While it can be tempting to reminisce about the good old days of British hi-fi, the truth is the here and now is pretty great too. We've seen some sensational hi-fi kit over the past 10 years and we've highlighted our favourites below.
Witness speaker brands like B&W and ATC deliver future stereo speaker classics. Or KEF and Naim rewrite the rulebook of what's expected from a hi-fi system.
As part of British Hi-Fi Week, we're celebrating the best British-made hi-fi products from the last decade. Here you'll find a sensational CD player that's proved untouchable in recent times, an integrated amplifier that shook the market, and a turntable that continues to dominate 40-odd years after first launching. And all as British as James Bond driving an Aston Martin through the Cotswolds.
So join us as we count down the best hi-fi products that have flown the flag for Britain over the last 10 years, presented in alphabetical order.
1. ATC SCM 11 Mk2 (2013)
The first generation of ATC SCM11s would certainly find a place among the previous decade’s greatest hits, and the Mk IIs follow in their footsteps admirably. That's thanks to the in-house manufactured soft-dome tweeter and the classier curved cabinets.
But the main innovation was the sealed cabinet. This was meant to improve sound quality, though there were some concerns that bass would suffer. They proved unfounded, however, as the Mk2s matched class rivals in terms of low frequencies while outdoing them for detail, dynamics and rhythmic ability.
These ATC monitors went on to dominate their price point at the What Hi-Fi? Awards for the next five years and remain first-class contenders, even today. Impressive doesn't do it justice.
Read the full review: ATC SCM11 Mk2
2. B&W 606 (2019)
The entry-level 600 Series from B&W was introduced back in 1995, and in the two decades since it has picked up multiple What Hi-Fi? Awards. It uses top technology from its cutting-edge speakers, but repackaged in a more affordable chassis.
Our pick of the current range? The 606s. They might feel a little less premium than their more expensive stablemates, but they still ooze quality. They're a good size too, with everything in proportion.
They sound amazing too. The sonic balance is spot on, with clear treble, cavernous bass and class-leading detail and dynamics. With such a legacy behind them, we're sure they'll stand the test of time.
Read the full review: B&W 606
3. Cambridge CXA81 (2019)
This Cambridge amp is still a relative newcomer, but in its short life it's already had a seismic impact on the market. In the few short months since its debut, it's set a new standard for integrated amps at this price.
Give it a whirl and it's clear why. Feed it any genre of music, and you're met with a delightfully punchy, dynamic and detailed presentation. It's powerful and weighty in the low end without sacrificing agility, while the treble is blissfully free of harshness.
In terms of features and connections, it improves on every front compared to its predecessor. And it makes the competition sound positively cloudy by comparison. A more-than-worthy Award winner, and comfortably one of the best products of the decade.
Read the full review: Cambridge CXA81
4. Chord Hugo (2014)
The original Hugo set new standards for portable audio (and in the process, embarrassing pretty much every similarly priced battery-powered DAC on the market).
It was all thanks to the FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array), which came loaded with proprietary software that handled all the digital processes tasked to the DAC. Chord used this instead of off-the-shelf chips, which gave it much more control over how the music signal was handled. This put it head and shoulders above the competition.
Four years later, the MkII bettered the original. But it couldn't be as groundbreaking. Few products are.
Read the full review: Chord Hugo Mk1
5. Cyrus CDi (2013)
For as long as we can remember, Cyrus' CD players have been up there with the best in the world. And the CDi was its best-sounding yet.
Hitting the market in 2013, its audio output was on a par with much more expensive players. It sounded pleasingly weighty but still fast and fluid, with pace and momentum exercised with articulation and vibrancy.
Yes, its blocky, black-on-green display looked dated in 2013, so it looks positively ancient now – though maybe that now qualifies as retro cool (much like CD players in general). A classic CD player that shows Cyrus at its best.
Read the full review: Cyrus CDi
6. KEF LS50 Wireless (2017)
Believe it or not, this is a full hi-fi system. The pair of active speakers have preamp functionality, Bluetooth, and music services built in. They also have streaming functionality to entertain tunes stored on a NAS drive or computer over your home network.
In short, the Award-winning LS50 Wireless does away with the decades-old vision of a hi-fi system involving lots of boxes spread around the room. For that, it's a genuine landmark product.
The sound quality is up there with that of a separates system. They may not be completely wireless (each speaker has a mains cable, and there's a wire connecting them), but it's still a very neat and clutter-free way to enjoy a high-quality audio performance. The hi-fi system of the future? Quite possibly.
Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless
7. Linn LP12 Klimax (2017)
The Klimax has some serious heritage: the original Linn LP12 dates from 1973, and by the 1980s was the dominant deck in the UK. With such an illustrious pedigree, expectations were high when we ushered the latest model into our test room, but needless to say it didn't disappoint.
It feels like it's built to last decades. That's not hyperbole - the original LP12s can be retrofitted with more modern parts to bring them up to today's standards. Sound bursts with detail, while still coming together as a wonderfully compelling whole. There's an evenness to the presentation that means peaks and troughs in the frequency range never become too distracting.
The result? An immediacy and agility to proceedings that most rivals fail to muster. Pricey, sure. But this is one piece of hi-fi kit that truly endures.
Read the full review: Linn LP12 Klimax
8. Naim Mu-so (2014)
Pre-2014, wireless speakers were mostly cheap, portable and a little bit underwhelming. Then 'proper' hi-fi company Naim came along and rewrote the rules. Awesome sound quality? Check. High-quality materials? Check. A refusal to compromise on design aesthetic? Check.
By treating wireless speakers with the same reverence as it does its wired models, Naim reinvented the wireless category, and inspired a host of imitators in the process.
Read the full review: Naim Mu-so
9. Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 (2016)
Rega's Planar 3 turntables have been massively influential since they originally launched in the 1970s, and to this day they're still the go-to for vinyl aficionados around the world. But success brought a cautious approach, with each new model being more of an evolution than a revolution. Until this model touched down in 2016.
Just about every part of it had been rethought and reengineered. Combined with the slick new look, it made for a turntable that appealed to newbies and Rega diehards alike.
But one thing didn't change: the simplicity. The Planar 3 remained as easy to use as ever, and provided you take some care with placement, it's still tremendously pleasing to the ears. It's cleaner and clearer than its predecessor, with great transparency and more detail. At this price, no turntable comes close.
Read the full review: Rega Planar 3/Elys 2
10. Roksan Caspian M2 (2010)
A decade after hitting the market, this amp is still one of the best at its price. That's quite an achievement. The excellent build quality and superb sound make the M2 easy to recommend, even after all these years.
It only shows its age when it comes to the feature set. There are no digital inputs whatsoever, no streaming skills, not even a phono stage in sight. It's strictly an analogue-only affair. Old school.
But if you can live with that, you'll love the levels of dynamic expression, insight and rhythmic coherence on show. Bravo.
Read the full review: Roksan Caspian M2