Airstream S150


Save £30 DAC/Headphone Amp

Chord Mojo

Hi-Res Wireless Speaker


Bluesound PULSE MINI



Not one to be underestimated, the PULSE MINI is more powerful and clear than many players twice its size, thanks to a patented dual-acoustic chamber. Place anywhere in the home, DQGÀOOWKHVSDFHZLWKEHDXWLIXOO\ blended full-range sound. The PULSEMINI uses your home wireless network, and sets up quickly. With an advanced WiFi antennae design and blazing-fast ARM Cortex A9 Processors, Bluesound ensures that there are no skips or delays in every corner of your home – even when streaming high-res DXGLR ÀOHV


CD/Streaming System

Denon RCD-N9


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£250 - £499

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NAD C 556

£199 Save £50






NAD C 316BEE Save £50

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NAD C 516BEE Save £50



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Real Stores

Sevenoaks Sound & Vision have 25 stores nationwide with plans to open more during 2017. Each carries the best in home cinema and Hi-Fi equipment on display, ready for you to watch, listen to and compare in our dedicated demonstration rooms.

Real Products

A wide selection of products from the world’s leading manufacturers is in stock and available for you to take home. We also offer a delivery and installation service as well as a convenient on-line click and reserve option for many of our products.

Please Note: Some brands/products are not available at all stores. Special/added value offers are not in conjunction with any other offer (NICWAOO). ADVERT VALID UNTIL 03/01/2017. E&OE

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Our staff are friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about music and film and the equipment needed to get the most out of your collection. They will be delighted to assist you in making the right selection to ensure you enjoy your system for years to come.

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Fantastic value for money is our aim. Although we remain independent, you will be pleasantly surprised just how competitive we can be - with the added benefit of seeing, hearing and touching the product before you buy, and someone to help if things go wrong.



on AV speakers when purchased together with an AV receiver* RECEIVER PURCHASE PRICE


£250 - £499 £500 - £999 OVER £1000

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Q Acoustics Media 4


4K UHD Blu-ray Player

Panasonic DMP-UB900

£ Soundbase

Canton DM 55


4K UHD Blu-ray Player

Samsung UBD-K8500

£ Soundbar

Yamaha YAS-306


AV Receiver

Denon AVR-X2300W

£ Digital Sound Projector

((((( OCTOBER 2016

Yamaha YSP-2700


AV Receiver

Denon AVR-X3300W

£ click & collect

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  WINTER 2016

Winter Issue Out Now!







BEST BUYS Stereo amps up to £500

The only products worth considering




Marantz PM6006 £400


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


£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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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



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

Preamps up to £9000

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

Preamps £9000 and above

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






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!


“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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Other brands available include: 85

Power amps

£9000 and above

AMPLIFIERS CONTINUED 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

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


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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£1000 to £1500

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

Naim CD5si £1080 October 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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

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 86


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

£1000 to £1500

Roksan K3 CD Di £1300

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

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

£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

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

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

£2000 to £10,000

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

Fill their home with music.

Save up to £30 on a gift of Sonos. £20 off PLAY:1. £30 off PLAYBAR, SUB, PLAY:3 and PLAY:5. Savings are based on Sonos Suggested Retail Prices. Offer valid until 3rd January 2017 or until stocks lasts. Discount already applied to ticket price.


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Other brands available include: 87


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


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 AWARD WINNER

Audioquest DragonFly Black £90

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 AWARD WINNER

Audioquest DragonFly Red £170 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 PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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 £500 to £1000

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

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

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 88

D CS CONTINUED 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

£500 to £1000


Chord 2Qute £995


Chord Hugo £1400

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

£1000 to £3000

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

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


£2000 and above

Best Temptation, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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


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 AWARD WINNER

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

Pioneer N-50A £380

Up to £500

Google Chromecast Audio £30


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

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 89

£500 to £1000


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


£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 AWARD WINNER

Naim ND5 XS £2250

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

£5000 and above

Burmester Musiccenter 151 £12,500 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



Up to £200

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

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

Roberts Stream 93i £150

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

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 90


RADIOS CONTINUED 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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£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 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

