As we emerge from the latest lockdown (fingers crossed) and start venturing out to see friends and family again, you'll probably find yourself hankering after the great music you were able to immerse yourself in at home. Getting out and about is great, but if you're missing the quiet, how about some noise-cancelling headphones for the journey? Now truly is the best time to consider upgrading your portable musical apparatus, whatever your budget.
How does one prepare to return to a more 'normal' way of living and working? We suggest a quick saunter to your local newsagents to pick up your copy of the latest issue of What Hi-Fi? magazine. We promise you'll be glad you did.
The May issue of What Hi-Fi? – on sale on newsstands today – also features a three-strong group test to find the best active speakers for your budget, 11 top wireless noise-cancelling over-ear headphones, six all-new First Test reviews, the lowdown on Spotify's new Hi-Fi tier streaming service, a personal take on noise-cancelling tech, a premium set of Audio Physic floorstanding speakers and Moon network streamer in our regular Temptations section, plus so much more...
And don't forget to join us for the What Hi-Fi? Virtual Show on Saturday 24th April. You'll hear lots more about the latest in hi-fi and home cinema from the What Hi-Fi? team – and also from the biggest names in the industry.
Consider a traditional hi-fi system and you almost certainly think of a set of speakers, a pre/power amp combination plus a streamer and other sources all dotted around your listening room, connected by various cables.
But this is 2021, and home sound systems no longer require a collection of space-zapping boxes and wires to bring you quality audio. Here we present three slimline solutions – and we'll even tell you which is our favourite.
What you'll get is a set of all-in-one wireless stereo speakers, each driver boasting 'active' inbuilt amplification, plus a wireless streaming module that's either integrated or housed in a separate enclosure, with physical connections to add either a turntable or CD player.
The contenders are Dali's Oberon 1 C, KEF's LSX, and the Q Acoustics Q Active 200, but the winner? It's one of the 'finest examples of its kind', but to find out which one wins, you'll have to buy the mag...
Over and out
Peace and tranquility have been two of the unexpected joys of lockdown. Live gigs and social gatherings are great, but the 6pm race for the Underground, car horns and traffic during rush hour, or failing to catch 40 winks on that long-haul flight? We didn't miss those one bit.
Perhaps a set of wireless over-ear noise-cancelling headphones is the way to ease yourself back into post-lockdown life? Unlike in-ears, you'll get passive noise isolation all the way around your ear, but deploy noise-cancelling and you'll essentially shut out the low-level constant thrum of extraneous noise.
The 11 examples we have tested all offer great sound quality, with prices ranging from £200 (for AKG's Y600NC) up to the Apple AirPods Max for a cool £550. If your budget sits somewhere between these two figures, we guarantee you'll find your next set of headphones within these 11 pages.
First impressions last
We give you the good, the bad and the ugly on new hi-fi and audio-visual products as and when they hit the shelves. Our First Tests section, at the front of the magazine, is where you'll find them: detailed, independent reviews on noteworthy kit entering the hi-fi or home cinema sector.
This month, we've included six of these reviews, including Wharfedale's not-quite-budget Diamond 12.3 floorstanders, over-ear headphones from the sensibly-named Austrian Audio, Samsung's 65-in Mini LED TV, JBL's affordable Bar 5.0 Multibeam soundbar, Clearaudio's new £1900 Concept turntable and Panasonic's first true wireless in-ear headphones.
We've done the heavy lifting and given each product star ratings for build, features, sound and overall performance, so when you come to buy, you'll know you're investing in quality.
You are so beautiful...
It's 1991, before MP3 files, social media, smartphones and Zoom meetings. You're in Veneto, a town in Vicenza, north-eastern Italy, and the light in the piazza is breaking through as you sip your morning espresso.
We can't quite magic you back to simpler times, but we can offer a glorious look back at these stunning Sonus Faber standmounters, which cost £6k at launch and represent everything their Italian manufacturer had learned in its first decade.
Rarely do we come across speakers that offer such solidity and authority. If you're lucky enough to own a pair of these 30-year-old standmounters, please cherish them – they are nigh-on impossible to replace.
(All I desire) Temptation!
This month, our Temptations section features the Audio Physic Avanti 35, a pair of floorstanding speakers costing over £6,000. Yes, they're expensive, but that's the genius of this section – you'll learn all about high-end kit safe in the knowledge that you're under no obligation to hit 'buy now'.
Also in this section, you can get acquainted with Moon's £8900 network streamer. Yes, it's really quite expensive, but why not treat yourself to a read and find out whether we think it's worth that hefty price tag?
On top of all this, you'll also get our Insider Top Five (the definitive hi-fi or home cinema products that should be on your radar this month), a personal view from What Hi-Fi?'s staff writer as to why noise-cancelling headphones aren't for her, what to expect from Spotify's new HiFi tier, our pick of the five best musical soundtracks to test your system and don’t forget our extensive and regularly-updated guide to the best home entertainment your money can buy, our Buyer's Guide.
Don't forget: no matter how big the discount, unless you've consulted What Hi-Fi?'s extensive back catalogue of reviews, buying guides and deals pages, do not part with your hard-earned cash.