Regular Sound+Image readers will be aware that we have championed OLED screen technology as delivering the finest available television pictures that money can buy. This has been true for around five years now. Yet neither of our TV award-winners below is OLED. Both are LED-backlit LCD TVs. What, then, are we thinking?
Well, we’re thinking that OLED screens are still great, but they haven’t moved forward significantly in the last few years — iterative improvements, but nothing thrilling, plus the prices have stayed at a significant premium. LCD panel makers, on the other hand, have been coming up with ways to make their blacks blacker and their colours brighter (the latter an inherent advantage of LCD anyway). So the gap has narrowed. And if your TV is going to be situated in a room where there’s ambient light through the day, then your best bet is likely to be an LED-LCD screen — regardless of the funds available.
As for soundbars, we used to laugh at their muffled attempts at sonic reproduction, and their lies about delivering surround from the front. But the last few years have seen the category rise to deliver some fine examples of powerful movie sound and yes, even music, important since soundbars inevitably double up for music listening, and increasingly offer built-in smart streaming.
Here are the cream of the current crop that have wowed us over the last 12 months of our magazines Sound+Image, Australian Hi-Fi, Best Buys Audio & AV, and Audio Esoterica. You can read the Judges' Comments below: for the full details on each and every winner, check out the Special Awards Issue of Sound+Image magazine, on sale in December in print and digital editions. Print subscriptions here; digital issues here!
Now let's meet the winners!
TELEVISION OF THE YEAR
TCL 65X10 QLED Mini LED
Judges’ Comment: TCL’s 768 Mini LED backlight zones increase black-level control to something subjectively about as good as OLED, for less.
8K TELEVISION OF THE YEAR
Judges’ Comment: It seems 8K is finally come of age, and Samsung’s 75-inch Q950T has everything going for it. Click here for What Hi-Fi’s full review.
SOUNDBAR OF THE YEAR UNDER AU$500
Judges’ Comment: Yamaha delivers a soundbar without a subwoofer, at an entry-level price yet delivering full sound for movies and music.
SOUNDBAR OF THE YEAR AU$500-$1000
Samsung HW-Q800T soundbar + subwoofer
Judges’ Comment: Samsung continues to deliver excellent soundbars, with genuine (not simulated) channels to provide wide and full sound for both movies and music.
SOUNDBAR OF THE YEAR AU$1000-$2000
Judges’ Comment: It may be Meridian’s involvement with LG’s soundbars which has taken them to new heights, literally in terms of the Atmos upward-firing drivers, with a full-bore delivery of movies and a good job of music too.
SOUNDBAR OF THE YEAR OVER AU$2000
Bowers & Wilkins Formation Bar with Bass
AU$1999 + $1699
Judges’ Comment: Part of Bowers & WIlkins high-end Formation wireless multiroom system, the Bar and Bass combine to deliver sophisticated and powerful sound. Click here to read What Hi-Fi's review.
STEREO AV AMPLIFIER OF THE YEAR
Judges’ Comment: A Marantz stereo amplifier with five HDMI inputs — this is the perfect solution for superb music, movie and TV sound system.