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


KEF Egg £350

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 AWARD WINNER

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

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

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


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

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

Floorstanders up to £1000

Q Acoustics 3050 £550

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 91


Premium hi-fi “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

Cambridge Audio CX & Monitor Audio Bronze 2 speakers (pair) • CXA60 amplifier “A great amplifier that looks and sounds the part – this Cambridge is a big success.” – What Hi-Fi? Regular price £499.95 | 6Yr Supercare only £49.95

• CXN network music player “A stylish, feature–packed streamer that sounds great.” – What Hi-Fi? Regular price £699.95 | 6Yr Supercare only £69.95

• CXC CD transport “We would not hesitate to recommend the Cambridge CXC.” – What Hi-Fi? Regular price £299.95 | 6Yr Supercare only £29.95

• Bronze 2 (black) "This latest generation of Bronze 2 is arguably the best yet.” – What Hi-Fi? Regular price £279






RRP £1779.80 6 Year Supercare 10% of CX range price All items available in other colours

Arcam amplifier & CD player / music streamer A39 & CDS27

Audiolab amplifier & CD player 8300A & 8300CD

Roksan amplifier & CD player K3 Amp & K3 CDDI

A39: “Ofering an impressively large soundstage and a superb sense of scale.” – What Hi-Fi?

8300A: “Build is excellent and its large-scale sound gives it an edge over many rivals.” – What Hi-Fi?

K3 Amp: “Roksan is back on its A-game with the K3, which is nothing short of a superb amp for the price.” – What Hi-Fi?



| 6 Year Supercare £124.90

CDS27: “Ease of use, a nice balance, fair amount of detail and dynamic range.” – What Hi-Fi?



| 6 Year Supercare £69.90



| 6 Year Supercare £89.90

8300CD: “A useful machine and a capable, polished performer.” – What Hi-Fi?



| 6 Year Supercare £99.90 Audiolab available in selected stores. Check for more details.



| 6 Year Supercare £130

K3 CDDI: “Another five-star product worthy of its place in the K3 range.” – What Hi-Fi?

Cambridge Audio power amplifier & network music player / pre-amp 851W & 851N Experience a powerful yet refined sound from these stunning Cambridge units.

1499.95 £1199.95 £

| 6 Year Supercare £149.95

| 6 Year Supercare £119.95 Amp & network music player also available in silver


VIP exclusive ofer Save £500 when you purchase these models together. Ask in-store for more details.


| 6 Year Supercare £135 Amp & CD player also available in anthracite or opium.

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

Audiolab stereo amplifier M-One

Arcam streaming system exc. speakers Solo Music

Monitor Audio floorstanding speakers (pair) Silver 10 (gloss black)

Roksan amplifier & CD player Blak

“Insightful and authoritative sound... not only big and expansive, but also fastidiously well staged.” – 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?

“Whether classical or rap, jazz or rock, or anything in between, the Silver 10s provided plenty of respectably controlled bass.” – The Absolute Sound.

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






6 Year Supercare £79.90

Were £1599 from 26.08.16 | 6 Year Supercare £129.90



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. † 6 Year Guarantee for VIP Club members only.






RRP £1650 | Also available in other colours



6 Year Supercare £535



Experience better sound on the move VIP exclusive ofer

VIP exclusive ofer

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

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

SoundMAGIC in-ear E10C

AKG on-ear wireless Y50BT

Shure in-ear SE425

Sony over-ear noise-canceling wireless MDR1000X

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

“Bluetooth headphones that sound just as good as their wired counterparts.” – What Hi-Fi?

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

“A stunning efort… these superb noise-cancelling cans are up there with the very best at the money.” – What Hi-Fi?



Call or see web







Due January

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

Claim a 90 day free trial for Tidal worth £60. Ask in-store for more details. Ofer ends 28.03.17. VIP exclusive ofer Save £50 on any headphones over £199. Ask in-store for more details.

DALI portable speaker KATCH (Dark Shadow)

Geneva wireless speaker Aerosphere Small

Astell & Kern portable Hi-Res Audio player AK70

Naim wireless speaker Mu-so

“Powerful, full-bodied sound, with a great sense of timing and dynamics.” – What Hi-Fi?

“A brilliant sonic performance has us singing the Aerosphere's praises.” – What Hi-Fi?

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

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






6 Year Supercare £32.90






6 Year Supercare £34.95


SONOS The What Hi-Fi? award-winning multiroom system from SONOS enables music throughout the home. From the most compact PLAY:1 in the kitchen, larger PLAY:3 and PLAY:5s in the study and lounge, to complete surround sound systems, SONOS has a solution.

Massive sav SONOS this Call us last!






Also available in white



Also available in white

Also available in white

Call or see web

PLAY:5 Also available in white

Samsung Wireless Audio 360 speakers

With 12 months Deezer Music

HEOS by Denon wireless speakers

R1 starter kit ofer


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

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



RRP £338 Also available in ivory




With 12 months Deezer Music



RRP £429 Also available in white





249 £349 £

Also available in white


Also available in white

Call or see web



“Heos proves to be an exciting new product.“ –

Also available in white Pictured left

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

TVs Latest ranges


Experience better image quality w Our prices are changing daily to e so give us a call today and we’ll fi Stephen, Manager, Reading. 6th year of service

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.” – customer review. “A stunning all-round performance from Samsung’s flagship flatscreen.” – What Hi-Fi?

Get a half price 4K Blu-ray player and £100 of the HWK650/651R soundbar when you buy this TV. Ask in-store for details. Ofer ends 24.12.16.

Call or see web

Also available 55", 65" & 75"

Get a half price 4K Blu-ray player and £100 of the HWK650/651R soundbar when you buy this TV. Ask in-store for details. Ofer ends 24.12.16.

Get a half price UHPH1 Blu-ray player when you buy this TV. 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.

Get £200 of a matching curved soundbar, up to £100 of R Series speakers and get a half price UBDK8500 UHD Blu-ray player when bought with this TV. Ask in-store for details. Ofer ends 24.12.16.










Samsung 55" 4K 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 guarante Projectors

Over 30 models in our range VIP exclusive ofer 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.” –



Sony SXRD 3D projector VPLHW45ES “For gamers and home cinema fans alike.” –


VIP exclusive ofer Buy this projector and get £200 worth of Richer Sounds vouchers. Ask in-store for details.

Sony SXRD 3D projector VPLHW65ES

Sony 4K 3D projector VPLVW320ES

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

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




Also available in black

Also available in white

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.

6 Year Guarantee included

We’re open for you, 8am – 8pm

VIP-only discounts

For VIP Club members on the vast majority of TVs and projectors.

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.

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 soundbar Boost “A talented soundbar-cum-speaker for anyone short on space” – What Hi-Fi? VIP Club price



Denon Atmos AV receiver AVRX2300W


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

RRP £169 | Regular low price £149 6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price



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

Call or see web

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






RRP £199 | Regular low price £149 6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price VIP exclusive ofer Save £50 on any home cinema speakers over £200. Ask in-store for more details.

Yamaha Atmos AV receiver RXV581

Onkyo Atmos AV receiver TXNR656

Pioneer Atmos AV receiver SCLX501

“The way it handles bass and sound efects is sure to whet the appetite of any home cinema fan.” – What Hi-Fi?

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

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






RRP £499 | 6 Year Supercare £39.90 Also available in titanium

VIP Club price






6 Year Supercare £54.90 Also available in silver

Regular low price £999 6 Year Supercare 10% of purchase price



Tannoy 5.1 speaker package HTS101XP “It’s a fantastic-sounding package, as practical as ever and one of the best of its kind we’ve come across.” – What Hi-Fi?






RRP £599 6 Year Supercare £34.90 VIP exclusive ofer Save £50 on any home cinema speakers over £200. Ask in-store for more details.

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

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

Yamaha Atmos AV receiver RXA1060

Denon Atmos AV receiver AVRX6300H

Yamaha Atmos AV receiver RXA3060

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

Denon's first 11-channel amp is their most immersive to date.

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





6 Year Supercare £109.90 | Also available in titanium

6 Year Supercare £199.90

With FREE HEOS 1 HS2 worth £199



6 Year Supercare £199.90

Oppo 4K Blu-ray player UDP203 “The pictures on ofer looked nothing short of spectacular.” –




6 Year Supercare £59.90

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


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

October 2014 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£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

Tannoy Revolution XT 6F £1000

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

“They do things that no conventional rival can match”

August 2012 ★★★★★

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

PMC Twenty 23 £2300 £2000 to £5000

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

PMC Twenty5.23 £2970

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


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”

“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”

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


Standmounts up to £300


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 ★★★★★ 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


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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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


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 ★★★★★


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



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 ★★★★★


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


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


Bluesound Generation 2 From £540

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



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 101

Stereo systems up to £400


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

Set-up your streaming system

Select Input


iRadio UPnP USB/iPod Front

NAS drive All your music goes in here. It’s an intelligent hard drive that can be accessed by other components within your network.


Music streamer Deals with the music stored in the NAS and turns it into an electronic signal your amplifier can work with.






Ethernet Switch Not essential, but a good way of isolating your network from outside interference.

Wireless setup The control centre of your network. This manages the communication fow. You can connect to it via wired ethernet or wi-f.

Tablet/smartphone The best way to navigate around your music is with a dedicated app. A phone will do, but a tablet is better.


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


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


£500 to £1000

Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 £625 103

Audio Visual Experts



Q900 – WAS £1200 NOW £699 Q700 – WAS £1000 NOW £599 Q500 – WAS £700

NOW £399

Q300 – WAS £450

NOW £299


– WAS £400

NOW £249

Q400B – WAS £499

NOW £299

Q600C – WAS £499

NOW £299

Q200C – WAS £350

NOW £249

Q800D – WAS £600

NOW £399

(Only available in black)


Newcastle Unit 6 Kingston Court, Kingston Park, Newcastle, NE3 2FP E: Mon – Sun: 10am – 6pm

0191 285 7179




Denon AVR-X3300W


Yamaha RX-A1060




Yamaha RX-A3060





Monitor Audio Bronze 2





Q Acoustics 3050


£3 9.00



HIFI Marantz CD6006


Onkyo A-9010



Audio Technica AT-LP5




Chord Mojo






Arcam Solo Music



Geneva Aerosphere S ll / L Small Large

Naim Mu-So





Carlisle 6 Abbey Street, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8TX E: Mon – Sat: 9am – 5:30pm

01228 546 756

TURNTABLES CONTINUED Clearaudio Concept £1000

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


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


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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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 106


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


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


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


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


BEST BUYS The only products worth considering



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



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


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


Up to £500

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

Yamaha RX-V379 £300 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This entry-level amp is a great way to start in home cinema. Champion under £350 at the Awards, it offers a scale of sound that belies its price. Power 5 x 70W Dolby Atmos No HDMI in/out 4/1

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


£500 to £1000

Denon AVR-X2300W £500 109

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Sound bases and soundbars Soundbar Yamaha YSP2700


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MARCH 2015



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Soundbar Yamaha YAS306


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MARCH 2016

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4K Blu-ray Player Panasonic DMPUB700

JULY 2016

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Amplifer with DAC Yamaha AS501

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Visit us in-store. You'll fnd each branch ofers expert advice, demonstrations and installation Birmingham* 67 Smallbrook Queensway 0121 631 2675

Leeds* 105 Vicar Lane 0113 244 9075

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£500 to £1000


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


£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


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


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



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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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

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 112


Humax HDR-2000T ÂŁ150

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 ÂŁ200 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 ÂŁ190 to ÂŁ270 December 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Now with wi-ďŹ , 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


BT Ultra HD YouView min ÂŁ15/month + fees November 2015 ★★★★

The ďŹ rst 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

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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


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


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


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


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




Up to ÂŁ500

Canton DM55 ÂŁ330

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 ÂŁ550 June 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

ÂŁ500 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 ÂŁ500 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


Q Acoustics Q7000i ÂŁ900 November 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Got ÂŁ900 to spend on a sub/sat package? Spend it here. This compact set creates a cohesive and expansive soundďŹ eld, with strong bass. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 12 x 20 x 16cm Finishes 2


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Style up to £1000


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

B&W MT-50 £1100

£1000 and above

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


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


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


“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”

SPEAKER PACKAGES CONTINUED “Stick with the PMCs and you’ll be rewarded with an incredible surround-sound experience�

July 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

One of our favourite oorstanders 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

ÂŁ2000 and above

PMC Twenty 23 5.1 ÂŁ8240


Up to ÂŁ50

The second-gen Chromecast still ‘casts’ content from a device to a TV over wi-ďŹ , but now with speedier operation and a performance boost. Resolution 1080p, 720p Storage No Ultra HD No

Now TV (2015) ÂŁ15 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 AWARD WINNER

ÂŁ50 to ÂŁ150

Amazon Fire TV (2015) ÂŁ80

Best video streamer, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

An improvement on the ďŹ rst 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







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£50 to £150


March 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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 £150 and above

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

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


Up to 40in


Sony KDL-32WD603 £300

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

Panasonic TX-40DX600B £500 Best 40-46in TV, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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

Panasonic TX-40CX680B £700 August 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This good-looking telly is a great advert for smaller-screen 4K, offering a fine picture and a good stack of features with it. It’s £700 well spent. Type LCD/LED HDMI 3 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview HD



TELEVISIONS CONTINUED Samsung UE40JU7000 £880 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

You don’t need a huge screen to appreciate the benefits of a 4K pic. This sleek 40in set combines features, functionality and performance. Type LCD/LED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD 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

40in to 50in

Samsung UE49KS8000 £1300

Samsung UE48JU7000 £1250 Awards 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This Samsung is special: super-sharp 4K, realistic textures, a smart interface, and a slim, attractive physique. Impressive. Type LCD/LED HDMI 4 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD

Panasonic TX-50CS520 £500 October 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This Full HD TV presents a stunning picture, but the sound is good too. Add a fine interface and that £500 price becomes an act of generosity. Type LCD/LED HDMI 2 Resolution Full HD Tuner Freeview HD

Panasonic TX-50CX802B £1800 September 2015 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This is an impressive 4K screen, but it also renders Full HD content with particular flair, with great upscaling being the real talent here. Type LCD/LED HDMI 3 Resolution Ultra HD Tuner Freeview/Freesat HD

Best 52-50in TV under £2000, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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

LG OLED55C6V £2300

Best 52-60in TV 2000+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

50in to 60in

Samsung UE55KS7000 £1300


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

Best 65in TV £3000+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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

60in and above

LG OLED65E6V £4600

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 119


Samsung UE65KS9000 £2500 60in and above

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


BEST BUYS In-ears up to £50

The only products worth considering



SoundMagic E10C £40


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


£50 to £100

Best in-ears £50-£100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£100 to £500

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

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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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 120



Best in-ears £300+, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


£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

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

Philips SHB8850NC £90

Best noise-cancelling headphones under £100, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Bose QuietComfort 35 £290 August 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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


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


Best home on-ears £100-£200, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Grado SR125e £150

£100 to £200

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

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 121

£100 to £200

HEADPHONES CONTINUED Philips Fidelio M1Mk2 £120


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

Beyerdynamic T51i £245 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

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 £200 to £300

Best home on-ears £200-£400, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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 ★★★★★


£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 £500 to £1000

September 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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 122


HEADPHONES CONTINUED December 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

£500 to £1000


B&W P9 Signature £700 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

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 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


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

£300 and above

Best wireless headphones £300+, Awards 2016 ★★★★★

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 Awards 2015 ★★★★★

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


“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


“The sonic improvements over the Jr are more evolutionary than revolutionary”

£400 to £700

Astell & Kern AK70 £500

Up to £400

December 2015 ★★★★★ 123

PORTABLE MUSIC PLAYERS CONTINUED “Gives an impression of refined detail, an even balance and a full-bodied, solid sound”

Pioneer XDP-100R £500 £400 to £700

February 2016 ★★★★

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

Sony NW-ZX100HN £500

“An affordable player with a touch of premium quality”

April 2016 ★★★★

£700 and above

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

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




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)


Best smartphone, Awards 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Over 5in

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

HTC 10

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

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



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


“There’s no doubt the iPhone 7 is Apple’s most controversial handset to date”

“LG G5 with Hi-Fi Plus by B&O Play may be a mouthful, but it is the complete package”

“HTC has focused on the core functionality and we think it has got the focus absolutely spot on”

“Samsung’s made careful tweaks to an already great phone, making it one of the best you can buy”


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

7digital Variable

January 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A download site that features competitive pricing, a strong catalogue and that’s easy to use, this is one of the best music-dowload sites around. Resolution Up to 24-bit/192kHz Offline playback Yes

On demand music

Qobuz Sublime £220/pa

May 2016 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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

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

Video apps

Netflix £6 SD, £7.50 HD, £9 Ultra HD

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


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 125


Under 8in


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)


BEST BUYS The only products worth considering



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



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


“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


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 to £800

“We were impressed by how our system performed when using this rack”

March 2013 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Up to £500

Atacama Eris Eco 5.0 £460


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


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 £135 127


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


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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Best phono stage, Awards 2016 ★★★★★


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


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 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


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


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


“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



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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.


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Haymarket Media Group, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP 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 Art editor Simon Bowles Designer Kayleigh Pavelin Photographer Steve Waters Video editor Pete Brown THANKS THIS ISSUE Andy Puddifoot 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 MANAGEMENT Commercial director Stephen McKeon Brand director Alastair Lewis Editorial director Mark Payton Managing director David Prasher


BenQ and Epson still produce very fine units – just see p42


Back in 2004 we did a test of eight budget projectors and came across some gems. That was a surprise – at the time any projector below £2000 was considered bargain-basement. There have always been cheaper projector options, intended for business use. But home cinema demands more – natural colours, smooth motion, finesse. In 2004 those were qualities both the BenQ PB7220 and Epson EMP-TW200 had enough of to earn solid four-star reviews. Back then, an HDMI input was thought to be cutting edge, and the BenQ’s 1024 x 768 resolution was a highlight of that test. Today the likes of Epson’s EH-TW5350 and BenQ W1090 are lightyears ahead. They have Full HD 1920 x 1080 images, a choice of HDMI inputs and stronger contrast ratios. They even have built-in speakers that make a semi-decent fst of a flm’s soundtrack. In terms of picture they’re terrific, delivering an image of far greater insight and finesse than their forebears could imagine. All for just £600. That kind of value makes us happy.

SUBSCRIPTIONS 0344 848 8813


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: Tel: 0344 848 8813/+44 (0)1604 251462.

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A S T RO N G L I N E AG E I N H I - R E S S O U N D WIN AN ACTION-PACKED ADVENTURE BREAK IN MALTA OR AN INGENIOUS KEF EGG WIRELESS SYSTEM WITH KEF AND ASSASSIN’S CREED THE MOVIE! * Whether you want to bring the on-screen action to life or stream your music tracks wirelessly with Bluetooth aptX®, KEF EGG delivers pure, clear, KEF quality sound in a complete ‘plug and play’ system. KEF EGG utilises the multi-award winning ‘sit anywhere’ Uni-Q driver array – a key KEF technology honed after decades of learning that is shared by many KEF models.

M OV I E S , G A M I N G O R M U S I C – K E F E G G I S T H E U LT I M AT E A L L- RO U N D E R . Visit KEF.COM to be in with a chance to win © Malcolm Debono


Wireless Digital Music System

*Terms & Conditions apply © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Ubisoft Motion Pictures Assassin’s Creed. All Rights Reserved.

GP Acoustics (UK) Limited, Eccleston Road, Tovil, Maidstone, Kent, ME15 6QP, UK Tel: +44 (0)1622 672261

What Hi-Fi - Jan 2017